RILEY SPECS - MODEL NAMESas Old as the Industry, as modern as the Hour
A note on names
There is a clear trend in Riley's naming policy over the years. Early cars didn't have names, rather descriptions, but in the late 1920s the various body styles of the 11.9 models started to get names ending in 'worth' - Chatsworth, Grangeworth, Lulworth, Midworth and Wentworth, some of which are places. With the launch of the 9 in 1926, the new ranges of cars, particularly saloons, took their names from far flung european destinations, often in the Alps or on the Mediterranean and connected with races, rallys or endurance efforts:
Alpine, Biarritz, Deauville, Mentone, Monaco, San Remo, Stelvio
These were clearly names to add a bit of glamour to the range in the new age of mass-market movies, air travel and electricity. Riley were not alone in using such names on their vehicles, but unlike some others, Riley had a real connection to some places, through their motorsport efforts.
In the early 1930s, the more staid saloons amongst others took their names from British towns and cities, and whilst slightly less Romantic or Glamorous than their European counterparts to the British market, they would have given an impression of reliability (Indeed the Edinburgh model tooks its name from the success in the London - Edinburgh Trials), that these places could be reached in the Riley:
Ascot, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Holbrook (?), Winchester
In 1933, a new range of names came in, primarily Birds of Prey for the Saloons and, somewhat curiously, Lynx for the new open tourer:
Falcon, Kestrel, Merlin and also, loosely related Gamecock, Lincock
These may have suggested a variety of emotions to prospective customers - Speed, agression, power.
Sports Models had their own names, starting with the Brooklands, which took its name from the famous racing circuit, and so could be said to fit into either of the earlier 'places' groups. The later Imp and Sprite took their names from mythical / fantasy creatures, but as Sprite has long been used for cars, motorbikes and planes, it is difficult to say why or when the name was first used, or what connotations it gave. Imp was obviously derived from it, as was the BMC Riley Elf of the 1960s.
The reasons behind the name MPH surely are self explanatory!
Finally, there are a few models that cannot be categorised. The Adelphi was a later car, but took a name which is, loosely, a British place name. However, perhaps associations with high living at the Adelphi Hotel / Theatre were more in mind.
The earlier Trinity was named after the 3 positions that the roof could be set in.
Finally, the Victor seems to have been named after Victor Riley, and its lowly sales perhaps reflects this poor choice in the publics view, although as Riley's prowess slipped away, perhaps the name made no difference.
Only three models were named after the war. The Elf, as mentioned above, was sold alongside the resurrected Kestrel, but before that the Pathfinder had replaced the larger RM models. There are some suggestions that the smaller (RMG) model would have been named Wayfinder if it had made it to production.
Riley names re-used
There are, of course, a few names mentioned above which may have a familiar ring to them today. A few were re-used by BMC / BL, such as the Austin Healey Sprite, and later the Mini Sprite special editions. (Let's not mention the CI Sprite though...).
Elsewhere, other manufacturers have also re-used old Riley names. Monaco, for instance, has been used for special editions of Renaults. The Stelvio name has also been used for special editions, and is expected to be used on the Alfa Romeo SUV in the near future. Looking further back, the Alpine name has seen a variety of re-uses, including the Sunbeam, later Chrysler and Talbot Alpines, and the specialist Renault Tuners Alpine who are due to make a comeback with a new sports car soon.
In Canada, the Kestrel name has been re-used for a small electric car with a body made from Hemp fibres. However, whilst prototypes were built, it is unclear if the vehicle has made / will make production.
Back in the UK, the Merlin Sports car is a classically styled low volume model similar to a Panther Lima. The Lynx name is perhaps more famously used by the Jaguar specialists who brought us the Lynx Eventer, Jaguar XJS estate model. They also restore and 'recreate' some classic Jaguar models.
Finally, whilst Rolls Royce gently persuaded Riley that they couldn't use the Continental name, sadly Riley were no longer around when RR 'stole' the Brooklands name for a Bentley!
So, all in all, nearly 50 years after the last Riley rolled off the production lines, 9 of Riley's 30-odd model names have been re-used, with most of them still in use today.