3,000 Miles With a 21-Litre Riley Drophead Coupe
T. G. Moore, at one time Managing Editor of” Motor Sport,” tells of his Experiences with a much-discussed British Car.
SPORTS-CAR drivers :wear Iir be divided intO two camps. those W110 faVOLIr lItt flexible springing and easy riding which eintraeterise litany of the post-war models, and tialSe NOLO ,refer Ilte tint or ride and the more direct steering of the vintage and pre-war eras.
My :Mil pr91111111 was to find a ttiot.krn replacement for a pre-war Iq -lit re car, with similar performance, greater economy and the adVantage of i.f.s. ‘rlw post -war 21-fit re I i ley appearett to ‘missy:is all these characteristics, and when the drophead model w:LS 0t110101(111 I decided to take the plunge.
I. was lucky in obtaining delivery of One of the first coupt,s to he released for flit! 11.0111e market, and though the car seemed rather small in comparison with my old car, I felt well satisfied with the lines and the general finish. The tan-coloured hood affords it ideasant contrast to the medium green of the bodywork and the fight 1W4 /W11 leather miltolstery and body I rim, The facia boaril and UR: window rids are finished in walnut veneer, with two usefill interior lights. No door pockets are fitted but. there is a parcel shelf under tlw fiwia board runningthe WI tote width of the car. The v-sltaped windscreen, unfortunately no longer fitted with a panel which can be opened. gives a wide field of NieW, and both front wings are visible from the driver’s seat. All fialtrOIS COMP readily to hand, and the steering voluntn is adjustable for length. Fir.41 impressions of the car on the road were rat Itt-r unfavi iurable. as the Steering was very heavy and the springing harsh. There was, however, a shady improvement in both. these respects after the first SIX) miles. The engine was partly run-in when delivered, and it required considerable restraint to keep the speed down to .10-45 m.p.h. Tile engine loosened up steadily as the miles went tip, hut, best re-suits were not obtained nntil the car hail 3,000 With 000 unites on the ” dock,” my wife and I took II u’ Riley over to I he Continent at id there covered over 2,01t0 miles, touring in llolland, Cermany and Denmark. The twat lines amd compaet appearance of the car made a good impression everywhere we went. Sehoolchildren in all three countries seemed to be intrigued by the three letters on the number-plate and also on the A..1, plaque. In towns and villages everywhere we WM., indeed, greeted by el units of
• ‘ f;-13.11.” Fast straight: roads in all three countries gave one a good opportunity of appreeht ing the car’s wide speed range. 111111 the Intlx1 down there was no more effort or impr..ssion of speed it 80 m.p.h. titan at 10, and the engine is well silenced at all speeds. %Vitt, the hood ttp there is a fair amount of wind noise at speeds over 70 proba.bly camsed by the external 1Looddrtms. whieh, projeet from the otherwise smooth. lines. ‘Me highest speed attained antler sultstant hilly neutral conditions Was a speedometer 01 which I estimate :Is :L1L 5758 on the road. 11″illt high-oetttne fm-.1 or the addition of a proportion of benzol other ONVILLTS 111e they get a genuine 90 m.p.h. The SpVa00101•Ler Was tn.p.lt, fast td no nt.p.h. and et m.p.h. fast at 80 Most of the main roads etteoutatered were in good condition, but We struck an unpleasant seetion of treacherous pavi!, known to ftrit ish .lriny drivers as ” Ittack Cobbles,” beltveen Ilanover and lItmlinirg. We stopped here to give help to :t Dutch driver whose Citriten had been swept off the road by a skidding lorry, and then set off as fast as we dared to the nearest totvit in order to call tip an ambulance. Most e:trs were keeping their speed timer) lo i strail.’ :11)
on the slippery wet roads. hut, with the Itiley it was possible to exeeell 53 Itt,p.1t. withont getting info difficulties. Back 0111a• again in England. 11w emphasis turned frian smooth Itiglespeed touring to general handiness on twisting and often congested roads. I Ivry too the Riley showed 1111 Well. The par eorilers Steadily allil 1101fIS the exact line required_ helped occasionally by a touch of throttle to neutralise the under-steering tendency if Fappension. l’he gears are oh
Niously there to be used, and make it easy to attain a high average siwed, with an encouraging surge of power from 3.0041 r.p.m. upwards. The top-gear twrftwnnowe is quite reasonable niti four-cylintler spArts car, and the engine pulls smoothly 11,0WLL 10 20 10,10L„ ” P001 eNia’CL. 11111111 ala:Clel’ai lout front that
speed, but frtint onc gots a good re.ponsc without bothering to elLauge down. .‘ local main road hill with two hemts.latd a gradient, according Iii Tapley, of 1 in 13, can be climbed comfortably in top gear. The valve glumt. tends to lw noisy if not kept pritperly adjusted, and there is ;I, certain automat of engine movement when the engine is idling. On the road these effects are no longer not Weable, :oat front 40 m.p.h. om,mk, „wept for a ntild engim period at 2,200 r.p.nt. (45 m.p.h.. in top gear), the engine is is smooth a ‘I’he engine will Ili» tip to over 5,000 wi I lint it Val ye I /011ilee. butt it is WiSe to keep down to the maker’s suggested maximum of 4,700 r, l”°” At these revs, the maximum speeds in lite gears are 21, :11111 00
A [1-v.-collider ctut be supplied it extra cost, and would prove :t good investment it ti impute who intends getting the full performance out of the car. In I Ite Continental countries laready ntentionctl, the petrol is, if possible, slightly worse than English and the Riley pinked freely whenever the thnit tle was used at all vigorously. On returning 10 England
the local service station adjusted the contact breaker to give a slightly smaller gap, which has reduced the trouble without apparent falling-off in the performance. • Running-on,” a fault common in post-war high-efficiency engines, is still irritating, and it Seems that nothing can be done about it on presentday hid.
One of the best features of the car is the gearbox, with its short, stiff lever only six inches below the rim. of the steering wheel. Synchromesh is fitted on top, third and .second gears, but does not. interfere with double-declutching. Third to top is a semi-racing change when .required, and a quick .soick from top to second is a great help in getting clear of traffic congestion. On earlier “2s” the clutch tended to. drag, causing grating noises if the pedal was not fully depressed. This trouble has been overcome on the latest models, and the clutch fret* itself with a short movement.
The brakes are quite adequate to the speed Of the car. A fair amount of force is required to get the full effect, but in use they have proved reliable, with no tendency to swing. The braking :distance front 30 m.p.h. was 33 feet.
As has already been said, the suspension is firm, and the car can be cornered really fast without any trace of rolling, and without any tendency to hop on corrugated surfaes. Springing is it anything improved with four passengers or the equivalent weight of luggage. Tyre pressures are rather critical and need to be checked weekly. The steering is high-geared, about 2i turns from lock to leek, and combined with astrong castor action and wide-section tyres makes for heavy work when parking or on a long, fast journey over twisty roads. You get quite a jar through the steering wheel if you hit a pot hole a Speed, but minor irregularities and corrugations are net felt. On balance, the feeling of control and directness between the steering wheel and the road more than compensates for the extra exertion on corners, and enables the driver to place his car exactly where he wants it alike at MB speed on the straight and on fast bends:
The driving position is comfortable, with all controls within easy reach and with ample head room. In simmer the front of the car gets warm, even with the hood open, particularly so the driver’s left foot, which rests-on a platform on the clutch easing. For some obscure reason scuttle ventilators are not fitted on the coupe body, but can be obtained from the makers. The alternative is to have an air-conditioning outfit installed.
The back seat is wide enough to seat three people at a pinch, and is fitted with a movable central arm-rest Leg room is quite reasonable, but the centre of the floor is obstructed by the propellershaft tunnel. flead reOna for a six-foot passenger in 11w back seats is about one inch. Separate winding windows in the rear (waiters give a good field of view even with the hood erected. . A useful assortment of instruments-is provided, grouped on a compact panel on the dashbor rd. A rev.-counter with a small clock ernbodiad in the dial can take the place of the lameclock fitted as standard. The water temperature keeps steady at 75-80 degrees. Oil pressure drops to about 40 lb /sq. in. during fast running, but the oil consumption remains constant at 2,500 m.p.g. The petrol gauge with its three indications ” full,”
half,” and “empty ” is unreliable for the last quarter of its range. The instrument lighting is unnecessarily strong, and the warning light for the ” high ” position of the head-light beam was positively dazzling until I modified it with some of my wife’s nail varnish. The head lamps give a driving light sufficient for a safe 65 M.p.h. The nearside light is fitted with a two-filament bulb, which supplies the dipped beam. A similar lamp can be fitted into the off-side head lamp, and thus by plugging in or
THE 21-LITRE RILEY DROPHEAD COUPE
Engine : Four cylinders, 804 by 120 nun. (2,443 c.c.). R.A.C. rating, 16.06 lt.p.
Valves : Overhead at 90 degrees. Push-rode-Operated from two CA311’Shafts.
Ignition : Lucas coil.
Carburetters : Two S.C., Type 11.4.
Petrol pump : S.U..electric. Electrical system : Lucas 12 volt. Clutch : Single dry-plate. Gearbox : Four-speed-and-reverse. Ratios : Top : 4.11 to 1 3rd : 5.83′ 2nd : 8.86 „ „ 1st : 15.0 „ „
SI eed at 1,000 r.p.m. in top gear : 19.5 m.p.h. Suspension : Front wheels : Tor
sion bars with transverse links.
Rear Wheels : half-elliptic. Steering : Rack and pinion.
Brakes : Girling. Front wheels : two-leading shoe hydraulic. Rear wheels : mechanical.
Tyres : Dunlap 6.00 by 10.
Wheelbase : 9 ft. 11 in.
Track : 4 ft. 4f in.
lt’eiglil: 28 cwt.
Ground Clearance : 7 in. . lcceleration on ” Pool ” Petrol :
O 51) m.p.h. 13:6 see. o Go „ 18.6 „ 0-70 „ 26.5 „
Price : Drophead coupe.: £995. plus £227 2s. 9d. purchase tax. linkers : Riley Motors, Ltd.,
att one of the connections. in the wiring harness one can change in a few seconds from one dipping beam to two, a great convenience when visiting the Continent. The fog-lights are wired to a three-way switch, allowing one or two to be used as required.
.Petrol consumption varies widely in accordance with tile way in which the car is driven. Steady running at 40-45 m.p.h. gave 26 m.p.g. high-speed touring at 60-80 m.p.h. brought it down to 19-20 m.p.g., while fast local runs in hilly country reduced it further to 15 m.p.g. The tank holds 124 :gallons, but the inaccuracy of the gauge makes. it unwise to exceed 200 miles before refilling. The drophead body proved a great joy when touring abroad. The hood can be
folded down in less than a minute, and fits flush into a well behind the back seat. When putting it up I had at first some trouble in hooking it back in position, but found that by first tensioning one of the external hood-irons it fitted readily into place. The windscreen is supported by an extension of’ the front body panels, which come far enough baek to house a pair of sun-visors. The hood is located on the windscreen panel by a rubber-bushed pin, and locked in Position by two substantial carriage catches. The hood was well tested in some of the heavy thunderstorms encountered in Denmark, but remained watertight under all conditions. When the hood is down it: occupies part of the luggage boot. With the boot lid closed there is only room for one large suitcase and a number of smaller packages, but by fitting straps and running with the lid half open the capacity could be greatly increased. My own solution is to cover the back seat with a canvas sheet tailored to fit, Which allows six substantial ‘suitcases to be carried well within the car’s wheelbase. The spare
h IS carried in a separate compartment.
Four external jack sockets are fitted to the chassis, and so wheel-changing can be carried out with the minimum of disturbance and dirt. A last word on maintenance. Although the bonnet is pretty full of engine, the accessories, coil, petrol pump and so forth are $o placed that they can readily he reached by opening one or other of the top bonnet panels, and valve clearances can also be checked without difficulty. The two top panels, and if necessary the side panels also, can be removed, giving access to all parts of the engine. The oil-filler and the dip-stick might with advantage have been extended higher up, but with care can be reached
wir bait Soiling the Clothes. Chassis maintenance is confined to the eight greasers on the steering and the front suspension, one on the water pump and the three nipples on the transmission. These latter are best tackled with the car over a pit or On a garage lift.
After four months’ use under varied conditions I find that the Riley does provide what I want, a very useful turn of speed and a good response to driving technique on the open road combined with easy starting, simple maintenance, and an absence of fussiness in traffic. As a dual-parpose car it would be hard to beat, and at present-day prices offers distinctly good value for money.