Rileys - The BL Years
What if Riley hadn't been consigned to history by BL in 1969? What cars might they have produced in the 1970s?
We have already seen the styling mock-up of the 'Landcrab' model that was produced in 1962. If this had been carried through, with a 4- and then 6-cylinder model, Riley could have survived until 1975 alongside Wolesley. But that was the end for Wolesley, apart from the ill-fated brief flirtation with a Princess model. I don't think a Riley Princess would have worked, but perhaps a Riley Marina Coupe? A Riley Allegro doesn't really seem to work, but what else? Well, assuming that the Leyland merger had happened, why not a Riley Dolomite?
A Riley Kestrel for the 1970s?
A Riley Falcon for the 1970s?
Two such models would bring us into the early 1980s. I suppose that a Riley-ised Acclaim is a non starter, and the Metro/Maestro/Montego would hardly stretch to a Riley version too, so we look to Rover. Various people have drawn three-soor SD1s, could this have been badged as the Riley flagship? Why not go the whole hog and have an RMD version too? Could a two door version of the Rover 213/6 ever have been created? If so could this have replaced the Marina based Riley Kestrel?
Riley RMD for the 1980s?
Riley Kestrel for the 1980s?
As we enter the 1990s things become a bit easier again. The second generation Rover 200-series coupe could easily have born Riley badges, perhaps the convertible too. And, with the more modern styling the Rover Group / Honda had developed, it is likely that there would be few other changed to make to the car. Any semblance of a traditional Riley Grille would have long gone for the original launch, and when the Rover grille was glued on the front for the revised models, a Riley Grille wouldn't have looked too different.
And so, at length we come to the mid 1990s. We already know about the proposed Rover 75 Coupe which May have worn Riley badges. Could a 400/45 coupe have been developed too? If Riley were alive and healthy then there seems little reason why such a car wouldn't have been developed. The trouble would be that, as it was in 1969, Riley was competing too closely with the other marques under BLs wing. In 1969 Riley was a halfway house between a sports saloon and a luxury saloon. Thus it was competing with Wolesley and MG from BMC, Rover and Triumph from Leyland and, if they had tried to push the marque upmarket at all, Jaguar too.
In 1996 when BMW took over, Rover was being repositioned in that very same spot, and to make matters worse BMW were producing similar cars too. Even MG, whose fortunes have waxed and waned, were producing sports saloons throughout the 1980s and again in the post-BMW era.
So, what if? If Riley had survived in 1969, there seems little doubt that it would have disappeared in 1975 alongside Wolesley. There were simply too many cars being badged with too many names. Something had to give, and sadly Riley was the first victim of many.