Riley

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Riley

Riley started out as a family concern, for many years working as master weavers. With a downturn in trade to both Germany and Austria William Riley, who had inherited the business from his father, decided he needed to diversify, and so in 1890 he acquired the Bonnick Cycle Company. Against Riley’s wishes, his five sons would experiment with engines, and in 1899 the company had manufactured their first powered tricycle.

In 1902 brothers Victor, Allan and Percy (the designer) would start the Riley Engine Company, manufacturing engines for both their fathers products, and others such as Singer. They would patent the mechanically operated inlet valve, and in 1907 the detachable road wheel. This latter invention would have almost universal appeal to the burgeoning worldwide automotive industry, with 183 manufacturers taking up patent rights so they could use the detachable wheels on their iterations.

Naturally enough the decision was made to concentrate on wheel manufacture, and in 1911 bicycle manufacture was discontinued. Enlisting the help of Harry Rush as designer, Riley would release their first aptly named “Light Car” in 1919, but the cost of bringing the car to market proved too great, and the company went into receivership. Lord Nuffield would come to the rescue, buying the company privately before later selling it to his own Morris conglomerate. In 1926 Riley took the wraps off its prototype “Riley 9”, the “Monaco” version arguably the first small car to feature fully enclosed saloon bodywork.

The 9 used a completely new engine featuring overhead valves, and they would soon find success on the track – extremely popular for the time, approximately 6000 would be sold between 1926 and 1929. After the war Riley was only ever a shadow of its former self, the 1953 Pathfinder being the last to use a Riley engine. In 1961 a Riley version of the Mini was launched – afforded a better standard of trim it was obvious that by now the company lived on by name alone. But even that was short lived, with British Leyland pulling the plug on the name entirely in 1969.

Also see: The History of Riley

Riley 9  

Riley 9

1926 - 1938
The Riley Nine was the most popular of the pre-war Riley’s ever made, and with good reason. Enjoying a long production run lasting from 1926 to 1938, the Nine would undergo various mechanical and body style changes along the way, under the direction of two of William Riley’s five sons, Percy and Stanley. The mechanics, particularly the engine, were handled by the older Percy, while Stanley was responsible for the chassis, suspension and body. More >>
Riley RM Series  

Riley RM Series

1945 - 1954
These Riley RM's were at once liked for their graceful and flowing lines, well appointed and comfortable intereiors, brisk performance and good road manners - all of which impressed the motoring journalists and road testers of the time. More >>
Riley Pathfinder  

Riley Pathfinder

1953 - 1957
Powering the Pathfinder was Riley's 110 hp (82 kW) 2.5 Litre 2443 cc twin-cam, straight-4 engine fitted with twin SU carburetors, an engine that had been designed way back in 1926. Performance was excellent, the Pathfinder capable of a top speed of nearly 100mph, making it very popular with British police constabularies. More >>
Riley Elf

Riley Elf

1961 - 1969
The Riley Elf and Wolsley Hornet were upmarket versions of Sir Alexander Issigonis masterpiece, the Mini. The distinctive grille was the standout feature, while the tail received its own makeover, which included extending the length so that the car looked much more like a typical saloon. More >>
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