Purveyors of quality motor cars to those who preferred individuality to the banality of mass production, the long established Coventry firm of Lea-Francis recommenced production after WW2 with its 1939 range and it was not until 1947 that a new model arrived in the shape of the 14hp Sports. Boasting up-to-the-minute styling, albeit somewhat reminiscent of the pre-war BMW 328, the Sports was powered by Lea-Francis's Riley-esque twin-camshaft 1.8-litre four and good for 85mph. A mere 118 of these fast, stylish roadsters were produced between 1947 and 1949.
This example's factory build sheet confirms that it retains matching engine and frame numbers and was intended as a left-hand drive model. However, 'JVC 20' appears to have been right-hand drive all its life, one possible explanation being that an overseas order was cancelled and the car completed for the home market. Having started its life as a factory demonstrator, 'JVC 20' was photographed and mentioned in the 4th June 1952 edition of The Motor as competing in the 2nd Edinburgh Rally driven by S W Fox, while there is another photograph on file of the car competing at Silverstone at around this time, again driven by Fox. Undoubtedly, there is a great deal more history to discover regarding this fascinating car, which is featured in a number of books on the marque.
Previous owner and highly respected Bugatti specialist Ivan Dutton acquired 'JVC 20' in 2001 and re-commissioned the car prior to racing it at Snetterton. Work undertaken included removing and cleaning sump and inspecting the big-end bearings; stripping and rebuilding the carburettors (1½" are fitted instead of the standard 1¼") with new seals/jets and fitting twin fuel pumps; rebuilding the radiator; fabricating an exhaust system; removing and reconditioning the shock absorbers; changing oils/filters; and removing and rebuilding the steering box. The wheels were sand-blasted, repainted and fitted with new radial tyres, and at Snetterton in October 2001 the Lea-Francis clocked a little over 90mph down the straight and beat a Ginetta G4 in the wet race! Following that satisfying victory, the 'Leaf' was used as a road car on high days and holidays only before being offered for sale at Bonhams' Beaulieu auction in September 2006 (Lot 469) where it was purchased by the current vendor.
Since then the engine has been comprehensively rebuilt (in 2007) by Barrie Price (Lea-Francis Cars Ltd) totalling some £5,000. Works carried out earlier this year, again by Barrie, include a full service, engine top end overhaul, a new convertible hood fitted and repair to the hood frame (see bills on file totalling circa £2,000). Offered with the aforementioned bills, an old-style logbook and V5C document, 'JVC 20' represents an exciting opportunity to acquire a rare Lea-Francis sports car with in-period competition history. The vendor informs us he has confirmation from Goodwood Competitions department that the LeaF is eligible for this years Fordwater Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival meeting, in addition to a wide variety of historic motor sports events.