Auspicious debut for the ‘Speed Model’ Riley Nine

Years ago I was given an impressive ride in a schoolmaster’s 1½-litre side-valve sports two-seater Riley Redwing, made in Coventry up to 1920.

But in 1927 the remarkable 1074cc Riley Nine with push-rod-operated inclined overhead valves and four-speed gearbox was announced and was immediately popular, so much so that the famous John Godfrey Parry Thomas and the celebrated engineer Reid A Railton set about producing the ‘Speed Model’ or ‘Brooklands’ version, so low that the driver could touch the road with his or her right hand. The engine developed 50bhp at 5000rpm. Thomson and Taylor made these desirable cars until the Riley company took over.

To publicise the new version Parry Thomas was to have raced one at Brooklands in 1927 but his fatal accident at Pendine Sands put this responsibility on Railton. Entered by Victor Riley he came first, with a best lap at 98.62mph, winning “by a mile”. Railton’s standing-lap was only just over 1mph slower (83.42mph) than that of the scratch-start 1½-litre Bugatti. Railton had started before two Austin 7s and a Morris-Cowley and was set, with a handicap of 48sec, to overtake nine other cars, all with larger engines.

The autumnal spectators must have been impressed!

Reid Railton’s race was the start of Riley’s very effective racing history, with ordinary enthusiasts able to buy a ‘Brooklands’ Nine for £395 when a Monaco saloon sold for £285. This was the last time Reid Railton drove at Brooklands, though he remained a regular character there while engaged in designing the successful LSR cars.