The Lea-Francis Company began from humble beginnings, just as many other British firms of the same era evolved. In 1895 Richard Lea and Graham Francis combined their talents for the purpose of making bicycles and soon the Lea & Francis Ltd company had been formed in Coventry, England. The creation of bicycles soon led into motorcycles. In 1903 a separate company was formed for automobile production. The 3.5-liter three-cylinder tourer was designed by Alexander Craig and it came with a very hefty price tag. Only two cars were ever created and sold; the rights were later sold to the Singer organization.
The Lea and Francis duo would return to automobile production after the close of the war. This second attempt featured a four-cylinder engine that had a more modest displacement size, but one that was better suited to the vehicle. Just over 20 examples were created; though it was not a success, the partners decided to continue with automobile production. A new design was created and it was powered by an even smaller engine. It was introduced in 1923 and was more successful than its predecessors. By the mid-1920s, the company was making a profit.
In 1924 the Lea and Francis Company explored the racing market. They created a tourer that was propelled by a four-cylinder engine that produced 10 horsepower. It was raced at the Royal Automobile Club's Six-Day Trial where it performed rather well. In the years to come, the design would evolve culminating into many sport-touring designs all powered by overhead-valve engines. To increase power, the company adapted a Rootes-type supercharger in 1927. After continual improvements in both design and to the mechanical components, a Lea-Francis car won the Ulster Tourist Trophy Race in Ireland.
When the company used the Meadows engine, such as in the car that won the Tourist Trophy, the cars were rather competitive and scored some significant victories. By the close of the 1920s, the company introduced the LFS 14/40 powered by a 1.7-liter twin-cam Vulcan-built engine. It had many problems resulting in a poor reputation for the Lea-Francis cars and diminished sales. By 1931, the company was in receivership. Mr. Francis had left the company years prior; now it was Richard Lea's turn. Production continued, though only 29 units were created in 1932. Sales would continue to drop in the years to come. By 1936, the company sold no vehicles; the assets of the company were sold.
The assets were purchased by Hugh Rose and George Leek, forming the Lea-Francis Engineering Ltd. in 1937. Between 1937 and the start of the Second World War, around a hundred examples of the Twelve and Fourteen were created.
During the War the company produced products in support of the war effort. This led to a profit which held production resume at the end of the War. In early 1946, a total of fourteen cars were created, all clothed in bodies created by the A.P Aircraft Ltd. Company. Two years later, the Eighteen sedan and two-seater sports car was introduced. These were quickly followed by station wagons known as Estate cars which would remain in production until 1954. 1954 was the year the Lea-Francis Company would leave automobile production and turn their attention to other products. In the very early 1960s, the company attempted a return to automobile production with a car known as the Lynx. It quickly disappeared and never attracted much excitement or attention.
In 1962, the company's assets were sold.2.5-Liter Eighteen
The Lea-Francis 2.5-liter Eighteen was introduced in 1950 and offered in both Sports Roadster trim and four-door saloon. The four-cylinder 2.5-liter overhead-valve engine produced nearly 100 horsepower and was mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. The elegant bodies were suspended in place by torsion bars in the front and a rigid axle in the rear with semi-elliptic leaf springs. A top speed of 90 mph was possible with the saloon and around 100 mph with the Sports Roadster.
In 1951, the Roadsters sold for $2800 while the Saloons fetched nearly $3900. Total production for both the Fourteen and Eighteen were rather modest, with around 600 combined units produced in 1951.By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2008