This early 3 ½ hp motor car was manufactured by the William Lea Motor Co Ltd of Birkenhead and Liverpool in 1900. It is not known how many cars Lea produced but this is the only known survivor. ‘The Autocar’ magazine of 1 June 1901 reported that the cars were in brisk demand because of their elegance, ease of handling and reasonable prices.
According to the 'Motor Car Journal' of September 1900 the Liver Phaeton could carry four people at a speed from one to eighteen miles an hour. It was also reputed to be able to carry passengers up a gradient of one-in-four - a proud boast for such an early example of car manufacturing.
The name ‘phaeton’ means light, four wheeled carriage and the car body is very reminiscent of a horse drawn carriage. The engine is a Benz horizontal single-cylinder, 1045cc with transmission by belts giving two forward speeds plus ‘Crypto’ extra low gear with final drive by side chains. Steering is by a tiller and the car has solid rubber tyres.
It is unknown who owned the car for most of its early life. It was found in poor condition in the 1930s and restored to running order by a member of the Veteran Car Club. The car was driven in the London to Brighton run six times in the 1960s. It was sold to a Dutch enthusiast in the early 1970s who took it on its final run in 1974. National Museums Liverpool purchased the Liver Phaeton from the Paul Moebius collection, through Christie’s, London in 1997.