1948 Riley RMA

1948 Riley RMA

Jon tests Britain’s first post-war sports saloon, wondering if [blue] diamonds are indeed forever.


SENT TOCOVENTRY

It’s hard to imagine the clamour for new cars that must have abounded in 1945 – and the Riley RMA was one of the first British marques out of the block with a post-war model. Where other manufacturers were half-heartedly warming over their 1938 and 1939 lines, the RMA was Riley’s proud new flagship.


1948 Riley RMA

Some 75 years later, the significance of the RMA hasn’t been lost on its previous owners, several of whom toiled to bring it back to life. Even when considered against one-off coachbuilt specials and ‘woody’ station wagons, the Classic and Sports Car Centre’s RMA is a rare saloon: it was one of 279 external bonnet lock examples built, and one of the last to leave the Foleshill, Coventry works before Riley moved to MG’s factory in Abingdon, where blue diamond production was consolidated from 1949.


1948 Riley RMA

A major restoration took place between 2003 and 2005 under the watch of marque specialist, Rob Cobden; subsequent owners rebuilt the carburettor, rechromed the rear bumper and fitted a new starter motor between 2007 and 2008. More recently, C&SCC’s workshop, Malton Coachworks, recovered the roof, repaired some woodwork, and fitted new guttering.

That effort is obvious when viewing the RMA up close: the only things going against it are a tarnished grille surround, a discoloured pin on the passenger’s side front door hinge and a rusty spotlight bracket. The Austone tyres (date coded to 2003) could do with replacing, too, especially if a new owner was to drive some distance.

The cabin is similarly inviting – the front doors, of the ‘suicide’/ coach type, fit well, though the driver’s door has scuffed the lower aperture and needs adjusting. Inside, you’re surrounded by immaculate wood across the door cappings and dashboard; a replacement early-type Jaeger speedo was fitted in 2019, and the screw to open each side’s bonnet look can be found under the oddment shelf.

Incredibly, the seats and trim are the originals, as are the car’s West of England tweed inserts, though the red fitted carpet looks more recent. All equipment – including the interior light and rear window blind – work as Riley intended, though the driver’s side wiper won’t park without some well-timed persuasion.


ON THE ROAD

A weight of 1233kg (24.2cwt) and 55bhp were never going to set the world alight, but this RMA acquits itself well, with a willing (if slow) engine happily settling into a 55mph cruise. It’s a well-adjusted engine, its single SU H2 carburettor responding well off-choke with no flat spots or surging.

Thanks to a 2019 suspension rebuild by Leslie Girvan Restorations (which included new dampers, a polyurethane bush kit and chassis mount bolts), the RMA’s steering is lively and responsive, with no jolts or dead spots in between lock. Roundabouts are daunting affairs for some post-war cars, but retrofitted indicators (the trafficators are still there, merely resting) and skinny tyres help make the most of the hardware.

Slow but deliberate, the four-speed manual gearbox appreciates double-declutching when slowing, but rewards with a surprisingly precise and tight action. Ditto the hydro-mechanical Girling drum brakes: refurbished in 2007, they need plenty of pedal effort, but, once familiar to the driver, they pull the car up square.


CCB VERDICT

It takes a determined enthusiast to keep a Riley on the road – but the love and time lavished on this particular RMA by its previous owners is more than evident. Priced highly, it wants for little: fit newer tyres, adjust the door, and keep on top of the brightwork, and this RMA is good for another 75 years.


HISTORY

Had the war never happened, Riley’s RM-series would have been on the roads in the early ’40s; alas, buyers had to wait until the cessation of hostilities. Suf ixed ‘A’ to ‘F’, Coventry’s versatile chassis encompassed 1.5- and 2.5-litre ‘little four’ and ‘big four’ ive-seat saloons, known as the ‘A’ and ‘B’ respectively. RMs ‘C’ and ‘D’ were roadster and drophead models produced in limited quantities, with the ‘E’ and ‘F’ continuing from1952 as the newly revised 1.5- and 2.5-litremodels (effectively an updated ‘A’ and ‘B’). The RMrange, now long-in-the-tooth, was replaced by the 1953 Path inder (RMH). This was a Gerald Palmer designed, Riley ‘big four’ enginedmonocoque saloon, and the last Riley to have an identity beyond badge engineering.


TECHNICAL DATA 1948 Riley RMA

  • ENGINE: 1496cc, 4-cyl
  • MAX POWER: 55bhp
  • TOP SPEED: 81mph
  • ACCELERATION 0-60MPH: 31.2 secs
  • ECONOMY: 21-25mpg
  • GEARBOX: 4-spd,man
  • ASKING PRICE: £SOLD
  • CONTACT Classic and Sports Car Centre, Corner Farm,West Knapton, Malton, North Yorkshire, YO17 8J 01944 758000 classicandsportscar.ltd.uk
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