Rileys 1896 - 1939 The Pre-Nuffield Years.
There's no Stopping Riley! - 1932-36
Following winning the 1100cc class in the 1931 Monte Carlo rally, 9 Rileys were entered in the 1932 event. The previous years winner came 3rd overall, with other Rileys gaining 4th and 5th places. This was just one of the many rally successes of 1932, not to mention the Grand Prix events. During 1931, the plant at Foleshill had been enlarged, in order to start export production. Many Rileys had already been exported, but mainly by private people, and professional exporters - Riley itself had never exported a car. The Rileys that were for sale overseas were all built from exported components, by companies licensed by Riley, although many had unique bodies. Later in 1932, the 'new' 14-6 engine was adapted, to make the 12/6 engine. The idea behind this was that the engine would then be eligible for the under 1500cc class. The first few cars with this engine were fitted with larger Brooklands-style bodywork, and mainly used in trials and races. By the end of the year, however, the 12/6 was available to the public. This meant that the Riley range now consisted of 9 Riley 9's - The Monaco, Ascot and Gamecock which remained relatively unchanged, and also 6 new models - The 4-seater Kestrel and Falcon Saloons, The re-named Lynx 4-seater tourer, as well as the Lincock 2-seater coupe, March special and 2-seater Trinity tourer.
The 14/6 range also underwent some changes, with the Stelvio and Alpine continuing, while the new Edinburgh 5-seater Limousine was launched, along with the Winchester, a slightly more moderate car. All of the 9hp 'sports' bodies (ie: not the Monaco or Ascot) were also now available.
However, all of the 9hp bodies were made available on the 12/6 chassis, although the Monaco was called the Mentone, as the bodywork had to be adapted more than the others to fit the chassis. By Mid-1933 the Riley Motor Club had become the largest single-make motor club in the world, with over 2,000 members. Many more racing successes were made during 1933, further promoting Rileys.
For 1934, many improvements were made across the range, but the only all new car was the Imp. This was a 2-door, 2-seater sports tourer, essentially intended to succeed the long-departed Brooklands. The Kestrel, and Lynx were also modified in appearance, as were the Mentone and 14/6 Stelvio. In addition, all of the closed-saloons were now metal bodied, and it was the last year for the fabric bodied Tourers as well. In Mid-1934, Riley started public testing of another new car - the MPH. This car was essentially a 6-cylinder Imp, and apart from a longer bonnet and only 2 seats, it looked nearly identical.
For 1935 another new engine was launched - the 12/4. This was a completely new design, although it bore many resemblances to the existing Riley engines. It quickly replaced the 12/6, which lost demand to the new 1½ Litre engine. This new chassis featured a completely new Falcon body, which later replaced the existing Falcon throughout the range, and also a modified Kestrel body, at launch. In addition, the 14/6 engine was replaced with a new 15/6, which took all of the standard bodies, as well as the new Stelvio.
Racing successes still abounded for the Riley teams, and for many races, Rileys were THE cars to beat in their class. 1936 saw some major changes to the Riley range, with a modified Falcon body, and new Merlin, intended to replace the 9hp Monaco, and 12hp Mentone, as the 'base' model. In addition, a new V8 engine was introduced, and many of the lesser models were dropped. The range now consisted of 23 cars (including):
9hp: Merlin and Kestrel.
12/4: Merlin, Kestrel (now 6-light), Falcon, Lynx, and the new Adelphi.
15/6: Kestrel, Falcon, Lynx, Adelphi and MPH.
8/90: Kestrel and Adelphi.
Many of the models in the range were also available as 'special series' (making the 23), an idea which was launched in about 1930, and basically consisted of uprated suspension, engines and gearboxes to give a sportier feel to the car. Extra body features were also included. The 8/90 V8 was basically 2 9hp engines places at 90° to each other. It was not a success, and only about 25 are believed to have been built. In addition, Riley later launched the all new Sprite, a 2-seater sports with streamlined front end and the 12/4 engine.
"....we make far too many models of course. But then we have a pretty fertile design department, and we like making nice, interesting cars." - Riley Advertising. Sep.1936.