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Riley RM Series

Published: 14th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Riley RM Series

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 1496cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 54/4500 bhp/rpm
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 76/2500 lb ft@rpm
  • Top speed: 70mph
  • 0-60mph: 25sec
  • Fuel consumption: 27-30mpg
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Length: 14ft 11in (4.55m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 3.5in (1.61m)
  • Weight: 1867lb (1303kg)
  • Books: The Legendary RMs by John Price-Williams. Osprey, ISBN 1-86126-761-4
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: Riley RM Club. 01352 700 427,; Riley Motor Club. 01384 273 878,
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Riley may have gone bust in 1938, but that didn’t stop the company’s cars from being ultra-desirable after the War. Lord Nuffi eld bought the bankrupt outfi t in 1939, adding it to his Morris, MG and Wolseley empire. The 1 1/2-Litre and 2 1/2-Litre saloons were among the fi rst new British cars of the post-war era, and were always seen as some of the most beautifully built and engineered cars of the time. With the engine set well back in the chassis, the ride and handling are streets ahead of most of the Riley’s contemporaries – but the good news is the RM’s affordability. Even the best saloons are under £10,000, so buy yours now!

What to look for?

As usual it’s the bodywork that provides the greatest scope for bankruptcy, thanks to an ash frame and steel panels, both of which can rot. At least the chassis is tough, but the wood can dissolve alarmingly, especially the beam that runs behind the running boards. The roof can also give problems, as it’s a leathercloth affair that’s tacked onto a timber frame which gives it support. The roof’s stitching rots, letting water in and leading to rotten wood. Mechanicals can also give problems; engines typically last 100,000 miles but over-revving can cut bearing life dramatically. Expect 50psi at a steady 40mph; worn bearings will create a knocking (rather than rumbling) under acceleration. Overheating can be an issue, but renewing the anti-freeze and back-fl ushing usually sorts it; Roadsters are especially prone as the radiator sits lower. Steering racks can wear, but rebuilding them is no problem. It’s the same with the rear suspension, which suffers from sagging leaf springs. Poorly rebuilt hydro-mechanical brakes can be an issue; the car will never stop happily if the linkages are incorrectly set up. Interior trim is hardwearing, but check there are no splits and all the fi ttings are there. Also check the exterior brightwork is all present and correct; if you need any parts, anything can be found through the RM Club.


These cars can be put into three groups: the RMA/RME, RMB/RMF and the RMC/RMD. Cheapest cars are the RMA and RME; condition 3 examples start at £2000 while a condition 2 car is double this. A really nice car is £7500. Equivalent values for the RMB and RMF are £2500, £5000 and £9000, while all these values can be doubled for the RMC and RMD.

Driving one

The RM feels old before you even start it up, thanks to the rear-hinged front doors and the split windscreen; the view through the ‘screen does nothing to remove that vintage feel. Press the starter button and the 1496cc engine fi res up quietly and smoothly. On the move there’s not notmuch power, but the car will sit happily at 60mph – as long as you’re not going uphill and the originalsize tyres are fi tted. That’s where the 2 1/2-Litre scores; it’s much torquier and you don’t fi nd yourself changing gear nearly as frequently. Both cars have very heavy steering, but the ride is fabulous, thanks to the soft springing – the brakes are pretty good too, although the fully hydraulic set-up fi tted to postsummer 1952 cars is noticeably better than the earlier system.


Aug 1945

Riley 1 1/2-Litre is fi rst shown, retrospectively known as the RMA

Nov 1946

The 2 1/2-Litre car is announced; this became known as the RMB.

Mar 1948

At the Geneva motor show the 2 1/2-Litre Roadster is unveiled. Production begins in October with UK sales starting a year later.

May 1948

The power of the 2 1/2-litre engine increases from 90bhp to 100bhp.

Sep 1948

The 2 1/2-Litre Drophead Coupé is announced, but it’s not available until the following year

Jan 1951

Drophead Coupé and Roadster production ceases.

Feb 1952

RMB engine gets shell-type bearings in place of the previous white metal items.

Jul 1952

The 1 1/2-Litre becomes the RME, with hypoid rear axle, all-hydraulic brakes and the same body as before. The 2 1/2-Litre becomes the RMF, with the same mechanical changes as the RME, but the same bodywork as previously.

Oct 1952

The RMF gets the new bodyshell, with larger rear window.

Sep 1953

The RME gets a revised bodyshell, with no running boards, rear wheel spats, integral fog lamps and a crease in the front wings. At the same time, the RMF is replaced by the Pathfi nder.

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