The Lea-Francis Lynx
Back in 1960 Lea–Francis was already an old established manufacturer of cars, beginning in 1903, and motorcycles, which they began making in 1911. They did have a few minor successes, building and selling somewhere in the region of 10,000 cars up to their demise, but financial difficulties were a regular problem for them and by the time the 1960s dawned they were in deep trouble. The Lynx was, for them, the last throw of the dice.
With money disappearing at a frightening speed the biggest shareholder, a builder called Kenneth Benfield, took over as chairman, in the hope of rescuing the company. The problem was that although he was no doubt excellent at building, his knowledge of car manufacture was rather less than stellar.
How the Lynx was designed
Benfield wanted a car to rival the best Italian models of the day – a very ambitious demand! In order to create a style for this car he didn't call in any of the top designers but entrusted the work to a public relations employee who had a part-time job drawing cartoons, and who, hardly surprisingly, plumped for a somewhat 'unusual' idea of giving his masterpiece a grill that looked like a mouth with a dish stuck to it. The rest of the car was designed in a similar taste and the final result had many otherwise potential buyers laughing out loud at it. To put it bluntly, it was hideous.
What were the technical specification?
It was powered by a Ford Zephyr 2.5 litre engine with six cylinders; reasonably powered and fairly reliable. There were disc brakes all round and the frame was of tubular construction.
Was it successful?
Hardly. The company by then was so short of cash that no cars could be built unless they were pre-ordered. Sadly, although the show car was painted in a 'tasteful' lilac colour, with gold trim, no one actually put their money down. Goodness knows why.
How did it perform?
Who knows? Since none were actually ordered, there was no way of testing it. Lea-Francis had, in any case, a poor reputation for quality which didn't bode well for a car designed by a cartoonist, to a specification laid down by a building contractor.
What happened next?
The company went bust. Only three Lynxes were ever built, none of which were sold before the bankruptcy, making it one of the most unsuccessful cars in history.