Classic Sports Car

LEAFFALLSN­EAR TO FAMILY TREE

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The post-war Lea-francis Sports was an attractive car, still with something of a vintage look about it. MUV 394 is a 2½-litre Sports that was delivered to the London dealer in January 1952. The first owner is not known, but by 1960 it was in Cheltenham with a J Keogh, then D Halladay (1961) and a Mr Forge (1964). The following owner was RG Blow of Gloucester­shire, who carried out some repairs including changing the engine.

Max Dutton, the current owner, was given the car as a 21st-birthday present in 1970. He had no garage so it stayed out in the open over that winter, but the water in the engine froze and cracked the block. Dutton was living in Kenley, south London, so he took the engine to a local garage for repair. “Though this was convenient, it was a costly mistake,” he recalls. “I should have had [marque specialist] Barrie Price do the work. The oil pressure was never good, and the big ends finally went on a trip through London.”

It was later found that the garage had used clear gasket sealant, which was then a new product, and it had clogged up the journal bearings and lubricatio­n system.

At the time, Dutton was training to be a pilot and he managed to store the car in a hangar at Kenley airfield. After his RAF career he flew for various civilian airlines, taking the car around the country as new space was found for it, until his retirement in 2014. “It was then that I finally had time to start the renovation,” he says. “It was a choice between buying a Porsche or doing a nut-and-bolt restoratio­n on the Lea-francis, and I choose to do the Leaf.

“The project has taken much longer and has cost far more than I ever imagined, but that is par for the course. Hopefully the car will be finished within a year.”

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Clockwise: body prior to stripdown; engine had a cracked block; rebuilt chassis
Leaf restoratio­n began in 2014 after more than 40 years off the road Clockwise: body prior to stripdown; engine had a cracked block; rebuilt chassis
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