Riley – a true British classic
Sometimes serendipity comes along….
My cousin Peter and I were strolling back to his car after taking a most enjoyable trip – steam hauled – on Peak Rail from Rowsley to Matlock and back, when I spotted a bright blue car standing behind an industrial building by the side of the railway yard. ‘Wait a minute, Pete, I’d like a photograph of that!’ I said, and began to stroll over. As I neared the car, I began to revise my initial identification of a pre-war MG. ‘Too high to be an SS, wrong shape for a Morgan, it’s..it’s…a Riley!!’
I found myself staring at one of the most popular pre-war makes of British car. The Riley Engine Company originally produced cycles and motorcycles (as did many other early manufacturers), and produced their first real car, the Vee-Twin Tourer in 1905. By the 1930’s they had a full range of saloons (sedans for American reader!), luxury cars and sports cars. Rileys always had a sporty image and were even raced around the classic British banked oval at Brooklands.
Here we see a car from the 1932 range, a Riley 9 March; this was a specialist sports model with a body by the firm, Kevill-Davis & March, on a Riley 9 Plus-Ultra chassis. The power – all 42 hp of it, at 3,800 rpm! – came from a 4 cylinder, 1,087cc , OHV unit equipped with a Zenith carburettor. To reduce engine movement due to torque there were two ‘sway braces’ inside the engine compartment. Suspension was via semi-elliptic leaf springs, and there were, of course, drum brakes. The engine COULD be started using a hand crank; the supporting ring of which can be seen in front of the radiator.
The single centrally-mounted windscreen wiper drove both wiper blades via an external link, and the whole windscreen could fold forward to lie flat, should the driver wish to expose himself and his passenger to VERY fast moving flies!
This car is not quite in showroom condition. There are excellently re-upholstered seats, cream spoked wheels, and a new hood, but there are cracks in the bodywork and one headlight glass is sealed with putty!
Nevertheless ‘MPF 423’ is a great example of the classic British pre-war sports car, and its owner is – according to the badges displayed on the radiator bars – a member of The Vintage Sports Car Club, and The 1899 – 1938 Riley Register.
Back in 1932, the list price of this car was 335 Pounds Sterling. This equated to more than two years wages for a coalminer. Nevertheless, this iconic British sports car is well worth a second look!