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State of the art scanner gives new life to classic cars

PR 15/07
8 November 2007
Dr Mark Williams with museum curator Steve Bagley   
Britain has a unique motoring heritage – most of it preserved in museums – but researchers at WMG are to use high-technology to breathe new life into our classic autos.
WMG’s Craftsmanship team, based at the University of Warwick, have recently installed a £350,000 laser measurement machine, supplied by Metris UK, that can accurately measure – to the nearest micron – anything from the smallest component up to full size cars.
And on Tuesday 13 November they will demonstrate this technology by laser scanning a priceless Lea Francis Hyper – winner of the 1928 Ulster TT race – to develop a unique computer model of the car. This car was one of a team of six Lea-Francis entered in the Ulster TT on 21 August 1928 and went on to win the race with an average speed of 64mph. The car was bequeathed to Coventry Transport Museum following the death of Tom Delaney in 2006. Tom, whose father was MD of Lea Francis, raced the car himself many times: his last race was in 2006 at the age of 92.
Lead researcher Dr Mark Williams says: “This technology is state of the art – no other university in the country has one and the cost usually means that only the biggest manufacturing companies are able to use them.
“The story with the Lea Francis, as with many other classic cars, is that they are often ‘one-of-a-kind’ examples with engineering drawings hard to find, making it difficult to manufacture new components or replace broken ones.
“But the computer model we will produce will mean all the components of the car can be reverse engineered so that new ones can be made to fit exactly. So cars like this can virtually last forever – the ultimate in environmentally-friendly racing!”
Dr Williams’ research, funded by regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, is founded on an industrial need: to help components suppliers learn new skills and ultimately produce better cars for everyone.
He adds: “Because these machines are so expensive, suppliers can’t get access to them and it can be difficult to work out problems with a component if you can’t measure it accurately or see how it fits into the whole vehicle. Now local suppliers will be able to use this facility here at the University and that means cars with less rattle and an all-round better fit. It also means jobs and companies in the West Midlands can compete with overseas companies that are already grasping this technology.”
Notes to editors:
WMG, an academic group of the University of Warwick, is a provider of innovative solutions to industry, supporting some of the most advanced research, development and training projects in the world.
The Co-ordinate Measurement Machine (CMM) has been loaned to WMG by Metris/LK.
The Lea Francis Hyper has been kindly loaned to WMG by Coventry Transport Museum. The Museum displays the largest collection of British road transport in the world, and is recognised by the Government as being of national importance. Its collection includes 240 cars, commercial vehicles and buses, 94 motorcycles, over 200 cycles, 25,000 models and around 1 million archive and ephemera items, representing Coventry’s unique heritage as the birthplace of British road transport. Nearly 300,000 people visited the museum last year.
For more on the story behind this iconic car, please visit the WMG website:

The Lea Francis at Coventry Transport Museum

Donington 60th VSCC anniversary meeting 1993

Tom and Luke Delaney at Brighton

At Shelsly Walsh March 1932

For information on the vintage pictures above, please contact Lucy Rumble at Coventry Transport Museum on 024 7623 4270.

View and download more pictures here.