Although the first Riley was a neat four-wheeled voiturette with a single cylinder engine, production vehicles were initially motor tricycles, tricars were made until 1907. Four-wheelers followed, powered by 1,034cc vee-twin engines. This capacity was increased to 2 litres from 1908. Although these were still in production by the outbreak of World War One, a 2.9-litre four was now also available. Post WWI Rileys initially used a sv 1.5 litre engine, the Redwing sports version of 1923 being a particularly handsome variant.
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However, the really sensational model of the 1920s was Percy Riley's Nine of 1927, particularly the fabric-bodied, high-waited Monaco saloon, complete with boot (an unusual feature for the date). The engine was outstanding, an 1,100cc four-cylinder with twin camshafts set high in the block, actuating inclined valves by push-rods in a hemispherical head. This proved a highly tunable layout, without the complexity of overhead camshafts, and remained a feature of Riley engine design up until 1957. In 1928 a touring version of the Nine appeared, and also the low and lively Brooklands model, inspired by J. G. Parry Thomas.
A six cylinder variant of the Nine theme was inevitable and the 1.6 litre Fourteen, came in 1929. The 1930s saw many variants on the four and six cylinder engines, the distinctive fastback Kestrel and more conventional Falcon appearing in 1933. Not surprisingly, the Riley engine layout lent itself admirably to competition activities. One instance was successive wins in the BRDC 500 Mile race at Brooklands in 1934-35-36. Sporting models were the 9hp Imp, the six cylinder MPH and, later, the 1.5 litre 12/4 four-cylinder engine appeared in 1934 and was produced alongside the faithful Nine. Two years later a 2.5 litre long stroke four was marketed.
Financial storm clouds were gathering, however, and William Morris took over the company in 1938. The new broom saw that only the 1.5 and 2.5 litre cars remained in production, these engines also powering the post-war cars. The 2.5 litre Pathfinder of 1954 retained the classic Riley engine, though this ceased in 1957.
Remaining models were merely badge engineered BMC variants, mainly on the Mini and 1100 theme.