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Thursday, February 18, 2016

This 1950 Riley Has Rolls-Royce Good Looks and Everyday Charm


Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.

For decades, the British car industry produced monumental automobiles of all type–from icons like the plucky Land Rover, to game-changers like the zippy Morris Mini. But there’s one vehicle in particular that the Brits consistently get right—the luxury sedan. 
Today, marques like Jaguar and Bentley continue to exude that sense of grandeur, though back in the early 20th Century these brands had a bit more homegrown competition. This car—a 1950 Riley RMB—could be considered one of the bunch.

Built in Coventry, and at MG’s Abingdon production facility, the RMB was a sleek luxury sports sedan, packing crisp bodywork, a powertrain capable of 100 mph, and room for the family. Between 1946 and 1952, an impressive 6,900 were built, including this one, and now it has resurfaced on eBay.

While the Riley name might not be as famous as its Rolls-Royce or Bentley contemporaries, it’s actually older, as referenced by the company’s slogan: “as old as the industry, as modern as the hour.”

 Riley’s origins trace back to the late 1800s when the company first manufactured bicycles. The turn of the century brought about Riley gas-powered tricycles and quadricycles, which then evolved into early automobiles. By the 1920s and ‘30s, Riley production was booming and over a dozen different models rolled off the line.

The svelte RM series debuted post World War II, at a time when Riley was part of the Nuffield Organization, but before it was rolled into the British Motor Corporation. As such, it carries the distinction of being the last series independently developed by Riley.

The flowing bodywork and long snout may inspire images of big V12s and straight-eight engines, but the RM cars all carried Riley four-cylinders: a 1.5-liter and the company’s larger 2.5-liter “Big Four.” The RMB, essentially a larger RMA sedan, came exclusively with the twin-cam 2.5-liter, which garnered 100 horsepower and breathed through dual SU carburetors.


A four-speed manual gearbox ensured these cars could make full use out of every last horsepower on the straights, as did their torsion-beam independent front suspension in the corners. Inside, it’s a classical mix of wood with swathes of  leather upholstery.

Amazingly, this car in particular is said to have had just three owners from new, the second of which owned it from 1951 to 2015. The cabin is claimed to be all original, however its vibrant yellow paint was a ‘70s touch-up.

Unlike some of its British contemporaries, which fetch continually higher and higher prices at auction, the RM Rileys appear to be a much slower appreciating classic. That said, the marque enjoys a significant global following and these cars still turn heads over half a century later.