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Riley 1.5 & Wolseley 1500 (1957-1964)

Published: 20th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Riley 1.5 & Wolseley 1500 (1957-1964)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 1489cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 50/4200
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 74/3000
  • Top speed: 79mph
  • 0-60mph: 24.4sec
  • Fuel consumption: 34mpg
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Length: 12ft 8in (3.85m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 1in (1.55m)
  • Weight: 2016lb (915kg)
  • Books: Factory workshop manual, reprinted by Mercian. ISBN 000-X-1676-0215-1
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: The Wolseley Register; Riley Motor Club. 01384 273878,

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Originally intended to replace the Morris Minor, the Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500 were supposed to have been launched with a smaller engine, as the Morris 1200. After all, with the Minor already nine years old by the time the Wolseley and Riley arrived in 1957, you’d think it would have been ready for retirement. But instead the decision was made to introduce a model above the Minor – which is where the 1500 and 1.5 came in. Until the arrival of this pair, mass-market 1.5-litre cars were big six-seaters with a focus on luxury rather than performance. The 1500 and 1.5 changed that, with a focus on compact dimensions and greater performance; the compact sporting saloon was born. Priced at £796 when it was launched, the Wolseley 1500 was cheaper than the Riley 1.5, which cost an extra £68. Thanks to its lower price, 103,394 Wolseley 1500s were built by the time production stopped in 1964, whereas just 39,568 Riley 1.5s were made. Both these cars still make sense, as they’re comfortable and cruise well, although they don’t accelerate very swiftly. They’re also not that spacious inside and require a fair bit of maintenance. The Wolseley is also rarer than you might think, and the Riley even less common, so don’t reckon on dropping onto a good example in a hurry. But spend some time fi nding the right car and you’re bound to agree that it’s worth the effort.

What to look for?

Corrosion is normal, so check all areas including the fl oorpans, sills and wings. The nose panel and front wings are bolted on, which makes repairs easier – but fi nding replacement panels is very tricky. The 1489cc B-Series engine is tough and easy to rebuild, with parts supply good, as the MGA uses the same unit – which means it can also be tuned. One of the weak spots is the four-speed manual gearbox, with synchromesh on second usually being the fi rst casualty; a rebuilt box is £500 or a decent used unit is £150. The front suspension shares its design – and hence its weaknesses – with the Minor. That means you need to look out for evidence of the front swivels having been lubricated recently; failure to do so means rapid wear is guaranteed, with the front wheels potentially collapsing. Make sure all the brightwork is in place, because there’s a surprisingly large amount and it’s generally made of mazak, so it doesn’t age well. Also make sure the interior is in good condition; reviving the leather and wood is costly, and unless you fi nd a decent interior from the same model and mark it won’t be interchangeable. The electrical system is simple and reliable, with everything durable, available and cheap. The SU electric fuel pump sometimes plays up as its contacts can prove temperamental; giving it a tap if it fails to work will usually solve the problem. If the wiring has gone brittle, a fresh loom is available through Autosparks.


Parts cars are still given away occasionally, although more optimistic sellers can ask up to £400 for a complete shed. Nice cars start at £1500 and go up to £2500 while really good examples fetch up to £5000 – and in exceptional cases, even more. All these prices are for the Wolseley 1500; add another fi ve per cent for an equivalent Riley.

Driving one

The Riley has a useful performance advantage over the Wolseley, but neither car accelerates swiftly. They both cruise quite happily however, and the ride is great thanks to the soft suspension and cossetting seats. The brakes are up to the job, but with no servo assistance they’re not especially sharp; it’s worth fi tting a brake booster to make driving more relaxed in modern condition. You defi nitely need to mentally change down a gear when driving these cars anyway…


May 1957

The Wolseley 1500 goes on sale.

Nov 1957

The Riley 1.5 appears at the Scottish motor show.

Jan 1959

The 1500 Fleet is introduced, with Vynide upholstery, simpler trim and monotone paintwork. The standard car is now known as the Family model.

May 1960

The MkII edition of each car appears, with hidden boot and bonnet hinges and a full-width parcel shelf under the dash.

Oct 1961

The 1500 and 1.5 MkIII arrive, with a more prominent grille, lower suspension and fresh tail light clusters.

Jan 1963

The compression ratio is raised on the 1500, to 8.3:1

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