Our Monte Carlo Car – The Riley 9 War Department Tourer

On the 16th of October 1931, Autocar described the Riley 9 as follows; ‘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. Arguably the most famous of all the 9’s was 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 were 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 utilising a 5.25 ratio. 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. After an initial check over the car’s first outing was a trip to the VSCC Goodwood Sprint in October, despite a relatively trouble free journey to Goodwood the return journey ended in a long wait for a recovery truck after the car boiled some 30 miles from BD’s workshop.

During the subsequent strip down and analysis the cylinder head was found to be cracked and after additional tests the crank was also found to be cracked. At this stage the workshop team decided to complete a full engine re-build on the WD to give it the best possible chance of completing the Monte. The rear diff was also changed from the 5.25 to a 5.1, thus giving more relaxed cruising on the motorway.

HX’s brakes have been given a complete overhaul and the linings renewed to ensure that the required stopping power is available for the mountain passes that surround the approach to Monte Carlo.

From a wiring perspective the car has been completely re-wired, additional lighting has also been purchased and will be fitted to ensure that we could actually see where we were intending to go!

So all that remains for the team is to complete the engine re-build, re-fit the engine to the car and then carry out the relevant testing – with only 8 weeks to the start the pressure is starting to mount. #MonteBD