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The Life of Riley - an abridged history

Riley was a British motorcar and bicycle manufacturer and started as the Bonnick Cycle Company of Coventry, England in 1890. They started making pedal cycles in answer to public demand for the craze that had swept the UK.


Riley_car_with_chauffeur,_c1910 – GNU Licence via Wikipedia – London School of Economics. All rights reserved.

William Riley Jr. who owner in the textile business purchased and incorporated the company in 1896. It became The Riley Cycle Company Limited. Later his sons formed a separate business called Riley Engine Company.

They supplied engines for Riley motorcycles and then began to focus on four-wheeled automobiles. In 1907 they stopped motorcycle production to focus on automobiles.

Riley Cycle Company changed its name in 1912 to Riley (Coventry) Limited and William Riley focused on supplying the detachable wire-spoke wheel to the motor industry. His son Percy Riley had invented and patented the detachable wheel.

William Riley Jr. sons Percy, Victor, Stanley, and Allan focused on manufacturing entire automobiles.

The blue diamond badge, designed by Harry Rush, first appeared in 1918.

Riley grew rapidly through the 1920s and 1930s. The Riley Engine Company produced 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder engines. 1926 saw Percy Riley’s ground-breaking Riley 9 engine.

Riley took Motorsport by storm, At Le Mans in 1934, Rileys finished 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 12th. They won the Rudge-Whitworth Cup, the Team Prize, two class awards, as well as the Ladies’ Prize.

Riley’s also did well at the Ulster TT, at Brooklands, and at smaller event hill climbs. The car provided a platform for the success of motorsports’ first women racing drivers such as Kay Petre, Dorothy Champney and Joan Richmond.

Riley became a part of the Nuffield Organisation in 1939 and merged with British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968.  Sadly in July 1969 British Leyland announced the immediate end of Riley Production.  Today, the Riley Trademark is owned by BMW.

You can read more about Riley here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riley_Motor