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1933 Riley MPH


Riley Motor Company started just before the 20th century in 1899 with a small belt-driven mono cylinder car. Unfortunately it didn’t make it into production but it was the basis of the many other Rileys who followed. Tri Cars were common for the make until a 1034cc V-twin was installed on the company’s first four wheelers in 1905. At the start of WWI, a 2.9litre four cylinder engine was introduced. Riley was now convinced that four-cylinders were the way forward. The engine propelled the Redwinger Sports versions of the Riley 11 even up to speeds of 70MPH. Engineering continued to evolve and in 1927, Percy Riley’s new ‘Nine’ rolled out of the Factory. This 4-cylinder 1087cc engine with twin camshafts formed the basis of all Riley engines made up to 1957.

Rileys were well-known sport and racing cars. Not only class wins and victories in the 1929-1931 TT’s but also very high rankings in the 24hrs of Le mans, wins in the 500 mile Race at Brooklands and a class win in the Monte Carlo rally for the Riley Works cars. Not to forget the numerous gentlemen racers all over the world who raced their Rileys in all sorts of races with great success. The 6-cylinder racing Riley’s even formed the basis of the ERA racing cars.

Both the ‘Nine’ and the 14/6 were progressively developed with even an optional preselector gearbox in 1932. That same year, the development started of the Riley ‘MPH’. A 6-cylinder lightweight two-seater sportscar which was capable of 90MPH, very similar to the Nine Imp but with a bigger engine. The MPH was only produced for a very short period in time. If you wanted one, you had to be very quick between 1934 and 1935. Including the prototypes, only 17 examples were produced and are still highly sought after.

The chassis, with half-elliptic springs and rigid axles front and rear, was based on that of the cars prepared for the 1933 TT races. To keep the height down to as low as possible, the side members were positioned under the axle at the rear. Large, fifteen-inch drum brakes were used. Elegant bodywork was mainly of aluminium built over a traditional wood frame and featured a long bonnet, front wings flowing into running boards and a short, rounded tail. The windscreen could fold flat to reduce air resistance.

A choice of three sizes of the six-cylinder engines was available, 1458 cc, 1633 cc or 1726 cc fitted with usually twin SU carburettors. The engines had the traditional Riley arrangement of twin camshafts mounted high in the crankcase. Drive was to the rear wheels through a choice of either a four-speed manual "crash" gear box or an ENV pre-selector gearbox supplied by Armstrong Siddeley.

A Riley MPH was entered in the 1934 Scottish Rally and proved to be a capable contender. They were dynamic vehicles that had stunning looks, impressive performance, innovative design, and even finished 2nd and 3rd at LeMans in 1934. 

The car we can offer you was salvaged in 2006 when the father of the current owner bought a 1933 12/6 Rolling Chassis from the Bonhams auction in Beaulieu. Missing the bodywork and in need of some serious elbow grease, father and son decided to take on the project to build the ultimate MPH. Six years later, in 2012, the car was finally ready and road registered, ready to conquer the world.

During the restoration, the 12/6 engine was uprated to 15/6 specification, the most capable engine you could have in your MPH. It has the ‘silent-third’ gearbox. From the exact body work and cotton braided wire looms to the correct engine specification and Riley logo in the headlights, this car has been made to very high standards and a very high attention to detail.

The MPH can take on endurance rallies as well as it can put a smile on your face while going out on a Sunday afternoon picknick. An icon and just a stunning car in every aspect.

Please come by for a test drive and you will be convinced this beauty deserves to be in your garage.

More info, photos and large restoration file upon request