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After starting the digging into the early days of Riley and a comment from Victor Riley it became important to source more of the family background than some books. I have now traced them back to a William Ryley in Brinkworth in around 1600 but cannot go further back as Parish records are either illegible or non existant and other than revealing that they married members of the Shakespeare family at Brinklow nothing can be read. The earliest clear record is that of the birth of his son another William Ryley (1627–1699) recorded at Brinklow, Warwickshire. The family stayed in Brinklow until another William born in the village in 1743 moves under ten miles to Foleshill with his family and dies there in 1803. From 1841 the spread and gradual improvement in the family fortunes is recorded via the census forms and easily checked. The Irish connection related in many books re William is total rubbish with some mentioning Basil Riley their sales man (no relation but same name married to Hannah). He was from Ashton under Lynne in Lancashire but born probably in Ireland.
It is interesting how like
many they went from agricultural, working class to
manufacturing/middle class during our industrial
revolution within a generation due to hard work and a simple
idea. They tried watch making after being ribbon /jacquard
loom weavers and milliners then progressed to cycles,
tricars and cars within a twenty year span.
Unfortunately the age of social mobility via education and
graft seems to have ceased
Thomas Riley (1779-1823) arrived in Foleshill after moving from Brinklow with his wife Sara Russell by 1798 when their children are recorded in Foleshill (St Laurence) as being born and mainly dying within their first year. Brinklow the parish Thomas was born in had an existing church endowment to provide school eductation to the poorer children as a means of advancement which must have helped future generations of Riley's as all were literate which was then unusual for the 'working class'. Their son Thomas was born in 1801 and survived infancy with the family probably working as weavers in Foleshill but no records survive to substantiate this.
Thomas Riley (1801-1879) later marries Elizabeth Millerchip in 1822 where both are listed as weavers and literate and signing their names within the church register living in Foleshill where at that time scholarship in the working class was reasonably unusual. Their son another William (1826-1910) was a hand loom weaver of silk with sufficient funds at 24 for the 1851 census to have his own rented house in Bell Green in Foleshill plus a wife Comfort Birch. The Birch family were illiterate making their mark on wedding certificates etc but appear to have been either Quakers or strong very religious Chapel which reflects throughout in the later family business attitudes of giving and sharing rather than patenting everything and taking. William and Comfort then had many many children die in infancy ( seven were baptised and buried but others stillborn) but were of sufficient standing as Ribbon Weavers that by the 1871 census below they have a servant and two growing healthy children William and Anna Maria at school which of course then was paid for and rarely free.
***Though the invention of the jacquard loom is credited to Joseph Marie Jacquard, it built on weaving developments made throughout the previous century by Basile Bouchon, Jean Baptiste Falcon and Jacques Vaucanson. These appeared in Coventry from 1823 specifically designed for the production of woven jacquard ribbons as opposed to broadcloth looms for wider fabrics but needed height/clearance of at least 11-12 feet, meaning ordinary weavers could not afford it. The principles of operation of the Jacquard loom are credited with paving the way for the development of modern computing and as seen in the photographs their upkeep required engineering skill. At around the time the jacquard weaving loom was in development (circa. 1810) many other more mechanised forms of manufacture were emerging and the mechanical skill to run and programme this type of loom obviously came in useful later as many became steam or electrically driven. Free Trade won during 1860 when the Cobden Treaty was signed with France, removing all duties on imported silk goods. The ribbon trade eventually collapsed as imports became cheaper and companies had to diversify or starve. For further information on Coventry and weaving click here ***
Later electro-mechanical ribbon loom
By the next census of 1871
(below) he is now a trimmings manufacturer and living in
Ford Street having lost his wife in 1870 shortly after the
birth of the seventh child Herbert. His profession and that
of his son William are now listed as 'Trimmings
Manufacturer' and his daughter is described as a milliner
with an errand boy, his nephew John Boys plus a housekeeper
employed by them so starting their advance in the world. For
more on Foleshill weavers click
here. **Ford Street/Ford Terrace then
became/survived as Lower Ford Street in the city of
Hillfields before 'slum clearance' in the 1960's
By this next census of 1881
they had moved the business to 2 St. Nicholas
Street, but lived at Ford Terrace with the senior
William still described as a Trimmings Manufacturer
now employing thirty men and seventy women to work for him
so a considerable step up in the world in the
intervening ten years and obviously using powered looms as
in the photographs above
By the 1891 census William
senior, now 65 is living at 8 Crescent, Coventry 'on
his own means' so independently wealthy but with his
daughter Hannah and her husband Basil Riley a tailor and
hosier (stocking maker) from Lancashire and Herbert is
now referred to as the manager of the cycle works.
" The Riley story provides one of Coventry's best examples of a firm which has risen to great occasion through difficulties and narrowly-averted tragedy, through the rise and decline of the weaving trade, through the boom and severe competition of the manufacture of pedal cycles, to the final production of a first-rate motor car, which is in strong demand. This is the story of Coventry's Industrial progress throughout the ages, and it is told in tabloid form of the firm which saw birth in a small house in St. Nicholas' Street, with its large upper windows so typical of Coventry weaving structures of the middle of the past century, and culminating in the existing large works at Holbrooks.
The Riley concern was flourishing in Coventry when the trimming and weaving trades were among its, most staple industries. In the city and its surrounding districts women and children worked in their homes while their men folk were at work in the mine or on the land. The Education Acts of 1870-75 and 1880, of immense national importance though they were, sounded the death knell of these old trades, as child labour was no longer available in the quantities required. Very cheap labour was still available in Gerry many and Austria, however and this Continental competition gradually became more pronounced, while Coventry's weaving and trimming trades found themselves unable to meet the intense competition from the Continent. In 1870, Mr. William Riley (who, though nearly 80 years of age, still retains a keen mental grasp of the affairs of the Riley ) had just taken over the control of his fathers warehouse. He was very quick to see the doom which was slowly settling upon the family's business, and he made the forecast: The hand looms of Austria will beat the looms of Coventry, not because they weave better for our weavers are the finest in the world, but because of our changing conditions. I can see no scope in this business . . . . . . . . Not only did Mr. Riley live to see his prophesy fulfilled. but also to see his sons take a leaf out of his own book, and endeavour to anticipate the future to an even greater extent than his own caution dictated to be advisable. Looking out for a new scope for his activities, Mr. Riley turned his attention to the cycle boom which was being fostered by Coventry's pioneer work in this realm of light transport, and he bought up the cycle business of Bonnick and Co. So convinced was he that the cycle was one of the trades of the future that he threw his whole energies into it, and in 1896 he closed down the erstwhile flourishing weaving business of William Riley in order to devote his sole attention to bicycle manufacture. In this work he was assisted by his brother, the late Mr. Herbert Riley, who died in 1927, dismal prophesies as to the future of the weaving trade were all too adequately confirmed, and he had the satisfaction of seeing his cycle business providing a retreat for the rainy day which had submerged so many of his more experienced fellow weavers of former days. In 1896 the name of Bonnick and Co. was changed to The Riley Cycle Co.. Ltd. and the capital was increased to meet the growing demands of the cycle market, which was now in a fairly flourishing condition. Even before this date cycle manufacturers had realised the need for some mechanical means of propulsion, and an endeavour was made to the Riley works to perfect a machine which resembled a huge clockspring. It was intended to assist the cyclist in hills. and was so managed that the spring would be wound up again while the machine was running down the next decline. Nothing tangible appears to have developed from this novel idea—the kind of thing one would almost expect to find in a city of watchmakers. The arrival in Coventry streets of a Belle tricycle and the Pennington motor-raft in 1896 aroused the keen interest of the young Riley element. It is not an official part of the Riley story, but it has frequently been stated that Mr. William Riley became quite , alarmed at the " crazy " ideas of his sons,' who were anxious to turn his sedate cycle factory into an experimental shop for motor engines, which were not being made in England at that time, and which were only enjoying a hazardous existence on the Continent."
This oil painting is in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Museum (Beaulieu) and he looks much more cheerful
William Riley 1851-1944
In 1875 he married Emma Lester; and eventually had 5 sons ( more William's thankfully all known by other names or lunchtime would have been a scrum and birthday cards a nightmare. The sons were named William Victor Riley (1876-1958), William Allan Riley (1879-), William Percy Riley (1881-1941), William Reginald Stanley Riley (1889- ), William Thomas Cecil Riley (1894-1961) anybody thinking of Norman Stanley Fletcher ? ). Interestingly on August 31st 1875 he signs and forms a partnership with Alfred Henry Read of Coventry, a watch manufacturer; with manufacturing to be carried on at the workplace of Henry Read in Norfolk Street, Coventry. The firm is to be called Riley and Read but was hardly profitable and he still derives funds from weaving dissolving the partnership by 1878 with Mr Read carrying on with the watches.
By the 1881 census (above) he is now living at Holly Bank, Radford Road, Coventry age 29 and back again as a Trimming Manufacturer with his wife Emma (age 26) and the children Victor ( 5), Allan ( 2), and Percy ( 4 months) plus a servant and one of the Birch family as a nurse for Percy. This would seem to indicate that Emma was also weaving and it was a family occupation as commonly done at this time.
In 1890 William bought the Bonnick Cycle Co from Arthur Bonnick ( more about him on the cycles page) For the census of 1891 (above) he is still living at Holly Bank, Radford Road, Coventry age 39 (coincidentally very near the site of the Daimler factory but at the more open end then facing fields). Now listed as a Cycle Manufacturer and Employer living with his wife Emma and children Victor ( 15), Allan ( 12), Percy ( 9) all at school, Stanley ( 2) plus a servant . To have the boys at school in 1891 after twelve indicated both funds and aptitude for academic work . In 1896 he founded of Riley Cycle Company.
By 1901 census (above) he is still living at Holly Bank, Radford Road, Coventry now 49 and listed as a Cycle Manufacturer and Employer. living with his wife Emma ( 45) and children Victor ( 25), described as Cycle Works Manager, Allan ( 21), the Cycle Works Clerk, Percy ( 20), an Engineer Mechanic, Stanley ( 12) and Cecil ( 6) at school plus a servant.
In the 1911 census they are still at Hollybank (above) but now described as being at Dawn Hill and William now widowed is officially a motor manufacturer with Victor the works manager, Allan running sales, Percy as engineer and manufacturer and Stanley as Chief draughtsman with two servants all living at home and single.
"Obituary 1944. 17th January. Died in his 92nd year at Rose Bank, Kenilworth ( pics when sold on Zoopla reveal a substantial mansion ). Mr. William Riley, the cycle and motorcar pioneer died at Kenilworth on Monday at the age of 92. He was the head of the old established Coventry weaving business, bearing his name, founded by his father, and in 1890 he purchased the cycle firm that afterwards became the Riley Cycle Co. Eight years later the first Riley car was built and the company became actively engaged upon the production of engines and components; one of the latter, the Riley detachable wire wheel achieved a world-wide reputation. Later the company changed its title to Riley (Coventry) Ltd and introduced the 9 h.p. Riley car. The firm is now part of the Nuffield Organisation. Mr. Riley only retired from the board in his 85th year. he is survived by his four sons."
Victor at the wheel of a 1904 car for the London Brighton run
William Victor Riley (1876-1958)
By the 1901 census he is living at Holly Bank, Radford Road, Coventry still with his parents, aged 25, as the Cycle Works Manager he had been at his fathers side, developing the cycle business. Shortly after the census of 1911 in early 1912 partnership was formed with three of the brothers helping Percy set up the Riley Engine Company, even if he wasn't initially involved in the day to day running of the business. Victor set up the new company, 'Riley Motor Manufacturing Co' in Aldbourne Road, Coventry with the brothers taking over the companies responsible for the engines (Percy) and bodies (Allan), Victor later oversaw development of new models, and the final production of the cars as the chassis, engine and bodies were united. They took on the production of the existing two Riley cars and introduced a third one which was later exhibited at the London Motor Show in 1913. William's eldest son became the chairman following his fathers retirement in 1923
1936 Acquired Armstrong, Stevens and Son Ltd from Sheffield Steel Products with John Harper Bean; they then sold shares to the public.
1937 Victor Riley felt that larger cars spelt bigger profits, and had established a new company called Autovia earlier that year to build a top-of-the-range 24hp, V8-engined saloon and limousine that even aimed at Rolls-Royce's exalted position within the marketplace. This venture although ultimately not profitable, was far from a failure, with 44 exquisite luxury saloons and limousines sold before the general financial problems being faced by Riley forced the company to an unforeseen end. In February 1938 Autovia went bust and the remaining parts were sold on to be completed by others. By 1938 Riley itself was in severe financial difficulties; Victor approached Lord Nuffield to buy the company, which he did for about £143,000 and then sold onto Morris Motors for a nominal £100
In 1947 he retired from the managing directorship of Riley with contact with the Riley Motor Club and others that his son Victor continues to this day. He seems to have had a somewhat raw deal being presumed to follow the father as was 'the done thing' then for business and his father still remaining as company chairman and not releasing the reins plus having Percy as the more famous younger brother
Obituary:-William Victor Riley aged 82 the son of William Riley who founded the Riley Motor Company. He held the position of Managing Director until his retirement in 1947 and retained a directorship of Beans Industries. In 1934 he married Dorothy Champney, a well-known competitor in motor competitions and he leaves a son (Victor) and a daughter.
William Percy Riley (1881-1941)
During 1898 Percy Riley began to dabble in automobiles.building his first car a 4 wheel 2 seater car with a single cylinder 2¼ hp engine at 16, in 1898, secretly, because his father did not approve. It featured the first mechanically operated valve gear (as opposed to the then common vacuum operated valves). By the 1901 census he is recorded as living at still Holly Bank, Radford Road, Coventry with parents, aged 20, an engineer mechanic He was by then already a practical r&d engineer initially he simply providing engines for Riley motorcycles,gradually moving to the air coolled tricar, then water cooled and eventually to four-wheeled automobiles by 1907. During 1903 he founded another business the Riley Engine Company to produce engines for the Riley quadricycles, tricycles and motorcycles that were then being manufactured with de Dion and other engines that were unreliable. Further engines were sold to Singer, a near neighbour in Coventry. The sales to to Riley Cycle Company would have been advantageous for tax rather than being the same company and during this year patented an improved method of mechanical valve operation.
In 1904, Percy launched the first Riley designed from the beginning to be petrol powered, the Riley Forecar. Whilst it borrowed heavily from the company's previous motorcycles and tricycles, it was clearly a new and different model, and despite going against his fathers wishes, the Riley car business had started. Development of their Vee-Twin Tourer prototype, the first proper Riley four wheeled car started in 1905, and it was launched in late 1906 as the original Riley 9 ( pre Monaco). This was followed in 1907 with a much larger car, the 12/18, all developed by Percy's Riley Engine Company. As the business was proving itself, Percys father finally relented and agreed to divert the whole company's energies into motor car production.
He registered several more patents on various key components of the car, including steering, clutches and brakes, gears, driving axles and crankshafts, and engines, but his most important invention was the development of an easily detachable wheel for motor vehicles. Not only did such wheels become a major part of the Riley Cycle Company's business but the design was licensed to 183 manufacturers worldwide. He did not ( according to Victor ) patent everything as 'not needed' as there were often simple improvements and were often given to other manufacturers or problems solved for them ( that Chapel ancestry !) By 1913 Percy had been joined by three of his brothers (Victor, Stanley, and Allan) as part of a new business focused on manufacturing entire automobiles. This Riley Motor Manufacturing Company was located near Percy's Riley Engine Company. The first completely new model, the 17/30, was introduced at the London Motor Show that year.
In the 1930s, the Riley Engine Co, under Percys leadership, was 're badged' as PR Motors, and was part of the Riley Group that did not pass to Lord Nuffield in 1938. It continued under first Percy and then his wife until the 1960s, before being bought out by Newage Engineers Ltd in 1966. In 1974, the old Riley factory at Aldbourne Road was vacated as the company moved to new premises in Barlow Road. Various changes of ownership followed, but the company kept going. In 1997 BI Engineering Ltd took over, and remain the owners to this day, with the division called Newage Transmissions still essentially the old PR Motors business, still incorporating a diamond shaped 'PRM' logo, denoting its Riley heritage but the company now works mainly on Transmissions and components for construction equipment.
William Allan Riley (1879-1963 )
In the early years, Allans role within the company was perhaps not as prominent as his brothers, being younger he was forced into a more supporting role. This saw him help Percy in a similar way to Victor with the founding of the Riley Engine Co, and later he assisted three of his brothers with the 1913 move into full car production. After WW1, Allans role became more individual as he took control of Midland Motor Bodies, a new company formed from the Riley Manufacturing Co to build bodies for Rileys, and later some other cars ( that tax advantage again!). The actual designing of the bodies was largely left to Stanley, with Allan involved in producing the designs ie modern product design, tooling etc , and his name appears signed on many of the patents relating to developments in design and passenger comfort meaning all sons had their niche.
William Reginald Stanley Riley (1889- 1952 )
Stanley was the youngest of Williams sons who in 1913 joining with three of his brothers, decided to follow the business opportunities in making cars, Stanley set up a new company, Riley Motor Manufacturing Co in Aldbourne Road, Coventry. They started production of the existing two Riley cars and introduced a third one which was exhibited at the London Motor Show in 1913. Later during 1913 visited he Canada and the USA . After his return in 1914 founded the Nero Engine Co to produce his own 4-cylinder 10 hp (7.5 kW) car. This new company was responsible for developing the 10hp car launched in 1915, but both the car and company lasted a few years, until 1919 when it was absorbed into the main Riley car company.
After WW1, Stanley became the chief stylist and was largely responsible for the art deco 'aero' styling of the Falcon and Kestrel models. Almost all of the Rileys designed until 1938 were either Stanleys work, influenced by him and indirectly the designs of the later 'Nuffield' cars and the RMs, which were based heavily on the pre-war 'Continental' Touring Saloons. The Pathfinder was the first true re design with no Stanley input !
William Thomas Cecil Riley (1894-1961)
Cecil was educated at Oundle public school (1911 census) . In 1914 he joined the army, serving in the Army Supply Corps before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps and training as an aviator. He survived which is remarkable having qualified for his wings in Birmingham in 1917 on a Maurice Farman Biplane and taking part in the latter years of the war. After the war in 1918 he begins working in the company offices in Coventry, initially in the drawing office, then sales where he flourished. By 1922 he was traveling to west Africa ostensibly to investigate exporting cars but remained for a few years working for the government . He is next recorded in 1926 back in the UK testing of the pre-production Monaco. Like all the brothers he ventured into rallying and racing, doing a variety of tasks within Riley Motors including export sales manager until 1938 and the company was sold.Another article below written for publication with considerable family input
RILEY CAR IN 1898 What extent it was due to paternal
assistance or to personal enthusiasm way be a matter of
opinion, but the fact remains that in 1898—only two years
after the Daimler Company was formed--Mr Percy Riley had
produced the first Riley Car, every portion of which was
built in the Riley Cycle Company's works to his own
designs. The engine of this car had at least one
outstanding feature - it had a mechanically operated inlet
valve in place of the automatic inlet, operated by the
suction of the engine, which was the general but
inefficient practice at that time. It is claimed to have
been the first time this device had been successfully
operated in automobile engine design. At all events it
later became the stumbling block of a continental firm who
sought to impose a patent royalty on the use of
mechanically - operated valves in England.
In those days some very primitive methods were adopted of controlling the engine speed. One of the systems in use was that of closing the inlet valve thus preventing the ingress of 'explosive' gasses.In designing his first engine Mr Percy Riley preferred the system of holding the exhaust valve open, claiming that the cooling of the engine was materially improved by allowing it to take in cool air via the exhaust port.
The Pioneer Riley car was in use in Coventry for a number of years and was eventually sold in Belfast. Several attempts have been made to recover it and bring it back home but it has been completely lost sight of, and an offer of £50 ( from Victor) for information leading to its recovery is still good.
Greatly to the disappointment of the young members of the Riley family, they were unable to proceed with the production of these early cars. It was particularly unfortunate, in view of the great promise which the pioneer vehicle held out. It is true that the plant of the Company did not permit of car production, but there may be the additional reason that, whereas the market for pedal cycles was good and reasonably certain, the manufacture of motor I cars was extremely expensive and even more speculative at that time. English roads (were in a very poor state, and motor cars were far from popular. Something in the nature of a compromise was effected. In the years 1899 and 1900, besides making bicycles, the . Riley factory was producing motor tricycles, fitted with engines made by some of the beat-known manufacturers of that period. A little later a fourth wheel was added, and, what was known as a Riley Quadricycle, was produced. A Riley motor tricycle put up a track record at about this time. The younger Riley element was dissatisfied with this modest progress. Mr. Percy Riley . , who was in charge of the more progressive section of the Riley Works, had been, engaged in his spare time upon the production of a new water-cooled engine, of what was then the very generous proportions of 8hp.ln this unit he improved upon his original mechanically-operated inlet valve, and incorporated a method of varying the lift of the valve, thus regulating the speed of the engine to the required r.p.m. This engine was extremely successful, and incidentally it was discovered in 1913 driving the plant in a Coventry foundry, still doing well, and showing few signs of wear, despite a hard life of 13 years.
LAUNCHING OUT. The three Riley brothers—Percy, Victor, and Allan—were so enthused with the successful running of this engine that they approached the heads of the Riley Cycle Co. (Messrs. William and Herbert Riley) with persistent requests for the purchase of plant, and the provisions of the necessary money, for the manufacture of these power units on a commercial basis. It was a, very severe disappointment to them that their enthusiasm found little response from their father and uncle, who were still undecided as to the wisdom of entering into this very uncertain market. Neither the money nor the plant was forthcoming. In this dilemma the Riley brothers took a bold step. Pooling their own resources. they obtained financial assistance from both their mother and father, and made arrangements for the purchase This interesting 1905 Riley model was also exceptionally well sprung, and its success paved the way to still better things. The next step was to produce a 9 h.p. water-cooled twin engine, and by 1906 the little tricar was carrying full elliptic springs. This 9 h.p. Riley tricar was a very popular machine, and enjoyed quite a vogue. It was fast, tractable, comfortable, and of good appearance. In its day it left little to be desired in the cycle-car sphere. In competitions it frequently swept the board," its only serious competitors being the late Wilbur Gunn, in his 9 h.p. Legends, and the 9 h.p. Singer tri-car, which was fitted with the Riley engine. Meanwhile, it was found that by the abandonment of the cheaper machines, a number of old friends had been lost, and Mr. Stanley Riley, who had just served his apprenticeship with the Riley Cycle Company, was allowed to try his hand at the design of a smaller and cheaper tricar. He produced a 5 h.p. model, selling at £685, and it proved a popular success. One of these cars is still in excellent running order, and frequently appears at carnivals and rallies. Eventually it was found that the single rear wheel was holding these little vehicles back. There were serious tyre troubles on the rear wheel, for tyres were not perfect in those days, even to the extent that they are to-day. In 1905, the original Riley 9 h.p. car was produced, selling at the remarkable figure of £l68. It was much faster than anything else in its price class, and even exceeded the 9 h.p. Tricar in popularity. It was built upon a flat duplex tubular frame, with quarter elliptic springs all round. The same engine and gear box was used as in the Tricar, and final drive was by a central chain to a rear axle carrying a differential. It was a consistent winner in sports events—a fact which was not surprising, as it was actually the well-tried Tricar with a fourth wheel. of the required plant o n sufficiently generous terms to allow them to forge ahead. They launched the Riley Engine Co. The original factory was known as the Castle Works, adjoining the Cook Street gate, while a part of the old city wall formed one side of the factory. .
The Engine Co. was started in 1903, Mr. Percy Riley leaving the Riley Cycle Co., Ltd., to take over entire control. At that time the Riley Cycle Co., Ltd., were buying engines for their tricycles and quadricycles, but public opinion was slowly swinging round in favour of motor cycles. The Riley Engine Co. therefore concentrated upon lighter engines, and was soon turning out a range of 3 h.p., h.p., 21 h.p. t and 41 h.p. power units, all of which incorporated a novel and patented Valve gear, consisting of a single cam and two rockers.
" VALVE OVERLAP " PIONEERING. Another of Mr. Percy Riley's important innovations was the system of valve overlap, which he appreciated far in advance of other designers, and he made his first road experiments in this direction on a twin air-cooled engine of 6 h.p.
Then the forecar was added, the result being a tricycle " the wrong way round," i.e., with two wheels in front instead of behind. A very successful 4.5 h.p. watercooled engine was built for this machine. In the first place it was fitted with a lever operated clutch. Later a two-speed gearbox was added, with a band-brake, and 'a foot controlled clutch. This proved to be the last of the cycle type of machine which tho Riley concern built with a diamond type of frame. Already the saddle had been replaced by a comfortable upholstered seat, and the machine had become. the connecting link between a motor cycle and a cycle car.
In 1905 a machine was produced which constituted a considerable advance. it, was a 6 h.p. tricar, and really consisted of a three-wheeler motor car in most senses of the word as it was then understood. The engine was water cooled, of entirely new design, and a three speed gear box and clutch was fitted athwart the frame. The final drive was by roller chain to the single rear wheel. Even the gear box was designed by Percy Riley, with patented features, and it incorporated a reverse. In many novel respects thin little car was ahead of its time in its own lightweight class.
The gears for instance. were of the constant mesh type—a system which has been talked of quite a lot in the last year or two. Instead of the teeth gliding in and out of engagement to offset changes, dog clutches were used. The result was a gearbox which was genuinely fool-proof and remarkably silent. while the teeth could not be damaged when changing gear. This gear box had also many of the elements of the latest " pre selector gear box " which has caused a motoring sensation within the last two years. The box was so arranged that the lever could be forced into any position in the gear quadrant, regardless of car speed. When the car speed and engine speed approached the correct ratio, the gears automatically engaged themselves under the action of the coil spring gears Aing this dog clutches.
This interesting 1905 Riley model was also exceptionally well sprung, and its success paved the way to still better things. The next step was to produce a 9 h.p. water-cooled twin engine, and by 1906 the little tricar was carrying full elliptic springs. This 9 h.p. Riley tricar was a very popular machine, and enjoyed quite a vogue. It was fast, tractable, comfortable, and of good appearance. In its day it left little to be desired in the cycle-car sphere. In competitions it frequently swept the board," its only serious competitors being the late Wilbur Gunn, in his 9 h.p. Legends, and the 9 h.p. Singer tri-car, which was fitted with the Riley engine. Meanwhile, it was found that by the abandonment of the cheaper machines, a number of old friends had been lost, and Mr. Stanley Riley, who had just served his apprenticeship with the Riley Cycle Company, was allowed to try his hand at the design of a smaller and cheaper tricar.
He produced a 5 h.p. model, selling at £85, and it proved a popular success. One of these cars is still in excellent running order, and frequently appears at carnivals and rallies. Eventually it was found that the single rear wheel was holding these little vehicles back. There were serious tyre troubles on the rear wheel, for tyres were not perfect in those days, even to the extent that they are to-day. In 1905, the original Riley 9 h.p. car was produced, selling at the remarkable figure of £ l68. It was much faster than anything else in its price class, and even exceeded the 9 h.p. Tricar in popularity. It was built upon a flat duplex tubular frame, with quarter elliptic springs all round. The same engine and gear box was used as in the Tricar, and final drive was by a central chain to a rear axle carrying a differential. It was a consistent winner in sports events—a fact which was not surprising, as it was actually the well-tried Tricar with a fourth wheel.
NINE "HORSES" IN 1907 AND 1921. It is here interesting, to compare what a 9 h.p. engine could do in 1907 as compared with the modern equivalent. In the former year Mr. Victor Riley was placed second on handicap in tho Shelsey Walsh event on a 9 h.p. Riley, completing the climb in 2 min.23.5sec . In 1929 a 9 h.p. Riley saloon won the President's Cup in the same event with a time of 69.2 secs. It was the same hill and the same, (theoretical) horse power on each occasion. The Riley brothers were still dissatisfied with the perpetual tyre troubles of this period. The Stepney wheel had been introduced, but in the words of Mr. Percy Riley it was " not a satisfactory job." It eventually resulted in the production of the Riley detachable wire wheel, which was first used on this model towards the end of its life in 1907. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that in 1903 the committee of the French Grand Prix debarred the use of detachable wire wheels on the grounds that competing cars were not allowed to carry " spare parts " during the event. Another very important development in the Riley history is the fact that it was the first factory to include a detachable wire wheel as standard equipment. Meanwhile the Riley Cycle Co., Ltd.,was gradually loosening its bold upon the pedal cycle market, and the manufacture of freewheel clutches—another of Mr. Percy Riley's patents. Finally, the cycle company devoted itself entirely to the manufacture of motor cars. In 1907 the Riley Cycle Co., Ltd., introduced the 12/18 h.p. light car, which was entirely new, and which was - the first Riley model to have a pressed steel frame. The power plant was a water-cooled twin, and the first of the type produced had a splendid competition record. It was known as " Old Midnight," due to the fact that final preparations upon it were rarely completed until the " witching hour."
1930 Body Lines in 1904;The next production was the 10hp model which had a pressed steel frame,and was built to many of the ideas of Mr William Riley. The actual designer was Mr Stanley Riley, and the remarkable foresight in the matter of building lines showed itself here for the 10hp has a peculiarly modern look about it.
The manner in which his latest Monaco and Stelvio saloon designs have been copied gives further instances of this trait, which can be traced in a number of earlier Riley productions. There is in existence a diary which Mr Stanley Riley kept while at school in 1904 which contains a sketch which bears a remarkable resemblance to the Riley Nine tourer of today , including such features as the low build, dropped floors, with the feet of the driver and passenger projecting under the bonnet, together with the modern type of foot pedal control.
The 12/18 hp cars lived in favour from 1908 to 1913, and the outbreak of war caused a severe check to the career of the 17/30hp and a new 10hp which came along in 1913 and 1914. By this time the Riley Motor Manufacturing company had been formed, and the new 17/30hp car had a patented sleeve valve engine,while it was also the first Riley to incorporate a four cylinder monobloc engine. The sleeve valve patents were eventually disposed of to America at a handsome figure.
During the war the Riley works were given over to the manufacture of war material, and in 1916 land was acquired at Foleshill for the furtherance of this work, the first bays of the present Riley works being built. The post-war reorganisation of the Company is modern history . . . . . . The Riley story is one of adaptability and determination on the part of its family of proprietors, applied with great flair for engineering skill and ability in design.