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Even as I write this, owning a Lea Francis is little more than a dream still to be realised. Having sold the Singer as an unfinished "Project" buying my next project is something of a dream waiting to happen. I have looked at one possible "car" a total "basket case" and have another I still need to investigate. Something along the lines of the car illustrated would be well within my capabilities.  Only time will tell. You will (like me) will just have to be patient. 

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Bj.

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Sadly the owner of the LeaF basket case I looked at has decided that he would sooner leave the remains of his car stay outside in all weather than sell it to me.

I had not realised that my reputation was so bad!

IMG_0179.JPG.1f944434f0b6fb3cf44b019ac3f851c9.JPGHopefully something may turn up. I have had the owner of another Lea Francis suggest that I could buy his car

A 1940's saloon and remove/break up the body in order to build a "Special" on the chassis. I explained to him that my interest was all about preserving old motor cars not destroying themDSCN7249.jpg.94113fbf614eab9a2ad11abaddf4bfdd.jpg

 

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IMG_0179.JPG.1f944434f0b6fb3cf44b019ac3f851c9.JPG

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Posted (edited)

We have now arranged to go and look at two possible Lea F 14hp Saloons. I have explained that I am not about destroying complete and original cars so rather than building a "special" out of a Basket case I may end up doing a restoration of a 1949/50 Saloon. This will be a very different exercise for me but one that I am looking forward to.   I have already said that provided that one of these cars are suitable, this will be a completely new departure, an "Oily Rag Recovery" rather than a restoration.

We will just have to wait a few more days.

 

Bernie j.

 

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Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Ok! I have now decided that a 1950s Saloon is not what I need just now, so there will be a vacant place in my garage.

Hopefully I will not have to wait too long for a "proper" Vintage (Pre 1930) Light (under 1500cc) Car, restoration project to come my way.

 

Bernie J.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The world has done a full  circle and now I am in the middle of arranging to purchase the 1946 Lea Francis Project. This will become to basis for a rebuild based a  car that I was loaned for the York Around the Houses event sponsored by the Motor Museum at York in Western Australia. This was a Connaught two seater racing car based on a Lea Francis chassis. My first task will be to arrange to have donner Lea Francis delivered to our home where I can start by stripping the remains of a "coach-built" saloon  removed and 12 inches cut out of the chassis to bring it down to the correct "sports" length. IMG_0183.JPG.dfb484b65e5defd3e9f1dd8db482e871.JPG

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It would appear that I have stunned you all into silence ! How many of the people reading this have even heard of a Lea Francis? 

This company has been in existance since the early 1900s.   At first as with many British car manufacturers they were building bicycles, moving into motor car manufacturing in the years "between the wars".

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Just could not resist, could you?  Sounds like an interesting project, I look forward to following your progress. (Although that is a rather smart looking sedan)

 

I have heard of Lea Francis, though I have never seen one in the wild.  I recall reading that Norman Dewis, the long-time Jaguar test driver began his test driving career with L-F.

 

Cheers!

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Posted (edited)

Hello Digger914

As with a lot of British car manufacturers Lea Francis started out making Bicycles and graduated to cars quite early.

They have never been a High Volume producer concentrating or quality over numbers.

Even right up to the 1950s this still applied. The Design Engineer at Leaf had been with Riley up to the 1940s. The "Twin Cam" Lea F engine is a development of the his Riley motors.

Good Morning Dr Data,

Hang in there, one way or another it should be interesting.

I really do not like the thought of destroying an original, if somewhat down at heel, car to build a Special. I will just have to wait until I can get the car home and can assess what needs to be done. The Original "Coach built" saloon body is all aluminium panels over a timber frame. It will depend on how far the timber frame has gone and whether it can be recovered. And if the interior trim can be recovered rather than replaced. If it  is just the stitching on the seats gone or if it is ripped to a point where it cannot be repaired. I would hate to be considered a Vandal, destroying a restorable car!  There may be a third option converting the original four dood saloon body into a 2 door Drop Head Coupe, I can see how to do it in my head, just how practical will be obvious until I have the car at home. Again I will not know until I have the car in my garage and can see if that could be done. It would still mean lifting the body off the chassis, there is always a danger that it would fall apart in the process. 

The Photograph, below, gives an outline of  a 4 seat coupe. This one is a Ranalah DHC on a Rapier Chassis.

Just how much would be involved in converting a Lea F saloon body requires some serious thought. 
It would involve lifting the body off  very carefully, removing the rear doors and extending the front doors. This would then have to go back onto a chassis, shortened by 12 inches. Again this is pure conjecture until I have the car at home. 

By the time rear is shortened 12 inches, most of the rear doors will have almost disappeared. We will just have to wait and see.

None the less it is something to think about. There are a lot of "if's". Right now we are talking about Lea F's not Ifs.

 

Bj.

 

 

 

 

1729023754_RanalahDHC..jpeg.b8e9bc14d21759589ad9c8d0c929bf94.jpeg

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Hey Bernie,

I was in the service back in the early 70's with a guy that picked up an old Lea Francis while he was TDY to England and it cost him a fortune to ship it home. They way he talked about getting parts to rebuild the motor I was sure he was talking about a motorcycle., until I googled up the motorcycle and found out that it was a bike with a motor.

Edited by Digger914 (see edit history)
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Hello Bernie,

 

I am a big fan of your projects.
Looking forward to seeing how you proceed with this project.
I like how you have been saving neglected cars.

You inspired me to join the forum, not just troll your posts.

Keep up the good work.

 

Thanks,

Chris.

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Hello Chris

I just hope that I do not disappoint you, The attached modified photograph will show you where my thinking is going.

My first task is to get the car home. 

Bj.2098423354_LeaFrancisDHC.1.jpeg.e4801ba3b45e6e6f6e7bbca08131c1fc.jpeg

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Posted (edited)

The more I think about the less inclined I am to start cutting up what, after all, is a very original 1940's car. All this is a bit premature, I will not have it home until some time in the coming week.  Depending on the actual condition, my thinking is that an original four door sedan is becoming rarer and more valuable than a "special".

Only time will tell. If people keep cutting up cars to build "specials" the time will come when there are no more "original cars" to be found. There was a time when I would not think twice about this, perhaps it has something to do with my age. I was born in 1936 which may have something to do with my change in thinking.

 

Bernie J.IMG_0183.JPG.9ddb003a2f1fbc4c1fb08d582c2a21dd.JPGIMG_0188.JPG.d02e573b89f93482deaabc9b00e10bf7.JPGIMG_0187.JPG.10c4a63066c2cbf2ce04b7ea8c2f6d52.JPG

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Looking at the above photographs I cannot help wondering, How many of the people reading this would be prepared to even contemplate restoring this car? Even more so considering the motor has some major damage to the cylinder block.

Only time will tell, Golly, I don't even have the car home yet!

 

Bj.

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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I am still waiting on the Lea Francis' owner to contact me to tell me that my bank has finally completed the transfer of my money into his account. Naturally being a "long" weekend (with a holiday Monday) this will take a little longer.   It all seems so un-necessary with the whole place, almost, shut down due to the "dreaded" Co-vid virus causing  chaos everywhere you look. Oh well! there is not much I can do other than sit quietly and wait for life pass on by. My garage is almost empty just waiting for the last of the Singer to be collected (the chassis and rear axle assembly). This is scheduled to be collected tomorrow (Monday)  so I should at least have time to sweep the floor before the LeaF arrives. With so much to be done on this next car, I may have to work out a "program of works"

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Bernie,

 

As we say in the MG world, "it is your car, do with it what you want".  That covers a lot of horrific paint schemes.

 

I think one thing you want to consider seriously is the condition of the wood in the body, assuming it is coachbuilt. If there is serious rot, that would swing me more in favor of doing a "special" rather than restoring.

 

How did L-F build their engines?  Are they a bored block, like most engines, or do they use a replaceable sleeve like the old Triumph and Standard engines?

 

Cheers!

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Posted (edited)

Hello Dr D.

I am aware of the possible problems with the timber body frame and that is something that will govern my thinking.

Having said that the one thing in favour of its preservation is that the car has been locked up in it's  "shed" and out of the weather for over 27 years.

All should be revealed in the next week or two. To answer your other question The Lea Francis was a conventional "Bored" block. It has twin "High" cams with short push-rods similar in principle to the Riley engine but with the cams much higher in the block. This will have to wait until I have the engine "at home" and out of the car.

Going back to the body IF at all possible I would prefer to retain the original all aluminium body. Only time will tell.

The one thing against the Drop Head Coupe idea is that after looking at the photographs of the car, note the body is in the "Pre-war" style. Compare the treatment of the rear section on the two cars in this photo. "My car" is the one closer to the camera. It has now had a wash since it came out of storage.

Bernie j.

 

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Bernie j.

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

In case you are wondering, I am still working to arrange delivery of the LeaF. This is a little difficult as we have had a series of Lock Downs and Lock Outs due to the dreaded Co-vid virus here in Victoria Australia.

 

Bernie j.

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

I look at it as a potential long distance all weather touring car. It has an all aluminium body so there is no rust problem. Too many people have all ready destroyed Lea Francis sedans to make "boy-racers" so they are becoming rare, not that there was an over-supply of Lea Francis cars either way. It is too easy to simply knock the body off then give up. One front mudguard (fender) needs a dent knocked out but generally the body is in good condition.  A new "paint job" will make a huge difference. It will need some new upholstery too. A change away from Black and Beige will make a huge difference.

If I need some open air motoring I will always have the Lagonda Rapier,

 

Bj,

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Posted (edited)

Having now had a much closer look at the LeaF,  I am afraid that all my good intentions have been blown away.

Most of the timber frame is either rotten or missing, There is much more damage to the mudguards and panels than was first obvious. This is leading up to the inevitable, The LeaF is destined to become another short(ened) chassis sports two seater. This means some additional time will be needed before it becomes a roadable car again. First thing will be to remove the saloon body.

 

Don't go away just yet.

 

Bernie j.

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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Hello Bernie, 

 

The car made the decision for you.

Do you think you will incorporate the bonnet and grill into your build?

Looking forward to seeing photos of the car, and your progress. 

Your LeaF adventure continues.

 

Chris.

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On 6/9/2021 at 12:38 PM, Digger914 said:

I was in service with a guy who had a Lea Francis bike, but I thought he was talking about a motorcycle. I didn't know Lea Francis made cars until you mentioned it.

 

 

I had heard of Lea Francis , but thought motorcycle, but when saw first photos of car  , I thought how it looked similar to a Riley even before you mentioned connection 

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Hello Pilgrim65

As with a number of other Britishcar manufacturers Lea Francis started out at the turn of the Centurary making Bicycles amd then a little later Motorcycles. When you come to look closely at the LeaFs any similarity to Rileys is purely superficial. The main shared feature is that the both have two camshafts BUT with the LeaF these are high up in the block with VERY short pushrods while the Riley's cams are low down in the block with long pushrods. They are both water cooled with the radiator at the front of the car but that is about where the similarity ends.

Oh yes, they were both made in England from the early 1920s and finished production in the 50s.

Rileys have a diamond shaped "Badge" while LeaFs have a round one. 

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Sorry to hear that the wood frame has deteriorated so badly, IMHO that was a great looking post-War saloon. On the plus, you can let you imagination run a bit for the replacement coach work. I suspect you are thinking in terms of a more formal drop head coupe rather than a cut down roadster. Looking forward to updates.

 

I hope you are not being inundated by mice.

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GoodMorning Dr D,

Last things first, we are probably several hundred miles from the area effected by the Mouse Plague, 
Regarding the Lea Francis, I cannot blame anyone but myself for this disaster. It only reminds me just how stupid I am becoming in my "old age". 

Firstly I should not have bought it at all, then to buy it without going to look at it, This I cannot explain, But I have it now and I think that if I try to sell it "as is" I will get nothing for it. It would appear that the only thing that I can do is to reduce it to a "Chassis" and then after shortening the chassis build an open two seater body similar to the one on my Lagonda Rapier. In doing this I can make use of some of the panels. AND have some chance of recouping some of my money!

Either that or simply call it a day and scrap the lot.

That and make a solemn vow not to buy any more "project cars!"

 

Bernie j.

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FOR SALE

1945 Lea Francis 4 Door saloon.

Ideal basis for a Sports Special/Replica Connaught.

14 hp Motor requires attention.  42,500 Genuine miles, has been in store for approx 27 years. 

Car in Melbourne Australia, Folio of detail photographs on request.  Genuine offers only.

Email to B Jacobson

twooldlags@ gmail.com

 

Bernie Jacobson   

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Bernie,

 

Sorry you have decided to scrap this project, given your metal working skills iot would have been really something.  Did you ever actually retrieve the L-F and assess how bad the chassis and running gear might be?  Would it be unreasonable to try and craft a new aluminum tube frame for the body panels to hang upon?

 

Good luck with the car and know that the decision you make will be the correct one.  You always have the great Lagonda.

 

Cheers!

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Dear Dr Data

You have hit the nail on the head! The Lagonda spoils me so that any other car looks inferior. I have agreed ti wait for a couple of weeks before I start pulling it apart just in case someone actuallwould like to buy it. If someone comes along with the money no harm is done. If it does not sell then I can start by taking the saloon body off and cutting the required 12 inches out of the chassis. I have already decided that I will save the roof and door skins to use on the new two seater body.  The bigest problem is leaving it for the two weeks outside our front door where I see it every time I go out, perhaps two or three times per day.

 

Bj

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Helllo

Yes I know exactly what is "wrong" with the engine, it has a hole big enough to put your hand through. This is where  one end of the btokrn conrod came out.

It is "repairable" but will require four new connecting rods.  Apart from that there is very little wrong with it.

Bj

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Posted (edited)

Hello Digger914/Dr Data

I am sorry but that is about the best I can do.  So far I have not bothered to even look at the engine. When I get around to taking it out of the car and stripping it down I will know exactly what has to be done. I don't have x-ray vision. As I currently have the car for sale I will not be touching it for a couple of weeks. By then I should know if there are any potential buyers out there.

I have the con-rod shown below hanging on the wall above my desk as a constant reminder.

 

Bj.DSCN7299.jpg.304bfab1ab2a000062e85d6bbee20fa2.jpg

Edited by oldcar (see edit history)
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That con rod failed in a rather spectacular manner. Your walls do not look much different than ours, except in our case it is books, lots and lots of books, which is to be expected of two retired academics.😁

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