Lot 264 - 1936 Riley Falcon 12/4
|Estimate||£44,000 - £52,000|
|Result||Sold - £52,800|
Introduced in 1926 in a humble but innovatively designed fabric bodied saloon, Percy Riley's ground-breaking Riley 9 engine, a small capacity, high revving unit, was ahead of its time in many respects. Having hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined overhead valves, it has been called the most significant engine development of the 1920s. With twin camshafts set high in the cylinder block and valves operated by short pushrods, it provided power and efficiency without the servicing complexity of an overhead camshaft layout. It soon attracted the attention of tuners and builders of 'specials' intended for sporting purposes. One such was engineer/driver J.G. Parry-Thomas, who conceived the Riley 'Brooklands' model in his workshops at the banked Surrey circuit. After Parry-Thomas was killed during a land speed record attempt in 1927, his close collaborator Reid Railton stepped in to finish the job. Officially backed by the Riley company, the Brooklands, along with later developments and variations such as the 'Ulster' Imp, MPH, and Sprite, proved some of the most successful works and privateer racing cars of the late 1920s and early 1930s. At Le Mans in 1934, Rileys finished 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 12th, winning the Rudge Whitworth Cup, the Team Prize, two class awards, and the Ladies' Prize. Rileys also distinguished themselves at the Ulster TT and at Brooklands itself.
After the Riley 9, the 12/4 or 1½ litre was the most popular Riley engine before the war. Launched with the famous trio of Falcon/Kestrel/Lynx bodies, the range steadily expanded and included many custom sporting examples that continued the success the marque had enjoyed to date.
This example has been the subject of much thought. With historic racing out of the range of many people, a car with pedigree and versatility is welcome. Especially if the package comes within a sensible price range. And this does.
Little is known of its period history; it is rumoured to have competed in the Monte Carlo Rally but more importantly, it has recently been re-worked to offer reliability and performance without compromising aesthetics and comfort. It offers the best available sporting package for the all-round enthusiast capable of winning historic rallies, VSCC events, off-road trials or circuit races.
It presents as a well-enginered touring car. This is no idle statement; the vendor is arguably one of the finest vintage car engineers working today with a reputation, amongst those whose motorcars he prepares, second to none. This Falcon has been completely rebuilt with winning in mind - the engine has a 8.7 compression ratio supplied by Omega pistons and shell bearings. It has been converted to a dry sump lubrication system and comes with Lotus Cortina Iskenderian valve springs, 440 inch high lift cams and twin 1½"" SU carburetors pushing out 95bhp at 6,500rpm and capable of a top speed of 110mph. Not surprisingly, modern cars have trouble competing with a 0-60mph time of less than seven seconds with these specifications confirmed at Mallory Park earlier this year.
A new close ratio gearbox, Cosworth clutch assist performance and touring can be aided with a 26 gallon fuel tank. It should be noted though, that for sprints and hill climbs, the rear spare wheels can be removed as can the rear fuel tank. This leaves a small supplementary gravity tank complete with anti surge bowl , both positioned on the engine bulkhead and just enough for a 10 mile stage of flat-out driving. Built with VSCC regulations in mind and with the correct buff VSCC registration allowing competition it also comes with hydraulic brakes, fabulous handling and performance that only comes through experience, this sporting Riley represents a rare opportunity to compete at the front but for back-marker money.
As the Riley motto goes, 'As old as the industry, as modern as the hour.'