Classic Car Catalogue

Lea Francis 1930

Great Britain

12/40 h.p.

Lea-Francis 12/40 Type V with Weymann Sportsman's Coupé bodywork sold at £420 and sports two side-mounted spare wheels. Engine is a 1496-cc (69 x 100 mm) OHV Four, developing 38 bhp at 3800 rpm.

Motor Sport November 1930

Motor Sport November 1930

Motor SportNovember 1930

The Evolution of a Sports Car Early History and Present Programme of the Lea-Francis Factory

IT is a remarkable fact that the firms which are most progressive and up-to-date at the present time are those which are the oldest in point of years, and Lea and Francis Ltd. is a good example of this. The original company was formed in 1896 by Messrs. R. H. Lea and G. I. Francis and they first concerned themselves exclusively with the manufacture of push-bikes.
It seems a far cry from the humble pedal driven two-wheeler to the 100 m.p.h. racing car, but there is nothing like beginning gently, and the fact that there are still Lea-Francis cycles 30 years old in constant use speaks well for the workmanship of the founders.
Although Lea-Francis cars were not in full production as we now know them until after the war, the firm started building cars in 1900, and in the following few years produced a remarkable vehicle with a 3-cylinder horizontal engine of 4" bore and 6" stroke. On a recent visit to Coventry we had an opportunity of inspecting one of these actual engines which is still kept in the works.
It is a most massive object and looks at first glance more like a small scale locomotive engine than an internal combustion motor. It had, for instance, piston rods running in cross-head bearings, driving the connecting rods after the manner of accepted steam practice, and the massive crankshaft had a flywheel at each end. The overall length was at least 4' 6" and we can well imagine that acceleration was not a very strong point on this model! However, although its great weight is hardly in keeping with modern ideas, the fact that it had an overhead camshaft and many other quite modern features shows that efficiency was being carefully considered even in those days.
Although this car was exhibited at the Crystal Palace Show of 1904 it was somewhat costly, and never went into production in any quantity. The next internal combustion vehicle produced by this Coventry firm was the Lea-Francis V-twin motorcycle, which from 1911 onwards enjoyed considerable popularity, and had a wonderful reputation for silence and smooth running, which was by no means a common attribute of the motorcycle of that time.
Those of us who started our motoring career on two wheels, and most of us did, will remember that this machine was a very long way ahead of its time in many details of design. Fully enclosed chain drive with a transmission shock absorber, and real brakes on both wheels, were things which only came into full use on most machines some years after the war.
The war, of course, caused a complete break in the programme and the whole works was turned over to the manufacture of aircraft parts, and other delicate operations which required a very complete machine equipment. Much experimental work was also done for the Admiralty and some of the complicated and delicate instruments for range-finding and similar work were produced there.
As soon as the works could regain normal conditions after the war, work was started on a 12 h.p. car. This was the real beginning of the Lea-Francis as we know it today, and the 1922 show at the White City saw the first models offered to the public.
The firm took full advantage of competition work as a means of research and of demonstrating the capabilities of their product, and in the R.A.C. six-days trial of 1924 Mr. H. Tatlow, the works manager, was awarded a special Gold Medal for his performance. During this year, and up to the time that manufacturers were barred by the S.M.M.T. from entering in trials, a most formidable list of trophies had been acquired. After the ban there was no lack of keen private owners to carry on the good work, and ever since, this make has been one of the most popular among keen competition drivers.
Attention was next turned to the production of a really fast sports car, and this resulted in the supercharged 1½-litre model. Being one of the first cars on the British market to fit a supercharger as standard, it sprang into immediate popularity with sports car owners, and proof of the efficiency of this model was supplied in 1928 by Kaye Don's victory in the R.A.C. Tourist Trophy in Ulster on a supercharged Lea-Francis.
Since then these cars have figured in all the classic events, and have in fact been the chief British representatives in the 1500 c.c. class against foreign competition. Whether winning or not, Lea-Francis cars have always proved to be among the fastest in their class, and the lessons learnt in racing have been of immense value in keeping all their models up-to-date.
For the coming year the 1500 c.c. models have re mained very nearly unchanged except for detail improvements, as is only to be expected, and these are obtainable both in supercharged and unsupercharged forms. The most interesting model in their range is, of course, the new 2-litre six cylinder model, of which a description and road test appear elsewhere in this issue, and which shows that Lea-Francis have no intention of losing their reputation for being up-to-date in matters of design and performance.


Motor SportAugust 1930


  EVER since Kaye Don's victory on a Lea-Francis in the Ulster Tourist Trophy race of 1928, this model has enjoyed a steady run of successes. Owing to the foresight of the manufacturers in marketing the supercharged model as standard as soon as it had showed its mettle, it has proved a very popular car with the amateur who requires something for serious competitions, which at the same time can be used for ordinary work on the road. A measure of this popularity is to be found in the large number of these cars on the roads to-day, which gives ample answer to those over-conservative motorists who still maintain that a supercharged car is not suitable for the private owner.
  In the case of the Lea-Francis the supercharger is a Cozette, situated in front of the cylinder block and drawing its mixture through a carburettor of the same make. This instrument, as most of our readers will remember, consists of an eccentric with sliding vanes which make contact with the periphery of the casing. These blades are lubricated by mixing oil with the petrol, and this is a very simple matter as a neat measure is incorporated with the filler cap; one of these filled with Castrol XL must be put in to every two gallons of fuel. The bearings of the supercharger are lubricated by a mechanical pump, which draws its supply from a neat tank on the front of the dash, and on the same side as the sump filler cap. A two-way tap system is incorporated so that for prolonged "blinding," they may be turned so that oil is supplied to the supercharger by the main pressure system which feeds the engine bearings.
  The engine is a perfectly normal 1500 c.c. 4-cylinder O.H.V. job of 69 mm. bore by 100 mm. stroke, and therefore at ordinary touring speeds on a small throttle opening is very smooth, and shows the advantage of using forced induction to get the extra speed _ when required.
The actual car which we took over for some days, for test, was a demonstration model which had covered many thousands of miles at high speeds, and was therefore expected to show some signs of its past life. However, it appeared to have stood up remarkably well, and the only sign of a hard time was given by the fact that the petrol and oil consumptions were somewhat higher than would be the case on a newer engine, and merely showed that new piston rings would shortly be required.
  The engine and supercharger were mechanically quiet, and at normal speeds we were entirely able to forget the presence of the latter.
When we took over the car it was fitted with some comparatively "soft" plugs, and we soon found that our normal method of progression from place to place, i.e., with the throttle well open, did not agree with them, and produced pre-ignition. This caused us a little bother at first, till we found others of suitable type.
  The acceleration was very good, and on second gear 10-30 m.p.h. takes 4 seconds, and 10-40 m.p.h. 6 seconds only, The maximum speed on this gear is 45-50 m.p.h. Third gear, which is naturally in fairly constant use when driving hard, gave us a maximum of 70 m.p.h.
  The maximum speed achieved during our test, with four people aboard was 82 m.p.h., but owing to the business of plugs, just referred to, it was not considered advisable to keep the throttle too far open too long, and there is little doubt that this speed could be improved on. Even so it is extremely good. The correct plugs for fast work in this engine are K.L.G. 396, which is a road racing type.
  The gear change is light, but requires a little practice at getting the revs just right, before perfectly silent changes can be guaranteed, but we became quite at home with this gear box in a few hundred miles, and naturally any owner of one of these cars will be so used to it, that it will never strike him as presenting any difficulty.
  The steering and cornering are good, but it is very important to see that the tyre pressures are correctly adjusted to the load, as the steering is somewhat sensitive to this point. Personally, we should have preferred slightly more caster action, but it is impossible to please everyone in the matter of steering.
  As can be seen from the illustrations, the chassis is very low, and stability is excellent, and as we were often in a considerable hurry, this was well tested.
  The vacuum servo brakes are very powerful and light to operate, and will bring the car to rest from 40 m.p.h. in 65 ft. Adjustment is by independent wing nuts to each brake, as this firm in common with many others, hold that this is the only way to secure even braking, and also even wear on the linings. The only alternative is a very elaborate system of compensation using differentials, similar to that used on one very large and costly car to-day, but which is too cumbersome to be used on a 1½-litre car.
  Altogether the supercharged Lea-Francis is a car for the man who wants something with a performance out of the ordinary which will also be thoroughly suitable for general use, and at £495 it presents excellent value.

Motor Sport, August 1930


AS might be expected from a firm which has taken such an active part in racing and competition work in recent years, the latest six-cylinder Lea-Francis possesses many features which differ somewhat from the conventional, and which have been developed as a result of their extensive experience with their well-known supercharged 1500 c.c. car.
Realising the great demand which exists for a car which combines the performance of a good sports model with real sweetness of running, the firm have for over a year been experimenting with the model which is now known as the "Ace of Spades." The name came to it in consequence of the shape of the front of the timing case, which is exactly the shape of that emblem, only inverted.
When we recently had an opportunity of trying for ourselves the performance and behaviour of this model, we were able to appreciate how remarkably well the designer has succeeded in his object, and were glad of the chance of examining some of the components.
One thing which has a great deal to do with the smooth running and high revving capabilities of this engine is the very robust crankshaft. This is carried in four bearings and is both statically and dynamically balanced, and fitted with counterweights. The journals are nearly as large as the cylinder bores, and besides ensuring abnormal rigidity, should give almost complete freedom from wear. Another good point is the freedom from oil-pipes to the various parts requiring pressure lubrication, all possible oil leads being arranged integral with the casting.
Although the car we tried, the fabric saloon, was extremely roomy and comfortable, the performance was in no way impaired, and on quite a short stretch of road we attained 75 m.p.h. and there is no doubt that, given more room, a higher speed could have been reached. There was a very slight period at 55 m.p.h. but this covered only about one mile an hour and throughout the rest of the range there was no sign of any vibration.
The actual engine we were driving was an experimental job, and differed in one or two minor points from the latest edition, and we are informed that this period has been entirely eliminated in the final design.
The gearbox is a very definite departure from standard practice, and is quite the most ingenious feature of a very interesting car. The casing is made in two halves, each housing two of the forward speeds, reverse being in the same compartment as first and second. These latter are of the normal sliding type, but the other two gears, third and top, are both engaged by means of dogs. The division between the two halves of the box forms a very stiff web which supports central bearings for the main shaft and lay shaft so that each shaft is supported on three bearings. The effective length of any loaded portion of shaft is thus reduced to the absolute minimum. It is a well known fact that a great deal of noise in gear boxes is due to the flexing of the shafts under load, and if they are not rigid even the most accurately ground gears will not be silent.
In the new Lea-Francis' box the loaded length of each shaft is not only much shorter than on any normal design, but additional rigidity is ensured by the fact that the unloaded half of each shaft has its end supported in a third bearing. It is a mechanical fact that a continuous shaft supported at intervals along its length has a smaller deflection for a given load on any one span than a single short shaft of the same length as that span. To test the effect of this design in reducing gear noise the car which we tested had been fitted with gears which had not been ground after hardening, and only a faint hum was audible, and it was much quieter than most boxes with ground gears. As the standard job is fitted with ground gears, the new model should have one of the quietest gearboxes obtainable on any priced car today.
The steering has all those qualities of accuracy and easy control which can only be fully developed by actual road-racing experience, and the brakes owe their power and smoothness to the same source. These are directly operated without servo assistance, the designers maintaining, in common with many great authorities, that on a light car this is the most efficient and positive method, providing the operating mechanism is correctly designed.
On many cars where drivers complain of the force required to operate the brakes, the trouble is due to lack of rigidity of the rods and cross shafts, resulting in the shafts binding in their bearings, and the power does not get as far as the brakes themselves. Judging from the robust design of this gear on the 2-litre LeaFrancis there should be no trouble from this source, while in actual use we found the operation commendably light.
All components and accessories have been selected entirely for their efficiency, regardless of price or any other property. A Stromberg carburettor of the latest down-draught pattern supplies the mixture, and in conjunction with the Scintilla magneto contributes largely to the life and smooth running of the engine. Other components not actually made by LeaFrancis include Lucas lighting and starting, Goodrich tyres, a Gallay radiator, Hartford shock absorbers, Hardy transmission couplings, Triplex screen, and Rudge Whitworth wire wheels.
For anyone requiring a high-speed comfortable vehicle, suitable for long-distance work in all weathers it would be difficult to spend £495 to better advantage than on the "Ace of Spades" Lea-Francis, at which price both panelled and fabric saloons are offered.
Motor Sport, November 1930




  Event: Entered: Raced: Finished: Best results:
10.05.1930 Double Twelve 6 6 2   1,496 c.c. (s) L. P. Discoll / C. W. G. Lacy 11th 1100-1500 3rd
            1,496 c.c. (s) G. E. Took / A. M. C. Jameson 27th 1100-1500 9th
France 21.06.1930 Le Mans 1 1 1 24   Peacock / Newsome 6th 1101-1500 1st
Irish GP Saorstat Cup 18.07.1930   6 3 28 Hyper S 1500 cc L4 (s) Ron Sutton 10th Class F 5t
          26 Hyper S 1500 cc L4 (s) Dan Higgin 11th Class F 6th
          25 Hyper S 1500 cc L4 (s) J. F. Field 15th Class F 9th
23.08.1930 Tourist Trophy 6 6 1 38 1496 cc L4 (s) Higgin 16th 1.5 4th
04.10.1930 500 Miles Brooklands   2 0/2     Driscoll / Lacey nc  
              H.C. Spero nc  

Irish GP.



Lea Francis #24 with Meadows 1496cc engine (Kenneth Peacock / Sammy Newsome) finished 6th at Le Mans and won in 1100-1500 cc class.

  Event: Entered: Raced: Finished: Best results:
26-29.01.1930 Rallye Monte Carlo 1 1 1 31   Chetwynd 59th