Tricars & Forecars,

By 1900, Riley sold a single three-wheeled automobile putting them at the dawn of UK producers.

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 s 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'.



1903 Riley Tricycle Original Factory Photograph This model had link belt drive, air cooled etc more detail below

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 .... "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.

Known Survivors:

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 ;    

4. 1904 Forecar 'D 1894 'at National Motorcycle Museum click here but dodgy website @ present  pic 1pic 2;     

5.  1904 Tricar/Fore Car reg. 'EZ 8402' in Australia lovely selection of photographs;  

6. BW 36 chassis 870 1904 Tricar in New Zealand  

7. 1904 Riley Tricar . reg. EI 21 from when sold by Hyam in St. Louis, USA,    

8. 1904 Riley Tricar  'DU 458' now at Coventry Museum;   

9. 1905 Tandem Tricar 6hp in Sussex (Register members car ) data unknown    

10.1905 Tricar LN 2637 and now  in the Luray Car and Carriage Museum in Virginia,  This was the uprated  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 .    

11.1907 Tricar 'BP 19'  driving at  Beamish Museum now at Whitewebbs museum ;    

12.  1907 Tricar 'LB 4612' in British Motor Museum Gaydon  museum......

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

1903-4 3hp Tricar / Fore-car:- The chassis  used was a trapezoid cycle frame with an A frame carrying the front axle, plus parallel tubes fixed in at the rear. Wheelbase  was 4ft 5 in, with tracking  at 3ft 3 using Dunlop spoked wire wheels so pretty nifty on turning. It used a foot applied hand brake to the front wheels and pedal for the rear block brake via a pulley with the 'option' to buy a hand brake extra. The engine was a 3hp (403.12cc) single cylinder, air cooled as in a motorbike with a single offset spark plug using the new Percy Riley designed engine as shown above. The 3hp was sold with a cane fore-carriage and rug or a coachbuilt fore-carriage  for an extra four guineas. It was advertised at sixty guineas with the 3.5 engine an extra four guineas plus five guineas extra for the two speed chain drive. To correlate that in 1905  Letchworth garden city model cottages were £150  when built so a considerable expense if all the extras were added. ( In early reports the cane/wicker bodies were extremely unpopular with female passengers as you either got wet, oily, or draughty all in the wrong areas).


1904  Tricar / Fore-car for this later model  they upped the engine capacity to 4½ litre (517 cc) and the price to eighty guineas plus the same extras but it was now a coachbuilt car with the rug and the flimsy cane was already discontinued.





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


1904-07 Tricar   for the 4 and 4½hp Tricar  the frame remained constant but the gearbox was upgraded to a Riley patent two speed constant mesh version  and now utilises a Riley leather faced cone clutch. Gearbox changes now became  easier using a sliding lever  with a chain drive from the transverse engine to the gearbox and second chain driving from the gearbox to the rear wheel. They were obviously getting more efficient with greater sales as the price then reduces to £73:10s (£73.50) for the 4hp and £89:5s (£89.25) for the 4½ hp model plus of course the extras like brakes that work.

1905-07 Tricar  for the 6 and 9hp Tricar  the frame is now remodeled to a 5 foot 7 in wheelbase and four foot tracking, tyre size increases and the flimsy brakes are overhauled. Brakes now become foot applied with a 7¼ inch band for the early version and 8 inch drum brakes to the front later. The car now has a hand operated rear hand brake although some had a hand ratchet version so will park on a hill without blocks. Gearing is upgraded to a three speed constant mesh with reverse ( no more pushing) and the engine becomes water cooled with a Zenith carburetor so even more recognisably a car. Prices however show all this development as the 6hp is now £126 and the 9hp £136.10s so the same as a small house



1907 Tricar  for this 5hp Tricar  it utilises the same chassis , brakes  etc as the above 6hp but has the two cylinder water cooled 5hp engine producing 517cc and selling at £85 as in the above advert. Access is now simpler via a tipping rear bucket seat and the car is sold with basic maintenance information for changing both valves and plugs'with ease' and comes painted in basic Riley red. The back wheel was also sold with simpler removal to enable the driver to adjust the rear of the engine so the start of them being sold to 'tinker at home'. Speeds mentioned are  18mph climbing Newnham Hill, Daventry (Avg Grade: 6.7 %; Max Grade: 13.9 %) and 12mph for Birdlip ( Avg Grade: 12 %) so faster than expected for that age.



1906-07  De Luxe Tricar  for this 6 and 9hp Tricar the frame expanded again to a redesigned tubuar frame with front and rear crossmembers and a wheelbase of 6ft 8 inches and four foot one inch tracking. Tyres now reflect this increase being removable 700 x 80mm grooved on the wire wheels. The car now has elliptical springs to the rear to cancel the 'twisting' in the rear wheel when used in races, poor roads etc and allows the body to be carried further back aiding stability ( think of a Reliant Robin cornering at speed = dodgy). The car came in 'Panhard Red' black wheels with vermillion coach lines and special paint jobs on request. The fuel tank is now four gallons and a larger sump of 1½ gallons gives the car an extended and more practical range plus a more normal modern gear box with three speeds and reverse. For maintenance this has a removable back seat with spring catches to allow all parts to be inspected and worked on. The cost is then £168 for the 9hp with the 'Riley Patent detachable wheels' at £2.10s extra ( standard from 1907 and in the price); Spare wheel and tyre at seven guineas (£7.35); Pair of headlights to allow night driving at nine guineas (£9.45) and electric rear lights at £2.5s (£2.25) so all the component parts are now there for a real car development rather than an upcycled motorbike.

Riley Robs page click here

BP 19 (now at Whitewebbs Museum)  which has a data file within the Riley archive showing the car development  and restoration  from wreck to car and components plus lengthy correspondence . (Apologies re  more intrusive rap logo, the originals are available within the archive but not to image selling companies as freebies to 'lift' and sell !) Image heavy hence further down the page

 
BP 19 in Wrecked format apologies but old very scratched images




Tricar chassis







Amazing detailed images of the rebuild of BP 19 done by Robert Barlow (1914-74) from 1949 onwards  with earlier pics by Max Hoather who was a mechanical engineer working on the development of braking systems and rode behing Mallard in July 1938. There is extensive technical correspondenace between the two about this car and the early tricars now within the archive
Below the car in its present ; location in Whitewebbs Museum,  Enfield Pictures done for the site from the museum



BP19 now at Whitewebbs Museum pics from Whitewebbs





1905 Tricar LN 2637 in Luray Virginia many thanks for the pics
1907 Riley 'Popular' 517cc  Forecar/ Tricar LB 4612 below  (now at Gaydon Heritage Museum)

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
https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/lifestyle/nostalgia/nostalgia-you-remember-long-gone-10026248



Another bonkers image for 'advertising' from the Bystander in 1933