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Riley Adelphi 1936-1938

New for 1935 for the '36 season was the 12/4 engine which  was an all new design of 1.5-litre and could be specified in the  new Riley Adelphi model introduced   as the replacement for the Riley Stelvio. With a power output of 51bhp, it would  reach 50mph in some 23 seconds and manage eventually about 73mph. A comfortable  5 seater saloon on the wide track chassis , it was available with two choices of engine – 15 hp 6 cylinder, or the popular 12 hp 4 cylinder unit. The Riley  Adelphi represented the 'Mr Beige' of Riley’s mid 1930’s cars with its  wood-framed coachwork, centre lock wire wheels and high-efficiency engine the Riley Adelphi made it one of the best selling of the  sporting saloons often chopped into specials due to better engine sizes. Wide track chassis was used on this many with inbuilt jacking systems within the chassis.

  Options for engines were:- 12/4 1936-9; 12/4 Sprite 1936-8; 15/6 1935-8; 16/4 1937-9; 8/90 1936-8;

Clubs for this model:  The Riley Register,     The Riley Motor Club,    &  those from other countries listed here

The last chassis number is replaced with an asterisk but known to the clubs .There will be others in other clubs and countries please click + email info IF YOUR CAR IS MISSING                     Adelphi Specials  below or  click here                  

A picture tour around an original 1935 Adelphi 15/6  originally DPH 433 - chassis no 46A2692 came to Denmark in the mid seventies from Sussex as a one owner car with 72.000 miles on the meter. Check the carpets and headlinings if restoring one and many grateful thanks to Karsten for the pics

Original headlining and binding with the sunshine roof also with headlining

Known cars in data below from Vernon Barkers books ( Riley Register Series 2+3 a must buy for many many more facts + pictures)  plus other sources such as Styles, :- Those in bold are alive/survivors of the hundreds built as the Adelphi was Riley's biggest seller.  Remember pre war the car 'year' was from September to September ie from the Motor Show so Sept 1935 was the new 1936 model . Also the asterisks are used when data is from the Riley Register membership lists due to data protection laws and a members complaint however photographs in the public domain will show the data. Eventually any chassis or number plate searched for in the box above will reveal if a real model/special/historic special and hopefully stop idiots selling a chopped 1936 Adelphi as a 1932 racing car to deceive the unwary.

Chassis plate code  numbers used:- 
The S =Special Series / SS = Sprite Series £25 extra identifying the engine tune plus extras 
86A - Oct. 1935- Oct 1936 Adelphi 8/90 Models 9'4½" Wheelbase chassis 101-109/Oct. 1936 87 A or K chassis  201-211(wrong as   is 212) (£450 + tax)
        - Oct. 1937+ 1938 Adelphi 8/90 Models 1937 on 9'8½"Wheelbase chassis; 1938 Big Four 16 hp chassis 212-?
46A - 1935 Adelphi  early 1936 Series  mostly 12/6 & 15/6 Models = rare
  - 1936 Adelphi 12/4 Saloon   @  £350 + purchase tax,  Wide track Chassis using Midland Bodies
S26A  - 1936 Adelphi 12/4 Saloon Special Series @  £335 + purchase tax, Production of both models approximately 770 in 8/9 months
27AX-1938  Adelphi Saloon with overdrive gearbox
77A - 1937 Adelphi ;    @  £350 + purchase tax,  Production of both models approximately 650.  Wide track Chassis using Midland Bodies
38A - 1939 Adelphi ;    @  £375 + purchase tax,  Production of both models approximately 180 (half season).Wide track Chassis using Midland Bodies
38AX-1938  Adelphi Big 4 with overdrive gearbox often called Blue Streak like the Kestrel.Wide track Chassis


Once in a while one comes across a car that is absolutely out standing in its class. Such a one is the new 16-h.p. Riley, a four-cylinder job that is sweeter-running than most "sixes" and has a performance comparable with that of a car of far higher horse-power. Not only does the saloon model-- a much bigger and roomier vehicle, somehow, than it looks-- reach a speed of well over 80 m.p.h. in an astonishingly short time, but it cruises quite effortlessly at such speeds. This is due, principally, to the unique feature of an overdrive," which gives an additional top gear so high as 33 to 1.

The 16-h.p. Riley is the only small car to have the overdrive, an innovation introduced into this country, if I remember rightly, by Chrysler. Like the American design, the Riley has overdrive on top gear and also on second. This extra gear comes in quite automatically at speeds above about 45 m.p.h. on top. All that one has to do is to lift the foot from the accelerator, pause for a second or two, and then accelerate again. If the speed drops below 35 m.p.h. or so, the normal top of 5'5 to 1 comes in automatically the moment the accelerator pedal is released. In practice, this means that one may be travelling along an arterial road at 80 m.p.h. on the overdrive with the engine running sweetly at only about 3000 r.p.m. On slowing for a roundabout the change-down to the lower top gear is effected without any effort on the part of the driver, and in complete silence, so that when he accelerates again coming out of the turn the car gathers speed amazingly fast.

As the overdrive does not come in again until the driver slacks back on the accelerator pedal, it is possible to get up to, say, 70 m.p.h. on the ordinary top gear by keeping one's foot hard down. The car thus has a most exhilarating per formance, especially as its capabilities on top gear are in any case quite remarkable. Much of the pleasure to be had from driving this new Riley is due to the superb way in which it handles. It has the rock steady feeling of a Grand Prix-class racing car, with high-geared steering that inspires the utmost confidence at the highest speeds of which it is capable. Although the road-holding is so much better thann the average the suspension is not in the least harsh. I do not thinks I have ever driven a car in this price class with such a combination of soft springing and outstanding road worthiness. In some ways the Riley siteen may be considered a revival of thse splendid four-cylinder, two litre cars, mostly  of Continental origin, of a few years ago. The makers have, however, gone one better by putting an engine of nearly two a and a half litres capacity into a fairly light, though extremely rigid, chassis. The 'Silken Torque' rubber engine-mounting eveolved by the Riley Company ensures that the power-unit is entirely insulated from the frame and no vibration whatsoever reaches the body. Torque reaction stabilisers attached to the top and bottom of the engine prevent excessive engine movement.

As the gear-box gives three forward speeds and  easy changing on top and second, there is no difficulty in using any one of five speeds which with the overdrive, are available.The clutch, of the single plate type with a cushioned centre, gives a particularly smooth engagement. The transmission as a whole has been very well worked out and has no backlash or other unpleasant characteristics. The brakes are mechanically operated, work in very large drums, and provide dead even pulling-up. The bodywork is well finished inside and out.There is ample luggage accomodation in all types of body, the rear passengers sit well forward of the back axle, and the centre of gravity of the car as a whole is decicely low. The price of the 16hp Riley Adelphi saloon is £405 and one only has to drive the car to realise that it is worth the money. Dunlop tyres and Triplex glass are standard and the annual tax is £12.  from The Sketch - Wednesday 23 March 1938

from the Illustrated London News 1936


Cars with a Personality The Six-Cylinder Riley "Adelphi": By The Earl of Cardigan

It is probable that the Riley is best known to motorists at large for its sporting, or semi-sporting qualities. It would be a mistake, however, to infer from this that there is any lack of less inspiring, but more homely characteristics. A Riley model such as the six-cylinder "Adelphi" is, on the contrary, a car of unusual comfort, with seating accommodation designed on a generous scale.

For 1936, the six-cylinder chassis has been made both longer and wider than before. Full advantage has been taken of the additional coachwork space, so that it is now possible for five people to be carried, with ample leg-room and elbow-room for all. The Adelphi," moreover, is a six- light saloon, so that the back-seat passengers enjoy excellent visibility. The quarter-light windows are hinged, and thus provide ventilation without a direct draught.

In spite of these larger dimensions, the performance of the Riley Six is at least as good as ever which is saying quite  The six-cylinder Riley Adelphi is a car of very good dimensions. It is interesting to note that, although the body space is ample, the radiator does not project over the front axle, and there is no doubt that the car's lines," as a result of this, are more than ordinarily pleasing   a lot. The overhead-valve engine is rated at 14.2 h.p., and does its work with admir able smoothness. In particular, it is very good at the higher speeds, when it betrays absolutely no sign of being overworked, but runs very much like the traditional dynamo.

The maximum speed is a good 70 m.p.h., with approximately 55 m.p.h. available in third gear. The top- gear cruising speed is anything up to 60 m.p.h., and through out this range there is plenty of acceleration. The transmission is interesting, for there is a pre-selective gearbox and an automatic friction clutch. The latter, except for gear-changing purposes, does not require to be touched. It engages itself as soon as the engine is slightly accelerated, and disengages itself when the car is slowed down to the equivalent of tick-over speed. Thus it prevents the driver from ever stall ing his engine accidentally, and enables the car to move off, if so desired, either in top-gear or any other ratio.

Road-holding as with every Riley, is particularly good. The springing may be a trifle hard at low speeds, but this is emphatically a fault on the right side. At anything over 20 m.p.h., the car rides perfectly, and is as steady as a rock. The steering is no less excellent, so that the driver can at all times enjoy a sense of perfect confidence.

The four-wheel brakes are of the mechanical type, and can be used firmly without becoming disagreeably fierce in their action. There is an automatic system of lubrication, and this is actuated by the engine, so that it functions at all times when the car is in use. If I may misquote, it may be held that you cannot please all the people all the time. This Riley, however, should go far towards pleasing almost every type of motorist the expert the novice even the shameless utilitarian. The price, with full equipment, is £380, which should be considered very reasonable. from The Bystander - Wednesday 29 July 1936

The gears are of the pre-selective type, and the lever is fitted just underneath the steering wheel, where it can be manipulated by a touch of the finger. The clutch operates automatically

There is a luggage boot at the back, which will hold a useful quantity of baggage. Under this again the battery is stowed, where it is quite accessible for periodical attention

Now for real anorak Riley stuff. . . Rileys Adelphi in  Films and TV.
1936 Riley 12/4 Adelphi in The Singing Street, 1952 * = in background
1938 Riley 16/4 Adelphi in Brum, 1991-2002 *