For reasons less obvious, all four doors of the 236 open to a full 90º, yet its designers appear to have overlooked the need for a well-sized boot when they gave it that droopy, unappealing tail.
The Riley’s luggage area, in contrast, is huge. Both cars are spacious overall, with ample leg and shoulder room.
The Pathfinder must have been one of the last cars with trafficators – a feature most modern drivers don’t even acknowledge – and both cars predate column-stalk controls, seatbelts, or anything we would recognise as ‘ergonomics’.
The company’s sphinx mascot sits atop the Armstrong Siddeley’s front grille
They share quite a few features, including position-holding door catches, but only the Armstrong is distinguished by a ‘quick action’ lever for the driver’s window.
Massive steering wheels give you the necessary leverage for parking, while wooden dashboards underline the cars’ prestige appeal.
The 236 inherited its central control layout of liquorice allsorts-style switchgear from its big sibling, along with a two-spoke wheel that pivots around the fixed, sphinx-branded centre horn push.
A nifty feature of the Riley is a chrome horn ring that clicks left and right to double as an indicator switch.
A wooden dashboard underlines the Armstrong Siddeley 236’s prestige appeal
Leg space between the helm and the seat is at a premium in the Riley, which has an impressive slab of walnut with a large speedometer and rev counter in front of the driver.
Its lovely circular radio speaker brings to mind cricket commentary and the warm, comforting tones of the Home Service. This ex-South Africa Pathfinder has Rexine-covered seats, with an optional front bench giving room for six.
The Armstrong offered manual – with or without overdrive – or preselector gearboxes on the 236, but well over two thirds, including this car, had the Manumatic four-speed gearchange, also with overdrive and a central lever.
It adds interest to driving the 236, but smooth progress is a hit-and-miss affair at times.
‘What they lack in terms of things we take for granted in modern cars, they more than make up in charm and character’