Jensen’s CV8 replaced the similar but more conservatively styled 541R and 541S and was introduced at the 1962 Earl’s Court Motor Show. The chassis was redesigned to feature longitudinal tubes, and was both stronger and lighter than the outgoing frame. The bodywork remained similar with a sheet metal floor, fiberglass shell and aluminum doors. Controversially, the nose now had four headlights canted at an angle and leaning back into the fender. They proved to be an acquired taste.
Perhaps the biggest news was the adoption of a 305 bhp Chrysler V-8 to replace the venerable 4.0-liter Austin six-cylinder engine. The 361 cubic-inch OHV V-8 doubled the horsepower and performance sparkled, with 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds, a quarter mile in 16 seconds and top speed of 132 mph. A 3-speed and overdrive manual transmission was optional, but many were equipped with the Chrysler TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic. The interior was finished in leather, with seat belts and a transistor radio. It was also among the first English cars to be fitted with an alternator.
Like the equivalent Bristol, this was a serious driver’s car, with rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes and positraction rear end. Suspension was coil-and-wishbone at the front with semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. A serious driver with a heavy right foot would have to have deep pockets, as 10 mpg was the norm.
For 1963, the Mk II CV8 gained a larger 383 cubic inch Chrysler V-8 that made 330 bhp and improved performance even further. 0-60 mph now came up in 5 seconds, the quarter mile came in about 14.5 seconds, and the top speed rose to 140 mph. Armstrong Selectaride rear shock absorbers were introduced as well. The Mark III followed in 1965 and added a wood veneer dash, headlights now all the same size, a dual circuit braking system, and improved heating and ventilation as well as reclining seats. A 4-speed manual transmission was now available and the bumper gained overriders. The CV8 remained a 1950s car at heart, but would be replaced by the elegant all-steel Vignale-designed Interceptor in late 1966. The new model would propel the company into a far different financial and social zone, with 10 times as many sold.
A total of 499 CV8s were built, broken down into 68 Mk I, 250 Mk II and 181 Mk III. Almost all were right-hand drive, though 10 left-hand drive cars were sold. There were also two convertibles; a cabriolet and a sedanca that opened only above the front seats. Fiberglass bodywork eliminates rust concerns and moving the frame tubes inwards also helped minimize corrosion.