On April 15 1953 in a smoke-filled lower room of the Albert Arms on Kingston Hill, a small gathering of Lea-Francis enthusiasts came together to form a new Club. The organiser of the meeting, Peter Tompson, became the first secretary, and since the Lea-Francis company was then still fully operational, their Service Manager George Andrews was invited to be the first President.
In these early days the emphasis was on competition, often combining with other one-make clubs to run night navigation and other rallies. Grand dinner dances were financial disasters, but the regular monthly meetings at the Albert provided a focal point.
Come the 1960s, events tended to be concentrated on the Midlands, in particular when in 1963 we became the first car club to hold a rally at Stanford Hall; this soon became established as our main annual event, with concours and driving test much as today, except that the latter was fiercely competitive. Meanwhile some very mixed LFOC teams with everything from vintage P types to highly tuned postwar saloons took part in sprints and rallies.
As cars and owners grew older and roads more crowded, and ever more regulations stifled amateur motor sport, the primary concern became mutual support and preservation. The importance of recording data on cars and their histories was recognised and Registers created in the 70s, based on factory records but brought up to date. The “LeaFlet” gradually developed from duplicated pages that appeared at irregular intervals into a properly printed bimonthly magazine in the 80s, when computerisation also meant that reliable membership records could be kept.
Landmark events have included the parade of 60 cars at VSCC Silverstone in 1978 to mark the Club’s 25th birthday, and in 2003 the Club Jubilee events which included a run from Land’s End to John o’Groats and an assembly of more than 70 vehicles at Stanford Hall.
The Club’s greatest achievement however was the Centenary Rally of 1995, which brought together almost every product of the old firm over two days totalling in all 100 examples.
Membership grew slowly at first from the 18 founder members, but reached 100 by 1960 and 200 by 1980, rising steadily through the 80s and 90s to reach 300 in 1995 and has now stabilised at 330 to 340 members of whom 40 are overseas in 14 different countries. Club members currently own over 430 vehicles. But we know there are more out there!