Dream garage: Riley TT Sprite

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For sale at Tom Hardman Skipton, North Yorkshire. www.tomhardman.co.uk

If you want a historic racing Riley, there’s one name you would hope had been behind its wheel – Freddie Dixon. Irreverent and unpredictable, the little wizard of Riley tuning turned these machines into race winners at Brooklands and many other places. Low, light and skimpy-bodied, Rileys responded eagerly to Dixon’s ministrations and racing skills, and works replicas found eager buyers. One variant was the TT Sprite, and this example is what today we’d call a development car for that model. And it has two Le Mans entries and two ‘Grands Prix’ under its leather-belted bonnet – and, says Tom Hardman who is offering it for sale, it comes with two bodies, too.

It started out as a 12/6, which was driven by Dixon and Cyril Paul to third place at Le Mans in 1934 before being rebuilt by the works as a 1500cc four-cylinder, with a new chassis number stamped alongside the old and a slim racing body. Bearing the registration number AVC19 it began a fresh and successful works career by contesting the 1935 and ’36 Tourist Trophies and a French Grand Prix at Montlhéry. After Dixon’s victory in the ’35 Ulster race in a sister car, this form became known as the TT Sprite.

Passed to Ecurie Eudel, a team run by Riley’s French agent, the car was clothed in a handsome streamlined Pourtout body and in this form ran again at Le Mans and in another French sports car GP. After WWII the car was burned out; on rebuilding it gained yet another body but languished until Henry Geary, an ex-Riley competition department mechanic, acquired it and began a rebuild.

Geary refitted it with the appropriate TT-style panels, crowned with the radiator cowl from sister car AVC17, which now has a traditional Riley grille. Completed by his son-in-law, the car has since been racing with the VSCC.

“Stunning,” is how Hardman describes it now. “The engine is still running in so I’ve had to keep it to 3000rpm, but even then it’s doing 60. And it’s a joy on the road – it feels tight, handles beautifully, and the pre-selector ’box is as sweet as you could want.”

With its one and a half-seater body it’s not the most practical vintage transport – though Tom says he and his wife have both squeezed into it – but with its quick-release wings it can run in both sports and racing car events.

There are many Riley TT replicas around, but this is one that Freddie Dixon himself would recognise.

Factfile

Year: 1934/35
Engine: 1500cc four, 80bhp
Transmission: four-speed manual
Suspension: front and rear leaf springs, friction dampers
Top speed: 100mph
Number built: four works racers
Price: £500,000