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WMG classic car research sparks interest

PR 02/08
5 February 2008
Work to find new ways to breathe life into priceless motors has caught the interest of one of the industry’s stalwarts.
Researchers at WMG, the innovative solutions provider at the University of Warwick, have been looking at how lasers might be used to help restore classic cars. They’re working with Coventry Transport Museum who loaned the university department a priceless Lea Francis Hyper racing car as a test model.
After reading about the ground-breaking work, the Managing Director of Lea Francis Cars Ltd – still very much a going concern  - contacted WMG to share his own experience of building the thoroughbred cars.
Barrie Price, 76, who still makes components at his Alcester, Warwickshire workshop for the 800-or-so cars still in existence around the world, is a lifelong fan of Lea Francis and has hand-built many cars himself.
He said: “This is a total revolution that you’re doing here. Nevertheless, designers still start with an idea and paper and pencil. You can’t totally replace the human brain yet.”
WMG’s Craftsmanship team is using a high-tech laser measuring machine to build up detailed CAD drawings of components and whole cars. The work could allow parts to be reengineered where no drawings exist.
But Mr Price, who bought the Lea Francis car business in 1962, has drawings of the very car scanned by the team back in November. He showed them to the team and told the story of how the car was discovered and restored by him and his great friend Tom Delaney: “It was a million-to-one chance. The car had been lost for years and Tom wanted to try and find it. Well we keep very good records and, after a bit of digging and only one phone call, I discovered it was lying in a barn in the next village.
“Well of course it was a total wreck. The car you scanned is the direct descendent of that original 1928 Hyper, which won the TT Race of the same year drive by Kaye Don, but it’s like the story of the Roman axe – it’s had six new handles and five new blades.”
Mr Price, who ‘works flat out’ on making components, has a grand scheme up his sleeve. The company has plans for a new high-tech sports car, designed by Professor James Randle (former technical director of Jaguar) and is looking for sponsors to help him get it into production.
Notes to editors:
·         WMG, an academic department 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.
·         Lea Francis Cars Ltd is based in Wixford, Alcester. Barrie Price can be contacted on 01789 490060.
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