If the Jensen 541 was a bespoke but slightly chunky suede brogue,
the succeeding CV8 had steel toe
caps that glinted through the leather. When a CV8 filled your mirrors, you knew it wanted to hurt you.
This car was a belligerent, bespoke, slant-eyed bastard – and I mean all of that as a term of utmost respect. For whereas the 541 was powered by a rather rustic Austin 4-litre lump, the CV8 of 1962 harboured a 5.9-litre Chrysler V8. As such, it was one of the first of the V8 Anglo-American hybrids.
This Jensen is a car that both invites and defies comparison. It was a prodigious close-coupled four-seat grand tourer that could eat Aston Martins and Jaguars. With a capable tubular chassis and disc brakes, the CV8 could nudge 140mph in MkIII spec.
And there’s one other thing about this bruiser – its wild styling. Producing the body in fiberglass liberated design thinking. The Autocar decried: ‘A superb concept carefully disguised as the ugliest car in the world’, but I wouldn’t say that to its face. With fewer than 500 built from 1962 to ’66, a CV8 will always stand out.
• 1990s The CV8 has always been undervalued. In 1996, when a restored 1964 MkII made £10,062 at auction, that was big money.
• 2000-2005 The earlier Jensen 541 moved ahead. In 2003 a 1964 CV8 restored at a cost of £40,000 made £9200 at auction, while in 2004 a good but not perfect 1959 541R fetched £11,771.
• Today A CV8 has yet to hit £20,000 at auction, while 541s regularly top that. In June, a 1964 MkII and 1965 MkIII both failed to sell. For £25,000 you should be able to buy any CV8 you want. Or you could pay £150,000-plus for a DB4 or £80,000-up for a Ferrari 250GTE.