History of the 1953-1962 Jensen 541
The Jensen 541 was quite a departure from previous cars carrying a Jensen badge. It had exceptionally sleek coupe body work made out of GRP, then still a somewhat exotic material. Under the hood was an Austin-sourced OHV four-liter straight six, and the independent front coil springs and live rear axle with semi-elliptic springs came from the Austin A70 Hereford.
Jensen actually showcased an aluminum-bodied 541 at the 1953 London Motor Show, but when production commenced, the body was made from fiberglass. The body was light in weight, and even the rear screen and rear side windows were made from Perspex. This combined with a Cd of only 0.39 and the Austin DS5 engine gave a top speed of 115mph. Optional extras included a heater, overdrive, windscreen washers, a tachometer and wire wheels.
October 1956 saw the debut of the 541 De Luxe, which was equipped with virtually all list extras plus disc brakes fore and aft. This was a first on a British car. A year later, Jensen introduced the 541R which had a top hinged boot lid and rack-and-pinion steering in place of the earlier cam-and-roller system and a Moss gearbox. The first 53 541Rs were powered by the Austin DS7 engine, but the later versions reverted to the DS5 unit. Top speed increased to 127mph.
The autumn of 1960 saw the debut of the 541S which lost the earlier cars' distinctive radiator shutter and was four inches wider than the 541R with the roofline raised by 1.5 inches. A limited-slip differential and front seat belts were now standard, along with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, Motorola radio and automatic transmission. The extra weight resulted in the top speed decreasing to 108 mph, In 1963, the Jensen 541S was replaced by the CV8.
The Jensen 541 was designed to provide relaxed high speed and comfort for two (the back seat is not well suited to tall occupants). The earlier models were more overtly sporting than the 541S and some connoisseurs think that the 541R is the finest of the breed, but each member of the range has an individual appeal.
Common problems in Jensen 541s are corrosion of the steel chassis and the crazing of the fiberglass panels. Some parts, such as the steering rack for the 541S or replacement for cracked cylinder heads, can be particularly hard to source.