Jenkins Industries was a former soft pornography business established by British entrepreneur and former F1 racing driver Marshal Jenkins and his good friend Tex Pearson. As well as its activities relating to the pornographic industry, Jenkins Industries ran its own Formula One team in the late 1970s as a way of securing Marshal Jenkins a place on the grid.
The company was formed in June 1975 by Jenkins and Pearson after the former's motorsport career began to stall due to a lack of money. A contact of Pearson's ran a failing soft porn company in London and he proposed to transfer the business to the two men for a nominal fee. Despite never being confirmed, it is believed the unknown contact was in fact suspected of serious fraud and drug trafficking by the Metropolitan Police, and was keen to offload the company to avoid further charges. Pearson and Jenkins took over the business and renamed it Jenkins Industries, with Pearson not credited in the name at his request, due partially to embarrassment at being identifiable in what he later described as "the industry for scum". Despite his misgivings, the company was soon turned around, and was quickly making both Jenkins and Pearson very rich men. The funds allowed Jenkins to continue racing, and by 1979 both men had earnt over £100,000 each from the business.
By this point, Jenkins had reached a crossroads in his racing career. A meeting with the Williams team owner Frank Williams at a strip club in late 1978 where Pearson and Jenkins were assessing potential new clients gave Marshal the chance he was waiting for. Williams offered to sell two FW06 chassis which had raced in 1978 to Jenkins Industries, in return for £200,000 which would be paid over three years in instalments. In an attempt to bring the price down, Marshal offered Williams a 10% stake in his company, which Williams accepted, cutting the price to £150,000 as a result. In an interview years later Jenkins revealed that Williams confessed to him at the time that he was a personal admirer of the material Jenkins Industries produced, hence his willingness to cut him a deal. Williams has consistently denied this claim, along with any involvement with the company itself.
Disappointed that he wasn't informed of the sale of a stake in Jenkins Industries, Pearson began a gradual process of retreat within the company, increasingly disassociating himself with its actions. This culminated in 1987 when Pearson made the decision to sell his stake to Jenkins. Giving up his 45% share for just £2500, Pearson finally removed himself from a company he was never fully comfortable with, though it had still made him substantially rich. He remained a good friend of Jenkins, having acted as his chief mechanic for the whole of his motorsport career. Jenkins himself would later reveal that Pearson's share in fact amounted to an estimated £150,000 and that his generosity was in part due to the company continuing to struggle with debts related to its previous exploits in F1.
By 1995, Jenkins Industries had begun to be overtaken in the soft porn industry, and at the age of 48, Marshal Jenkins decided to wind down the company's operations with the agreement of Frank Williams who continued to hold his 10% share despite his insistence otherwise. Jenkins sold the assets to a group of Dutch criminals interested in getting in on the act for a total of £540,000, and prepared himself for retirement with the sale increasing his fortune to an estimated £1.6 million.
Jenkins Industries F1 Team
With two ex-Williams chassis in his possession, Jenkins was able to achieve his lifelong ambition of racing in Formula 1. His earlier motorsport career was distinctly unremarkable, and it was abundantly clear to all within the sport that Jenkins was massively out of his depth. Nonetheless, he remained undeterred, and grouped together a eclectic bunch of mechanics and personnel to help run the team and service the cars. Tex Pearson, as he had been throughout Marshal's career, was made chief mechanic. The high costs of operating his team however forced Jenkins to seek additional funding from a second driver, and with his contacts in the Italian porn scene, Beppe Gabbiani and his Parmalat money was hired to drive the second FW06 chassis. A further financial boost for the team resulted when Rupert Keegan was hired as the team's test driver following the Brazilian Grand Prix, bringing with him Penthouse sponsorship and a lucrative deal with Jenkins Industries for the latter to supply material to the magazine for publishing.
The investment in the Williams cars proved to be a shrewd move, ensuring that the Jenkins Industries team was able to qualify at least one car for most of the races over the season, though it was clear from the outset that Gabbiani had far more ability than Jenkins behind the wheel. This was reflected when Beppe brought his car home to get the team's first race finish at their fourth attempt at the US GP West with a 14th place whilst Marshal retired with brake failure having worn his brake pads away completely after just 7 laps. Gabbiani then managed to better his result in the next two races, taking 13th in Spain and then 12th in Belgium. Jenkins failed to qualify for both races, blaming "a dog's dinner" of a qualifying lap in Spain, and then the circuit being too long at Spa, at one point even getting lost down a side road.
Following the race at Spa, Jenkins announced that Gabbiani would be "rested" for the British Grand Prix to allow Keegan to make his debut. This sparked off a deterioration in the relations between Marshal and the Italian, with Beppe announcing that if he was left out for a second time, he'd leave the team. Keegan did well at Silverstone though, finishing in 14th place, and delighted with his form, Jenkins kept him in the car for the next race in Germany, stating that,
- "Rupert did a bloody cracking job in the other car so we'll keep him on for the next race and see how he does there. I'd rather see him in the seat and be able to actually understand what he's saying about the car than have a face-full of pasta and ice cream whenever Beppe opens his mouth. We don't need his dirty Parmalat money anyway!"
Gabbiani was furious, and took his Parmalat money to Merzario instead, but for Jenkins, his faith in Keegan paid off with the reward of a 10th place finish for Rupert at Hockenheim. Unfortunately however the hole in the team's budget following Gabbiani's exit could only be filled by Jenkins himself, funding the team directly out of his and the business' own pockets.
Keegan's 10th place would be the last race finish for the team before their final race, the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. Marshal had started to sink ever greater amounts of money into the team from Jenkins Industries' own accounts, leaving the business on the brink and eventually forcing the team to fix and re-use old broken parts instead of buying new spares. Rumours began to circle the paddock that the Jenkins team was just turning up and not even attempting to qualify, and although Keegan made the race in Italy, his engine, having already done five races, packed in after just a single lap. A brief moment of hope followed the race though, with a new deal cut by Jenkins Industries for a new line of films and magazines involving some new leads in Thailand, and this lifeline would allow the team to travel to Brands Hatch.
Once there though, there was little improvement as Keegan attempted to qualify with a Ford engine running on just five cylinders. It had been bought by Marshal the night before from a Cosworth employee who was interested in some of the new Thai material Jenkins was producing and had found the old engine in the back of the company's truck. Marshal took the remaining best parts though to match Rupert's best result of a 10th place finish in the race, giving the embattled team something to cheer about. The future was bleak though as loans that had been secured against Jenkins Industries had put the company in dire financial straits and on the brink of collapse. With the final three races requiring costly transport across the globe, Jenkins called time and refused to go, shutting up shop and closing his team. Keegan was incensed, and left without a drive for the rest of the year, but for Jenkins and Pearson, their business was teetering on the edge, and it would take a decade before stability was finally restored and its debts were cleared.
The Jenkins team had come and gone in less than a full season, but had shown the F1 establishment that a team could be run on a tiny budget, with a bunch of have-a-go mechanics and an enthusiastic but hopelessly inadequate team boss and driver. Their light-hearted attempt to go racing against the best teams and drivers in the world was one of the last of such examples in F1 history as the sport underwent a rapid modernisation and move towards professionalism throughout the 1980s.
Complete Formula One Results
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