The life of a Riley


Shiny cars are boring.

It’s a bit of a sweeping statement I know, but once you’ve seen one restored-to-perfection vintage car, you’ve seen ’em all. So often, in the money-no-object quest for the ultimate example of a marque, so much of a car’s identity and history is lost forever. In the age-old debate of restoration versus preservation, I’m firmly in the latter camp.

I like to see a car that has obviously lived a full and interesting life; that wears its battle scars with pride and isn’t afraid of a bit of crustiness, a few scratches and dings or scuffs to its leather.

Take this for example: sat out in the relentless drizzle at Bicester Heritage this weekend, under some rudimentary weatherproofing, I spotted this gorgeous if ever-so-slightly sorry-looking Riley.

I’m far from an expert on these things, but a quick Google suggests it’s probably a Riley RME 1.5 litre, dating from 1954.

I’ve got a bit of a thing for these old Rileys. An RM is definitely on my Bucket List Of Cars To Own Before I Die.

And should the opportunity arise and I get the chance to pick one up, I’d like it to look just like this one. Including – in fact, especially – the faded and peeling paintwork. Although maybe with a better hood.

There’s such a wonderful faded glamour to these old fifties British saloons when they’ve slightly gone to seed.

I can just see myself wafting around in this, all tweeded up like the lord of the manor.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t have a good nose at the car’s interior as everywhere was closed, but judging by the additional driving lights, it looks as though it’s been used quite a bit in the past. By someone that was obviously a bit of an enthusiast.

Happily, the very fact that it’s here at Bicester Heritage, rather than languishing in some draughty old lock-up, suggests that someone still loves it and it’s about to get all the TLC it needs.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for OXP935 at next year’s shows, when I hope to see it back to something like its former glory.

Fingers crossed it will still have that amazing patina too.

If you know anything about the car, please get in touch. I’d love to hear its story.