|Production||1947 to 1953|
|Body and chassis|
|Layout||Front engine, rear drive|
Lea-Francis Sports car.Built: Coventry, England, from 1947 to 1953
After some years in limbo, the Lea-Francis marque was reborn in 1938, around a new twin high camshaft engine designed for them by Hugh Rose. As Rose had been a senior designer at Riley, it was not at all surprising to see that the Lea-Francis engine looked very much like that of the latter-day 1930s Rileys.
Cars introduced in 1938 were re-introduced after the end of the war, but the sports car derivative which made its bow in the autumn of 1947 was not a re-hash of a 1930s model. Its chassis frame was indeed a development of the 1938 frame, but with a wheelbase shortened by 12 inches. At the time it was strictly conventional, with simple half-elliptic leaf spring suspension at front and rear. The engine was a 1496cc version of the Hugh Rose design, rated in oldfashioned terms as a 'Twelve'.
The body style was a peculiar mixture of old and new, for it was coachbuilt in the traditional way, and had a lack of sweep-through lines, yet it had a streamlined grille and recessed headlamps. There were only two seats, and no more than the acceptable minimum of weather protection.
Almost as soon as sales got under way, the engine capacity was increased to 1767cc, by a simple 6mm bore increase, but for the first year at least the oldfashioned chassis was retained. From the autumn of 1948, however, the old frame was given a new torsion bar independent front suspension, which was standardised on all Lea- Francis models, saloon and sporting.
Finally, from the end of 1949, the 1767cc 'Fourteen' engine was joined by the option of a 2496cc 'Eighteen' engine. This, though similar in many ways to the original design, had many detail differences, including the use of a simple duplex camshaft chain drive, and had a bore and stroke of 85 x 110mm. It was also very powerful, producing 100bhp (gross) at 4000rpm, and made the Lea-Francis sports car quite a proposition in rallies of the period, for its maximum speed was about 100mph. Unhappily, Lea-Francis, like other rather impoverished sporting car manufacturers of the postwar period, could spare no resources to develop or replace this model, and when sales fell away they had no choice but to let it die a lingering death. The last of these rugged tourers was sold in 1953, at which point Lea-Francis withdrew from the motor car manufacturing business. Total production was 228 of the smaller engined cars, and very few 2h-litre Lea-Francis cars were built.
It is worth noting, however, that the engine was very tunable, as is proved by the fact that derivatives achieved some distinction when used in Connaught sports-racing Specification (14hp model) Engine and transmission: 1500cc, in-line, with two camshafts, but with pushrod operated overhead valve cylinder head. Bore, stroke and capacity 75 x IOOmm., 1767cc. Maximum power 77bhp (gross) at 5100rpm., maximum torque not quoted. Four-speed manual gearbox, in unit with engine. Spiral bevel final drive. Chassis: Front engine, rear drive. Separate steel chassis frame, with box-section and channel section sidemembers. Front suspension of beam axle by half-elliptic lea'f had independent front suspension by longitudinal torsion bars and wishbones). Worm and nut steering. Rear suspension of live axle by half-elliptic leaf springs.
Bodywork: Coachbuilt bodyshell, wood framed, with light-alloy skin panels, in two-door two-seater open sports style, by Lea-Francis. Length 13ft. Oin.; width 5ft. 3in.; height 4ft. 8in., Unladen weight 24601b.
Performance: (1948 model): Maximum speed 87mph. 0-60mph 19.2sec. Typical fuel consumption 24mpg. Note: A few early (1947-1948) models were equipped with a '12hp' engine, 69 x 100mm., 1496cc. Maximum power approx 65bhp at 4700rpm. There was also a 21/2-litre '18hp' model, with engine of 85 x 110mm., 2496cc. Maximum power 100bhp (gross) at 4000rpm.