1950 Riley 2-1/2 Litre Saloon

This 1950 Riley 2-1/2 litre saloon holds a special place in our family’s history with automobiles. Afterall, it offered my first car ride – as a newborn – way back in 1954 when it was already four years old.

Bought new by my father from a Connecticut dealer in 1950, the RMB, as the Brits termed the model variant, served as a daily driver including those nasty New England winters. As the story goes, the Riley was  purchased initially by an Englishman in love with car’s sporting pretensions and good looks though The Wife quickly voiced her disapproval over the rough ride and manual gearbox. So, after a few months of frustrated ownership, Mr. Englishman traded the ol gal for an MG TC, and bought a Chevy for the Mrs.; we wound up with essentially a brand spanking new Riley for a few hundred off sticker. It ushered in a life long love affair with the marque.

By 1956, the Riley was getting long in the tooth and short on practicality. Unable to obtain a decent trade-in value on a vehicle that was challenged at best for the U.S. market, my father stubbornly placed the Riley in storage as he simply loved the vehicle too much to see it wind up at the chipper. Stored at a nearby barn, the Riley was a favorite for us kids to pretend-drive and imagine life on the road in such a cool car. It even smelled good.

As I approached high school age I managed to convince Dad it would be okay to bring the stately sedan back from the dead as my own daily transport. What ensued was a year-plus of engine rebuilding and assorted fixes. By the summer of 1972 the Riley exited storage just in time to become my college commuter and several subsequent decades of “magnificent motoring,” as extolled by factory literature at the time.

Those unaware of these modest vehicles are in for surprise. With rack-and-pinion steering, a smooth and crisp syncro gearbox, and oddles of low end torque, Rileys are like nothing else. I dare say that a sedan is the best looking of the three available body styles of the era. Often referred to as the Poor Man’s Jag, Rileys nonetheless acquitted themselves admirably in fifties saloon racing and have garnered a loyal enthusiast following, the envy of more established marque club organizations.

Today, the Riley awaits yet another brake job and freshening up for summer driving and perhaps another appearance at Hershey!

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