Rileys - The BMC Years

The End of a Great Marque

The year 1957 saw great changes for Riley. The last Car that could be described as a real-Riley was shelved and replaced with a Wolesley. The Two-Point-Six was essentially a Wolsley 6/90 with a different Radiator.
The engine was a tuned BMC C-series 2.6litre 'six', used in the Wolsley and also the large Morris and MG saloons of the time. The interior was also largely the same as the Wolsley, and apart from extra speed the 2 handled the same as well.

The same year the delayed replacement for the RME was launched, originally intended to be a Morris Minor replacement, the car was adapted with more luxury appointments to provide both Riley and Wolsley with a new small model. Called the One-Point-Five by Riley, and also the Wolsley 1500 it was again essentially a Wolsley with a different radiator, tuned engine and different trim. However, the car sold extremely well, beating all other Riley Models with over 30,000 cars built!

In 1959 the 2.6 was replaced by the 4/68, the Riley version of BMCs ubiquitous B-series Farina Models. It was powered by the same 1489cc B-series engine as the 1.5, but still somehow appealed to a different market, largely due to the bigger more roomy bodywork.
It was replaced by the 4/72 two years later, which had the larger 1622cc B-series engine intorduced earlier in the year. This car soldiered on until the death of Riley in 1969, albeit with miserable sales figures and stiff in-house competition (from Wolsley and MG).

Also launched in 1961 was the Riley Elf. Again this was a cosmetic job on a Wolsley Model, this time the Wolsely Hornet, itself based on the Mini. The Elf was another good seller for Riley, but wasn't enough to keep the marque alive.
1965 saw the end of the 1.5, being replaced by the smaller Kestrel 1100 A-series Farina Model, again another cross-BMC car. The car was updated in 1967 as the 1300, with the larger 1275cc Mini Cooper engine, but the 1100 was phased out in 1968 and the 1300 in '69.

Riley's demise was caused by a variety of factors, being:

  • The falling sales.
  • The public complaints against BMC rubbishing Riley's Heritage with a range of lacklustre saloons.
  • The Huge Financial Troubles experienced by the new British Leyland Motor Corporation (from the merger of BMC, Jaguar-Daimler, and Leyland (Rover/Triumph).
  • A lack of funds for new models for so many marques.
  • The close competition between Riley, MG, Wolsley and Triumph's Models.
    These all combined to force BLMC to kill off The Riley Marque. Within the same 12 months Vanden Plas and Austin Healey also went, and by 1975 Wolsley had followed.