Tony Rolt (Freddie Dixon died a few years ago) now believes that the time of a Ferguson avalanche is near. "It is no longer," he explains, "a question of asking if it can be done, but of deciding when to start doing it." It has been estimated the additional cost to the consumer in the case of a mass-produced vehicle would only amount to 5% and that would eventually cover the retooling expense.
Jensen has no regrets over its own heavy research investment and subsequent tooling expenditures on the FF—$16 million. "People are slow to accept things," says the firm's Brian Owen. "Somebody's got to show it's safer. We are doing that." Under the direction of the firm's 38-year-old chief engineer, Kevin Beattie, they have used the Jensen four-seater C-V8 Mark III, which was introduced in the early summer of this year, as the basis of the FF. The two cars, long and rakish, are virtually indistinguishable in appearance and are powered by the same 6.2-liter Chrysler V-8 engine.
"What we set out to do," says Beattie, "was to make the safest car we knew how." To this end, over a period of 18 months and many thousands of miles of driving, extensive braking and transmission tests have been carried out.
Few people have, as yet, driven the FF, simply because up until a short time ago only two existed. Nevertheless, certain facts are indisputable. The FF will perform as well and in some areas better than, for example, the C-V8, which can reach a top speed of better than 140 mph and cover a quarter mile from a standing start in 15.5 seconds. "People who have driven it say it's fab," says Brian Owen. But more important to the industry and to anyone who drives cars is what Kevin Beattie said the other day in his dry engineer's language: "The system will provide controllability as long as sufficient friction to obtain any steering response exists between the tires and the road." That's fab.