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Men in Sheds – The Lenham Motor Company

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An advertisement for the Le Mans Coupe based on the Mark III Sprite and Mk II Midget

The name Lenham Motor Company might not mean much on first blush, but the firm has existed in various forms for over 50 years and has epitomized the men in sheds that formed the second tier of the British automotive industry in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

In a small corner of Kent in the United Kingdom during 1962, Julian Kingsford-Booty and David Miall-Smith committed to their automotive work full time and formed the Vintage & Sports Car Garage that was hidden behind the Dog and Bear Hotel in Lenham Square. Focusing on repair and service work, the pair were talented and quick to learn and began to develop a following for their attention to detail and their novel approach to problem solving. One of their more devoted customers asked whether the pair could fashion a bespoke body for his Bugeye that would serve to differentiate the car from the masses (and replace the previous body that had been damaged in a shunt). Fashioned out of aluminum, the fastback Sprite was an immediate hit and the small garage was instantly beset with requests to build more.

10988937_10154030274528881_8419135337818338919_nKingsford-Booty was non-committal as he had already determined that building further cars (even in limited numbers) could not be accomplished at a profit due to the time and expense that were involved in making the complex bodies out out of aluminum. He was an industrious young man, however, and he soon enrolled in a course on fiberglass fabrication that led them to offer  exterior panels for the Bugeye Sprite. Eventually, bodies were made for the entire Spridget line and then expanded to Spitfires, MGBs and the Jaguar E-Type.

Lenham fastback designed for the Spitfire

Lenham fastback designed for the Spitfire

Various versions of the Spridget bodies existed with competition hoods and various fastbacks as well as an entire range of hardtops. The lighter weight of the fiberglass components led to some competition success and the cars were among the best sellers of the various modified Spridgets in the period. In 1967, the firm launched the Lenham Healey which closely resembled the iconic Silverstone and featured the added grunt of the C-Series 6-cylinder engine. The following year, success forced a move to larger facilities and the Vintage Sports Car Garage became the Lenham Motor Company.

The very desirable - only 19 made - Lenham Healey

The very desirable – only 19 made – Lenham Healey

Throughout the 70s there were various changes in personnel and Kingsford-Booty sold off his share in 2005. The company still manufactures panel kits for the Spridget and several other small manufactures build license built examples from moulds purchased from Lenham. More than 200 examples of Lenham Motor Company cars were manufactured overall and they are prized in the United Kingdom and here for their attractive looks and period competition success.

by Johnny Oversteer

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