THE RETURN OF THE LEA-FRANCIS
THE marque of Lea-Francis will soon be in active production again. The original Lea-Francis Company was formed in 1896, for the manufacture of bicycles. In 1900 they began making cars, one early model having a 3-cylinder 4″ x 6″ horizontal engine—so far the Veteran C.C. has not unearthed an ex ample. In 1911 the famous V-twin motor-cycle was introduced, with twowheel braking and fully-enclosed chaindrive. In 1922 the 12 h.p. Lea-Francis light car made its bow, and Tatlow gained a Gold Medal on one in the 1924 R.A.C. Six-Day Trial. Subsequently the famous 1 i-litre sports job was offered to the public, with a Cozette supercharger available as standard. Seal was set to its fame when Kaye Don won the 1928 T.T. at 64.06 m.p.h. Another big success of the ” Hyper” model was the Saorstat Cup Race of 1929, when S. C. H. Davis and W. H. Green finished second and third behind Ivanovski’s Alfa, Davis averaging 74.62 m.p.h. for the 277 miles. Lea-Francis also built 6-cylinder models, including the twin o.h. camshaft ” 14-40 ” of 1927 and the” Ace of Spades “of 1930. There are five old-school Lea-Francis amongst cars owned by members of the
Vintage S.C.C. The original company ceased production some time ago, but a. new Lea-Francis is to make its appearance, designed by George Leek and R. H. Rose. The new Lea-Francis will be offered in two sizes, a 11-litre 69 x 100 mm. 11.9 h.p., and a 1.6-litre 72 x 100 min. 13 h.p., both 4-cylinder. The engine design is essentially’ modern, but conventional. The o.h. valves are inclined in hemi spherical chambers, and are operated by high-level chain-driven camshafts on each side of the cylinder block. These camshafts are so located that the cylinder head is detachable without disturbing them. Such a feature has long figured amongst commercial vehicle designs, in some instances of which the head actually hinges over for decarbonisation. Lagonda introduced this idea to the car world in their famous twin camshaft 2-litre, but used rockers to actuate the valves. The Lea-Francis uses tappets sliding in the block and 2i” push-rods operating via ball-ended rockers mounted on a rocker shaft on the head. Thus the advantages of o.h.c. operation are secured without servicing complications, which has long been a feature of all Riley powerunits, of the A atovia and of certain early Dorman rower-units. The valves are set at 900 in machined hemispherical heads. Some persons can see no advantage in this head arrangement unless startlingly high compression ratios are used, but they overlook good port shapes, and efficient combustion, and the latent possibilities awaiting engine-tuners, The Lea-Francis has 14 unit, plugs set centrally, slightly off-centre and straight, machined ports. The crankshaft runs in three bearings and is counter-weighted and of large proportions. There is waterspacing between each cylinder in the monobloc block and the stiff crankcase has a ribbed aluminium sump. A submerged gear-type oil-pump is used and the oil-drain valve can be opened without crawling beneath the car.. The valve ports are on opposite sides of the block and the single carburetter is hot-spotted on the hot-air principle to a spot on the induction manifold. The ignition distributor is set vertically, driven by skew-gearing. Cooling is by belt-driven centrifugal pump in tandem with the fan. Ignition timing is by suction in addition to governor control. This is a most promising unit. The 1 i-litre example is claimed to develop 50 b.h.p. at 4.700 r.p.m. and it should be capable of considerable development. The drive passes via a 9″ clutch to a four-speed gearbox with synch.romesh for the three upper speeds and ratios of 20.45, 11.39, 7.85 and 5.375 to 1, The central lever is of remote control type and of neat construction. Transmission is by a divided open shaft having a central bearing on the frame. The chassis has five cross-members and a diamond central bracing and the flat half-elliptic rear springs are set outside the side-members with the axle above the frame. Front suspension is by half-elliptic springs. A Wilson self-changing gearbox will be available at extra cost. An 11 gallon rear fuel tank is used and the specification includes automatic chassis lubrication
and telescopic steering column. The track is 4′ 4″ and the wheelbase 9′ 3″. The new Lea-Francis appears to be a very 1x:11-designed high-performance car.
The Six Light four-door saloon will cost 095, the Four Light four-door saloon ,,.4:,395 and the drop-head coupe k410 on either chassis. In view of the returning popularity of open bodywork and the tradition of the marque, we suggest that an open model is added. The makers are Lea-Francis Engineering (1937) Ltd , Coventry.