Fragments on forgotten makes, No 74

The Leidart-8

The inter-war Ford V8 engine was such a smooth and inexpensive powerplant that it is no surprise that it was the basis of several sports cars made by small-output producers. The best-known and quite the most successful of these was Allard, and the most handsome Jensen, whose use of Ford V8 power was deliberately glossed over in Press descriptions. Other sports cars to use this clever power-unit were Batten Special and JBM, the latter assembled from overhauled used components.

One largely forgotten exponent of this formula for a fast sports job was the Leidart-8, which was announced during the summer of 1936. It was the idea of Leith, Huddart & Co of Pontefract in Yorkshire, who stole something of a march on others working on similar lines by having a chassis of their own. This was of heavy section, with reversed quarter-elliptic springs as on a Bugatti, and half-elliptic front springs, damped by Hartford triple friction shock absorbers. There were substantial chassis cross-members, and a low build was achieved by slightly upsweeping the sidemembers to the rear. Ground clearance, however, was declared as 6in under the twin silencers, there being separate exhaust-pipes from each bank of cylinders.

The company had been tuning competition cars and on its Leidart it carefully balanced the engine components, fitted dual carburettors fed by electric fuel pumps, and Scintilla Vertex magneto ignition, then a popular means of converting from coil to magneto. The ratio of the steering gear was raised, and a 4.0:1 back-axle ratio used. An open propellor-shaft worked in conjunction with a torque-stay to the gearbox crossmember. Rod and cable brake operation was retained but there were plans to have hydraulic brakes on future Leidarts.

The appearance of this sportstwo-seater, priced from £400 depending on the equipment supplied, was rather like that of an inflated Morgan 4/4. The specification embraced Rudge centre-lock wire wheels shod with India Super 5.2518 tyres, two rear-mounted spare wheels, Scintilla headlamps, screen wipers and horns and a pair of Desmo spot-lamps. Wheelbase measured 8ft 5in and the weight came out at 19 cwt. A maximum speed of 100 mph was claimed. The Ford gearbox had a remote-control lever and the windscreen folded flat.

It seemed the Leidart might have a successful future. The company was planning to introduce a 9ft-wheelbase chassis, and apparently had coachwork facilities or a friendly bodybuilder in tow, as a four-seater at £425, a drop-head coupe at £550 and a £575 sports saloon were in the pipeline.

The first two-seater (Reg No AWY ) was supplied to one HP Barren of Leeds. He entered it for the 1936 Yorkshire SCC’s speed trials at Wetherby Grange (seat of Sir Ronald Gunter, who had raced a 30/98 Vauxhall, a Bugatti, a Bora and a blown Lea Francis at Brooklands and who competed himself in a 41/2-litre Lagonda). Running in the class for supercharged cars up to 3 litres and non-supercharged cars up to 5 litres, Barren won with a run in 37.12 sec, beating the owner of the estate’s Lagonda by 0.03 sec and another Lagonda by 0.55 sec. It all seemed quite promising yet nothing more was heard of the Leidart-8. WB