A WELCOME REVIVAL
WILLING ENGINE POWER A FEATURE OF THE 14 H.P. LEA-FRANCIS sporting enthusiast is a difficult man to please, but once his affection has been captured by a car, it is
seldom lost. Lea-Francis cars, some years ago, were in the forefront of machines built to satisfy the discerning motorist. A Lea-Francis won the first Tourist Trophy Race over the Ards circuit, in 1928, and in races of that period they were always to be reckoned with.
Then, for some reason, their manufacture was dropped, and a great number of motorists felt that a gap had been created in the market. It was, therefore, welcome news when the announcement was made, early this year, that the LeaFrancis was to be revived, and that the managing director of the new concern was to be none other than Charles Follett, well known to sporting motorists.
The new models were seen at the recent Earl’s Court Motor Show, and the smart two-four-seater sports-car, appearing for the first time, attracted much notice. Unfortunately the sports model was not available on the occasion when the present test, one of the first to appear in any paper, was conducted by MOTOR SPORT, but the six-light saloon, likely to be one of the best sellers in the range, proved itself a worthy substitute, and no sluggard in the matter of performance.
The traditional shape of the Lea-Francis radiator is retained, and the car at once attracted by its handsome coachwork, a saloon body proving of some advantage on this occasion, as it was quite one of the wettest days that the English climate can produce. The model tested had a four-cylinder 14 h.p. engine of 1,620 c.c., but a 14-litre 12 ‘h.p. engine is also available at the same price on all models, for those who desire a lower tax, or who wish to keep within the international class limit of 1,500 c.c. for competition purposes. Both engines are of similar design, with high-efficiency type hemispherical cylinder heads, and inclined overhead valves operated by a
special system of pushrods. With its two valve chests, enclosed by ribbed aluminium covers, and central plugs, the engine has a most workmanlike appearance, not belied by its performance. The great feature of the new LeaFrancis is its pulling power. As soon as a hill comes in sight, the car seems to gather itself together, and the longer the slope goes on, the more willing does the engine appear to be. One gets the impression that if the hill went on for several miles, at the top the car would be developing a 100 h..p., and would be going faster than ever This feature is particularly noticeable on top gear (5.2 to 1), and leads one to the
idea that, in spite of the big saloon body, for the man who does not mind using his gearbox, a higher axle-ratio (fitted on the sports model) might be possible. Although the top-gear performance is so good, there is no suggestion of fussiness on the level, and indeed a cruising speed
of over 60 m.p.h. comes easily to the car. The four-cylinder engine is quite smooth and happy at all speeds.
The gearbox has synchromesh on second, third, and top, and the change is rapid and certain. Indeed, some people are never satisfied, for when one has such a good synchromesh box, one almost finds it too eaSy.
The car was taken down to the West country, and one of the occasions which showed off its qualities best was in the long, twisting ascent of Dunkery Beacon, taken on second and third gears. This was the only occasion on which it was found possible to make the thermometer rise from its customary 700 maintained steadily however fast one drove the car. On the Beacon, with a following wind— a test which would tax the cooling capacity of many cars—the thermometer barely rose to 80°, and one would thus set off to climb an Alp with the utmost confidence in the cooling system.
Messrs. Charles Follett Ltd., the London distributors, had said that in their opinion the speedometer on the model tested was a little slow. This is indeed a rare feature of modern cars, and actually proved to be the case, the instrument being pessimistic to the extent of about 4 per cent. A speedometer of this kind is actually very satisfying, for one knows for certain that one is actually doing at least the speed shown on the dial, instead of having to make allowances. A maximum speed of just under 80 m.p.h. over the quarter-mile was reached, in slightly favourable conditions, and the mean speed, in both directions of the course, was 77 m.p.h. At this speed, the speedometer read 75 m.p.h. This is
certainly very creditable, and well up to Lea-Francis traditions. The acceleration was also good, and with the aid of the snappy gearchange, the following figures were obtained :
0-20 m.p.h., 5 secs. 0-30 m.p.h., 8 secs. 0-40 m.p.h., 14 secs. 0-50 m.p.h., 18-I secs. 0-60 m.p.h. , 261 secs. 0-70 m.p.h., 38* sees.
The maximum speed on third gear was just 50 m.p.h., but actually, if one had had time for experiment, it might have paid to change up a little earlier when attempting the figure from a standstill to’ 60 m.p.h., since with a quick change at full revs., there was a momentary trace of clutch-slip. The driving position calls for especial praise, since it is so arranged that drivers Of widely differing heights can actually sit at the wheel without altering the position of the seat. This is because an upright position has been adopted, so
that the knees are well bent, while the back is firmly supported. If one wishes to move the seat, there is, of course, an adjustment, but it should only be required by dwarfs or giants. A good point is that a view of both wings is possible, in spite of the tall radiator. The steering is neither particularly high nor particularly low-geared. As one often notices with thoroughbred cars, there is a certain knack about it which one has to realise. This is difficult to describe, but once one has made friends with the car, one finds the corner
ing excellent. The springing, too, was good, smoothing out the shocks without being too soft.
Without decrying the brakes at all, which were of great power and smoothness, with .Girling operation, honesty compels one to put down that on this particular car they tended to pull. No doubt this was merely a matter of adjustment, for the car had covered many thousands of miles. There is a roomy luggage trunk at the
rear, with a conveniently arranged step to make the most of the available space which, considering the graceful lines of the tail, is very generous, and quite surprising when one opens the lid of the boot. Two cubby-holes are fitted in the dash, and there are both a rev, counter and a speedometer. The instruments have white dials, an unusual feature, pleasing to the eye. The twin screen-wipers have a remote motor, fitted out of the way under the bonnet, and this is quite
inaudible. There is also an ignition control, in the centre of the steering wheel, and though one does not have to use this very much, it is always a great satisfaction to have a control of this nature, for there is no doubt that if one takes the trouble, performance can be increased by skilful adjustment, to meet varying conditions.
The price of the six-light Lea-Francis saloon is £39, and the address of the manufacturers is Lea-Francis Engineering (1937) Ltd., Much Park Street, Coventry.