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 (Riley) Autovia 1935-9,

The Autovia was created due to Victor Riley's wish to produce a luxury car that wanted to keep  apart from the Riley Motor Companies products. During 1935  he sent Gordon Marshall to ask C. M. Van Eugen whether he would undertake the task.  The 'Autovia' was a short lived marque from 1935 to 1938 with production starting in January 1937 as a venture which  included training for chauffeurs. Large luxury cars were expensive and meant competing in a market sector long served by other companies such as Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lagonda Alvis etc . . . . " Van Eugen agreed to work on the Autovia, although no contract, nothing on paper, ever passed between him and Gordon Marshall and Victor Riley. He was given an office in the Riley factory and commenced work with two draughtsmen he brought from Lea-Francis. Victor Riley said, in effect, "We have an engine, develop it," referring to the Riley V8, but all Van Eugen had to work on was the cylinder block of this, engine and that was the wrong size. In any case, this engine was suffering from carburation problems and as by this time Harry Rose had left the Riley Company, they were without an engine man to rectify these.

Van Eugen set out to build a low-slung, silent-running car that could challenge the 25/30 h.p. Rolls-Royce market. He was entirely responsible for this Autovia, as it was called, even to ordering all the materials and taking cars out on test. In a small shop in the Riley factory three experimental cars were built.

A new 90º 3-bearing crankshaft was designed, the biggest task being to apply balance-weights to this shaft within the confines of the crankcase. The solution was found in bolted-on lead-bronze weights filled with lead, and the crankshaft was fully machined. The 90º V8 engine, of 69 x 95¼ mm. (2,849 c.c.) had three camshafts, the centre one between the cylinder blocks operating the inlet valves and the others the exhaust valves. The famous Riley push-rod valve gear was retained, enabling hemispherical combustion chambers to be obtained without the complication of o.h. camshafts, and the rocker-gear, plugs and cylinder head holding down studs were extremely accessible.

Quiet timing gears were obtained by using a gear of high-carbon steel driving a cast-iron inlet timing gear, the exhaust camshaft gears being of phosphor-bronze. A fourth gear carried the fan pulley and provided a drive for the tachometer. The cylinder heads were new, not those of the successful Riley Falcon, but the Autovia engine was literally two 4-cylinder units united, each block having its own down draught carburetter, own inlet manifold, own water pump, and own exhaust system. The dynamo was driven directly from the nose of the crankshaft, following Riley practice, and this V8 power unit was 5-point rubber mounted, use being made of Silentbloc bushes.

To obtain a low chassis, and thus be able to claim a low floor level with consequent ease of entry and egress and a flat floor free from wells and transmission tunnel, Van Eugen used fully boxed channel-section side-members which passed under the back-axle, the latter being of the worm type. David Brown supplied the underslung worm assemblies, the first deliveries of which were not entirely trouble-free. Other contributions to a floor height of only 21 in. were trunnion spring-mountings in lieu of shackles and a front axle in which the springs passed through square box-type mountings in the axle beam itself. A good lock gave a turning circle of 40 ft.

The front compartment was kept clear by using a horizontal r.h. brake lever and a pre-selector gearbox with its steering-wheel control. This gearbox gave four forward speeds, the indirects being either 17.28, 10.05, and 6.63 to 1, or 16.25, 9.46 and 6.23 to 1, depending on whether the 4.86 or 4.57 to 1 axle ratio was specified. Assuming the engine would pull 5,000 r.p.m., the respective maximum speeds were 25, 43, 65 and 89 m.p.h., or 28, 46, 70 and 95 m.p.h. Dunlop "Fort" 19 x 5.5 tyres were fitted. The gearbox was an Armstrong Siddeley and Van Eugen often had to reject half-a-dozen or so before he encountered one sufficiently quiet for his purpose.

Torque-tube transmission was employed with an ingenious vee-forward-mounting on Silentbloc bushes. Van Eugen designed a centrifugal clutch under Newton patents, to give two-pedal control in traffic. He endowed the Autovia with excellent Girling brakes with magnesium-alloy back plates. Other outstanding features were a 16-gallon rear fuel tank feeding the Zenith Type 36 VI-2 carburetters through an L-type S.U. pump, automatic chassis lubrication and inter-connected Lovax shock-absorbers.

Van Eugen, who controlled the entire project, even to making the required jigs and tools, designed a very deep-shell, handsome radiator with thermostatically-controlled shutters, in which a trace of Lea-Francis can be discerned.

A move was made to part of a rented Ordnance factory in Coventry and with 30 or 40 men Van Eugen was ready to go into production. The ultimate aim was about 20 cars a week, in sportsman's coupé, saloon and limousine forms, for which Arthur Mulliner bodies the names "Princess Marina" and "Queen Mary" were coined. The chassis had a wheelbase of 10 ft. 9 in. and cost £685. The saloon was priced at £975, the limousine at £995. With prices under four figures and very great care taken over sound deadening, these fully-equipped Autovias, or luxury Rileys, looked like being successful. Van Eugen did his testing locally, eschewing Brooklands, as this was a luxury car. He drove a limousine as his personal car. On the bench at the Ordnance factory the engine gave 97 b.h.p. with silencers and all components in place.

The first Autovia made its appearance at the 1936 Ramsgate Concours d'Elegance, eighteen months after Van Eugen had been appointed to produce it, and it took first prize in the £1,000 class. Press road-tests confirmed that the saloon would exceed 90 m.p.h. on Brooklands Track, although Autovia Cars Ltd., whose address was Midland Road, Coventry, were content to claim 80 m.p.h. Alas, Riley Motors got into financial difficulties, the Autovia project was moved back to the Riley works and early in 1938, when a receiver was appointed for Riley (Coventry) Ltd., because Autovia Cars Ltd. was an asset it was put into voluntary liquidation. Perhaps 50 cars had been made." from an interview with Van Eugen in Motorsport April 25th 1964

Autovia was created by Victor Riley  as a subsidiary to produce these large luxury cars and a new factory was built but seems to have produced between 32 and  44 cars  mostly  bodied by Arthur Mulliner and  some sold as rolling chassis. A 2849cc, 90°V-8, triple camshaft engine was developed from a pair of 1½-litre Riley engine blocks and coupled to the conventional four-speed manual gearbox or in a few cases, a much more fun pre-selector unit supplied by Armstrong Siddeley.  Three body types were available a Sports Saloon, a Special Saloon with extra legroom instead of boot space and a Limousine, the car was also available as a rolling chassis. This failed when Riley went bankrupt and  were taken over by the Nuffield Organisation who 'rationalised the range' ;  with the Autovia name was never  resurrected.  When the company went into receivership all the remaining stock and unfinished cars were purchased by Jimmy James Ltd who finished them as 'specials'

One fact that hindered the Autovia was weight it came in at 1814.37 kilo . . .In all, it appears that perhaps 4 Limousines were completed and sold, the remainder being the sporting saloon, amounting. "With reference to Autovia production numbers I can confirm at least 5 limousines were produced in a total production run of 44 cars. The theory that the overall numbers were lower was brought about by a longstanding gap in the chassis number record, but I have managed to poulate that gap with at least 3 cars, suggesting that the chassis number series was unbroken from 63101 to 63144." (Source G Thomas 2016)

Links:-  Wikipedia,      Transport Blog includes engine pics and 'specials',  Riley-cars website is comprehensive and includes Birmingham's book pics ,  Ashridge  Motors  'FYP' Special  when sold with engine pics,   V8 cutaway diagram of chassis and engine,   Riley Robs Autovia page,

Remaining Known cars (in bold) :- 8 + and 'specials'

BHP 351 Limousine Chassis No 63101 location unknown all noted in Styles 1982
BRW 534 Limousine Chassis No 63102 location unknown click here for riley-cars pics
CRW 909   Saloon   Chassis No 63109 location unknown but on DVLA body by Mulliner
CHP 789    Saloon  Chassis No 63110 location unknown but on DVLA. . .  yes I did double check !
CRW 38*   Limousine Chassis No 63111 V8/24 for images click here 1937 
CVC 534     Saloon  Chassis No 63124 location unknown
DXP 298     Saloon  Chassis No 63121 location unknown
EYU 48*   Chassis number 6313*V8   1938     
EYX 46*   Limousine Chassis No 6313*V8  1938    
EXA 587   Limousine Chassis No 6310* V8   1938     
EXF 533   Saloon Chassis No 6312*  V8/24 images click here   1938
FYX 413     Saloon  Chassis No 63141 location unknown
FUU 388    also at one point MAN 6559 when in the Isle of Man,( Saloon Chassis No 6314*),  Blue Diamond's car 1939
GHX 1 Saloon   Chassis No 631?? location unknown  body 1937 by Mulliner video included interior  click here but turn down the sound FIRST
Special Originally Riley Autovia :-1938 V8:-  FYP 650  (6314*);


An Autovia Saloon

The last number is replaced with an *asterisk but known to the clubs .There will be others in other clubs and countries please click + email info

from Australian page


IT takes a brave man to break in on the thousand-pound-car market with an entirely new make, yet Mr. Victor Riley, the chairman and managing director of Autovia Cars, Ltd., has the necessary courage and conviction. The Autovia limousine has been produced to meet the demand for a really roomy and comfortable seven seater of the most luxurious description, which is at the same time easier to handle, to park, and to garage, and more economical to maintain. One might almost say that the Autovia is Mr. Victor Riley's hobby. Having pro duced what is perhaps the most consistently successful small car in the world, he decided that it would be inter esting to produce what he regarded as the ideal motor-carriage. With Mr. Gordon Marshall and others, he discussed his ideals. Neither time nor money considerations mattered. Unhurried and unharassed, the designers could work out the perfect solution of every problem that confronted them, and not until this new car had successfully passed all its tests was any thought given to placing it on the market. The Autovia is primarily a chauffeur-driven car. The sort of automobile in which successful middle-aged men are driven to business or to the theatre. It is, however, a very pleasant car to drive, and the same type of motorist who rates comfort and silence, and general luxury in movement above other considerations will find in it exactly what he requires. It must not be thought from the foregoing that there is any need to apologise for the performance of the Autovia. It has a high cruising-speed of round about 80 m.p.h., and a useful degree of acceleration. An interesting point about this car is that, in direct contrast to the majority of motor-vehicles, it becomes more comfortable and more silent as its speed increases. The go-degree eight- cylinder engine, rated at 24 h.p. and taxed at £18, is both smooth and powerful. The capacity is considerably below three litres, for it was felt that no higher power was necessary in a carriage of this de scription. There is nothing outre about this well-balanced chassis or the finished vehicle rather does the Autovia cling to traditional styles of radiator and coach- work design. It is essentially quiet and unobtrusive in appear ance, yet possessing a natural dignity, so that it looks well even when in the company of the most expensive cars in existence. Although the luxurious body is of the full width and length that one would expect on a much larger chassis, the over-all dimen sions of the vehicle have been kept down owing to the very compact nature of the V-8 engine. The floor, which is absolutely flat, is lower than usual, with the result that the Autovia is extremely easy to get in and out of, while the centre of gravity is brought so low that any tendency to roll on corners is entirely eliminated.

The driving of the Autovia is simplicity itself, thanks to the extremely efficient automatic clutch, which frees itself as soon as the engine-speed drops below a certain figure. In traffic, therefore, it is quite unnecessary to keep a foot on the clutch-pedal, and fatigue is enormously reduced. A pre-selective four-speed gear-box reduces gear-changing to the utmost simplicity. The control lever, moreover, is mounted more neatly than I have seen it on any other car, projecting as it does from the boss of the centre of the steering-wheel, so that gear-changing can be effected quite easily with a flick of the thumb. The left-hand pedal is, strictly speaking, a gear-changing one only, for it is unnecessary to use it as a clutch having pre-selected the required gear, one simply depresses and instantly releases the left-hand pedal, and the gear is engaged. As on every car with a pre-selective gear of this type, one can drive in top gear with third already pre-selected, so that if a sudden change of gear is called for, either in order to accelerate more rapidly or when climbing a hill, one has only to kick the pedal, without having first to move the selector gear-lever. In effect, therefore, the Autovia has a two-pedal control and driving is simplified accordingly. I have never met a limousine, particularly with so much comfort as this, that handles better on corners. One can, if one wishes, drive the Autovia almost as one would a racing car, for even at 70 m.p.h. quite sharp bends can be taken in perfect safety. The brakes are another good feature the hand-brake being disposed beside the driver's seat, readily accessible for the right hand, yet not interfering in any way with the ease of ingress from the driver's door. The equipment of the Autovia is most complete, head-lights being specially powerful to allow driving at the highest speed of which the car is capable. Loud- and soft-note horns are provided, and the windscreen wipers can either be operated both together or independently. The instruments are illuminated at night from inside, and the intensity of the light can be regulated. With a luxurious limousine body, equipped, among other things, with a telephone between driver and passengers, the Autovia is priced at £995. The five-seater saloon is listed at £975.

from The Sketch  Wednesday 24 November 1937

"The Autocar" magazine advert  14th May 1937 with Art Deco logo.