Rileys 1896 - 1939 The Pre-Nuffield Years.
Building on Success - 1925-1931
The Riley 9 Prototype, with Monaco Bodywork was first unveiled in 1926. It aroused great curiosity, as it was unusual for small cars of that time to be fitted with closed-saloon bodywork, still less covered with fabric. The engine was completely new, with overhead valves for the first time. Another interesting feature was the integral boot at the back of the car. By the 1926 motor show, the Riley 9 was fully developed, and several bodies (including the Monaco) were on show. Also on show, was a supercharged 11-40, and the 'new' 12hp, which was basically just a renamed 11.9hp 11-40! The Riley 9 entered full production in 1927, with a slightly revised Monaco body, or tourer. Later in 1927, 2 further bodies were made available - a 2-seater tourer with dickey-seat, and the San-Remo 4-seater saloon. Also by the end of 1927, the sporty Brooklands had been developed, on a shorter chassis, with a shorter radiator set behind, rather than on top of the front members. In 1928, Riley dramatically improved the now ageing 12hp, with a modified engine, and new bodies. These were all now given names, rather than just descriptions. The main bodies were the Lulworth, Midworth and Grangeworth Saloons, also the Wentworth Coupe, and Chatsworth Saloon.
During 1928, the success of the Riley 9 led to the demise of the old side-valved 12. Also during 1928, the Riley 9's managed to set many new speed-records, and win many races, mainly due to the excellent performance of the Brooklands model. At the end of 1928, the old Riley 12 was replaced with the all-new 14/6. This was a 14hp 6-cylinder Car. In general appearance, the car was very similar to the popular 9, but it was larger in all dimensions. The car shown featured fabric bodywork, and was called the Stelvio (essentially a larger Monaco). In addition, the Deauville Saloon, and Special Tourer were launched shortly afterwards. At the same time, the 9 Monaco was slightly improved, with a bigger boot, and a new 9 Biarritz was introduced. This featured a one-piece bonnet, hinged at the rear. Between 1926 and 1929, over 6,000 Riley 9's had been produced, with demand still high for the exceptional cars. Despite being older than much of their competition, they were still winning many races at the end of 1929, and continued to do so throughout the 1930's.
"Our native automobile engineering industry contains one or two examples of undertakings owned by a single proprietor. For the rest, with one exception motor-manufacturing companies in England are publicly owned. The unique case is that of Riley, which has always been, and remains in effect, a family concern...."
From the preface of "The Riley Romance", by Edward H. Reeves, Jan.1930.
This statement probably helps explain the success that Riley found - the fact that it wasn't run by a single person, or by a board of squabbling directors, but by a family who all had roughly the same ideas for the company.
Despite only launching one new model in 1929 - the 14/6 6-light saloon, Riley had a very successful year. This was mainly on the track, with many new lap records being set, as well as many wins at the races that the Riley team entered. This helped to lead to a record £1,000,000 worth of sales, quite some feat for a small company in the 1920's! In 1930 Riley introduced an all new 9 'plus' range. This comprised the Monaco and Biarritz Saloons, Brooklands Sports, Open tourer and 2-seater Coupe. The 14/6 range also underwent modifications, with the 6-light being renamed the Alpine, as was the 4-seater tourer, and the Stelvio saloon and Sportsmans Coupe were updated. The success of Rileys in Motorsport continued, and was further improved with the new 9-plus. In additions, the Riley engines were made available to the new Brooke-Riley motorboats, which proved a popular success for the Riley Engine Co. Late in 1931, another new model was launched, in the shape of the WD or Army Tourer. This was a civilian version of the Riley 9 tourer used by the War Office. The 1932 range was launched shortly afterwards, and comprised of 7 bodies on the 9 - Monaco, WD, Brooklands, 2-seater Gamecock Sports, Ascot Coupe, and 2 and 4 seater Tourers. However, the 14-6 stayed much the same, with just the Alpine and Stelvio Models. The end of 1931 saw William Riley's 80th Birthday, and also Riley (Coventry) Ltd. taking over Riley Engine Co., and the Midland Motor Body Co., so that all of Riley's production was carried out by one Company.