Current family ownership since 1962,1903 Riley 3½hp Forecar  Engine no. 11
Lot 203
1903 Riley 3½hp Forecar
Registration no. H 3714
Sold for £35,650 (US$ 59,921) inc. premium
Lot Details
Current family ownership since 1962
1903 Riley 3½hp Forecar
Registration no. H 3714
Engine no. 11


  • Already established in the cloth weaving industry, the Riley family diversified into bicycle manufacture towards the end of the 19th Century, forming the Riley Cycle Company Limited in May 1896 with premises in King Street, Coventry. Only two years later, one of William Riley's five sons, Percy, built his first motor car, which was powered by an engine of his own design and manufacture. Riley's engine was of immense historical significance, for it was the first to have a mechanically operated inlet valve, foiling Benz's later attempt to patent the device. Percy Riley's prototype remained a one-off, and the company's first publicly exhibited motor vehicle was a quadricycle with forecar bodywork, which appeared in 1899 at the National Cycle Show at Crystal Palace. Motorcycles and tricycles followed, early examples of which used proprietary engines and later ones Riley's own.

    Qualifying for both the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run and the Pioneer Run for Veteran Motorcycles, this early Riley forecar has been in the present family ownership since 1962, being restored that same year. It had been liberated from the loft above a shop being demolished in Wood Green in 1958 and was purchased from the local gas meter reader. 'H 3714' took part in at least eight London-Brighton Runs and one Pioneer Run during the 1960s/70s, as well as other local VCC events. To cope with increasing demands of modern traffic, a two-speed 'free engine' gear was fitted in the 1980s.

    While none of the aforementioned events has been that recent, the Riley has in the last month been subject to reconditioning by NP Veteran Engineering Ltd of Marle Green, East Sussex to bring it to good running order (see bill for £6,100 on file). Works undertaken include honing the cylinder bore and re-ringing the piston; and re-plating all nickel brightwork. The Riley has been running successfully as recently as the last week of September. Accompanying spares/parts include a crankcase, Longuemare carburettor, a saddle, and there is a boxed set of oil lamps with the car. Finished in maroon with green Connolly leather upholstery, this early representative of one of Britain's foremost sporting marques is offered with Sunbeam MCC Pioneer certificate, old-style logbook, sundry restoration invoices, current road fund licence and Swansea V5 document.

Saleroom notices

  • This vehicle has a VCC dating certificate, numbered 1000. We are pleased to advise that the vendor has received the V5C from the DVLA and the vehicle is taxed until March 2014.
  1. Sholto Gilbertson
    Specialist - Motor Cars
    101 New Bond Street
    London, W1S 1SR
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7468 5809
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 5802