1938 Riley Big Four Redfern Tourer Coachwork by Maltby Registration no. EKT 335 Chassis no. 38BX 1224
Despite producing some fine small saloons and sporting cars, and carving out an enviable competition record for itself during the early 1930s, Riley had lost its battle to remain independent by the decade's end and was part of the Nuffield Organisation. One of the last models introduced by the 'old firm' was the 16hp 'Big Four', which used a new and extensively redesigned 2½-litre version of the four-cylinder, twin-cam Riley engine that had first seen the light of day in 1927. The gearbox was an ingenious three-speed unit with overdrive available on 2nd and 3rd gears, giving five ratios in total, the overdrive being engaged automatically by lifting off the throttle at any speed over 40mph. When tested by The Motor in January 1938 a Big Four Adelphi saloon achieved a top speed of around 85mph.
Manufactured in 1938, this Riley Big Four carries 'Redfern' four-door tourer coachwork by Maltby, a company founded during the Edwardian era in Sandgate, Kent. In 1926 company founder John Maltby sold out to a Mr Redfern, chairman of whisky distillers, Johnnie Walker, whose sons took over the running of the coachworks. The revitalised Maltby acquired a number of agencies and provided catalogued designs for several manufacturers, which included its 'Redfern' brand dropheads. Maltby is noteworthy as the first British coachbuilder to automate the folding/unfolding of the convertible hood, initially (in 1935) using the 'Jackall' system's hydraulic pump and subsequently by means of an electric motor.
'38BX 1224' is the only known example of a Big Four chassis bodied when new by an independent coachbuilder, and is featured in the Riley Register Series Vol. 2 section dealing with the 16/4 models (pages 88 and 89). In the last year the car has undergone extensive yet sympathetic restoration to its current beautiful condition after being in storage for many decades (see photographic record on file). The engine has been completely rebuilt and as a result behaves beautifully, starting easily and pulling strongly with excellent oil pressure.
Maltby's unique coachwork takes the form of an open, all-weather body with wind-up windows, the projecting boot being an unusual variation of this particular style. The doors hinge back from a central pillar in a manner similar to several bodies built on Rolls-Royce 20/25 chassis by neighbouring coachbuilders Martin Walter; clearly some cross pollination was going on between the two companies in the 1930s. The doors can be folded back 180 degrees allowing for effortless ingress and egress. A new hood has been fitted and the hydraulic opening/closing mechanism is said to perform flawlessly, operated by a switch on the dashboard. The hood is of high quality black double duck, the interior of the car has been completely re-trimmed with Burgundy leather to the seats and door cards, and matching carpets, while the woodwork has been refurbished also. Seating to both the front and rear is spacious. The bodywork is painted in a pleasing combination of maroon over black, augmented by a chromed band along the bonnet and a blue flash plaque.
We are advised that the car behaves impeccably on the road, with ample power and a supple ride. It is said to be effortless to drive, wafting one down the road and not lacking in power to run with modern traffic. A comfortable four-seat convertible that makes a great alternative to a Derby Bentley, this unusual Riley soft-top is offered with a large history file containing an old-style buff logbook, expired MoTs, sundry bills, owner's handbook, period advertising material and Swansea V5C registration document.