Lot Number

1951 Riley RMD 2½-Liter Drophead Coupe

Sold For $88,000

Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.

RM | Sotheby's - AMELIA ISLAND 9 MARCH 2013

Chassis No.
  • Rare British classic, beautifully restored
  • Approximately 50 surviving examples
  • Only 50,000 original miles

In 1938, Riley became part of the Morris-MG-Wolseley Nuffield Organization. However, the RM, announced in 1945, preserved Riley character with a technically-advanced chassis and with coachbuilt body choices of definite sporting flair. Carried over was Riley's own engine, featuring hemispherical combustion chambers and twin camshafts operating inclined valves through short pushrods. Riley RM-series cars, often called “the last of the real Riley's,” were among the first new British designs after WWII.

We understand that this 1951 Riley was originally delivered in New York to an expatriate from a British fox-hunting family. He added a running fox hood ornament and a traditional “owner’s box” with an engraved silver plaque. Still found with the car today are the original owner’s manual and the original workshop manual. This car also retains its original seven-inch Lucas driving lights, officially referred to as “King of the Road” lamps.

With a beautiful exterior in British Racing Green, the car has new cognac leather upholstery, closely matching the original hide. The mahogany trim has been restored by Madera, and the instruments were rebuilt by Nisonger. The new Haartz fabric top has a full inner liner and a matching boot. Aiding in the comfort of the passengers are floor level fresh-air ventilators found on either side of the coachwork.

This 2½-liter RMD has undergone an extensive body-off restoration in the last two years. The suspension has been rebuilt, as have the four-wheel disc brakes, which were an earlier conversion. The body’s ash-framing was found to be sound, allowing attention to be concentrated on achieving first class fit and finish. The chrome trim has been re-plated and remains in excellent condition. Additionally, it has a new wiring harness and loom.

Of the 28,306 RM-series cars produced, only 503 were drophead coupes. One recent estimate puts the number surviving at 50. This Riley, with left-hand drive and 50,000 original miles, presents an opportunity to acquire a rare and immaculate British classic. It certainly characterizes the Riley slogan: “Magnificent Motoring.”

100 bhp, 2,443 cc OHV twin-camshaft four-cylinder engine with twin SU carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with torsion bars, live rear axle with semi-elliptic springs, rack-and-pinion steering, and four-wheel disc brake conversion. Wheelbase: 119 in.

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