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Updated April 27, 1996
as Old as the Industry, as modern as the Hour

This brief history of the Riley Motor Car Company was compiled by Larry Rice
For more information on Riley Motor Cars browse through the website:


Born from a company engaged in the manufacture of cycles, the first Riley car - a small voiturette with a single-cylinder engine - was completed in 1898, so it was with good reason that Riley adopted the slogan 'as old as the industry' in promoting the sale of their cars during the early post-war years.

By then, Riley had become part of the Nuffield Organisation, which in turn would soon become a major component of the British Motor Corporation. Thereafter, Rileys, like the other BMC Marques, were destined to lose much of their distinctive identity, becoming no more than badge-engineered examples of a series of standard corporate products.

The last true Rileys, cars whose lineage could be traced directly back to the models produced during the final days before the Second World War, were the RM-series, which have since become such highly prized classics of the ever-mushrooming collector car movement.

Earlier Rileys of the 1920s and 1930s were notable for flowing, sporting lines as much as for a sprightly performance which earned them such an illustrious competition career, but new standards of elegance and affordable luxury were set with the introduction of the first 1-1/2-litre RM saloons in the late 1940s. Featuring four-door bodywork flanked by flowing wings and topped by a stylish fabric roof, they represented one of the last as well as one of the most successful examples of the traditional method of car construction, which was fast disappearing as the industry became wedded to the monocoque.

The RM saloons were soon to be joined by drophead-coupe and roadster variants, but the Rileys of the time were also manufactured in chassis-only form, to be used as a basis for many alternative body styles, notably some estate cars and utility vehicles of, perhaps inevitably, widely varying quality and appearance.

The total number of 1-1/2-litre, 2-1/2-litre, Roadster, Drophead Coupe, Pathfinder Rileys produced between 1945 and 1957 were 28,065, of which 13,950 were 1-1/2-litre models.

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