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A painstakingly recreated replica of the first ever Riley car has been launched at the Coventry Transport Museum and will soon gain a period-correct engine to match.
The reproduction of Percy Riley’s 1898 Voiturette has been built by members of the Riley Motor Club and Riley Register with the encouragement of William Riley’s grandson, Victor.
The ultimate plan is to get it on the road in time for Coventry's stint as the UK City of Culture 2021, with WMG, at the University of Warwick, providing a sponsorship of £2000 to help with the construction of the engine.
The Riley car company was formed in 1890 as the Bonnick Cycle Company of Coventry before William Riley Jr incorporated the Riley Cycle Company in 1896.
His son, Percy Riley, started his first car secretly, aged 16, in 1896 and completed its build in 1898 – then drove it to Stratford Upon Avon to test it. By 1903 the Riley Engine Company was established, and in 1919 the company changed its name to Riley (Coventry) Limited.
The car featured was the first to have a mechanically operated inlet valve and led the way for the British motor industry.
Professor Dave Mullins, Interim Head of Department WMG, says, “The Riley brand has played a leading role in the City’s automotive manufacturing industry and we are delighted to be able to support such a significant project for the Riley Motor Club.”
Constructing an accurate replica was a tricky business, given that there was no original car to use as a reference.
William Riley’s grandson Victor explains, “Much experimentation has been carried out particularly in some detail of the steering geometry. With help from the Souck Bucks Riley Register members were able to put some of the components together to give an idea of the car taking shape.
“We are now at the stage where we need to complete the engine to get a fully working replica, and we’re grateful for the sponsorship from WMG, University of Warwick, which will enable this to happen.”
Fancy seeing the car for yourself? It’s on display on the Riley Motor Club stand at the NEC Classic Motor Show today (8 November) and all weekend.