RILEY - NUFFIELD SPECIFICATIONSas Old as the Industry, as modern as the Hour
The term 'Nuffield Riley' is a much debated misnomer in some respects. However, it is commonly used for the Saloon and Drophead models offered after the Nuffield takeover of Riley, despite the Saloon at least having been developed by Riley prior to the Nuffield takeover.
Riley went bust because they were building too many different models on too many different chassis. Therefore, when the Nuffield group took over it was only natural that a rationalisation programme should be the first course of action. The surprising thing is probably that rather than just trimming the existing range, a clean sweep was seen as necessary. The old 6 cylinder models were an obvious choice to remove from the range - to all intents and purposes Riley had already done this anyway. The ever popular nine had also come more or less to the end of its natural life, the rather unloved Victor being the only model left in the line up.
This left the 1ŻLitre and 2ŻLitre models, where the Adelphi and Kestrel were still selling strongly. While the Kestrel body was a real Riley design with the flowing lines and elegant styling that had made Rileys so popular in the early 1930s, the Adelphi body was a relatiely staid design, that failed to stand out in the corporate car park of 1938. Riley had already started to redesign the Adelphi before Nuffield took over, and it was this new Saloon, along with a Drophead version that Nuffield chose to pursue on both the 12 and 16 chassis. It was only after popular demand that the Kestrel was officially relaunched, but only on the larger chassis.
The Drophead was produced in recognition of the former success, sales wise, of open Rileys. However, in the brief period which these so-called Nuffield Rileys were available, the drophead only took about 20% of the sales, the saloon the remainder, albeit it with perhaps 20-25 Kestrel 16s also being sold. There were possibly also other models sold, using up stocks of bodies and chassis. One 15/6 model is believed to have left the factory in 1940 for instance.
The new models were launched with the basic un-tuned 12 and 16hp 4cylinder engines, although the Sprite Series 12/4 was soon made available too. The Kestrel 16 is also believed to have had a slightly tuned engine, although over the years many of the engines have been retuned, and as so few of the 16 Saloon and DHC models have survived it is difficult to know exact details. The chassis itself was also modified, with various components swaped out for standardised Nuffield examples. This does seem to have taken some time, however, with earlier cars perhaps retaining more of the Riley spirit in their mechanicals.
The chassis were developments of existing Riley chassis, the 12hp using a thoroughly re-worked Merlin chassis, and the 16hp using a revised large Adelphi chassis. However, revisions continued as production progressed, leaving many detail changes between the first and last of these models.
Whilst the bodies used on the 12 and 16hp chassis were essentially the same, there were a number of differentiating features to be found, including:
- There was a chrome running strip along the length of the body on the larger car.
- The 16 had an enclosed rear number plate, behind a glass panel.
- The 16s interior was more upmarket in appearance.