How does one describe the Riley 9? In it’s day, the Riley works described it as ‘The Wonder Car’, and on the 16th of October 1931, Autocar stated, “First of the superlative type of 9hp car, firmly established, regularly improved and as yet scarcely challenged in its class, the Riley Nine has a very definite appeal to those who can appreciate performance, safety, comfort and an appearance out of the ruck.”
There can be little doubt that the engine – introduced in 1926- Percy Riley’s 9hp, 1,087cc twin-camshaft ‘four’ was an outstanding design by any standards. Indeed, this engine went on to power various versions of Rileys until 1957. When clothed in stylish bodywork by Stanley Riley, the works pre-war offerings were among the world’s finest small-capacity sporting cars in the world. Right from the start, it was obvious that the 9hp Riley engine possessed enormous potential as a competition unit. At Brooklands, J G Parry-Thomas and Reid Railton were the first to demonstrate just how good it was. The success of their racer led to a production version, the Speed Model, which soon became known as the Brooklands Nine.
At the other end of the scale was the military four-seat tourer, known as the ‘WD’ (War Department) Nine, which featured a functional canvas hood with roll-up rear window and was painted in ‘War Office Green’. Its specification also included larger 21” wheels, a 6.75:1 rear axle, and a stronger chassis with increased ground clearance, making it ideal for use in Britain’s colonial territories. Indeed, the ‘WD’ model was exported to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – these models exported as a rolling chassis with bodies being fitted locally to save on import taxes. Another unique feature was the beautifully crafted tool rack stored in a fold-a-way panel within the driver’s door pocket.
The early history of HX 6507 is as yet unknown, but from 1957-1967, the WD was owned by Riley Register co-founder Steve Smyth before being purchased in June 1976 by a Mr Maurice Griffiths. The car required restoration, which was subsequently undertaken by Ron Laws of Nottingham in 1993, including an interior re-trim by David Beswick of Derby. During the restoration, the original 21” wheels were replaced with the more standard 19” wheels from the 9. In addition, the rear axle was replaced with a standard 9 diff. Used regularly until laid up 1995, ‘HX 6507’ was re-commissioned in 2014, including a re-spray, new hood and interior trim.
Purchased from the Bonham’s Beaulieu sale in September 2015, HX joined the Blue Diamond stable and was immediately given a full inspection and overhaul. Once the minor remedial work caused by a long layup has been attended to, HX will be returned to the road for use at events nationally. Myself and the team at Blue Diamond Riley Services Limited will be investigating the car’s early history and trying to replicate some of the unique WD features that HX would have originally left with from the factory.