British Motorcycles

Lea-Francis: Motorcycles

Lea-Francis motorcycles were produced from 1912 to 1924, in Lower Ford Street, in Coventry.

  • 1912 Lea Francis is perhaps better known as a car manufacturer but in the very early days the firm gained a reputation for the excellence of their bicycles. The prototypes of their motorcycle were produced in time for the 1912 Show. The machine was very well received, and featured all-chain drive in oil baths, multi-plate clutch, quickly detachable rear wheel, 2 speed gearbox with kick-starter, and particularly efficient mud-guarding. used JAP engines
  • 1912 Having already dabbled with cars since about 1904, the firm turned to motorcycles and introduced one model, in August. It had a 3.25hp JAP V-twin engine with chain-driven Bosch magneto, a two-speed gearbox, plate clutch and fully-enclosed chain final-drive. There were also Druid forks and dummy-rim brakes on both wheels. It was offered as a reliable and comfortable tourer.
  • 1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of motorcycles see the 1917 Red Book
  • 1914 It was joined by a prototype combination using a 6-hp V-twin MAG engine, but the project was dropped due to the outbreak of war. Meanwhile, the other model was uprated to 3.5-hp JAP V-twin engine.
  • 1915-1916 The 3.5hp model continued, with a three-speed gearbox.
  • 1919 After the War, the same model reappeared, but with only two speeds.
  • 1920 That model was joined by one with a 3.5-hp MAG engine.
  • 1921 The 3.5h-p model, plus another with 5hp, were given three speeds. Engine capacities were 495cc and 592cc.
  • 1922 Those models ran on, together with a stripped sports version of the 3.5hp.
  • 1923 The 592cc machine was given a Burman gearbox.
  • 1924 The above model was the only one listed that year, after which motorcycle production ceased.
  • Note: 
    • It is recorded that some 1,500 machines were made, of which around two dozen remain today.
    • The Lea Francis story was recorded by Ken Hallworth in -OLD BIKE- number 18, summer 1996.
    • There is a Lea-Francis Owners' Website [1]
    • Graham Francis's son, Gordon, would go on to co-found Francis-Barnett.

National Motorcycle Museum exhibits:-

  • 1913 Lea Francis 31â4hp V-Twin

Lea-Francis Commpany History

Lea-Francis was a motor manufacturing company that began life building bicycles.
  • 1895 Richard Henry Lea and Graham Ingoldsby Francis started the business in Coventry as Lea and Francis.
  • 1896/7 Directory: Listed under cycles as Lea and Francis, Lower Ford Street, Coventry.
  • 1903 They branched out into car manufacture. Lea-Francis built cars, under licence, for the Singer company.
  • 1911 Started to produce motorcycles.
  • 1912 Listed in Spennell's directory of Coventry as Cycle Manufacturers.
  • 1914 Motor cycle and cycle manufacturers.
  • 1925 Motorcycle production ceased.
  • 1937 The company had a chequered history with some notable motorcycles and cars, but financial difficulties regularly arose. The Hillfields site was abandoned in 1937 when it was sold by the receiver and a new company, under a slightly different name moved to Much Park Street in Coventry. It survived there until 1963, when the company was finally wound up.
  • 1963 The motor manufacturing parts of the company passed into the hands of the Receiver in 1963 leaving Lea-Francis to continue with their engineering business.
Sources: Grace's Guide

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