1928 Lea Francis W Type Saloon (Available)
Chassis Number 10848
Engine Number 9855
Michael Worthington-Williams starts the current chapter of the life of this rare W Type Lea Francis.
The latest chapter begins in the “Finds and Discoveries” section of the July 2005 copy of ‘The Automobile Magazine’. He writes: UW7619 was purchased in 1959 by the Borg family to be used by Mrs Shirley Borg for the family runaround, Shirley was the wife of Olav Bork a Danish architect and designer. After 11 years of service, the Borg family moved in 1970 from Leeds, to Hillsbrough in Northern Ireland. At this point UW7619 was retired from use, and over the next 35 years a brick built garage became UW’s home. The Borg family had placed a mattress on the roof of UW. I think this would only have provided limited protection should the resting place roof have given in! Fortunately the garage roof never did give in and damage the car. The brick garage did however make an impenetrable barrier for any light fingers or the harsh elements.
By 2005 Mrs Borg, now widowed, made contact with old friend and Lea Francis collector John Gill. John agreed to purchase the car and extracted UW7619 from its sarcophagus. The agreement also stated that UW must remain as a saloon. John Gill headed off to Ireland with a trailer and with follow enthusiast, friend and full time autojumbler, John Firth of Harrogate.
The pair arrived in Hillsbrough to damp conditions, and were shown to the rather dilapidated garage. The doors had been over grown by ivy, and weren’t ready to be opened! Even the odd tree had to be felled before the doors gave way with some force and displayed the prize. Upon opening the pair were delighted to find UW7619 in better condition then they had expected. Olav had drained the radiator, so no frost damage was apparent.
Once UW7619 was safely back in North Yorkshire, John Gill had time to survey his latest acquisition. He soon realized his diary had little space available for UW’s restoration. In the August, soon after the publication of the MWW article, UW7619 joined the stable of the Green family, namely Nicholas Green. The Green family are well known Lea Francis stewards, and until recently also held the ex-ARDS Hyper WK7492. Nicholas was also the brother of Willy Green, the respected racing driver.
Nicholas soon embarked on an 87 week restoration of his latest acquisition, namely this virtually original and collectable W type saloon. In the accompanying history file, a daily log was complied by Nicholas. This interesting log makes reference to every work-day undertaken by him or a subcontractor along with the job completed and hours spent.
The ensuing body off restoration was completed with meticulous detail. UW’s original body frame was found to be in surprisingly good condition, but it was decided that in order to help conserve the car for further generations, certain frame timbers needed to be replaced. The reconditioned frame was then skinned in aluminum, and new mudguards were made to original pattern by John Mazzotti.
The chassis was then stripped, cleaned and painted, all bushes and moving parts replaced or reconditioned. During the restoration Nicholas visited Jeremy Brewster the well known LeaF collector and restorer. The numerous visits to Jeremy were mainly to inspect his W Type saloon, to further ensure the fine details of UW were being completed correctly. These visits also confirmed his blue and ox blood colour scheme along with the correct pattern and fitment. This upholstery work for the interior and exterior was then entrusted to David Beswick in Derby. New window glass was fitted replacing all the original glazing. The instruments and wiper motor were reconditioned and restored by Chris Clark.
Turning to the mechanics, as part of the sale of UW7619, John Gill had agreed to re-commission the Meadows 4ED engine. The original crank seems to have been kept, along with the original single port cylinder head. The head received hardened valve seats along with new valves. New pistons were also installed.
Assuming that the Chris Clark re-commissioned speedo was supplied reading zero, I’m confident in saying that the mileage covered since the restoration is just less than 700 miles, in the last 9 years!
Before being offered for sale by the current custodian, the vendor had UW7619 taken to Blakeney Motorsport for further re-commissioning, the brakes to be set up and final engine tuning.
UW7619 is one of only a handful of surviving Lea Francis saloons and this must be the finest of them all, retaining as it does, its original engine. It represents significant value, compared with the cost of professional restoration.