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Tricars & Forecars,
The first Riley car was a small single-cylinder, belt-driven light car which did not go into production but acted as a test vehicle. The boys father William Riley senior remained opposed to diverting resources into motor cars, and in 1902 three sons, Victor, Percy and younger brother Allan Riley pooled resources, borrowing a balancing amount from their mother and in 1903 established the separate Riley Engine Company, in Coventry. A few years later the other Riley brothers, Stanley and Cecil, having left school joined their elder brothers in the business. Originally, the Riley Engine Company supplied engines for Riley motorcycles and Singer, a newly emerging motorcycle manufacturer in the area. The Riley Engine Company focused on four-wheeled automobiles with their Vee-Twin Tourer prototype, produced in 1905, considered the first proper Riley car. This was powered by V-twin engines driving the rear wheels via single roller chains and three-speed gearboxes. It was on these 9 hp machines, two years after their debut, that Riley, for the first time anywhere in the world, standardised detachable road wheels. They expanded the next year as William Riley reversed his opposition to his sons' preference for motorised vehicles and Riley Cycle halted motorcycle production in 1907 to focus on automobiles. Bicycle production ceased in 1911. The first Riley car was a small single-cylinder, belt-driven light car which did not go into production but acted as a test vehicle. Motor tricycles followed in 1900, and a handlebar steered tricar with two forward speeds driven by a 517cc engine with mechanically operated inlet valves in 1903. Tricars were made until 1909, later examples being twins with drivers’ seats in place of saddles, water cooling and wheel steering. The 1034cc V-Twin engine was also fitted to the company’s first 4-wheelers, which had a centre mounted engines with gearboxes alongside and chain drive Motor tricycles followed in 1900, and a handlebar steered tricar with two forward speeds driven by a 517cc engine with mechanically operated inlet valves in 1903. Tricars were made until 1907, later examples being twins with drivers’ seats in place of saddles, water cooling and wheel steering.
The “Royal Riley” motor tricycle was exhibited at the 1900 National Cycle show with a 2.5 hp De-Dion engine. Riley then experimented with a 3-wheeled cyclecar from 1902 that would be light but strong enough to carry two passengers. The first saleable Tricar was produced in 1904 and showed its history of being based around a motorcycle. Using a 4.5 hp single cylinder water cooled engine designed and built by the Riley Engine Company. (Founded in 1903 by Percy who was working on a design for a 8 hp water cooled engine after the earlier air cooled engine failed to cool reliably and many 'glowed in the dark') .The engine was built in to the frame and used a 2 speed gear box driven by a primary chain with a secondary chain drive from the outer edge of the box to the hub of the rear road wheel. The Riley Tricar also had a starting handle that fitted into the rear end of the engine shaft ( indicated in archive letters with an original owner). Speed in 1904 was a much as 45mph tops on the flat dropping to 10/12mph on most hills and with a comfortable cruise speed of 30 to 35 mph so pretty respectable for the time. By the time of the 1905 model it became much more car like swapping the original saddle design for a “bucket seat”. Handle bars had been replaced with a steering wheel and it was now available with either the air cooled 4 hp engine for 70 guineas and three water cooled engines; the 4.5 hp for 85 guineas, the 6 hp for 120 guineas and the 9 hp for 130 guineas. The only real rival was the Singer Tricar that was fitted with the reliable Riley engine. The Tricar received a gold medal for making a 125 mile non-stop journey on just two and three quarters of a gallon of petrol, during 1905 and 1906 it appeared repeatedly in published competition results for Hill climbs, Reliability runs and Trials. In 1907 the external appearance of the Tricar became more polished though no other changes were made until production of the Tricar ceased a few years later to herald in the four wheeled 'car'. The certificate of Victor Riley winning such trials has just been restored and will be in the archives with other competition certificates that survived.
Interestingly Riley also sold engines as suitable for industrial work after cannibalising one to use as factory transport for the factory move from Cook Street to Aldbourne Road in 1904 see also.
The truck made to move to Aldbourne Road note tiller steering and chicken shed/agricultural wheels but it does have brakes !
They also sold engines for maintenance trolleys to the South African Railways in 1904 (see Styles Beyond the Blue Diamond p 52 onwards). Google books also lists many of the results of the numerous competitions they entered the cars into click here if not sure of location
1904 Riley Tricar . reg. EI 21 ...Top picture taken on M/c to Blackpool Run 12/06/1977 Organised by Lancs Car Club Entrant no.9 D S Inchley & L H Williamson, Englefield Green, Surrey. Large version as it shows different details . Programme notes said of the car : "Built as a prototype for the 1907/8 version. Exported to County Sligo, returned to England in 1910 then was damaged in an accident and left until discovered in 1939. Repaired after the war and was in the first post-war Brighton Run. Restored and run by present owners in 1960 Brighton Run and thereafter". In another magazine article:- "It is distinguished in many ways from its predecessors including having wheel steering, full leaf spring suspension, a Riley Engine Company water cooled vee-twin engine and a constant mesh progressive transmission using spring loaded dog clutches to achieve a modicum of synchronization. It is VCC-dated and has participated in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 1985 and 1995 according to badging on it. The coachwork bears a Rothchild Baker label with details including a Smith speedometer/odometer driven from the right front wheel, trumpet horn, clock and cooling radiators on either side of the front passenger seats so they get full air flow. "
'F 2251' in Peckham belonging to the father of Simon Danischewsky logo at the side the early badge, very similar to the singer Tricar which used Riley engines and expertise.
1. 1899 cyclecar at Heritage Motor Centre to show the development;
2. 1903 handlebars model (?) safe in Delhi click here seems to belong to a member of team-bhp.com; Interestingly on this car during 1903-4 Singer got an order for Tricars for India using the Riley 4.5 engine to be used for cross country exploration with trailers. So toss a coin Riley Tricar or Singer Tricar with Riley engine... needs to be seen to be checked
3. 1903 Tricar 'H 3714' 3.5 hp handlebars model doing the London - Brighton and stationary plus the Bonhams sale page some copied below ; now in Essex Engine number 11" Before restoration . . . . It had been liberated from the loft above a shop being demolished in Wood Green in 1958 and was purchased from the local gas meter reader. 'H 3714' took part in at least eight London-Brighton Runs and one Pioneer Run during the 1960s/70s, as well as other local VCC events. To cope with increasing demands of modern traffic, a two-speed 'free engine' gear was fitted in the 1980s."
Specs:ENGINE on this cars the smallest single 3hp Capacity 402.1cc Bore 80 Stroke 80 Carb' Longuemare updraught TRANSMISSION still motorbike style with freewheel in rear hub for pedal drive Final Drive Ratio 8:1 Optional 2-spd: 1st g/r 5.4:1 2nd g/r 3.57:1 SUSPENSION optimistic with springs at front, an almost sprung leather saddle nicked from bike production BRAKES equally optimistic front band brakes, rear block brake as in the pedal bike and motorcycle. PERFORMANCE Useless unless downhill where it becomes freewheeling with style and avoid all gradients SIZE 23"/58cm frame Wheelbase 4'5"/135cm COST 60 guineas for the 2 speed 3hp and then plus 5 guineas (including the tax) for the 3.5hp
Remember this was the time when a private car was remarked on and only for the very affluent . The Motor Car Act 1903 received royal assent on 14 August 1903, which introduced motor vehicle registration, driver licensing and increased the speed limit. This Act followed the Locomotives on Highways Act 1896 which had increased the speed limit for motorcars to 14 mph from the previous 4 mph in rural area and 2 mph in towns. From this start Riley were quite generous in engine power and the Archives holds various certificates for Victor Riley senior winning and competing in both endurance trials and hill climbs plus the reliability trials done to show the public these cars were actually worth buying
5. 1904 Tricar/Fore Car reg. 'EZ 8402' now in Australia since 1983 lovely selection of photographs; Chassis number R124 Engine number 578 First registered in Belfast then spent many years in Towcester before the export to Oz
6. BW 36 1904 4.5 hp Tricar in New Zealand chassis 870 engine no. 217 see article in RReg Bulletin 70, 06/1973
7. 1904 Riley Tricar . reg. EI 21 from when sold by Hyam in St. Louis, USA,
8. 1904 4½hp Riley Tricar 'DU 458' now at Coventry Museum; This is has the larger engined 4½hp forecar but with the larger of the upgraded engines built by Percy's 'Riley Engine Co.' Also the first water-cooled Riley engine which combined caused the mounting position into central position under the cross member then set vertically. The cost also escalated to 80 guineas plus five for the upgraded capacity of 517cc with a bore of 86 and stroke of 89. These cars now shifted quite well but still has motorcycle handle steering and the sprung cycle seat rendering it a motorbike with a passenger as a windbreak to the front. **If you ask nicely the museum will allow you to climb over the string to look (no touching as they have to re polish)**
9. 1905 Tandem Tricar 6hp in Sussex (Register members car ) further data unknown/not released
10.1905 Tricar LN 2637 and now in the Luray Car and Carriage Museum in Virginia, This was the up-rated version on a new chassis with the engine now under the drivers seat and tilted as in the four wheeler on the next page all designed by Stanley Riley and pics below .These are the next development stage with the same chassis and two speed gearbox except in the larger engined models which had a completely new chassis. Smaller models used the same frame as the old Forecars, but removed the pedals added a steering wheel and a real front seat COST now 89 guineas
1905-7 This is the major upgrade model with a new chassis frames supporting the V-Twin engine. The 6hp engine was as in later V twins two of the 3hp cylinders mounted on a common crankcase in a V formation. Internally the development can best be seen on the first real 4-wheeled Riley car was also launched in 1905 with a flat floor for the driver. The seat is now mounted over the engine and must have provided a semblence of a heater but would have been a modern elf'n safety nightmare. COST now £126 Specs: Wheelbase 5'7"/170cm Front Track 4' /122cm Fuel Tank 4 gallons so you could now travel a reasonable distance
11.1907 9hp Tricar 'BP 19' driving at Beamish Museum now at Whitewebbs museum ; This 9hp Tricar the start for Riley using the largest Riley engine yet, basically two 4½hp cylinder blocks mounted on a 6hp 'V' crankcase. This was the model used by Victor (sr) for many many hillclimbs and other sporting events, even beating the more modern conventional 4-wheeled machines ( he is noted as driving fast ). This and the 6hp model were the first not based on an upgraded 'bicycle frame', instead this chassis allowed a flat floor for the driver, and the seat sat above the engine (tipping for engine work as in the cars), with better bodywork enclosing it.COST now £136.50
12. 1907 5hp Tricar 'LB 4612' in British Motor Museum Gaydon museum.....Apparently now 750cc but this like the later 12hp Nuffield is weird hybrid,. The 5hp Tricar used the 4½ hp engine from 1904 but in the new chassis used by the larger 6 and 9 hp Models. This was available for one year and resembles a bitsa to sell old stock of the last 3 wheelers as the 4 wheeled models took over completely in 1908. The cost of £85 makes it seem a 'buy it cheap' and like the later San Remo the company altered models to suit the buyer especially if he had paid already. First registered in Greater London so a well moneyed buyer but no knowledge of engine power
any other survivors pls tell me to add them especially with pics. Below two not yet proven but labelled online as Riley Tricars
The 1903 Riley Engine as used in the Tricars/Forecars looks to be what is in the Indian car. Pic from styles p 15
Interestingly Rileys not only adapted cycles for women first before other companies but also advertised to them from the start possibly four young, single males designing them helped
Riley Robs page click
BP19 now at Whitewebbs Museum pics from Whitewebbs
1905 Tricar LN 2637 in Luray Virginia many thanks for the pics
LB 4612 age of pic ??
LB 4612 now at Gaydon
H3714 when sold at Bonhams pic from Bonhams for loads more click link
MODEL 3 H.p. Tricar (Forecar)
"Mention was not made in our [Crystal Palace] show report last week of the Riley tricars and 9 h.p. car, as they were late in arrival. A trial car running in the grounds daily made light work of the stiff hills in the vicinity of the Palace." from The Motor Cycle November 1907.
Singer Tricar... used Riley Engines and show considerable similarities
Online as 1907 Riley Tricar no other information so unproven unless you know more (in OZ/NZ)
Online as 1904 Riley Tricar no other information so unproven unless you know more (in OZ/NZ)
Below article by the Riley Family of the origins of the company from Midland Telegraph December 5th 1930
HOW COVENTRY MADE MOTORING HISTORY.. .
. . abridged
Greatly to the disappointment of the young members of the Riley family, they were unable to proceed with the production of these early cars. It was particularly unfortunate, in view of the great promise which the pioneer vehicle held out. It is true that the plant of the Company did not permit of car production, but there may be the additional reason that, whereas the market for pedal cycles was good and reasonably certain, the manufacture of motor I cars was extremely expensive and even more speculative at that time. English roads (were in a very poor state, and motor cars were far from popular. Something in the nature of a compromise was effected. In the years 1899 and 1900, besides making bicycles, the . Riley factory was producing motor tricycles, fitted with engines made by some of the beat-known manufacturers of that period. A little later a fourth wheel was added, and, what was known as a Riley Quadricycle, was produced. A Riley motor tricycle put up a track record at about this time. The younger Riley element was dissatisfied with this modest progress. Mr. Percy Riley . , who was in charge of the more progressive section of the Riley Works, had been, engaged in his spare time upon the production of a new water-cooled engine, of what was then the very generous proportions of 8hp.ln this unit he improved upon his original mechanically-operated inlet valve, and incorporated a method of varying the lift of the valve, thus regulating the speed of the engine to the required r.p.m. This engine was extremely successful, and incidentally it was discovered in 1913 driving the plant in a Coventry foundry, still doing well, and showing few signs of wear, despite a hard life of 13 years.
LAUNCHING OUT. The three Riley brothers—Percy, Victor, and Allan—were so enthused with the successful running of this engine that they approached the heads of the Riley Cycle Co. (Messrs. William and Herbert Riley) with persistent requests for the purchase of plant, and the provisions of the neccessary money, for the manufacture of these power units on a commercial basis. It was a, very severe disappointment to them that their enthusiasm found little response from their father and uncle, who were still undecided as to the wisdom of entering into this very uncertain market. Neither the money nor the plant was forthcoming. In this dilemma the Riley brothers took a bold step. Pooling their own resources. they obtained financial assistance from both their mother and father, and made arrangements for the purchase This interesting 1905 Riley model was also exceptionally well sprung, and its success paved the way to still better things. The next step was to produce a 9 h.p. water-cooled twin engine, and by 1906 the little tricar was carrying full elliptic springs. This 9 h.p. Riley tricar was a very popular machine, and enjoyed quite a vogue. It was fast, tractable, comfortable, and of good appearance. In its day it left little to be desired in the cycle-car sphere. In competitions it frequently swept the board," its only serious competitors being the late Wilbur Gunn, in his 9 h.p. Legends, and the 9 h.p. Singer tri-car, which was fitted with the Riley engine. Meanwhile, it was found that by the abandonment of the cheaper machines, a number of old friends had been lost, and Mr. Stanley Riley, who had just served his apprenticeship with the Riley Cycle Company, was allowed to try his hand at the design of a smaller and cheaper tricar. He produced a 5 h.p. model, selling at £685, and it proved a popular success. One of these cars is still in excellent running order, and frequently appears at carnivals and rallies. Eventually it was found that the single rear wheel was holding these little vehicles back. There were serious tyre troubles on the rear wheel, for tyres were not perfect in those days, even to the extent that they are to-day. In 1905, the original Riley 9 h.p. car was produced, selling at the remarkable figure of £l68. It was much faster than anything else in its price class, and even exceeded the 9 h.p. Tricar in popularity. It was built upon a flat duplex tubular frame, with quarter elliptic springs all round. The same engine and gear box was used as in the Tricar, and final drive was by a central chain to a rear axle carrying a differential. It was a consistent winner in sports events—a fact which was not surprising, as it was actually the well-tried Tricar with a fourth wheel. of the required plant o n sufticinetly generous terms to allow them to forge ahead. They launched the Riley Engine Co. The original factory was known as the Castle Works, adjoining the Cook Street gate, while a part of the old city wall formed one side of the factory. .
The Engine Co. was started in 1903, Mr. Percy Riley leaving the Riley Cycle Co., Ltd., to take over entire control. At that time the Riley Cycle Co., Ltd., were buying engines for their tricycles and quadriycles, but public opinion was slowly swinging round in favour of motor cycles. The Riley Engine Co. therefore concentrated upon lighter engines, and was soon turning out a range of 3 h.p., h.p., 21 h.p. t and 41 h.p. power units, all of which incorporated a novel and patented Ivalve gear, consisting of a single cam and two rockers.
" VALVE OVERLAP " PIONEERING. Another of Mr. Percy Riley's important innovations was the system of valve overlap, which he appreciated far in advance of other designers, and he made his first road experiments in this direction on a twin air-cooled engine of 6 h.p.
Then the forecar was added, the result being a tricycle " the wrong way round," i.e., with two wheels in front instead of behind. A very successful 4.5 h.p. watercooled engine was built for this machine. In the first place it was fitted with a leveroperated clutch. Later a two-speed gearbox was added, with a band-brake, and 'a footcontrolled clutch. This proved to be the last of the cycle type of machine which tho Riley concern built with a diamond type of frame. Already the saddle had been replaced by a comfortable upholstered seat, and the machine had become. the connecting link between a motor cycle and a cycle car.
In 1905 a machine was produced which constituted a considerable advance. it, was a 6 h.p. tricar, and really consisted of a three-wheeler motor car in most senses of the word as it was then understood. The engine was water cooled, of entirely new design, and a three speed gear box and clutch was fitted athwart the frame. The final drive was by roller chain to the single rear wheel. Even the gear box was designed by Percy Riley, with patented features, and it incorporated a reverse. In many novel respects thin little car was ahead of its time in its own lightweight class.
The gears for instance. were of the constant mesh type—a system which has been talked of quite a lot in the last year or two. Instead of the teeth gliding in and out of engagement to offset changes, dog clutches were used. The result was a gearbox which was genuinely fool-proof and remarkably silent. while the teeth could not be damaged when changing gear. This gear box had also many of the elements of the latest " pre selector gear box " which has caused a motoring sensation within the last two years. The box was so arranged that the lever could be forced into any position in the gear quadrant, regardless of car speed. When the car speed and engine speed approached the correct ratio, the gears automatically engaged themselves under the action of the coil spring gears Aing this dog clutches.
This interesting 1905 Riley model was also exceptionally well sprung, and its success paved the way to still better things. The next step was to produce a 9 h.p. water-cooled twin engine, and by 1906 the little tricar was carrying full elliptic springs. This 9 h.p. Riley tricar was a very popular machine, and enjoyed quite a vogue. It was fast, tractable, comfortable, and of good appearance. In its day it left little to be desired in the cycle-car sphere. In competitions it frequently swept the board," its only serious competitors being the late Wilbur Gunn, in his 9 h.p. Legends, and the 9 h.p. Singer tri-car, which was fitted with the Riley engine. Meanwhile, it was found that by the abandonment of the cheaper machines, a number of old friends had been lost, and Mr. Stanley Riley, who had just served his apprenticeship with the Riley Cycle Company, was allowed to try his hand at the design of a smaller and cheaper tricar.
He produced a 5 h.p. model, selling at £85, and it proved a popular success. One of these cars is still in excellent running order, and frequently appears at carnivals and rallies. Eventually it was found that the single rear wheel was holding these little vehicles back. There were serious tyre troubles on the rear wheel, for tyres were not perfect in those days, even to the extent that they are to-day. In 1905, the original Riley 9 h.p. car was produced, selling at the remarkable figure of £ l68. It was much faster than anything else in its price class, and even exceeded the 9 h.p. Tricar in popularity. It was built upon a flat duplex tubular frame, with quarter elliptic springs all round. The same engine and gear box was used as in the Tricar, and final drive was by a central chain to a rear axle carrying a differential. It was a consistent winner in sports events—a fact which was not surprising, as it was actually the well-tried Tricar with a fourth wheel.
from The Bystander January 31st 1906
1903 Tricar handlebar steering, transitional seat between the earlier saddle and real chair seat
Coventry newspaper holds and sells this and other early images
Another bonkers image for 'advertising' from the Bystander in 1933