1937 Riley 1½-Litre


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1937 Riley 1½-Litre Sports Special
Chassis no. 28A7430

"September 1934 heralded the introduction of a new 1½-litre range of cars from the Riley stable, rather a case of 'Something Old – Something New' in a way. Two features made it something old: it was a revival of the four cylinder 1½ litre engine format – extinct as far as Riley was concerned since 1928 - and it incorporated most of the design features of the now-famous Nine. Two features made it something new: it was a completely new range of cars with an engine designed by a newcomer to the Riley design team – Hugh Rose." – David G Styles, As Old as the Industry: Riley 1898-1969.

First introduced in 1926, Percy Riley's 9hp, 1,087cc, twin-camshaft four was an outstanding engine design by any standards, various versions powering Rileys until 1957. Looking to all intents and purposes like a twin-overhead-camshaft design, the Nine's cross-flow cylinder head featured hemispherical combustion chambers and valves inclined at an included angle of 90 degrees. The twin gear-driven camshafts were mounted high in the block, operating the valves via short pushrods.

This successful high-camshaft layout was retained for the new Hugh Rose-designed 1½-litre four introduced in 1935. The Falcon saloon debuted on this new 12hp chassis, which was also available with the familiar streamlined Kestrel saloon and Lynx tourer coachwork, while the following year the range was augmented by the Sprite two-seater sports and three saloons: the Adelphi and six-light Kestrel on the long-wheelbase chassis and the all-steel Merlin on the short-wheelbase frame. Other noteworthy features of the 1½-Litre included Girling rod brakes, Armstrong-Siddeley pre-selector transmission, and Bijur automatic chassis lubrication. The well-liked 1½-Litre model in its various guises remained a fixture of the Riley range until the firm's take-over by Morris in 1938.

Riley's open two-seaters are among the most highly sought after of 1930s sports cars with demand exceeding supply, a state of affairs that has seen many former saloons converted into sporting specials, that offered here being an excellent example of the type. The car was converted by marque specialists Ashridge Automobiles of Billington, Buckinghamshire. It then passed to dealer Patrick Thomas in France followed by French collector Bertrand Nory and now is in the hands of a Belgian private collector. Very nicely presented, this exciting Riley Special is offered with Belgian Carte Grise (Oldtimer) and Contrôle Technique.