Lea & Francis, having decided to enter the motor manufacturing business, set up a new company called Lea and Francis Motor Syndicate Ltd and engaged Alexander Craig to design them a motor car. A freelance consulting engineer, Craig’s first commission had been to design an apparently successful three-cylinder car for Maudslay.
Craig’s design for Lea-Francis was a reasonably conventional frame and suspension, but fitted with an extremely unorthodox engine and drive arrangement. The three-cylinder engine shared many features with the Maudslay, including a hinged camshaft for easy access to the valves. It was fitted horizontally within the chassis frame with the crankshaft parallel to the axles and the head of the engine located to the front of the car. This arrangement allowed for easy access to ignition and carburation arrangements via an access panel. With the water-cooled engine mounted under the floor in this way, there was no bonnet in the conventional sense of the word, although one could access further parts of the machinery by removing the front floorboards. Perhaps the most unusual feature of the car was that, in order to eliminate the need for long drive chains, the crankshaft was located reasonably close to the rear wheels. This arrangement necessitated the use of connecting rods that measured 2’ 9” between centres. Flywheels were mounted either side of the crankshaft and each contained a clutch allowing drive to be transmitted via one or other of the chains to the rear wheels to give the two high speed gears. A lower gear and reverse were available via a set of planetary gears mounted in the nearside hub.
Only three cars were ever built, one of which was destroyed by fire at the works, one went to an unknown buyer in Daventry and one to Hans Renold of chain-making fame.
None of the cars survive.