Classic Car Catalogue

Riley 1931

Nine - discontinued
Nine - new model in October
Light Six  
Long Six  

Great Britain

THERE often seems to be a tendency to imagine that anything which is really modern, especially among things mechanical, must be produced by some recently established concern. It is therefore not surprising to find that many motorists of today fail to realise that the Riley car which is so familiar to them in their travels, is produced by one of the oldest firrns in the industry, a firm whose history actually goes back further than that of motoring itself.
Not only is the Riley concern unusual in being an entirely family affair from its inception, but the same family were already in business in Coventry before motoring was thought of.
It was to the remarkable foresight of William Riley, originally in the weaving business in Coventry, that the Riley motor car as we know it today is due. There have been many interesting and exciting developments in their history in the intervening years, and the active and resourceful co-operation of the Riley brothers, who are so very well know in the industry, has been the main feature of the firm's development. It was, however, the fact that in 1890 William Riley foresaw the decline of the weaving industry in this country, that made him look round for other projects which his sons could carry on with more hope of success, and he started by concentrating on the cycle business.
In 1896, the weaving business gave way entirely to its more modern rival, and by getting in ahead of others he was in a fine position when the other weaving businesses died in spite of the efforts of their leaders, who had failed to see, as William Riley had done, the changes which were overtaking the age in which they lived.
In those days mechanical propulsion was almost non-existent on the roads, but by this time the brothers Victor and Percy Riley were full of enthusiasm for the new idea, and the result was the first Riley car, built in 1898, which incorporated many excellent features far ahead of others of the time.
The valve gear and cylinder head design of the Riley has always been, and still is, one of its most remarkable features, but there is nothing very unexpected in this when one considers that this firm was the first to employ mechanically operated valves in place of automatic, even the first Riley of 1898 being so fitted.
A long list of technical improvements of outstanding importance accompanied the development of this firm's vehicles, and gave ample proof of the enthusiasm and inventive skill of its makers. The cars changed from tricars to four wheelers of more conventional type, and in 1903 the Riley works were used to produce power units for other makes as well as their own, the chief model being an 8 h.p. water-cooled unit, which was employed widely and with great success. Proof of the capabilities of this engine from the point of view of wear, was later given by the discovery in 1913 of one of these units which was still in continuous use driving the plant of a foundry in Coventry.
The Riley brothers have been motorists from the very earliest days, and it is this which has contributed to greatly to the fact that their products have always been so well ahead of their time, for there is nothing to compete with practical enthusiasm and experience for the introduction of new ideas.
The principle of valve overlap was another of the features introduced by this concern, and the history of the firm from these early days through all the later developments, is a long list of similar innovations which cannot be set down here. One thing, however, which should be noted, is that one of the greatest boons to motoring, the invention of the detachable wheel, was developed independently by the Riley brothers and the Riley was the first car ever to have detachable wheels as part of the standard equipment.
Many interesting models were introduced prior to the War, and the 12/18 and 10 h.p. cars put up a performance in the 1909 Scottish trials, which has never been equalled, when J. Browning and Stanley Riley won their respective classes, and also every possible other award in the class.
New models in preparation in 1914 were cut short by the War and after the War came a period of reconstruction in which part of the new buildings being used for making War material were now used as the first part of the new Riley works, and the 11 h.p. and 12 h.p. Riley soon made their appearance. The " 12" became the established favourite of many competition men, and its successes in trials gave it a great reputation. Many present day sporting motorists will have at one time or another owned one of the famous "Red-winger" sports models of this type, and will agree that it was a sports car very well ahead of its time in numerous features.
All this time, however, the Riley brothers were planning to introduce something nearer their ideal, and it was at about this time that foreign cars were making a complete monopoly of all big races in the 1,100 c.c. class. This fact may have further encouraged them to bring the new engine within this class, and finally the new model was ready for the public.
Never has a new car been such a surprise or been accorded such a unanimous welcome, or filled a bigger need. The Riley Nine set a new fashion in motoring, and one which has shown its soundness by the way in which it is still holding the field.
The success of the Riley Nine in open competition is now a matter of history. Both on road and track, in the hands of private owners and amateurs, it has proved itself supreme in its class. The Brooklands model has proved a firm favourite with racing men, and the long list of victories culminated with the wonderful effort of Victor Gillow in last year's Irish Grand Prix, when he won the first day's race outright under difficult conditions by a drive which will always be remembered by those who witnessed it.
Always active believers in competition work as a means of testing out and proving their products, the Riley has a full racing programme for this year. In these days when we have fewer than ever British makes to contest foreign competition in the big races, it is good to see such a firm upholding our colours, and everyone will wish them every success again this season.

Motor Sport

9 h.p.

wb: 8ft 10½in 4 cyl. 2 ohv
1087 cc
9.01 HP
Plus Monaco Saloon   - discontinued
Plus Biarritz Half-Panelled Saloon   - discontinued
Plus Tourer Four Seat   - discontinued
Plus Army Tourer   - discontinued
Plus Two Seat Coupé   - discontinued


Nine Saloon. The British Army uses some which are slightly modified to meet their requirements for (limited) cross-country work. Tyre size, for example, is 5.25-21 instead of the standard 4.40-27. Most of the Army cars has four-door soft-top bodywork. A military saloon is shown.

Riley Nine has four-cylinder 1089-cc (60.3 x 95.2 mm) engine of 9.02 HP rating.
Motor Sport March 1931
The Monaco " Special " model of the famous Riley " 9 " should make a special appeal, and as it was good enough for Mr. Leverett to go from Stavanger to Monte Carlo in such a manner as to win his class, it should be good enough for other motorists whose tastes run to high performance, but whose pockets do not allow of high maintenance.
The specification is based on the standard chassis, which is of very high efficiency design, but modified to give a definitely increased performance. The engine is a 4-cylinder of 60.3 mm., and 95.2 mm. bore and stroke incorporating many special features. It has push-rod operated overhead valves, but owing to the arrangement of the 2 camshafts, it is possible to use a cylinder head with hemispherical combustion chambers and valves set at 90°. This gives an efficiency similar to that obtainable by the use of two overhead camshafts, but without the complication of drive, and lack of accessibility which this arrangement requires. Lubrication is by pressure to all main and big-end bearings by a submerged plunger type pump, which also supplies oil at a lower pressure to the valve gear. The magneto is in a particularly accessible position, high up at the front of the engine.
The special models differ from the standard in having two carburetters, while internal modifications include different pistons giving a higher compression ratio and increased power output. The 4-speed gearbox has a constant mesh type third gear with helical teeth, and in actual running this gear is definitely inaudible. Naturally, on a car of small engine size the gearbox plays a great part in getting a good performance, and the ability to put in long spells of hard climbing on third gear without any sound from the box adds greatly to the pleasure of driving.
When first taking over the latest model we were immediately conscious of an improvement over previous models, without, however, being fully able to decide where the improvement had been made. A model which has attained such success as this one has during the last few years is naturally unlikely to show any radical changes, and the improvements can be traced simply to a very exacting attention to details both of chassis and body. The very low build of the car makes it handle in saloon form, better than the majority of open cars, and under all conditions the control is remarkable, and gives an idea of how this car was able, under appalling conditions of ice and snow to put up a higher average speed over the worst sections of the Monte Carlo Rally than many cars of much greater power.
The engine is more silent, and smoother in running, than any previous Riley we have driven, and from a mere crawl on top gear is without vibration up to its maximum revs. This model has a guaranteed road speed of 65 m.p.h. but we found that this was a conservative estimate and the car we tried attained 68 m.p.h. without difficulty, and showed no signs of fuss at 45 m.p.h. on third gear.
The brakes contribute greatly to the high average speeds possible, and the embodiment of hand adjust ment which can be worked from the driver's seat while running is a great convenience. They bring the car to rest from 40 m.p.h. in 65 ft. without harshness or affecting the steering.
During the few hundred miles running we had on this car we were particularly struck by the remarkable fuel economy even when driven really hard. Many sports car enthusiasts are apt to scoff at the idea of going to any special trouble to tune for economy, and where this can only be obtained at the expense of performance there is something to be said for this. When a really remarkable performance is combined with economy it is a proof of very efficient design, and as sports car owners cover, as a rule, a greater mileage in the year than their slower brethren, it is specially important in these hard times to consider running costs with extra care. That a cheap car to buy is often dear to run is an old saying, but an economical car need not be expensive to buy, and even if it costs a few pounds more than a similar vehicle of lower efficiency it will prove a considerable saving in the end.
The bodywork of the Riley " 9 " is probably better known in external appearance than any other single type on the roads to-day, but many people do not realise the ingenuity which has gone into the detail work of that body. In addition to its very pleasing lines, its accommodation and convenience are far in advance of many larger cars, and strength and lightness have been very skilfully combined.
We have no wish to boost the closed car at the expense of the ultra sporting or pukka racing vehicle, which is suitable for entirely different work, and in the case of the Riley there is no need. This concern make one of the most successful 1,100 c.c. racers of recent years, and the repeated victories of this model in the hands of private owners will give increased confidence to the buyer of a more sober model, by the knowledge that the reserve of power which is utilised to give the Brooklands Riley such a remarkable turn of speed, means that his own model will have an abnormal factor of reliability. It has also given him a performance which is most exhilarating, and makes the Monaco " Special " a very attractive proposition to the man who wants to cover a big mileage, with the minimum expenditure of time and money.

Gamecock (?)
Motor Sport, August 1931
Motor SportSeptember 1931

Nine model '32

wb: 8ft 10½in 4 cyl. 2 ohv
1087 cc
9.01 HP
- new model in October
Monaco Fabric Saloon    
Monaco Half-Panelled Saloon    
Biarritz Silent Saloon    
Two Seat Coupé    
Two Seat Drophead Coupé    
Army Tourer    
Gamecock Two-Seater    


Nine Gamecock
The 'Plus Ultra' series for 1932 brought yet another change in the appearance of Riley models with the introduction of the dropped chassis frame.The 9 h.p. cars at the Olympia show were: a Monaco with half-pannelled Weymann saloon body, a Monaco with fabric body, which had both pairs of doors hinged at their rear edges; the full-panelled Two Seat Coupé and the new brand new, sportytwo-seater Gamecock. All the above are priced at £298. The Army type overseas Four Seat Tourer painted War Office Green was £310, whilst the Biarritz half-panelled Silent Saloon costs £325.
First of the superlative type of 9 h.p. car, firmly established, regularly improved, and as yet scarcely challenged in its class, the Riley Nine has a very definite appeal to those who can appreciate performance, safety, comfort and an appearance out of the ruck.
The Autocar, Motor Show Review, October 1931

Gamecock (October '31)

9 h.p.

wb: 8ft 0in 4 cyl. 2 ohv
1087 cc
9.01 HP


Riley Brooklands two-seater is produced either in racing trim or road trim. It has basically the same 1089-cc engine as the Riley Nine but with pump cooling instead of thermo-syphon, electric fuel pump instead of gravity feed and other modifications. Wheelbase is 8 ft (10 inches shorter than the Nine). The 'Plus' version has four Amal carburetters and the manufacturer guaranteed top speed is 80 m.p.h.


  wb: 6 cyl. 2 ohv
1633 cc
13.5 HP
Alpine Fabric Saloon 9ft 6in Light Six  
Alpine Half-Panelled Saloon 9ft 6in Light Six  
Alpine Tourer 9ft 6in Light Six  
Stelvio Saloon 10ft 0in Long Six  
Sportsman’s Fabric Coupé 10ft 0in Long Six  


In 1931 the 14/6 is available with two chassis models: Long (10 ft.) and Short (9 ft. 6 in.) The models offered are the Stelvio II Saloon at £398 and the Sportsman's Fabric Coupe at £4.65 on the Long chassis and three Alpine models on the Short chassis.

Alpine Tourer

Alpine Half-Panelled Saloon

Alpine Fabric Saloon

Alpine model '32.



  Race: Entered: Raced: Finished: Best results:
8-9.05.1931 Double Twelve 6 6 2 40 Ashby / Pauling Brooklands 9 16th Class G .75-1.1 1st
          35 Cuthbert / Fraser Nine 17th Class G .75-1.1 2nd
19.07.1931 German GP 1 1 1 78 Dudley Froy Nine   500-1100 cc 1st
Brooklands March Mountain Speed Handicap           Nine 1st  
Brooklands March Lincoln Short Handicap           Nine 1st  
Brooklands Somerset Junior Short Handicap           Nine 1st  
18.07.1931 Irish GP Saorstat Cup 6 6 3 19 C. R. Whitcroft Nine 4th Class G 1st
          20 W. P. Noble Nine 5th Class G 2nd
          18 Sir M. Campbell Nine 9th Class G 3rd
22.08.1931 Tourist Trophy   5 3   Staniland Nine 5th Class G 1st
            Whitcroft Nine 11th  
            Noble Nine 13th  
03.10.1931 Brooklands 500 Miles 7 7 1 20 Miller / Eggar Nine 4th Class G 750-1100 1st
17.10.1931 Brooklands Junior Short Handicap         Straight Nine 3rd  

Irish GP Saorstat Cup
  Event: Entered: Raced: Finished: Best results:
16-21.01.1931 Rallye Monte Carlo 8   4 V. E. Leverett Nine   →1100 1st
      1 Jack Hobbs Nine   →1100 4th
22.05-6.06.1931 European 10,000 km trial 2 28 Donald Healey / de Hallor Six   →2000
      9 Mrs. Montague Johnstone / C.J.S. Montague Six   →2000
30.07-6.08.1931 Coupe des Alpes 6 6 3 51 V. E. Leverett / W. A. Mc Kenzie Nine 27th Coupe des Alpes →1100 2nd
      53 G. F. Dennison / W. L. Greenvay Nine 42nd Coupe des Alpes →1100 2nd
      62 A. G. Gripper Nine 43rd Coupe des Glaciers →1100 5th

Riley #4 (V.E. Leverett) won the Monte Carlo Rally in up to 1100cc class.

Rallye Monte Carlo class up to 1100 cc winner.

Riley #3 (K.W.B. Sanderson) started from Stavanger.
Class G Records at Montlhery; Riley 9;
50, 100, 200 km;
50, 100 miles;
1 hour;
Speeds between 108.29 & 108.9 m.p.h.
Class G Records; Riley 9;
200, 500 miles;
500, 1000 km.;
3 & 6 hours.
Speeds between 98.14 & 104.08 m.p.h.