Already established as a maker of bicycles of the finest quality, Coventry-based Lea-Francis turned to motorcycle manufacture in 1911, proving equally successful in this new enterprise. The company's first venture into motor manufacturing though, was a relative failure, but in 1922 Lea-Francis exhibited a light car powered by an 8.9hp Coventry Simplex sidevalve engine, and this C-type model would be the first produced in significant numbers. The Coventry Simplex was soon replaced by a 1,247cc overhead-valve Meadows unit (on the D-type) while two 12/40hp models powered by Meadows' famous 1,496cc 4ED engine was additions to the range for 1926. More powerful than its predecessors, the 4ED necessitated the introduction of a redesigned chassis, which was longer, wider and equipped with semi-elliptic springing all round, and a stronger, spiral bevel rear axle, both of which arrived in 1927 on the P-type. The result was one of the finest small sporting cars of the late Vintage period - Kaye Don won the 1928 Tourist Trophy race driving a supercharged Hyper Sports model - and the model continues to be raced at VSCC events. With a membership of around 350, the Lea-Francis Owners' Club (LFOC) actively promotes the marque, which is still supported by specialist engineers and parts manufacturers.
The P-type offered here has the popular two-seater-plus-dickey body by Coventry-based Cross & Ellis, who also produced similar coachwork for Alvis. Unusually, this car has the optional close-ratio gearbox, a lightened flywheel and an oversized SU carburettor, providing surprising performance for an 86 year-old. Perhaps to emphasise this, a previous owner fitted the louvred valence that covers the front dumb-irons a feature normally seen only on the 'Hyper'. The vendor purchased the car at Beaulieu 28 years ago, and included in the sale is a detailed history file going back nearly 40 years. In 1980, a major restoration was carried out by LFOC member David Smith (who still runs a P-type). During his ownership, the cylinder block was slightly bored out to accommodate new Austin 12/4 pistons; the engine rebuilt and a special (Frazer-Nash design) three-branch exhaust manifold fitted. The clutch, radiator, fuel tank, magneto and other parts were overhauled, a new hood fitted and the body painted in its current British Racing Green. From 1980 to date, the car has covered approximately 15,000 miles.
While in the vendor's ownership, the steering gear and prop-shaft have been overhauled, a new silencer fitted and the wings rebuilt and painted black. In 2009, the engine block and cylinder head were crack tested and marque specialist Lea-Francis Cars Limited repaired the head. The vendor has used the car for an average of around 50 miles per year. Regularly maintained and kept in a dehumidified garage, it is in remarkable condition for its age and has five good tyres. The car comes with current MoT certificate and a V5C document, while a full set of side screens, a hood bag, various spare parts, an instruction book, numerous copies of the LFOC magazine and detailed driving and maintenance guides are included in the sale.
'KX 4497' is a very original Vintage sports car, with engine modifications that, while in no way diminishing its Vintage appeal, have added considerably to its performance.