A Leaf from Down Under

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One of the notable and pleasing aspects of VSCC race meetings is the appearance of 81-year-old Tom Delaney and his 1928 Kaye Don TT-winning Hyper Lea-Francis which his father, himself an early racing driver, bought Tom two years after that famous race and which he drove with considerable success at Brooklands in the 1930s and led the 1931 Phoenix Park GP until forced to retire. He also has a second Hyper, which he bought in 1972 while seeking the Kaye Don car, which he was later able to reacquire. He now races both cars in vintage events.

Now Tom Delaney has added another ex-racing Hyper Lea-Francis to his stable. It is the car which J A S Jones had seen win that first Ulster TT when on a visit to Belfast from Australia. He had gone to the race to decide which sports-car he should buy and take back home for racing and ordinary driving. After seeing Kaye Don beat a FWD Alvis by a narrow margin, Mr Jones placed his order for a Lea-Francis similar to the winning car and had it shipped to Sydney. The new owner then raced the car, obtaining more speed by replacing the single-port head with a twin-port head and an Alfa Romeo inlet manifold, on the supercharged engine. He also ran the Leaf at Speed-trials, hill-climbs such as the Wisemans Ferry event, and in sand races. After his death he left the car to his sister, Mrs V Clarke, who kept it in her garage for 40 years. Tom Delaney had been introduced to her by John Goddard when that great enthusiast was living in Australia, and she agreed to sell the Lea-Francis to him. It was still in very original order and had been registered 200-000.

After its return to this country Tom Delaney had it looked over by Lea-Francis expert Barrie Price. Craving its original number plates, he has settled for 2000 OO, which he bought from the DVLC at Swansea for some £8,750 plus VAT, after getting 2000 TT at an earlier DVLC auction. The car was given its first serious competition run here at this year’s VSCC Avon speed-trials, but a slipping clutch reduced its time after Tom had clocked 20.28s on his first run. Back to Barrie Price for some more fettling, perhaps, after which I have been offered a drive in this interesting Hyper Lea-Francis. W B

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