TURNING A NEW ” LEAF ” REFINEMENT WITH A SPORTING PERFORMANCE THE KEYNOTE OF THE LEA-FRANCIS RANGE
WHEN once a car has won for itself the reputation of a thoroughbred, the affection in which it is held by enthusiasts is rarely lost. Even when, as in the case of the Lea-Francis, a make has been lost for a few years, it is certain on its return of a warm welcome.
The new Lea-Francis preserves all the traditions of the former models, but has been brought thoroughly up-to-date. It now adds another to that all too scanty list of productions which are not built down to a price, but up to a specification. In other words, it is designed to meet the needs of a man who knows one end of a car from the other, and who wants something different, out of the ordinary run.
Even sporting enthusiasts are not averse to travelling about in comfort, especially if it so happens that they have got married, and for family or business reasons no longer wish to go about with a rattle and a bang. Yet they still desire a good performance, and a car of distinction, turned out at a moderate price.
First of all, the engine of the new LeaFrancis is on the most modern lines, with four cylinders, overhead valves set at 90°, hemispherical combustion heads, and central 14 mm. plugs. The valve gear is the subject of a patent. Twin camshafts, set high up on each side of the cylinder block, are driven by helical gears through the medium of a double roller chain, with automatic tensioning device. The valves themselves are operated by light tappets and extremely short pushrods to the rocker gear, so that the weight of reciprocating parts is kept as low as possible. An advantage of this system, as opposed to full overhead camshafts, is the simplicity of adjustment, and the fact that when the cylinder head is removed, the valve gear need not be disturbed. The inlet and exhaust valves are each enclosed in a neat aluminium cover, in the centre of which, on both sides, is an oil-filling orifice. These oil-fillers are thus in the
most accessible position possible, and already it is seen that accessibility is a great feature of the new Lea-Francis. Inlet and exhaust mainfolds are on opposite sides, but on the inlet side there is a central hot-spot, heated by means of a passage from the exhaust system
passing through the head. A special point is made of the cooling system, for the water jacket completely surrounds all the vital parts, such as valve ports and plugs.
The water-pump is mounted high up in front of the engine, between the valve chests, and is driven by a belt, which also passes round the dynamo pulley. The distributor, placed vertically and also high up beside the water-pump, is driven by skewgearing from one of the camshafts, and owing to its position is very accessible. It is posiible that on the super-sports model a vertical magneto will be fitted. A hand control is supplied for advance and retard.
The crankshaft has three main bearings, and the centre bearing is of large diameter, with a split circular housing. An accessible external oil filter is fitted, and the drain plug, with a long extension at the side of the engine, is similarly ready to hand.
Two engine sizes are available at the same price, one being known as the Twelve, with bore and stroke 69 x 100 mm. (1,489 c.c.), and the other as the Fourteen, with dimensions 72 x 100 rum.
(1,629 c. c.). For the smaller engine the tax is 0, and for the larger unit 15s. The latter is said to give a maximum speed for the standard ears of about 80 m.p.h., about 6 to 7 m.p.h, faster than with the I fare engine. A fourspeed gearbox with synchromesh on second, third and top is used, while a pre-selector box can be fitted at an extra charge. A super-sports model will be of outstanding interest to enthusiasts, having a two-four-seater body of rakish lines,
with the rear seats enclosed in the tail by a folding lid. The hood is also completely concealed, and when erected covers the front seats only. Side-curtains, which are much lighter than winding glass windows, are supplied, and the spare wheel is mounted on top of the tail. This Car will be in production form, it is hoped, have a speed of about 85 m.p.h. or more. It will have a high compression engine, and a top gear of 4.3 to 1, compared with 5.25 to 1 for the other cars.
At present this model has not been turned out for the public, but Charles Follett, who is managing director of the new company, has already done well with the first of the type at Brooklands, where he lapped at approximately 93 m.p.h. with the car in racing trim.
Follett himself will continue to race this model, obtaining valuable data for production types, and next year it is hoped that a limited racing programme will be undertaken. Thus, while comfort and refinement will be the keynotes of the standard cars, the sporting characteristics of the “Leaf” will be maintained.
As regards the standard cars, there are already listed a four-light saloon, costing 1;395, a six-light saloon at the same price, a four-seater tourer at 098, and a drop-head coupe at £410. The supersports two-four-seater will cost ki45.
Considerable attention has been paid to luggage room. An unusual feature is that either half of the rear-seat squab will fold. down and form a level platform with the floor of the boot. This allows lengthy articles such as golf-clubs, skis, tents, fishing-rods, etc., to be laid full length, and greatly increases the utility of the luggage compartment. As is well known, it is often awkward to stow some of the articles mentioned, especially when other luggage is being carried, owing to the shape of the normal boot, which cannot very well be altered in the interests of appearance.
On the saloons the spare wheel is carried low down beneath the floor of the luggage compartment, and the tool locker is also located here, with separate access. On the drop-head coupe, however, the spare wheel is carried outside, and the tools are lodged in a locker at the side of the boot. It is good to see that the engine is mounted well back behind the front axle, for many enthusiasts do not approve of the modern tendency for forward engine mounting, both on the score of weight distribution and of appearance. On the Lea-Francis, however, though the wheelbase is only 9 ft. 3 in. (track 4 ft. 4 in.), leg-room has not been sacrificed either for front or rear passengers, a feature made possible by the compact four
cylinder power unit. The rear seats are well within the wheelbase.
The frame is underslung at the rear, and has diagonal stiffening members to carry the power unit, as well as five crossmembers. Half-elliptic springs are fitted at both front and rear, and on the standard cars Luvax double-acting hydraulic shock-absorbers are used. Wire wheels with knock-off hub caps are part of the specification, and braking should be entirely adequate, as Girling operation is used for 13 in. drums. All the chassis points are automatically lubricated by the Luvax 13ijur system_