1,726cc, OHV Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
2 SU Carburetors, 70bhp at 4,800rpm
4-Speed Pre-select Transmission
Semi-Elliptic Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*The ultimate Riley, one of only 16 examples and last built
*Original Swiss delivered and period competition history
*Previously owned for nearly 50 years by Bob Lutz, never publicly offered
*Professionally technically sorted and regularly toured
*Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance award winner
THE RILEY MPH
Riley was a company that had the rightful claim to being 'As Old As The Industry, As Modern As The Hour', its origins could be traced to 1896 and for a little more than 40 years, before they were acquired by the Nuffield Organization, they produced automobiles that were always innovative, unquestionably well thought out and invariably sporting.
As the company entered the 1930s, it didn't matter which model of Riley one bought, each had its own identity, with an imaginative product name, sedans were not just sedans, they were a Merlin or Falcon, or conjured an exciting location such as Biarritz or Monaco, and for those that wished to combine aerodynamics and sportsmanship, there was the rakish Kestrel with its swept back tail. While open touring cars had names like Alpine or Gamecock. Perhaps it was symptomatic of the era, but somehow the level of design in even the closed cars was extremely novel and wherever possible the diamond of the Riley emblem was echoed in each car's trim.
In that, the much hallowed MPH epitomizes all that the company stood for. Introduced in 1935, just 16 of these remarkable cars were built and they represented the ultimate evolution of the competition Riley.
Their bloodline could be traced back to the introduction of the company's twin cam 9hp models which were first offered in 1926. A compact four cylinder of 1087cc, its capacity belied its ultimate performance, and the potential that they could generate. It was a huge success for Riley, a model which would remain in production for the next 10 years, during which time some 10,000 cars were sold.
The 9hp was also found to be eminently tunable and in the truest British tradition there were always buyers for a stripped down racing cars. At Britain's main racing circuit, Brooklands, just southwest of London, numerous sportsmen pedaled stock and modified versions and particularly in the UK and Europe many still do.
Noted racers J.G. Parry and Reid Railton pioneered this with a racing special which they named after their home turf as the Brooklands model. These were distinctive for their shorter chassis, which tapered at the rear, and the whole orientation of the car was lowered with a shorter radiator, two bucket seats dropped neatly inside the frame and just half a foot from the ground. With the engine reworked to put out 50hp at 5,000rpm thanks to special cams and high compression pistons, the whole package was enveloped in a wind cheating torpedo body complete with under trays. At the 1927 Brooklands Automobile Racing Club Race the prototype Brooklands Riley won by a mile, taking the post with an average speed of more than 91mph.
From that moment and to this day, Rileys have been associated with competition, numerous '9's being customized into the fastest, lightest and frequently best looking specials of their generation. From 1928 Riley offered a more luxurious six cylinder car, the 14/6, which effectively consisted of a 9hp four, with the addition of two more cylinders. These would also spawn competition versions. Although a six cylinder version of the Brooklands was proposed it appears to have been dropped before it was actually put into production. Instead a handful of TT (Tourist Trophy) Sixes were built for competition each respectively holding incredible racing careers, and ultimately setting the stage for Raymond Mays to create his famed English Racing Automobiles, or ERAs.
The catalogued production sports models for the mid-1930s were a 9hp Imp, a TT Sprite and the MPH. All were among the best looking sports cars of their day, holding their own against the very best that Italian and French coachbuilders were offering. The 16 MPH cars built were invariably purchased by privateer racers.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Of this modest production run, this car is frequently acknowledged as the most well known and also best example to survive. Often referred to simply as the 'Swiss MPH' it was originally supplied new to Jakob Waeny, of J & E Waeny of the Grand Garage in Wabern, Berne, who were the Riley importers for the Western region of Switzerland.
It is understood that Riley company records state that the car was prepared for competition use from new having standard pre-selector transmission fitted as well as being fitted with a silencer cut out, and central lubrication, although from its known history, there is little evidence that the latter two aspects were actually supplied. Tailored for this market its odometer was to be in kilometers and gas gauge in liters and as delivered it sported red paintwork.
Endorsing its build requirements, Jakob Waeny is known to have raced the car early on. In particular a photo exists of him competing in the Preis von Bremgarten, close to the business in Berne, in 1936, where it is known that he finished in second place to de Graffenreid's 6C 1500 Alfa Romeo.
Waeny kept the car until his death in the late 1940s at which point his MPH rested at their garage for a number of years unused, and it was there that it was first espied by a young Bob Lutz. Already hooked on cars, he was fascinated by the car and would occasionally visit it, hoping that one day it might be his. When Waeny's widow decided to part with the car it passed first to a local young architect by the name of Hans Peter Maerkli. Apparently Maerkli did not appreciate the car much to Mr. Lutz's frustration. By now in the U.S. and beginning his career in the motor industry at General Motors, he nevertheless kept in touch with the car and when Maerkli decided to relinquish her in 1963, Bob quickly snapped it up and had it shipped to America.
Already by this stage in its life the Riley was fitted with a slightly later 15/6 engine to the Rose design, which was known to be more reliable than the early MPH unit. It has sometimes been considered that this might have been its original motor as it was thought that Waeny would have had the opportunity to have ordered this way, but more recent research suggests that it was probably a very early upgrade by Waeny, who clearly would have had access to the new Rose engine once it was offered.
When Lutz returned to Europe the Riley came back with him. During his spell at BMW in Munich, he sent the MPH to noted British Restorers Tula Engineering for the car's first and only major restoration. Maerkli's attempts at a repaint were now corrected with a thorough cosmetic refurbishment in a traditional livery of British Racing Green. As completed the car was featured on the cover of The Motor magazine on February 24, 1973.
Throughout Bob Lutz's prominent career in the motor industry the Riley remained with him, although its use was relatively limited. By 2012, its post restoration mileage amounted to no more than 4,000 kilometers, since as acquired its odometer had read approximately 71,000kms, amazingly all told by then it may well only have covered a little under 75,000kms in its lifetime.
In the last few years of his ownership, Mr. van Huystee developed a friendly relationship with Mr. Lutz, the two gentlemen sharing passions for fine automobiles and also cigars. As a result of this that same year a deal was struck for the car to transition from its near 50 year custodianship with Bob Lutz.
In keeping with Mr. van Huystee's interest in using his cars, the Riley was at once committed to a thorough mechanical servicing, with work carried out by David George of DL George Coachworks and Steve Babinsky's Automotive Restorations. After completion, he began using the MPH with much greater regularity at events ranging from hill climbs to road tours. Most notably this included completion of the 1,500 mile Pebble Beach Motoring Classic tour in 2014 and subsequent display at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance that year, where it received a Class Award.
Since its mileage and use had been so modest for such a long time, its condition had not deteriorated in Lutz's ownership and it's freshening since has ensured that it remains very tidy. Its lightly aged/patinated condition merely compliments the sporting nature of the car. A further 4,000-5,000kms have been accrued in Mr. van Huystee's custody.
This definitive Riley, with its extremely well known and interesting provenance is offered for sale publicly for the first time in its 80 year existence and may represent a generational buy.