1950 Lea-Francis 2½-Litre Sports
Amelia Island - A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
- A beautiful, streamlined, rare British roadster
- One of 85 examples built and 40 known to exist worldwide
- High-quality restoration in charming original colors
While little-remembered in North America, the name Lea-Francis holds a rich heritage in the United Kingdom, where enthusiasts came to love the peppy little sports cars during the 1920s and 1930s, when supercharged models cleaned up at British racing circuits. Following World War II the company returned to production, profitable from wartime manufacturing, to introduce a new model with a Riley-style overhead-valve four-cylinder engine and handsome streamlined bodywork. A sports model, literally dubbed the Sports, was of course offered, both in tribute to the company’s heritage and as a entrée into the lucrative American market.
The post-war Lea-Francis was not produced in great numbers and did not enjoy tremendous sales success, as they were eccentric despite being known for quality craftsmanship. The Lea-Francis Owners Club notes production of about 85 2½-Litre Sports, of which about 40 remain in existence worldwide, making the model almost impossibly rare compared to its competition from MG and Triumph.
The car offered here is almost certainly the finest restored 2½-Litre Sports to be offered in recent memory. At the time that he acquired the car, Mr. Smith was told that it had been delivered in this striking Electric Blue, through Northern England agents Marshalls Ltd. of Halifax, Yorkshire, to a Mr. Waterhouse. Subsequent owners were a Mr. Watson, of Kent, and a Mr. Ashwill, of Chelmsford, in 1963. In the mid-2000s, it was imported to the United States and subsequently fully restored to its present condition.
One glance shows the quality of work that went into this charming little car. It is beautifully presented, with glassy, gorgeous bodywork and a tight, fresh red leather interior. Reportedly the work was completed with the assistance of marque specialist and Lea-Francis record keeper Barrie Price, who advised on the correctness and finishes throughout, and at a total cost exceeding $80,000 over four years. It was judged Best in Class at the 2014 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, prior to its acquisition for the Smith Collection, Stephanie Smith having become smitten after spotting it in Monterey.
Everyone who sees this “Leaf” falls in love with it. One can imagine the delight that it will bring to future show fields, and to all who see it purring down the avenue.