Lea-Francis on YouTube
Short descriptions of film/video clips available on the internet, plus their links.
Title: Keith Poynter Tribute, posted Feb 6 2017. Duration: 27m. Quality: Good. Description: A brief glimpse into the world of the Lea Francis Owners Club as lead ably by our late great friend, past Chairman for 21 years and life member Keith Poynter 1932 - 2017 who recently died aged almost 85.
The video, filmed in 2003 by Ian & Jacquie Goldingham, shows Keith and his son Colin racing their Lea-Francis Hypers side by side at Mallory Park. Keith’s car is No.57 and he is wearing red overalls, while Colin’s is No.56 and he is wearing black overalls. By chance three of Keith’s usual playmates, Robin Toone (Alfa-Romeo, Red Car, Race No.42), Cyril Hancock (Fiat, Black Car, Race No.60) and Francis Spencer (Alvis, White Car, Race No.44) can also be seen mixing it with the Poynters as they often did. The end part of the video is coverage of the Lea Francis Owners Club 50th Celebrations at Stanford Hall in June 2003 and the special prize giving of Long Service Awards to it’s eminent members including Keith.
Title: Britain Wins International Tourist Trophy Race 1928. Duration: 4m. Quality: Good, black & white. Description: A British Pathé archive clip showing scenes from the 1928 Ulster TT when Kaye Don won in Hyper 14053. The car was race number 24 and carried the Registration No. WK 6847. The car was later registered VC 5461 and was owned twice and raced by Tom Delaney and was bequeathed to the Coventry Transport Museum following Tom’s death in 2007. Don’s racing mechanic was Humphrey Pellew, seen at the end of the clip with Kaye Don receiving the trophy. A Hyper was fourth car away at the start, then go to 3m 02s and from 3m 17s to the end for specific shots of the winning car. Six Lea-Francis Hypers were entered with four finishing.
Go here for the Motor Sport report:
Title: Lea Francis Rally Broughton Castle 2016. Duration: 2m04s. Quality: Good, some camera shake. Description: A long panning shot at the June 2016 Lea-Francis Owners Club Annual Rally and Concours at Broughton Castle, showing almost the entire Lea-Francis attendance of 28 cars, plus one Unihorse tractor brought by Trevor Bradley, who also shot this clip, and one bicycle brought by John Hayes.
Title: Stanford Hall 2007. Duration: 4m 17s. Quality: Good, black & white. Description: A short film about the Stanford Hall Gathering of the Lea Francis Owners Club 2007 filmed by Barny Creaser.
Title: lea francis 2013. Duration: 10m 49s. Quality: Mixed, with French subtitles, music and sound but no commentary. Description: The 2013 Lea-Francis Owners Club Annual Rally filmed by Barny Creaser. Shows lots of Lea-Francis cars at Upton House and Broughton Castle.
Title: Lea Francis Brand Cars. Duration: 1m 40s. Quality: Mixed, with music that suddenly stops. Description: Collection of photos of mostly post-war cars, too many of a 14hp Sports dashboard. Some photos taken from lfoc.org.
Title: Planai Classic 2014 Lea Francis. Duration: 1m 29s. Quality: Excellent, with sound. Description: The 1927 Lea Francis P-Type of Christian & Margot Baier at the Planaihof, Schladaming, Austria after finishing the mountain trial, Planai Classic Rally 2014. Great shot of the car driving off in poor conditions.
Title: Lea Francis 1948 14hp Sports Roadster. Duration: 1m 05s. Quality: Good, with music. Description: Still photos of 14hp Sports for sale in April 2014 posted by Kennis Cars, Netherlands. First sold in Scotland, this car, Ch:7000, is now back in the UK and attended our 2015 Annual Rally. It is being returned to original specification.
Title: Lea Francis. Duration: 2m13s. Quality: 1985 home movie, music, no original sound. Description: Great home movie footage of a late 14hp 4-light saloon in Holland.
Title: Harewood Hillclimb June 2012 Lea Francis P Type.wmv. Duration: 1m33s. Quality: Home video, chatter. Description: Good long shot of Steve Jones in his 1928 P type ascending the hill.
Title: Hyper – A pair of 1928 Lea-Francis racers. Duration: 3m0s. Quality: Excellent. Description: Jeremy Brewster discusses the Lea Francis Hyper. A video by The Automobile Magazine in which Jeremy describes two Hypers, Ch:14051 and Ch:14128.
Title: The Meadows 4ED and the Lea-Francis Hyper. Duration: 7m48s. Quality: Excellent. Description: Also shot by The Automobile, this is a continuation of the film above in which Jeremy discusses the use of Meadows engines in Lea-Francis Hypers, their strengths and weaknesses and racing/driving ability.
Title: 1950 LeaFrancis Cabriolet RedBlk. Duration: 3m31s. Quality: Poor, commentary made while filming. Description: A walk around 2½ litre Sports Ch:5146 (LGU 312), owned by Barry Alexander, at a Florida car show in 2011. The commentary has a number of mild inaccuracies.
Title: Lea Francis Cars. Duration: 0m38s. Quality: Good, engine noises, no commentary. Description: Very short clip of a Lea-Francis drive-by on the Mauseturm Rally in Germany’s Middle Rhine during the LFOC trip to Bingen in September 2014. The lead car is Horst Meinert’s very attractive P type.
Title: Lea Francis Hyper. Duration: 0m6s. Quality: Fair, very short. Description: Jeremy Brewster rounds the final corner at Harewood Hill Climb in his Hyper Replica at the June 5th 2010 Classic & Vintage Meeting. Jeremy was Class Winner with a best time of 75.97 secs.
Title: Keys Aylsham Car Auction feat 1947 Lea Francis Car & Clarke Family 4th April 2009. Duration: 1m41s. Quality: Good. Description: News story after the sale of James Blanch’s collection of stored cars. Go to 1m0s to see LFOC Members Colin & Jenny Clarke interviewed after buying a 1947 14hp 4-light Saloon (car not shown).
Title: 1930 Lea-Francis Hyper Wiscombe Park 13/9/2008. Duration: 0m16s. Quality: Fair. Description: Terry Crabb rounds Sawbench Corner at Wiscombe Park in ERA R12C, not a Hyper to be seen.
Title: Prescott Hill Climb in a Lea Francis 21st July 2012. Duration: 1m34s. Quality: Excellent. Description: View from the passenger seat as Steve Jones tackles the Long Course in his 1928 P type 4-seater. Great sounds.
Title: VintageSportsCarGoodwood2012. Duration: 10m57s. Quality: Poor. Description: VSCC Goodwood Autumn Sprint October 2012, a walk round the Paddock. Go to 7m48s to see brief and poor shots of the three competing Lea-Francis Hypers belonging to Jeremy Brewster (31), Geoffrey Delaney (30) and Peter Tierney (28).
Title: Prescott Hill Climb 2012. Duration: 0m26s. Quality: Very poor but has ‘atmosphere’. Description: VSCC Speed Hill Climb August 2012. Jeremy Brewster’s 1928 Hyper Replica, Saturday Practice 2nd Run - Jeremy is Course record holder in his class, Standard and Modified Sports Cars 15001-2000cc unsupercharged and up to 1500cc supercharged.
Title: VSCC Vintage Welsh Trial 2010 Interesting Assortment. Duration: 4m37s. Quality: Fair, good sound. Description: Go to 2m35s for action from Jeremy Brewster in his 1930 P type 4-seater trials car.
Title: Kop Hill Climb 2014: Vintage motorcars in the paddock. Duration: 2m55s. Quality: Excellent. Description: Go to 1m0s for Peter Tierney with his 1930 Hyper Ch:14175.
Title: Motor Show (1960). Duration: 1m30s. Quality: Black & White, good. Description: Pathé News film with commentary. A very brief look at the Lynx, 30 seconds in.
Title: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore: Monte Carlo or Bust. Duration: 1/3, 6m10s; 2/3, 9m48s; 3/3, 6m49s. Quality: Low resolution. Description: Three film clips from the 1969 Paramount comedy Monte Carlo or Bust, directed by Ken Annakin, showing the 1929 Lea-Francis W type fixed head coupé crewed by Peter Cook (Major Dawlish) and Dudley Moore (Lt Barrington) as they fight their way across Europe to compete in the Monte Carlo Rally. Robin Sawers bought the car in 1970 from the film company, selling it to Roger East in 1987. It now has a 14hp post-war Lea-Francis engine and can still be seen at our Annual Rallies. In the first clip go to 2m35s for first shot of the car which then appears at various points throughout the three clips. The other car in these clips is a Mercedes SSK, but an Alvis Speed 20, Lancia Lambda, Peugeot 201, Bullnose Morris and a Blower Bentley were also used. This film was the sequel to Those magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965) and included Tony Curtis, Terry Thomas, Eric Sykes, Hattie Jaques, Susan Hampshire and Jack Hawkins in the cast.
Title: Beamish Reliability Trial 2015 Pt1. Duration: 2m45s. Quality: Excellent, good engine sounds. Description: Lea-Francis run-bys on the Beamsish Reliability Run June 21 2015. Go to 0m33s for Trevor Bradley’s 1950 14hp Estate followed by Gillian Creaser, 1948 14hp Sports.
Title: Beamish Reliability Trial 2015 Pt2. Duration: 2m22s. Quality: Excellent, good engine sounds. Description: Lea-Francis run-bys on the Beamsish Reliability Run June 21 2015. Go to 0m16s for Peter Baston in Hyper 14109 followed by Malcolm Hall in a 1948 14hp Sports
Title: Beamish Reliability Run 2015. Duration: 32m58s. Quality: Poor, chatter. Description: More Lea-Francis cars at a check-point on June 21 2015. Go to 3m20s for Ian Graham in his 1928 U-type 2 seater with a 14hp Sports in the background and then go to 19m45s for Peter Baston, 1929 Hyper, more 14hp Sports, Trevor Bradley’s 14hp Estate and Rod Holt in his 1952 14hp Special.
Title: 1948 - Lea-Francis 14HP Saloon - Essen Motor Show 2015. Duration: 1m52s. Quality: Good. Description: A walk-round a 1948 14hp 4 light saloon by Automobile Classics at the 2015 Essen Motor Show and uploaded on November 30th 2015.
Title: 1948 _ Lea Francis 14HP Saloon - Interior And Exterior - Walkaround ( Essen Motor Show 2015 ). Duration: 1m35s. Quality: Good. Description: This clip is identical to the one above, just a few seconds shorter.
Title: Lea Francis 14 hp70 saloon anno 1948. Duration: 13m43s. Quality: Good. Description: A walk-round this nice red/white 14hp 4 light saloon taken by Vittorio Pecoriello and uploaded on December 22nd 2015.
Title: Not a video, but Car and Classic website, where there are almost always Lea-Francis cars and items for sale
Title: Also not a video, but a link to the Internet Movie Cars Database showing search results for Lea-Francis cars in film and television. Click on each picture for more detail. Helpfully, Allan Lupton has been through most of them, posting accurate details of the cars shown.
Posted: September 2015, updated: February 2017.
Lea-Francis goes to Buckingham Palace.
P type chosen to represent 1928 in 90 car display to celebrate the Queen’s 90th.
On 15th October 2016, to celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, 90 cars were gathered in front of Buckingham Palace, one for each year of the Queen’s life. Colin Daw’s P type 2 seater & dickey was chosen to represent 1928. He is seen here in discussion with HRH Prince Michael of Kent, who inspected the cars. The Queen was not in residence. Colin brought his car (on a trailer) from his home in Weston super Mare. The line-up was organised by John Cole, Event Organiser for the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group. Each of the ninety vehicles was manufactured in a specific year of the Queen’s life and represented that year. The first was a 1926 Bullnose Morris Oxford Tourer, the last an impressive 2016 Ford Focus RS. Among the many other vehicles on display was 1948 Jaguar XK120 reg.no. NUB 120; a 1952 AEC Regent 111, a London double-decker bus which completed a 12,000 mile promotional tour of the USA and Canada in 1952; a 1959 Morris Mini-Minor, the first ever Mini off the production line; a McLaren P1 hybrid, and the 2016 Jaguar F-PACE.
Photograph courtesy of John Cole.
Posted December 2016
It’s a long way from Worcestershire.
New Zealand Member Ian Goldingham reports on the 40th Chelsea W.A.L.S.H. run on 20th November 2016 and describes his 1927 M type. Photographs by John King.
On the other side of the world to Shelsley Walsh there lies a rival road, a sister slope called Chelsea W.A.L.S.H. Situated on the shores of Auckland’s sparkling Waitemata harbor, this gem is home to the Colonial Sugar Company’s Chelsea Sugar Refinery which has operated from here since the 1880s. Starting at sea level the superbly metalled road sweeps through the mature park-like grounds climbing to over 250 ft in less than a mile.
Cars assemble for the start of the 40th Chelses hill climb.
The course is reminiscent of another era, as it winds its way around a large lake over a choice of bridges, before leaping up the hill in a series of gentle bends that tighten into a left-hand hairpin that changes camber as it flicks back to the right for the finishing straight. A snappy throttle off and judicious braking are required otherwise you are through the top gates passed a startled traffic officer and out into the real world.
The Chelsea W.A.L.S.H. (Waitemata Annual Local Sealed Hill climb) is organised and run by the local branch of the Vintage Car Club New Zealand. 2016 marked the event’s 40th Anniversary.
I competed in the 1st event with a 1930 Singer 8 hp dirt track racer, then moved on to a 1936 Singer Speed Model Le Mans and occasionally pedal my wife’s 1924 Sunbeam 14/40 roadster up the hill when the Lea-Francis M type is in a state of hors de combat.
Chelsea is a Speed Event organiser’s fantasy comes true with a large tarmac pits/paddock (staff car park) a long testing road around the refinery leading to a weighbridge (if required) and flowing out into the private access road. For the spectator or marshal, Chelsea offers a multitude of vantage points and simultaneous picnic spots, a genuine case of the right crowd and no crowding.
The entry list is always a glorious mix of motoring history from a 1907 Sizaire et Naudin to a 1964 2.5 litre Brabham. There is a high proportion of the best of British production ranging from V12 Lagonda to a gaggle of Austin 7 specials.
About Ian’s 1927 M type.
236 M type cars were built between 1926 and 1927 and together with the L type were the first Lea-Francis to use the then new Meadows 4ED engine. Six are thought to have survived with four owned by Club members. Mine, chassis 10139, assembled in March 1927, came into my life on December 25th 1972. I had just turned 21. Its first decade of history and subsequent export to New Zealand are unknown.
The car as rebuilt in 1949 to create idea of 'a good English sports car'.
The car was heavily rebuilt in 1949, the body cut and shut into a close-coupled two-seater. By 1972 the car had been through several owners and was stored awaiting restoration. I decided to rebuild the M type much as she was originally built. 25 years later she was finally on the road and it proved to be only the beginning.
The first time I used the car in anger at Chelsea was in 2002 and it was most interesting to see how the M type’s quarter elliptic rear suspension handled the notorious non-constant hairpin, which is the bête noir of this venue. My best time was 50.93 seconds, which wasn’t bad for a rebuilt Meadows engine with only 500 miles on the clock and not bedded in yet.
The M type has been a regular entrant and always surprises club members with its sprightly vintage efforts. I knew that some significant improvements were still needed. I quickly realised that what was thought to be the original Rudge Whitworth wire wheels had the wrong offset and had in actual fact come from some other make of car. Fortunately, Australian Lea-Francis Club member Neville Webb had some surplus pukka rims and the front wheels were rebuilt. These took the car’s road control from crass to biddable. An improved front axle has also been fitted to correct the steering geometry. This has created a dramatic improvement especially with the annual Chelsea hill climb. This year my best time was 45.16 seconds from 5 runs and one practise run, an improvement of 6 seconds from 2002.
The advent of vintage car track racing in NZ has meant that it was worth investing in some go faster developments. The late Jim Collins, a Lea-Francis Club member from Yorkshire, who had bought a J type in 1950, offered a genuine L type early twin port head. After much fettling and experimentation with twin SU’s, this has eventually been made to work successfully on the car.
A LeaF close ratio gearbox of dubious origins was also trialled, but regularly threw itself out of gear under high-speed load, which is of no help and it has been sent back to the workbench.
It’s been a long progression, fraught with numerous bugs to solve, like overheating issues due to a changed engine position, which lead to a detailed analysis of how thermosyphon systems work.
It’s only now, after a very rewarding and on-going process, that I feel that I am coming to relish the M type’s potential. Her stance on the road has improved along with the handling. She behaves very well but next year I may try some bigger diameter tyres to raise the back axle ratio and run a higher speed in 3rd gear all the way.
The finished result is all that I look for in a vintage car: provenance, sensible engineering, good craftsmanship, and great lines. The M type is nowadays being used regularly in Vintage Car Club events from long distance tours such as the Art Deco Rally to the Chelsea hill climb and track racing at Hampton Downs.
Looking back, it’s sad to reflect that many of the people who were instrumental in helping with its restoration are no longer around, but I like to think that they are with me in spirit every time I take the M type out on the road.
Posted December 2016
Superb vintage restoration by LFOC Member.
1928 P type Lea-Fabric Saloon Chassis 13275 restored after 43 years stored in a barn.
Main pictures: 1. The finished car. 2. Peter Cork stands beside the car during restoration, showing limited garage space.
3 & 4. The original leather was beyond recovery but the wood trim and dashboard cleaned up nicely.
5. Stretching the fabric around corners and window surrounds was aided by using the wallpaper stripper.
6. The engine retains its original bronze bodied Solex carburettor. A rush to fit the replacement engine in 1928 might explain why, to this day, it carries the plain versions of the aluminium plates fitted to the side of the block, rather than those bearing the Lea-Francis name which the Company fitted to most of the Meadows engines it used.
7. The dashboard also showing the Lea-Francis patent Free-Gear mechanism fitted, as an option, to this car. When engaged the mechanism works very much as a freewheel does on a bicycle. The Free-Gear was said to aid economy, enjoyment and render all gear changes silent. As Lea-Francis said in their publicity material at the time, use of the device enables the motorist to enter ‘an epoch of motoring enjoyment hitherto considered unattainable’. It is a credit to Peter and the standard of his restoration that this rather frightening device has been retained.
8. The rebuilt body frame mounted on the chassis and ready for its fabric covering.
This car was bought at a Richard Edmonds auction on 19 October 2013 by Peter Cork who lives in Derbyshire. It is a Lea-Fabric 4-door saloon on the 12/40hp Sports Chassis. It was erected on 11 April 1928 and fitted with its fabric body by Cross & Ellis in May 1928. Originally fitted with a Meadows 4ED engine number 8971, by the time it was registered it was fitted with engine number 9026, possibly due to unsatisfactory testing of the first engine. The inset pictures below right show the car’s condition at the time of the sale after 43 years dry-stored on blocks in a barn. Peter Cork
writes: “My enthusiasm waned when I saw it ‘in the flesh’. Fortunately its appearance seemed to have had the same effect on other interested parties and I was really the only serious bidder. The car was collected by a friend from Chesterfield and arrived at my house the following day. Much to my surprise, my partner and both daughters were remarkably enthusiastic when they saw it. My father-in-law, who walked round it once, issued an expletive and walked out, less so.
It was a remarkably complete car, the only thing missing was the clock. So began the long, dirty and tedious process of stripping down and cleaning up. Notable was the amount of water that issued forth when I removed the sump drain plug. I still have no idea how it got there. There were no cracks in the block or head and no indication of any fault with the gasket. No harm had been done and the engine was stripped and sent off to a firm in Doncaster for the necessary machining. The chassis was completely stripped and sent for blasting. The wooden frame, after extensive dousing with woodworm killer - there was no rot but it had obviously made an enjoyable feast - was taken over to Chesterfield to be stored in Club Member Peter Baston’s loft, making room in my limited garage for me to work on the chassis and engine.
The bulk of the work on the chassis was completed by the following summer. A matching set of Hartford dampers was put together with the help of a ‘box of bits’ kindly supplied by Club Member Rod Holt. Other than this parts were only replaced as necessary and the only modification was the fitting lip-seals in place of felt. By September, with Peter Baston’s assistance, the frame was stripped and many hundreds of tacks used to hold the fabric in place were removed. It descended from the loft and was returned to its chassis for repair. The rear frame and roof timbers were sound as were the doors but all the other timbers needed to be replaced. Steaming and bending ash to form the rear wheel arches was a new experience for Peter and I but with the aid of a wallpaper stripper and a length of underground drainage pipe 3 attempts produced 2 usable arches.
Work continued on the frame and the various bits and pieces needing repair. The spring units for the rear seats were passable but the front seat frames needed to be rebuilt. I had initially hoped it might be possible to retain some of the original interior trim but the leather was beyond hope. Fortunately all the interior wood trim and the dashboard cleaned up nicely as did the instruments and switches. While all this was going on Malcolm Hall and team, a Lea-Francis restorer from Stockton-on-Tees, were busy making/repairing the wings and bonnet. They were returned to me to fill and rub down. Malcolm then took them back to do the job properly and finish with one of his excellent paint jobs.
The ash frame, now repaired with doors hung, was fixed to the chassis and was ready for covering. Finding someone to do the job was not to prove easy, either beyond my budget or too long to wait. A couple of club members had questioned why I was not ‘having a go’ so I bought myself a compressor, staple gun, several metres of Everflex and set to. It seemed sensible to start with the doors as I knew stretching the material round the inside of the window surround would be one of the main challenges. The first three attempts were scrapped and I was beginning to wonder if I should be more patient and hand the job over to someone who knew what they were doing. It was at around 4 o’clock in the morning – a time when I seem to think my best thoughts – when it occurred to me that the wallpaper stripper might come in handy again. It did and the next day I successfully covered the first door. From then on the stripper was in daily use and the car began to take shape. By mid-April I had the job done. Though not perfect I am happy with the result and it gives a greater sense of achievement than signing a cheque.
Things started to move quickly now. Re-wiring was uneventful. The addition of indicators, brake lights and rear lights seemed an essential modification but otherwise it was done as the original ‘two wire’ system’ and using all the original equipment. The headlining was a pleasure to fit and I am actually quite proud of the result. I collected the metalwork from Malcolm in September 2016, the seats were collected shortly after and on the 19th October, three years to the day since purchase, I ventured onto the road for the first time
I am just now, after about 300 miles, beginning to enjoy driving her. Though noisy and slow she has a lot of charm and certainly turns heads.”
Colin Poynter, the Lea-Francis Owners Club registrar for pre-war cars, writes: “To the best of my knowledge this car is the only one of its kind left and it is really important that it has been preserved as a saloon and not cut up and made into a sporting special of some kind. This is probably the best Lea-Francis saloon around at the moment and there is some competition for that accolade. Quite remarkable indeed.”
Posted November 2016
RoseLeaF Special – Suspended Animation
First reported in January 2015 (go to News Archive 2015 and scroll to the bottom) Robin Richardson has sent in the following update on his project to turn an un-recoverable Lea-Francis 14hp Saloon into a 1950s-style cycle winged road/racer.
Like many projects – well mine anyway – that initial burst of enthusiasm and solid progress is often followed by a period of stagnation and erratic progress. I haven’t abandoned it in the corner of the workshop but I have to admit that my attention has been elsewhere for the most of this year. Yes, I’ve been unfaithful to the LeaF. My major interest has always been the Land Speed Record so when a Railton Light Sports Tourer special in dire need of being turned into the car it ought to be from the car it was came up for sale, I just had to buy it. Reid Railton, who gave his name to the car, was the engineering genius behind John Cobb’s record breakers so it was simply too tempting. Sorry RoseLeaF.
The LeaF hasn’t been entirely forsaken in that time and in fact, the delay has given me time to reconsider some of my earlier plans. I’m trying to use as much as I can from the very sad remains of the saloon it once was, including the fuel tank. But as I walked around the back of the car it just didn’t look right to me. The curved rear body was not quite long enough and jarred somewhat once ply panels had been cut to mock up what the finished result would look like. It needed the tail to overhang rather than looking as if it had been plonked on top of it, which it had. Until the recent past, special builders would have shortened the chassis but with the authorities getting ever more strict in terms of what can and can’t be done while maintaining the original identity of the vehicle, that was off the agenda. This is a hot topic right now and I hear that more than one project has been mothballed until the way forward has been made clearer. I’ve taken guidance from the hot rod community who face the self same issues. The DVLA have an 8 point rule for components, 5 of which are awarded for retaining the original chassis. Others cover suspension, brakes, steering, engine and transmission. The difficulty is that many special builders have assembled all those parts from genuine vehicles but not the same vehicle, meaning that identity is in question straightaway. For the time being (unless they change the rules again) I’m lucky in that I bought a matching numbers vehicle known to the club and with all parts clearly identifiable. Critically, it came with the original brown log book which meant that soon after purchase I was able to secure a V5 to protect that identify. This means that when it’s ready to at least a basic level (before paint and final trim etc) I can apply for a change of body under the Radically Altered rules. Once checked and approved, you then have a set period of time in which to get it MoTd to ensure it really is road worthy.
So while working on the Railton while looking across at the LeaF, I’ve taken the decision to cut the body behind the cockpit and push the complete rear end backwards by eight inches so that it overhangs the flat rear. The bottom half of the pointed tail can then be cut to size and reattached so that it hides the rear chassis rails and all but the corners of the fuel tank. The gap will be filled with ally panelling and once I’ve figured out how to do it, will allow the complete back end to be flipped up for easy access. It also means I can mount the spare wheel horizontally over the rear axle without taking up all the space. Primarily intended for fun road use, I do need at least somewhere to store a few tools and a toothbrush. So in the end, the delay has proven to beneficial in a number of ways – even though it means more work.
Getting the seating and pedal position right in the rather snug cockpit took a while but I’ve now got that sorted thanks to aluminium seat frames that connect to an integrated prop-shaft cover that will in turn connect to a gearbox cover and front bulkhead. By making a small trolley with industrial wheels on it, I was able to slide that under the engine/gearbox, disconnect the mounts and then move things backwards by around six inches. Not only does that provide the baseline for the bulkhead, but it also frees up room in front of the engine for a decent sized radiator with a period oil cooler liberated from the Railton mounted low in front of that. Since the chassis narrows at the front end, that extra width gives me room to fit the modern Eaton supercharger alongside the engine. After taking advice from a friend at Lotus Engineering I’ve mocked up an MDF, plastic pipe and duck tape plenum that just fits. That will only be fitted once the engine is running on the single carb and stock manifold but I want it to be a bolt on conversion so getting it all sorted now makes sense.
Back in the cockpit I also spend quite a bit of time sitting in it with the wheel fitted and a blank cardboard dash in place (ok, I did the brmm brmm noises as well) figuring out what I needed and where the instruments and switches should be for ease of use. I’m sure it would have been cheaper to use new instruments but I’ve had the existing ones rebuilt but with satin black rims so they fit in with an intended crackle black ally dash. eBay is good for ex aviation switches and I’ve even got a WW2 boost gauge for when the supercharger is fitted. The seats incidentally are back seats from an Alfa GTV bought from eBay for forty quid which will be refinished in a darker brown colour. They mount snugly in the “bomber” style seat frames (you’d almost think I planned it that way) and are pretty comfortable.
On the outside I’ve decided on the locations for the front and rear lights – all new items already sourced – and the donated Aston fuel cap. Car Builder Solutions offer a mounting flange complete with a lockable insert which is handy. The very nicely made ally mudguards on the Railton just didn’t look right so having removed them, I plonked the rear ones on the LeaF just to stop them getting dinged and it turns out that not only do they fit but they will look just fine with a bit of alteration. I’ve already got cycle wings for the front. So that’s it for now. I promise to get back on the case after Xmas once all the major work on the Railton has been completed.
Posted November 2016
New restorations from our European Members.
Two cars painstakingly restored and back on the road in Germany and Norway.
1950 14hp 4-light saloon, chassis: 8050 UK Reg: LLH 212.
Egolf Steinbacher, from Wendelsheim in Germany, South West of Frankfurt, bought this car unseen from Ebay in 2004. The car had been in a Dutch Museum, then briefly back in the UK, and then in Northern Bavaria from 2003. The engine gave out and needed an expensive complete overhaul. Egolf discovered that at some time the body frame had been rebuilt using softwood. There was no alternative but to have a new frame created, a tremendous job which has been superbly done by coach-builders in Thüringen. Now silver on black with an attractive red coach line, Egolf recently used the car for his son’s wedding. Steinbacher Junior & his Bride compliment the car perfectly in this wedding scene taken in September 2016. The picture of the rear of the car at the Thüringen coach-bulders gives some idea of the extent of the restoration to the body frame.
1950 2.5litre Sports, chassis: 5024 UK Reg: JAA 629.
This photo shows the 2 1/2litre Sports belonging to Bård Nielsen from Drøbak, Norway being passed on October 12th at the Norwegian Testing Station, 12 years to the day after import. Bård writes “It’s been an uphill restoration from the basket case that I inspected under a tarpaulin behind the barn at Lea-Francis Cars Ltd, Moor Hall, in 2003, but with hindsight worth every minute of it… “
“Its new Norwegian registration is R-3372 (formerly JAA 629). This number is age-related here, and carries with it a Norwegian LeaF history: The only new LeaF ever to have been imported into Norway was a 1947 14 hp saloon, chassis no. 784, registered O-17 in Bergen on March 6th, 1947. First owners were the shipyard Mjellem & Karlsen. It was sold to a Mr Edvard Hilland on Oct. 27, 1962, and re-registered R-3372. Taxation lapsed on Dec. 31st 1965, and this index number was never ever used again, until yesterday.”
Bård has done almost all the restoration work himself including converting the car to left hand drive and mating the engine to a Jaguar MkVII gearbox with Moss overdrive. The chassis has required extensive restoration and a replacement engine has been uprated.
Posted October 2016
Third Corsica now under restoration in USA.
1938 12.9hp Corsica Sports, Car No.132 UK Reg.FLD 841 soon to be on the road.
Brian Coffee from Dayton, Ohio, USA has started the restoration of the third Corsica bodied Lea-Francis.
The Corsica body was the production version of Charles Follett’s Carlton-bodied sports car. Although considered by many to be the most handsome Lea-Francis of them all only three were sold.
Car No.132 was used in the cold-war spy caper film ‘The Iron Petticoat’, shot mainly at Pinewood Studios and released in 1956 and was driven by Bob Hope. It is thought to have been exported to the USA in 1969. In 1973 Neil Newlon from Illinois rescued the car from a junkyard near Batavia. The previous owner was driving it from Columbus, Ohio to St.Louis, Missouri when it broke down and was abandoned. By 1997 the engine and chassis had been rebuilt. Brian Coffee bought the car in the early 2000s. When his restoration is complete all three Corsicas will be on the road as well as the Carlton, a situation we haven’t had since the 1950s (or even 1940s). Scroll down this news page to see a report of the restoration of the Carlton car, also in the USA.
The other Corsica bodied cars:
Posted October 2016
Unusual and delightful pre-war saloon for sale.
1931 P Type 12/40 Carbodies six-light saloon Ch:19072 Reg: CWB 665 near Leeds.
Fitted with a Carbodies saloon body, one of only 10, this car, although completed in October 1931, was not sold until June 1936 owing to the Lea-Francis Company being in administration in the early 1930s. The car lost its original registration in the 1970s but this has been restored after painstaking research by a previous owner, Ian Yaxley. In the 1990s much work was done by then owner Charles Lees, including a rebuilt engine by A.B. Price with steel rods, which is now at 8018 miles since rebuild. This is a VSCC eligible car, on the road and useable. It is in very original condition and has some charming details. The interior is a delight. It has been mostly unused for a few years and would benefit from a tidy up and spring clean. It can be viewed in West Yorkshire and is offered for sale at the realistic price of £22,750 at http://www.prewarcar.com/classifieds/ad205747.html where you can see more photos.
Or please contact Peter Dowlen 07791632981
Posted October 2016
14hp Sports dominate 2016 Autumn Tour.
Friday 16 to Sunday 18 September 2016, Royal Oak Hotel, Betws-y-Coed.
Our 2016 Autumn Tour to Snowdonia was based in Betws-y-Coed and attracted 16 Lea-Francis cars of which no less than half were 14hp Sports. One 14hp Saloon attended driven down from Scarborough by Steve & Margot Chittock who last year organised our North Yorkshire Autumn Tour. Three P Types, one K Type, one S Tpe Hyper Replica and two 14hp Specials completed our party. Variety was the order of the tour with visits to The Ffestiniog Railway, Portmeirion and the Bala Lake Railway on Saturday and The Llanberis Slate Museum, Caernarfon Castle and Plas Brondanw Gardens on Sunday. The weather was good throughout with excellent light. The Saturday run included an 11 mile stretch of single track road between Bronaber and Llanuwchllyn to reach the Bala Lake Railway, returning to Betws-y-Coed over the moorland know as the Migneint (mires in English), wonderful driving in great evening light. We had only one casualty during the weekend, the blue 4-seater P Type of Geoff Elster burning out its Magneto brush. This was ingeniously solved by Peter Baston who obtained some aluminium foil from the Hotel kitchen and shaped it into a brush-shaped plug which when inserted in the Magneto’s cap enabled Geoff to start the car and drive it back to the Hotel to arrange a more permanent fix. This trip was seamlessly organised by Bob & Pam Parkes, who live near Dolgellau, and continues the Lea-Francis Club’s record of superbly organised and extremely absorbing Autumn Tours.
Pic 1. Mike Lea’s 1948 14hp Sports drops down towards Portmeirion leading Horst Meinerts’s P Type Special and the 14hp Sports restored and owned by Malcolm Hall. Photo by Jim Jenkins.
Pic 2. For Saturday only we were joined by this attractive 1927 K Type. The car is now based in Welshpool having recently been bought from Woodbridge in Suffolk.
Pic3. Two very different P Types. Horst Meinert’s car has a body based on an 1750 Alfa-Romeo and a Patrick Blakeney-Edwards prepared Meadows 4ED which produces twice the power of the more standard P Type behind belonging to Andy Baston.
Pic 4. Last stop on the last day at Dolywyllan Castle and our organiser Bob Parke’s 14hp Special is used as a bar for celebratory drinks supplied by Horst Meinert. Horst had come over from Bingen in Germany in the P Type with Egolf Steinbacher as navigator. Egolf has just completed a high-quality rebuild of a 1950 14hp 4-light Saloon.
Pic 5. Colin Mackenzie about to leap out of his Hyper Replica. This car was built as a W Type Francis Fabric Saloon in 1930 but converted to a S Type TT Hyper in 1990. Colin had driven up from East Sussex. Photo by Jim Jenkins.
Posted October 2016
Lea-Francis Owners Annual Rally 12 June 2016.
28 cars, evenly spread between pre & post war, attended our 6th visit to Broughton.
1. New for this year was optional period dress and a traditional jazz band. Peter Baston (left) & Colin Poynter possibly re-create the 1928 Ulster TT, won by Kaye Don in a Lea-Francis Hyper. Colin’s car, WK 5685, was the practice car at this race. Now un-blown, it has had an almost continuous competition history since. Photo from Sarah Poynter. 2. The jazz band. 3. This 1926 K type, brought down from Yorkshire by Jeremy Crowther, was the oldest Lea-Francis attending. Owned by his father for some 30 years since the early 1960s, Jeremy has recently brought the car back from Europe and is thoroughly enjoying maintaining and driving this rare machine. 4. Per-Eric & Margareta Ericsson returned in their 1949 14/70 6 light saloon from Sweden. They last came in 2011, and it was still raining, (but this time it cleared up at lunchtime). Photo from Jim Jenkins. 5. Peter Cork’s 1949 14hp Sports. Photo from Jim Jenkins. 6. Two P types, Andy Baston’s and David Smith’s, with the 1927 1 LFS 14/40 of John Follows on the right. 7. David Frolich and his father kindly ran the driving tests. Here David Smith in his P type gets to grips with the manoeuvres. Photo from Robin Sawers. 8. ‘Well it was in there when I left home.’ Owner John Follows (in red jacket) in discussion with Barrie Price on right. 9. General line–up looking over Sports rears. Photo from Robin Sawers.
Posted June 2016
Lea-Francis Special Sports RPK 500
The key aspects of the Clubs records of the car registered as RPK 500 are as follows, writes Colin Poynter, our Registrar for pre-1937 Lea-Francis cars.
Picture taken at 2013 VSCC Silverstone Spring Start race meeting.
The story of RPK 500 starts with a T type, chassis: 15066.
The T type is a chassis similar in nature to the O/P/U types, but is longer in order to accommodate the LFS engine which was fitted. 15066 was built in November 1928 and registered at some point in 1929, although the original registration is unknown. The car was shipped with LFS engine 468. At some point this engine was swapped for LFS318. This engine swap occurred prior to the 1950’s and may have been early on in the car’s life as many T types had engines swapped at the works because they gave so much trouble.
Top: RPK 500 at Bodiam Hill Climb, Oct. 1964, Below: In late ’50’s.
In the early 1950’s the car was owned by a Mr Wilcox and maintained for him by a D.W.Wright. During his ownership the car was rebuilt as a very stark two-seater (the two occupants would have to have been on very good terms given the narrow nature of the cockpit). The rebuild was onto a different, non-LeaF chassis (more of which below) and the T type frame was scrapped. In its new guise the car was low, with a cut down LeaF radiator, aero-screens, cycle type mudguards and rear-axle carried on quarter-elliptic springs.
On 30 May 1952 the rebuilt car was re-registered as RPK 500, but the chassis number used was that of the scrapped T type.
In 1963 Mr Baldock bought RPK 500 and rebuilt it into, what was effectively, a single-seat racer. Then in the late 1960’s Nick Portway bought the car and there started a lengthy exchange of letters in Motorsport between, among others, Keith Poynter and Peter Pringle (then LFOC Registrar) about the identity of the chassis and the engine. Keith maintained that the engine by now was not an LFS, but a 2LFS, something Nick proved when he dismantled it and discovered it had been bored to a capacity of 2090cc – something not possible on the LFS. At what point the swap occurred we do not know, although I suspect the engine in the car by the time Nick had it was 2LFS35 (an engine with a very peculiar and convoluted history for which there is no space here).
After Nick Portway, the car moved to D.Armstrong and then l’Anson. By this time it had become apparent the chassis frame was, in fact, that of a T35 Bugatti. L’Anson dismantled the car and the Type 35 was rebuilt around the frame.
By 1993 the remains of RPK 500 were with Ian Johnstone, which included the distinctive radiator and body, the axles and a chassis. The chassis now was a P type LeaF frame, cut off at the rear to take quarter elliptic springs. The chassis was P type 13137, originally an Avon Sports Tourer. The engine had gone elsewhere.
In December 2001, Stuart Pringle of the VSCC asked me to assist in getting a car owned by a VSCC member registered with the DVLA as RPK 500. Something I declined to do. However, RPK 500 was re-registered with the DVLA in the form it is in now and has been given a build date of 1926 – probably due to the chassis on which it is now built.
Photo: Rod Holt, April 2016, Bicester Heritage.
In its current guise RPK 500 is the closest thing one could get to building a Frazer-Nash from LeaF parts. The chassis frame is almost certainly from a J type. However, I am told the number on the frame is 6896. I have no record of this number ever having been used by Lea-Francis (although that does not mean they did not do so), and is closest to being part of the range of numbers used for the G type rather than a J type (I would be interested to know the wheelbase). Unfortunately, it appears, the number is not stamped in the location used on the G type. I do not know the engine number but understand it is a Meadows 4ED put together by Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and gives a genuine 100bhp on the dyno. Recently I have been trying to source a close-ratio gearbox for the owner who felt the wide-ratio unit fitted did not suit the characteristics of the engine. I do not know what the back-axle is on the car, but am certain it is not from a J type – if one can put 100bhp through a J type back axle with those fat tyres without destroying it I will eat my rather infamous kangaroo-skin hat.
1938 Lea-Francis Carlton Super Sports
Sold at auction in 2012 and shipped to America, the first sports car produced by the 1937 re-formed Lea-Francis Company nears the end of an extensive restoration.
When Lea-Francis engineering (1937) Ltd was set up in Much Park Street, Coventry, Hugh Rose and several other ex-Riley people were taken on and work started on developing a new engine and chassis. In 1934 Rose had designed the excellent Riley 12/4 engine, which stayed in production until the mid fifties. The Lea-Francis engine was designed as a ‘new improved’ Riley with camshafts mounted high in the block and very short pushrods.
Charles Follett was an established London car dealer who was director of the new Lea-Francis company (and Managing Director for a while). As the Main Dealer for London he decided to gain publicity for the new models and designed the attractive ‘1½ litre 2-4 Seater Super Sports’ as it was catalogued. Chassis numbers of the new chassis started at 50, and number 52 was shipped to Follett for the car to be bodied by the Carlton Carriage Company in early 1938. The smaller 11.9hp, 1496cc engine option was fitted in order to stay within the 1½ litre class, which Follett tuned and ran stripped, with a high axle ratio, in members’ handicap races at Brooklands, to demonstrate its speed. He was able to lap the banked outer circuit at an average of over 93mph and won one race at 90.98mph and was second in another. The car clearly made an impression, as before the 1938 London Motor Show a replica of the car had been ordered and built by the Corsica coachbuilding firm and was featured on the Lea-Francis stand. That car is now owned by Allan Lupton and is still competing successfully in VSCC rallies over 75 years later (see next news story down). Two further examples were built by Corsica. One has recently been restored by The Carrosserie Company, near Barnard Castle, http://www.carrosserie.co.uk/Projects/ID/6/Lea-Francis and the third is now in America and thought to be under restoration. It was driven briefly by Bob Hope in the 1956 British cold war comedy film The Iron Petticoat.
Ownership of the original Carlton bodied car after sale by the Lea-Francis Company in 1940 is not clear and what happened to the 1½ litre race engine is not known, but Barrie Price replaced a frost-damaged engine in 1953 with the 1692cc 12.9hp type. During the late fifties and early sixties the car was owned, in succession, by three members of the Dunlop Tyre Technical department, the last of these, Jack Leonard, selling it to Michael Perkins in 1962. A garage doing work for him carelessly allowed the engine and radiator to suffer serious frost damage, necessitating another engine and radiator change. However no pre-war engine was available, so a post-war 1767cc 14hp was fitted. Also the uniqueness of the radiator shell with its narrow rods was not appreciated and it was scrapped.
The car was bought by John Gould at a Bonhams auction on 3rd March 2012 for £30,090 inclusive of commission & VAT. It was in need of restoration but had a current MOT and was still a runner. This owner was moving from East Sussex to France and was unable to carry out any restoration, so the car was offered for sale again at Historics at Brooklands auction on 1st September 2012. The guide price was £38,000 to £42,000 but it failed to sell. It was bought privately by Gary Staadt from Rockville, Indiana. The body has been restored including the wood frame, the engine has been rebuilt with cracks in the block repaired, valves replaced or reground, new main bearings, camshafts, lightweight flywheel and twin carburetors, many of these coming from Barrie Price.
It is heartening to see that this handsome and effective car is at last being put back into proper condition and we in the Lea-Francis Owners Club look forward to its completion.
Posted June 2016
Muddy VSCC Spring Rally attracts three LeaFs.
Run on April 16, Lea-Francis cars perform well on wet roads. Allan Lupton reports.
The Vintage Sports Car Club names its rallies after the seasons now, having given up names based on where they are held. The 2016 Spring Rally, held in the South, took competitors to some entertaining lanes in Surrey and Hampshire on a not very Spring-like wet day after a rather wet week. Lea-Francis was represented by Colin Poynter, navigated by Lea-Francis Owners Club Chairman Sarah Poynter, in their 1928 Ulster S type (above); Allan Lupton, navigated by David Kirkham, in the 1938 Corsica Sports both in the Experts’ Class and Jonathan Green with Jeremy Roberts in the “Sahara”* W type special who were in the Champagne Class.
The Poynters’ car (14056) had been in Ulster for the 1928 TT as practice car and has been in almost continuous competition use since. Colin’s father Keith rebuilt it in the 1950s and raced, sprinted and rallied it for many years before he and Colin rebuilt it again incorporating more parts original to that car. Colin then raced, sprinted and rallied it until an accident in 2006 at Mallory Park. Rebuilt again by Colin, it is back in the sprint and rally field. Quite a contrast to the sister car (14055), driven in the 1928 Ulster TT by Wilf Green and owned in recent years by the Green family, which has been idle for most of the time since the TT and is being offered for sale soon (see news item below).
The 1930 W type boat-tailed special driven by Jonathan Green.
Competition history of the Lupton car (above) is more recent as there is no evidence that any of its first three owners competed with it. However in the 37 years in current ownership it has done many rallies and a few autotests and its crew were VSCC Champion Rally Navigator and Rally Driver in 2007!
The rally route was about 95 miles to be covered at average speeds of 20-24 m.p.h. with a total of 15 Time Controls where each minute fast or slow incurs a penalty and a similar number of Route Boards which are recorded to show the correct route was followed. Provisional results show Lupton & Kirkham were second in class with 14 points lost and the Poynters were 7th with 35 points despite navigating an open car in the rain, and recent promotion to expert class, halving the time allowed to plot the route. The Green/Roberts crew (right) were well down their class, probably suffering badly from the open car in the rain.
*Dubbed Sahara from a six week 6000 mile epic journey in 2010 crossing the Sahara Desert via Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso to Ghana in West Africa to raise money for the Sabre Trust for the work they do building primary schools in rural areas Lea-Francis to Ghana and
a second trip in 2013 unfortunately curtailed while motoring through Spain to Algeciras due to an engine failure.
All photos from http://www.tonylarge.net
More pictures here; http://lfoc.org/events/
and scroll down to VSCC and other events.
Posted April 2016
Enchanting 1926 Lea-Francis J Type for Sale.
Great opportunity to acquire a fully run-in and reliable 90 year old vintage classic.
Model: 1926 Lea-Francis J Type; Chassis: 7316; Registration: PF 5234;
Engine: Meadows 4EC, 12/22; Body: Avon four-seater.
A motor car with a lot of LFOC history, it was said to be the first Lea-Francis sold by A.B.Price, thereby marking the start of his business association with the marque. Barrie Price had rescued the car from a London scrap yard and passed it to his elder cousin. Within a short period of time it was sold to Jim Collins, for whom this purchase, in 1949, marked the start of an enthusiastic involvement with Lea-Francis cars and the Lea-Francis Owners Club. Jim owned the car for the rest of his life, using it extensively, including competitively and said that of all the LeaFs he had owned (and there were many) this J Type was always his favourite. He rebuilt the car twice and in the course of his ownership made a number of discreet improvements to make the car as reliable as possible without diminishing its charm. For example, in 1953 Jim replaced the notoriously fragile star-gear differential with the more robust bevel gear unit from a P Type Lea-Francis and then, when the Meadows 4EC engine required a rebuild, he incorporated a number of parts from the stronger 4ECA engine including the crankshaft.
As one might expect the car is by no means a low mileage example; with Jim alone having covered well in excess of 100,000 miles in it, this J Type may be a contender for the most travelled Lea-Francis.
In 2005, 7316 was purchased by another well-known Club member, Sir Richard Gaskell, who in turn kept it for the rest of his life. Richard also used the car extensively, including at Club meetings at Broughton Castle.
The LFOC’s Pre’37 Registrar had the opportunity to drive the car towards the end of last year and found it to be a lively and delightfully well-mannered machine.
Now in need of a new enthusiastic keeper, this important J Type requires only minor recommissioning before it is once again the reliable and enjoyable motor car it was found to be by its previous owners.
Posted April 2016
Historic Hyper S Type to be sold by Bonhams.
A rare chance to purchase an ex-works 1920s racing car with competition history.
Model: 1928 S Type Hyper; Chassis: 14055; Registration: WK 7492;
Engine: No. 10054, Meadows 4ED, 1496cc, with No.9 Cozette supercharger;
One of six Hypers prepared by Lea-Francis for the 1928 Ulster TT, this car was held as one of two spare cars, but was entered for the race after R M V Sutton’s Hyper 14051 rammed a bank during practice and overturned, trapping Sutton and his mechanic. It was driven by Wilfred Green who retired with engine trouble. The race was won by another Hyper, chassis 14053, driven by Kaye Don, now in the Coventry Transport Museum. WK 7492 was bought and raced by Wilf Green and re-acquired by the Green family in 1993. This car is to be offered for sale at auction by Bonhams on Friday 24 June at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Posted April 2016
90 year young K type Lea-Francis going strong.
Back in Yorkshire after 4 years in Europe, recommissioned and ready for summer.
Model: 1925 Lea-Francis K type 10hp 2 seat sports tourer; Chassis: 6442;
Engine: No. 4108, Meadows 4EB; Built: October 1925; First registered: 30th April 1926 as RR 3065.
Jeremy Crowther, the owner of this attractive Lea-Francis K type, has recommissioned his father’s Lea-Francis.
He writes: The last and only time I drove the car apart from recently was in 1980 when at the tender age of 19, I took her out for a spin and promptly broke the back axle. My nervousness of driving the car again was profound, but with advice from Steve Chittock and the tips he gave me all appears well.
After my father’s death in 1998 his Lea-Francis K type Sports Tourer, bought in 1962, was sold, a decision that was regretted, but one that has a good ending. On the 3rd August 2015, I bought my father’s K type back from the Netherlands.
My father wrote the following which appeared in an article in the Lea-Francis Owners magazine in November 1969:
‘My first sight of the model (actually it is the one that I now own) was when a rather ancient looking two seater drew alongside me at traffic lights in Scarborough. I was cycling home from school at the time in about 1947, and I remember being impressed at the melodious sound of the gears as it drove off, together with the smart appearance of the furled hood, which thereby displayed the car’s occupants to the fullest advantage.
Some fifteen years later I was chatting to a colleague about my search for an interesting vintage car, when he mentioned an old Lea–Francis which he knew of as being for sale. When he rang me the following day with further details I quickly investigated, to find that the car was actually my old friend and the one that I remembered from my school days.
At first sight she looked a horrible prospect, covered in grime, flat tyres, side lights missing and in completely uncared-for condition, having not been run for several years. Further investigation proved that little deterioration had taken place and the car was in similar condition to when it had been laid up due to the death of the first owner in 1956 and that during all of this time the car had lived in my home town.
So on the 22nd February 1962 and for the sum of £10.00, the Lea–Francis was bought. A quick and alarming tow home (Scarborough to Bridlington) 20 miles away followed and work commenced.
The reasons for the Lea–Francis being in use until 1956 are rather interesting. The car was owned from new by the same gentleman and as far as I could find out, no other person had ever driven it. Apparently due to a war injury (First World War) he had a stiff leg, which meant having a car with a perfectly flat floor, high running boards and a grouping of handbrake and gear controls to the extreme right.
Once this combination had been achieved by the little K type it was not able to be repeated in the same size car when he hunted for a change in the mid-thirties. The car therefore continued in use and was still relatively well preserved when others were at the scrapping stage.
The K type now has its original registration number.
Restoration work proceeded quickly and this being my first restoration also in completely the wrong order! The only way to tackle a job of this kind is a complete strip and rebuild. I attempted to do things the easy way and to attend to tasks that were apparently necessary. This results in the end in more work than ever and it is only recently that the standard really approaches concourse condition (1969). It will never be 100% without a substantial rebuild.
The main point of concern was the engine which was terribly noisy in many alarming ways. The subsequent work on the unit would take another article to explain, but for those who are familiar with the Meadows 4EB, a few points may be of general interest.
It is an OHV four cylinder engine with splash lubricated big end bearings, fed from dippers working into pump fed troughs cut into the ally sump. The same plunger pump works on the eccentric on the camshaft, also lubricating the timing gears. However the two main bearings are gravity oiled, by being fed, from oil, splashed into collection ribs cast into the side of the crankcase, which is fed into oil ways on the top of the bearing housings. There is no positive feed to the overhead valve gear, but the rocker shaft is packed with an oil soaked wick which takes care of the rocker arm bushes. Despite this crudity the shaft was little worn and required only oil can attention with subsequent top-ups at rare intervals.
Most of the noise came from the well-worn little ends. These were replaced with pre-war Hillman Minx oversized ally pistons and the block rebored to suit and the big ends adjusted utilising the brass shims found between the big end cap and rod. All work was done with the engine in situ with the clutch being left in its original and very fierce condition.
After this work the engine is tolerably quiet and still works on the original size crank and bearings. Not a bad achievement for a car of this age.
The rest of the rebuild consisted of new running boards, repaint (still wears this in 2015), new hood, nickel plate and a lot of detail work.
My main impressions after running the car are pure admiration for the aforesaid reliability and criticism of the atrociously rough clutch, together with the poor ride over rough surfaces. This latter point could be helped if shock absorbers were fitted, but I am loth to spoil a very original car. Cruising speeds are a very happy 40/45 mph with a safe maximum of 50 mph.
To keep the engine happy at these speeds the sump should be overfilled by about 2 pints, which submerges the dipper troughs and makes them less dependent on the little plunger pump. This pump also requires a little modification by putting light coil springs behind the ball valves and thereby cutting down the size of the pump stroke used in valve movement. This doubles the rate of delivery and is absolutely essential with modern thin oils. It is worth mentioning that the multigrade oils are too thin when cold to enable the pump to make effective delivery. The best compromise seems to be modern detergent SAE30 oil.’
Most of the work was done on a trial basis by my father and as a child I have many memories of car runs such as the Manchester to Blackpool, Bradford to Morecambe, Castle Howard shows etc. when cars which are collectible now were commonplace.
Over the years we had various catastrophes. My most frightening memory is of a run to Brimham rocks, around 1976 when my sister and I were sitting in the dickey seat. We both heard a sharp cracking noise and the sight of the rear wheels overtaking the car was a sight to be remembered. The axle casing had broken and this was the start of at least 3 axle/diff rebuilds over the next 20 years. Modifications were taken at every stage, but in essence, metal fatigue and poor design had taken their toll. We did 1000s of miles in the little Lea-Francis, this is not reflected in speedometer readings as since 1962 the milometer has never worked and the mileage over this time has always stood at 45007!
The one thing that I can always remember about my car and to use my father’s words is the “melodious sound of the gears” it is a sound etched into my soul.
Lonely K type in the Lea-Francis parking at the Donington Historic Festival.
In 1999 it was time for the car to be sold and in this an excellent custodian came to the fore in the name of Stephen Chittock, who I worked for at the time. In 1999 we had just finished another diff rebuild, undertaken by Barrie Price of Lea-Francis cars and a deal was done with Steve. Unfortunately for Steve the diff soon broke again due to poor or over-hardened gears and Barrie Price remanufactured the diff gears again. For some time I am told it all worked well however, during Steve’s ownership, he also undertook yet another diff rebuild, using the parts from a later car which are far stronger. He also renewed the hood, side screens and much other detail work to the paintwork, wheels etc., including what appears to be almost every chassis bolt being changed to stainless.
In 2011 Steve, after 12 years of ownership, sold her to a new owner in Germany. Very quickly he did the one thing that you must never do in a K type, namely use the handbrake especially whilst on the move! The diff casing once again gave way and was again repaired, but this time by changing the unit for a much stronger stock item. Hopefully this will last.
In 2013 the LeaF ended up with an enthusiast owner living in the Netherlands. The car at some untold time had ended up in a museum in Maastricht and the new owner traded in an Amilicar as his daughters insisted that he needed a safer car in which to take the grandchildren out.
The K Type back in Yorkshire after a 1000 mile 3 day trip to the Netherlands.
The Leaf was not used much and during this time the standard of the car deteriorated and in essence the owner was a bike and not a vintage car man.
In July 2015 I spotted the K type on a Classic car website and after a few weeks of emailing a deal was done to bring her back. In early August 2015 my wife, myself and our 12 year old son embarked on a 1000 mile three day trip to bring her back to Yorkshire some 70 miles from where she has lived for most of her life.
There have been a number of relatively small issues, a few dings and dents, dynamo not working, hole in exhaust and some interesting alterations to the passenger door locks which have required attention. I was going to repaint the wings and lamps this season but have run out of time. The car looks well now, the only thing still to do is to have the dynamo or the control box looked at. I am going to use her this summer and during winter more than likely get all the wings repainted, I may even end up repainting the whole car. I have also got round to ordering the rear number plate – RR3065 – this is the original number, my mother kept it and has given it back to the car. (See rear view picture above).
So there we have it, the K type is back and I hope to do the car justice. Over the weekend of 30th April to 2nd May I drove the car through rain & hail to the Donington Historic Festival. Apart from a fuel blockage due to dirt in the tank she went really well. I kept to a steady 40/45 on the M1 and the trip was done in 2 hours and around 180 miles in the day.
Posted April 2016
18hp 2½ litre Westland sold at auction.
Only surviving example sold for £33,600 at Historics at Brooklands, June 11 2016.
The picture, from Zack’s Motor Photos shows the car at the July 2011 Polhill Classic Car Event.
This car, a 1950 Lea-Francis 18hp 2½ litre Westland 4 seater tourer, was sold at auction by Historics at Brooklands, Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0QN, on Saturday June 11 2016 for a hammer price of £33,600, making a total including 15% buyers commission, plus VAT, of £39,648. Click here for more information.
Only two of these cars with bodies by the Westland Motor Company were ever built, the second being a 2 seater sports model which was crushed in the 1960s. HCJ 541 was registered in Hereford on 11 May 1950, and first owned by a Mr Marshall of Hereford. After 4 owner changes it went in November 1984 to Connaught expert Duncan Rabagliati in Wimbledon. Robert Deeley from North Devon acquired it in 1998 and with the help of member Pete Povey the inherent problem of overheating was finally solved by re-coring the radiator with a high-efficiency core, fitting a Kenlowe fan and under the front of the car a tapering funnel fitted to direct incoming air to where it was most needed. Pete also undertook an extensive body restoration and respray. It was sold to Mike Twomey from Bromley, Kent in Spring 2010 who passed it on to its present owner Derek Keys in 2011. Derek has had the engine rebuilt by Richard Barber of Roses Garage of Sandwich, with much help and supply of parts from Barrie Price, and the gearbox overhauled by Bexhill Gearboxes. Derek has used the car for general motoring and states that it is much admired. Mileage from new is less than 50,000.
More information about Westlands here and here
Posted March 2016
Woodie sold at Cambridge auction.
1951 Lea-Francis Estate with independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes.
One of the most attractively styled estate cars ever, this 1951 Lea-Francis Estate was sold at Cheffins Cambridge Vintage Sale, The Saleground, Sutton, Nr Ely, Cambs, CB6 2QT, on Saturday 16th April, just making the reserve of £22,000 on the hammer.
Chassis No: 8926 was originally delivered in gunmetal to Boshier & Pattenden Ltd, Norwich, on 23.3.1951 and registered MAH 700. In 1978 the car was passed on to Barrie Price of Lea-Francis Cars Ltd in Studley, Warwickshire by a number plate dealer with only 17,000 miles on the clock. It was re-registered CUE 938B and bought by David Simpson, at that time an employee at Lea-Francis Cars, who restored the body and woodwork, re-painted it in silver grey and fitted rear hydraulic brakes and larger drums. David used the car for family holidays with a small caravan in tow and sold it in 1986 with mileage at 41,000 to Sir Michael Leighton of Loton Park, who passed it on in 1987 to a buyer in Tunbridge Wells. Found some years later in Devon or Cornwall it was bought by Key Garage in Ripley, Surrey who sold it to another trader, who put it up for auction at Sandown Park, from where David Howard Cars bought it. The car had been re-registered with its current number OFF 432 in 1994. The present owner, Mrs Warner bought it in 1996 from the latter dealer in poor condition but the body and wood were sound. After a 2 year restoration by Mrs Warner’s husband, Michael, a vintage Alvis enthusiast and Director at Lotus, it won ‘Best in Show’ at the 2010 Helmingham Hall Classic Show, Suffolk.
More information about Lea-Francis Estates here
Posted February 2016
Congratulations to Richard Houlgate
The results have been published for the Vintage Sports Car Club inaugural Speed Series 2015, for the best performance in the eight speed events run by the VSCC throughout the year. Congratulations to Richard Houlgate who, with his 1930 Hyper Replica, has not only come first in Class 4 (Standard and Modified Sports Cars 1501-2000cc Unsupercharged and up to 1500 cc Supercharged), but has come fourth overall in this hotly contested series. The result is a credit to both Richard’s ability behind the wheel and the work he puts into preparing the car. Richard says: “I was also third in the Annual Trials Trophy (The Hagerty Trophy) in my 1930 Austin 7. The success is due to hard work and tenacity, to do well all that is required is a reliable car and to enter all the events. My thanks go to Graham White who put the engine together when he had the car, and dropped everything after Brooklands to fix the supercharger for Prescott.” Richard has also come second in the Lycett Memorial Trophy and first in the Delaney Brooklands Trophy, awarded to the driver gaining the most points during the year driving any vintage Lea-Francis. The picture by Peter McFadyen shows Richard approaching the Esses at VSCC Prescott Speed Hill Climb on 1st/2nd August 2015 to take 2nd overall in Class 4.
Posted: December 2015
Did your Grandad have one?
Just passing by this website? Do you have memories of Lea-Francis cars?
If you have photographs, stories or memories to tell of Lea-Francis cars from the past, perhaps when on holiday or as a child, we would love to hear from you.
Posted: October 2015