1951 Riley
RMA Saloon

 

Reasonable Offers Encouraged


Location: Indianapolis
VIN #:
Engine:1.5 Ltr 4
Transmission:4 Spd manual
Wheelbase:112"
Mileage:

The Riley Company began as the Bonnick Cycle Company of Coventry, England. In 1890 during the pedal cycle craze that swept Britain at the end of the 19th century William Riley Jr. who had interests in the textile industry purchased the business and in 1896 incorporated a company to own it named The Riley Cycle Company Limited. Later, cycle gear maker Sturmey Archer was added to the portfolio. Riley's middle son, Percy, left school in the same year and soon began to dabble in automobiles. He built his first car at 16, in 1898, secretly, because his father did not approve. It featured the first mechanically operated inlet valve. By 1899, Percy Riley moved from producing motorcycles to his first prototype four-wheeled quadricycle. Little is known about Percy Riley's first "motor-car". It is, however, well attested that the engine featured mechanically operated cylinder valves at a time when other engines depended on the vacuum effect of the descending piston to suck the inlet valve(s) open. That was demonstrated some years later when Benz developed and patented a mechanically operated inlet valve process of their own but were unable to collect royalties on their system from British companies; the courts were persuaded that the system used by British auto-makers was based the one pioneered by Percy, which had comfortably anticipated equivalent developments in Germany. In 1900, Riley sold a single three-wheeled automobile. Meanwhile the elder of the Riley brothers, Victor Riley, although supportive of his brother's embryonic motor-car enterprise, devoted his energies to the core bicycle business.

Riley's founder William Riley remained resolutely opposed to diverting the resources of his bicycle business into motor cars, and in 1902 three of his sons, Victor, Percy and younger brother Allan Riley pooled resources, borrowed a necessary balancing amount from their mother and in 1903 established the separate Riley Engine Company, also in Coventry. A few years later the other two Riley brothers, Stanley and Cecil, having left school joined their elder brothers in the business. At first, the Riley Engine Company simply supplied engines for Riley motorcycles and also to Singer, a newly emerging motorcycle manufacturer in the area, but the Riley Engine Company soon began to focus on four-wheeled automobiles. Their Vee-Twin Tourer prototype, produced in 1905, can be considered the first proper Riley car. The Riley Engine Company expanded the next year. William Riley reversed his former opposition to his sons' preference for motorised vehicles and Riley Cycle halted motorcycle production in 1907 to focus on automobiles. Bicycle production also ceased in 1911.

Riley grew rapidly through the 1920s and 1930s. The Riley Engine Company produced 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder engines, while Midland built more than a dozen different bodies. It was announced on 9 September 1938 that the assets and goodwill of Riley Motors (Coventry) Limited had been purchased from the receiver by Lord Nuffield and he would on completion transfer ownership to Morris Motors Limited. Nuffield took quick measures to firm up the Riley business. Riley refocused on the 4-cylinder market with two engines: A 1.5-litre 12 hp engine and the "Big Four", a 2.5-litre 16 hp unit. Only a few bodies were produced prior to the onset of war in 1939.

After World War II, Riley took up the old engines in new models, based in concept on the 1936-8 'Continental', a fashionable 'notchback' design whose name had been changed prior to release to 'Close-Coupled Touring Saloon' owing to feared objections from Rolls-Royce. The RMA used the 1.5-litre engine, while the RMB got the Big Four. The RM line of vehicles, sold under the "Magnificent Motoring" tag line, were to be a re-affirmation of Riley values in both road behaviour and appearance. 'Torsionic' front independent suspension and steering design inspired by the Citro├źn Traction Avant provided precise handling; their flowing lines were particularly well-balanced, marrying pre-war 'coachbuilt' elegance to more modern features, such as headlamps faired into the front wings.

This nice Example has a lot going for it. Its a very solid and complete car with many original features, most of the interior is original with the exception of the front seat upholstery, the dash and rear seat have a great patina. The oaint and top are in very good condtion with no real flaws noted and will buff out nicely. Most fo the brightwork is in excellent condition with only the rear bumpers showing any crazing. The car runs very well, and can be immediately pressed into service. This is a nice turnkey example that will provide years of driving enjoyment to the new owner.

 

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