Richard Lea and Graham Francis began their partnership by making high end bicycles in Coventry England in 1895. Moving into the car and motorcycling manufacturing business in the early 1900s but remaining unsuccessful and unpopular with their designs. Things started to look up for the Lea-Francis group around 1925 when incorporating a new sporting design brought them some relief and they made Britain’s first supercharged production car, the Lea-Francis Hyper, which went on to win the Ulster TT, a 30-lap race in Northern Ireland in the hands of the famous driver Kaye Don. Joining with some top talent of the British car and cycle makers, Riley, also proved to be quite the turning point for Lea-Francis, who carried on successfully until changing roles to support the war effort in 1939. Post-war production started back up in 1946 with the older designs being updated and catching on with popularity even if they were rather expensive. Introduced on a newly improved chassis to include independent front suspension with hydraulic brakes, and equipped with the 2½ liter engine, the Lea-Francis Sports Roadster was born and began production in 1949 and continuing until 1953.
Production in 1950 created less than 85 Lea-Francis 2½ Sports manufactured, with surviving examples today believed to be approximately half making this a rare sight to see, especially in the USA with its right-hand drive setup. This lightweight roadster really perfected the sportscar look and feel featuring an all-aluminum body with a 4-speed manual transmission mated to a 152ci (2.5L) Inline 4-cylinder engine with twin dual-overhead camshafts and twin SU carburetors producing around 100hp. Sporting new technology of the time by utilizing 4-wheel drum brakes with the fronts having hydraulic assistance, and independent front suspension by use of torsion bars with semi-elliptic leaf spring rear suspension proved for a fast and great handling machine.
In 2005, after 55 years off surviving in original form, this roadster underwent a complete frame-off restoration. The aluminum body was repainted Seminal Brown with black fenders and the interior was redone with green leather and a new black top by Hoyts Upholstery to match the fenders. The components of the chassis were rebuilt along with the engine by replacing the two camshafts along with new pistons. New valves and an overhauled cylinder head assembly were installed. Bringing some modern technology to this rare classic car with the addition of a high-capacity alloy radiator and electric cooling fan were added along with a 12-volt, negative ground conversion, alternator charging, and upgraded LED instrumentation lighting. A USB flash drive full of pictures and a folder with many receipts document the parts and labor in received during the complete restoration.
Starting life with a London dealer in May 1950 and still wearing its British (LGU) license plate, this Lea-Francis changed owners a few times in England before being imported to the United States in 1972 by a car collector in Michigan. In need of a restoration and having too many projects of his own he sold the now 25-year-old car to another collector in Michigan in 1975. After having the roadster for many years, he generously donated the car in 2002 to the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corner, MI where it stayed for a few years before being sold to a Florida resident in 2005 who completed the frame-off restoration.
After being completely rebuilt, this Lea-Francis Sports was shown at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2011 where it was parked among some of the sharpest classics around. It would catch the eye of a new owner in Canada where it remains for 7 years before once again being imported back into the States. Now being offered by the St. Louis Car Museum is a chance for a savvy collector to own a truly rare automobile that has been professionally restored with the aid of the Lea-Francis Owner’s Club community and is now ready to tour and attract all the attention it deserves. Please contact our sales team for more information and to review it in person. Finding such a road-worthy Lea-Francis will not likely come about again soon, so don’t miss your chance to add such a wonderful piece of history to your English car collection! Thanks for looking!
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Location: Saint Louis, Missouri, United States