Big Four

The pre war 2½ Litre  was called various names  16/4, Big Four and Blue Streak amongst them. The quality of the engine was superb but released on the outbreak of the second world war and in too many formats  so unfortunately launched too late (1937 to 1940). It slotted into Riley's range immediately below the 18 hp V8 model. Announced in September 1937 for the Earls Court Motor Show  it became one of the two genuine Riley models in the 'rationalised' range that followed the 1938 takeover by the Nuffield Organization.Using   a 2443cc straight-four engine with twin cams and S.U carburettor which developed 82 bhp  that had first seen the light of day in 1927. The transmission was a four speed manual. It was capable of a top speed of around 80 mph. The chassis was a lengthened version of the one used on the Riley 12 hp which was introduced at the same time and  offered with 5 bodies plus as a chassis, all but 4 or 5 of the vehicles sold had either the Adelphi, Kestrel or Continental bodies. Production Models  sold by  Riley were:- 2½ Adelphi 4-door Saloon (1937-38); Riley 2½ Continental (1937-38); Riley 2½ Kestrel 4-door Fastback Saloon (1937-38); Prototypes & One-offs included a  Riley 2½ Lynx (1937-38); Riley 2½ Maltby Redfern (1937-38); Riley 2½ Touring Saloon (1937-38). The engine survived the war and was used in the RMB, Roadster, Drophead and re tuned for the RMF, and stayed on until 1957 used  in the Pathfinder model and by Donald Healey to great effect, in his own cars  increasing in power from 82bhp to at least 110bhp .

. . . . .The first of a large order for RILEY CHASSIS from Messrs. P. E. Williams, Sydney, Australia, form an impressive-looking queue. The Riley Company has also received most encouraging business from India, South Africa, Lisbon, Singapore, and Borneo. from The Sketch - Wednesday 08 November 1939

 Stunning 1938 Blue Streak Kestrel belonging to Greg Morris in NSW/Oz pics by Stephen Sneesby
"Manufactured in 1938, this Riley Big Four carries 'Redfern' four-door tourer coachwork by Maltby, a company founded during the Edwardian era in Sandgate, Kent. In 1926 company founder John Maltby sold out to a Mr Redfern, chairman of whisky distillers, Johnnie Walker, whose sons took over the running of the coachworks. The revitalised Maltby acquired a number of agencies and provided catalogued designs for several manufacturers, which included its 'Redfern' brand dropheads. Maltby is noteworthy as the first British coachbuilder to automate the folding/unfolding of the convertible hood, initially (in 1935) using the 'Jackall' system's hydraulic pump and subsequently by means of an electric motor. '38BX 1224' is the only known example of a Big Four chassis bodied when new by an independent coachbuilder, and is featured in the Riley Register Series Vol. 2 section dealing with the 16/4 models (pages 88 and 89). In the last year the car has undergone extensive yet sympathetic restoration to its current beautiful condition after being in storage for many decades (see photographic record on file). The engine has been completely rebuilt and as a result behaves beautifully, starting easily and pulling strongly with excellent oil pressure. Maltby's unique coachwork takes the form of an open, all-weather body with wind-up windows, the projecting boot being an unusual variation of this particular style. The doors hinge back from a central pillar in a manner similar to several bodies built on Rolls-Royce 20/25 chassis by neighbouring coachbuilders Martin Walter; clearly some cross pollination was going on between the two companies in the 1930s. " info and pics from Bonhams sale in 2012


12 Drophead 1939 :-Riley Twelve Model 29S Saloon had a four-cylinder 1496-cc (69 x 100 mm) OHV engine, four-speed gearbox and 9 ft wheelbase. It featured several styling modifications. A drophead Coupé Model 29D was also available. Other 1939 Rileys are of the 16 HP type (saloon and drophead Coupé).

Riley 12 Saloon  1939

Riley 12 Saloon  1940:- Riley Twelve of 1939/40 was one of two models offered, the other being the 16 HP Big Four. The Twelve, or 1½-Litre, had a 1496-cc (69 x 100 mm) four-cylinder engine of 11.9 HP rating. Prices were from £310 to £335.
In the Company Accounts & Balance Sheets to 31/12/1939 held at Warwick Univ. 574 12hp and 68 16hp are recorded as sold. In the 1940 Acc.& Bal. sales were £45K for 12hp and £13K for 16hp. In the 1941 A&B sales were just 12 hp @ £790. Some of the 16hp would have been 49K Kestrels but any 29S, SS or D's are to be treasured, and if you find a 49S or D you have hit a jack-pot. . . are any left out there or better photographs ??

1941 Riley 16 Kestrel © CLIFF JONES PHOTOGRAPHY