Home » Stickshift Cars Not For The Faint Of Heart: 1975 Jensen-Healey vs 1976 BMW 2002

Stickshift Cars Not For The Faint Of Heart: 1975 Jensen-Healey vs 1976 BMW 2002

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Welcome back! So yesterday both of the cars we looked at were automatics. I promised you manuals today, and I’m going to deliver. Neither of the cars in question run, but they are both sticks, and they both are really cool cars.

But first let’s declare the winner of our Japanese box competition:

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The 1984 Honda Accord it is. As some pointed out, this wasn’t really a fair comparison; the Accord was Honda’s nicest car of the day, and the 1989 Sentra was Nissan’s value leader. But the two cars just looked and felt so similar that I thought they made a nice comparison. And personally, I could have gone either way on those. I’d happily drive either.

Today, you can’t drive any of the cars we’re looking at, but ultimately, you’re going to want to. I’ve only had the pleasure of driving a Jensen-Healey at low speeds around town, but even that was wonderful. And a good 2002 is something every small manual car lover should experience at some point; in a lot of ways, it’s all been downhill for BMW since then.

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Both of these cars fall into the category of “if you wanted one, you should have bought one twenty-five years ago.” The classifieds, still mostly paper, were a different place then, and these were both just weird old foreign cars nobody was all that interested in. You could have gotten a decent example of either one for a couple grand. But yesterday’s weird old foreign cars are today’s Bring-A-Trailer fodder, with prices to match. Unless, of course, you want one for which you actually have to bring a trailer, like these.

So let’s check them out, and see which one is worthier of your time, effort, and money.

1975 Jensen-Healey – $1,800

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter twin-cam inline 4, 5 speed manual, RWD

Location: Sacramento, CA

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Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Nope

If you don’t travel in British car circles, you can be forgiven for not knowing this car… but you should. It was a joint venture between Donald Healey (of Austin Healey fame) and Jensen Motors (known for their glorious Chrysler V8-powered Interceptor), and is powered by an all-aluminum Lotus 907 engine with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. So what, you say? Every car has that now, right? No other car had that in 1972 when the Jensen-Healey was introduced.

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The renowned powerplant is connected to a five-speed manual that isn’t an overdrive; fifth gear is a 1:1 ratio, like fourth usually is in a 4 speed. This made for nice close ratios to keep the Lotus engine humming in its high, narrow power band. As a U.S. model, the engine is fed by a pair of Zenith-Stromberg carbs in place of the racier Dellortos that the rest of the world got.

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This particular Jensen-Healey needs some help. The ad lists it as “90% complete,” and most of what’s missing seems to be in the interior. And while restoration parts for most British sports cars aren’t hard to find, this is a bit of a special case, and you might have to get creative. I bet Miata or Fiero seats would fit nicely.

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We don’t get a whole lot of information to work from with this ad, so we have to rely on the photos. The body looks OK except for a decent dent in one front fender, and some surface rust on the horizontal surfaces. The floors might have some issues as well.

Mechanically, your guess is as good as mine. But the Lotus 907 engine has a good following, so parts and advice are not hard to come by. Hopefully it at least turns over by hand.

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I do have a sneaking suspicion that this car might be older than a 1975 model, however, because of the bumpers. Jensen-Healeys suffered the same 5 mph bumper indignities as other European cars of the era, and these look too svelte to be the newer bumpers. The dashboard also looks like the earlier, more austere version. I know: incorrect information about an obscure car in a Craigslist ad? I’m as shocked as you are.

1976 BMW 2002 – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter inline 4, 4 speed manual, RWD

Location: San Mateo, CA

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Odometer reading: says 100,000, which probably means unknown

Runs/drives? Probably not for decades

Now this car you had better know. This is arguably the granddaddy of all small sports sedans, setting the blueprint for BMW’s “3 series” cars for decades afterwards. Introduced in 1966 as the 1600-2, and drawing from BMW’s larger Neue Klasse sedans, the ’02 cars were, to put it simply, magnificent.

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This 1976 model 2002 was the end of the line, from the final year of production. In 1977, it would be replaced by the E21-chassis 320i, still a great car to drive, but missing that certain undefinable something that the 2002 had — and has by the bucketload — even with gigantic Federally-mandated bumpers and a mere single-carb engine.

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I shudder to think how many generations of spiders have lived under that hood over the years.

This ad is also light on details, saying only that it’s a “good candidate for restoration” and has “some rust.” It looks like the rust is most prevalent around the sunroof and windshield header, which is a weird spot. Depending on how bad it is, you might be able to delete the sunroof and fill it in, or – here’s an interesting notion – go Webasto with it.

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Inside, it’s a mess. There’s more dust in this car than in a Steinbeck novel. It looks like it might clean up OK, but you’ve got your work cut out for you. At least this one is all there, it looks like.

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The seller says this car is a 5 speed manual, but the shift pattern shown on the dash says differently – I only count four. So there are potential errors in both of these listings.

Obviously, neither of these cars is going to be easy to get back on the road, and even harder to turn into something that a driver could really be proud of. But not doing something because it’s too hard is how people end up driving RAV4s and the like. It’s fine for them, I suppose, but we Autopians are cut from a different cloth. We see these two cars and realize the once and potentially future greatness in them. Both are worthy of our attention, but which one would you rather have?

Quiz Maker

What Would The Editor Choose?

If it’s me, the 2002 is the ticket, and that’s mostly because it appears to be more complete. Starting with a complete car is a big deal, even if you have to replace damn near every part, because you know what the part has to look like, where it’s supposed to be, and how it’s supposed to be fastened. That Jensen Healey will likely require you to do some googling to figure out what that interior was supposed to look like, assuming you care at all. If you don’t care, and just want to slap some buckets in there, then there’s definitely an appeal to that drop-top British roadster. It’s different, and I like different. -DT

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Sklooner
Sklooner
1 year ago

I have had one of each- the engine will likely be toast on the Jensen and the shock towers and trunk rusted on on the 02 I can’t make up my mind as they are each interesting but I would go for the Jensen for the open air experience while waiting for the tow truck

The Toecutter
The Toecutter
1 year ago

That Jensen Healey is begging for a restomod with electronic fuel injection. Would probably get over 40 mpg with that change. That would be my choice.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago

I’m really drawn to that clean J-H engine and close ratio 5 speed. Both probably need new interiors. How did the BMW get so trashed?

Dave Horchak
Dave Horchak
1 year ago

Jensen Healey all the way. I got pulled over doing 112mph south of Vegas in mine, as well as other spots at a lower speed. Cop was cool and a car guy so no ticket. There is the JHPS, Jensen Healey Preservation Society which does a monthly magazine on repairs and meet ups Greg is the editor and will gladly help you with any issues. Delta Motorsports has just about anything including the interior, if missing they or Greg can help. That hardtop is a real hard to find item almost worth the purchase.

ElectrifyAllTheThings
ElectrifyAllTheThings
1 year ago

As others stated, the real answer is neither, but you’d probably have an easier time finding replacement parts for the BMW so I voted for that one.

palmoyas
palmoyas
1 year ago

Wow, thanks for making me feel good about the $1,500 2007 Miata I bought last fall! I have the transmission out for the second time fixing the new leaking rear main seal I replaced “while I was in there” replacing the toasted clutch. Good times!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago

The 2002 is the left-brain logical choice. Seems to be complete, German engineering before it got all over-complicated, the status of the BMW roundel.

But there is something about imagining yourself tootling around the countryside in a British roadster. It may be a siren’s song leading one to the eminent doom of the Prince of Darkness electricals and constantly bleeding oil, but that damn song is irresistible.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 year ago

I can’t make myself answer BMW 2002, simply because I know know too many pricks who had one in the day. It probably is the correct answer. But I’ll never own one myself.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 year ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Edit: Edit button request again. Thank you and so forth.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
1 year ago

I think the 2002 is going to run away with this, but I don’t think it should. The Jensen looks like a much more solid contender.

Data
Data
1 year ago

Am I the only one disappointed the seller didn’t price the BMW at $2002?

Mark
Mark
1 year ago

If I still lived in Sacramento, I’d be in trouble cause I’d buy that Jensen-Healey today. It go nicely with my Renault-engined Europa.

Flatisflat
Flatisflat
1 year ago

Mark, if I learn nothing else from Tripper, it’s that classic BMW is always the answer. 😉

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 year ago

I would base this on something you can’t get from the ads: How close are these cars to running? You can at least drive it around with the Shitbox look if you can get it running. The lack of seats in the Austin Healey are a wash to me because you can probably find and bolt in a couple of seats in the time it will take to clean the BMW’s seats enough to make them worthy of cradling your butt cheeks.

Go with the 2002. It looks more structurally intact, and that makes it more likely to be around long enough for you to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 year ago

Damnit, Jensen Healey.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

Username matches comment.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

Now it’s me with the regerts. Thought you voted Jensen Healey. Carry on.

/me dreaming of editing possibilities

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
1 year ago

To be fair, I think whoever buys either of these cars will quickly come to regret it. I voted for the 2002 because I think it is slightly less likely to be a nightmare of a project.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 year ago

The Jensen is a great candidate for one of those cars you buy all pumped up to restore, then kind of just stare at it for a few years wondering where to start and what the hell to do.
It would be cathartic enough just to buy that BMW and clean it. Somebody please upload a video of the cleaning if you do it! So, I’m voting BMW.

Also, word to the wise – When I bought my Spitfire it came with an extra set of seats from a Miata. Miata seats are BIG. You can put them in a Spitfire, but the headrests will almost touch the roof and the seating position will change the experience too much.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

“Also, word to the wise – When I bought my Spitfire it came with an extra set of seats from a Miata. Miata seats are BIG.”

I figured that was the case, thanks for the confirmation. Still, Triumph/MG parts are readily available I would think could be made to work in the Jenson. Absolute worst case would be to add some Sparco racing buckets until you could find something more appropriate.

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
1 year ago

A quick look at FleaBay suggests that the BMW will, by the time it’s in any condition fit for use, set a new owner back just about as much as buying a decent example. if not more. Pretty sure that applies to the J-H as well, assuming there are any such that are functional and in, say, 20-foot cosmetic condition.

Had a neighbor who had a J-H that was far cleaner than my Austin-Healey. But looks aren’t everything. He was at it every weekend, trying to coax some reliability out of the engine and electrics. Conversely, the A-H would fire right up and go wherever I wanted, and be fun into the bargain.

I really, really like 2002s, especially the small-bumper Roundies, which this isn’t. But taking care of the rot, and paying the price for essential spares, just isn’t something I’d take on these days.

Maybe a second look at yesterday’s Sentra or Accord…. Duller than day-old bathwater, for sure, but they would probably function without too much blood, sweat, tears, and money. That counts for a lot in this price range.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
1 year ago

The 2002 looks like honest “I’ll get to that one eventually” storage dust. That’s way better than “left outside” dirt or the partially disassembled status of the Jensen.

The best someone else’s project to buy is the one they didn’t start.

Wezel Boy
Wezel Boy
1 year ago
Reply to  Frankencamry

That is not storage dust. That is Burning Man dust. That 2002 is screwed.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

I like the Jensen-Healey and the Jensen-only stuff too. In addition to the technological development the engine represents, it just looks cool.

But I feel like the BMW will be easier to bring around, I know the 4 cylinder in it is solid, and if I ever want to get out of it, I’d have a broader audience to sell to.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

Had I the money (and time, talent, etc.), I’d take both.

However, since we have to choose, can I get that lowered Chevy next to the Mustang behind the 2002? Please & thanks!

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

That K5 will cost more than a month’s worth of entries in this series. But I agree, it looks awesome.

Richard O
Richard O
1 year ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Mustang in this case is spelled SHELBY.

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
1 year ago

I picked the BMW, though either vehicle requires the buyer to wear a full body condom for a couple of weeks.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

Sometimes I feel like I need a tetanus booster just to read about the cars featured herein.

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 year ago

I’d love the Jensen-Healey but the 2002 looks more complete so I went with that.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago

I voted for the Jensen. Cleaned up those look like an upscale MG. Parts may be an issue but if you willing to go non original, then you can have a nice cruiser.

If it is ever stolen, just follow the trail of oil. 🙂

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 year ago

Amazingly, this is a current e-bay listing,

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/274761523582?hash=item3ff910217e:g:6h0AAOSwXhRgeZ~m

It is for a set of seats, and other interior bits for a 1974 Jensen Healey!

DrewVIIIMR
DrewVIIIMR
1 year ago

I might buy the Jensen for the motor (I have a Franken7), but not for $1800.

DrewVIIIMR
DrewVIIIMR
1 year ago
Reply to  DrewVIIIMR

And is there Triumph DNA going on there? The doors and gas filer location look a lot like TR6 to me.

Martin Witkosky
Martin Witkosky
1 year ago
Reply to  DrewVIIIMR

Don’t believe there’s any Triumph DNA in there, but the suspension is from a Vauxhall Viva and the gearbox is from Getrag. That fuel filler flip style cap looks to be the same as those fitted to late Europa Specials.

Dave Horchak
Dave Horchak
1 year ago

I’ll go you one better the starter is from a forklift and nothing unobainium about the Lotus motor or anything else.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

Never before has anyone ever made a RAV4 so appealing. I should adore both of these cars, but goddamn what a mess. Uh, Jensen I guess.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

*sound so appealing

(edit button)

Data
Data
1 year ago

Also, was the link to the Jensen Interceptor in German for DT’s benefit?

Donald Petersen
Donald Petersen
1 year ago

As someone who drives a RAV-4 (and that smarts, Mark!), I’ll take the Jensen Healey. Never met a BMW I was remotely attracted to, and if I’m shitbox-shoppin’ for a project that doesn’t run yet, it better have the capacity to appeal to me when it does. Even though I expect I’d never be done fixing and tuning and fiddling with the J-H, and the 2002 I’d maybe have to deep-clean and fix once, it’s still no contest for me.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago

My better half has a RAV4 as a daily. While my Korean-German Chevy invents new and innovative ways of tormenting me, the RAV4 just keeps ticking. And we don’t baby it. It regularly pretends it’s a real truck by towing and soft-roading, sometimes both at once. It’s surprisingly capable, if determined to be unobtrusive to a fault.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago

Darn lack of edit. I’ll take the BMW since it’s rare enough around me without being made of unobtanium.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago

“The seller says this car is a 5 speed manual, but the shift pattern shown on the dash says differntly – I only count four.”
The seller counted and saw 5 speeds: R, 1, 2, 3, 4

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

Also, real classy to have a typo in a sentence about mistakes in listings 😉

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, Race?

Bkp
Bkp
1 year ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

A GETRAG 5 speed is not an uncommon modification for this era of BMWs.

1976 so I’d have to smog it and no place to park it so I’ll pass.

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