William Riley Junior founded the Riley Motor Company towards the end of the Nineteenth century.

Riley’s earliest origins were in the rapidly growing pedal cycle industry that was sweeping Britain.

Before getting into the bicycle industry, Riley proved that he was no slouch in the business world, having accumulated considerable wealth in the textile industry and was interested in diversifying his business activities.

Despite being involved in several commercial enterprises, Riley also found the time to father quite a few offspring, most of them sons.

One of these sons, by the name of Percy, joined the Riley Motor Company at its formation immediately after leaving school at the age of fifteen.

It soon transpired Percy was not really enchanted with two-wheel transport, having developed a secret love for four-wheel cars.

Percy Riley had aspirations to build a car of his own, a task he succeeded in completing by the time he was just sixteen years old, using some imaginative and innovative engineering techniques.

While Percy was dabbling in the motor car industry; thankfully the cycle business was progressing very well, enough to entice the elder of the William Riley’s oldest son Victor to join the family business.

While Victor was reportedly in passive favour of Percy’s plans, he opted to devote his energies and talents to continue building the Riley Cycle Company, mainly as his father was adamant against investing any money in the construction of four-wheel cars.

In the early days of the Twentieth Century, Percy succeeded in convincing Victor, and another brother Allan to establish a separate entity to produce cars and engines, trading as the Riley Engine Company, with premises adjacent to the cycle factory in the Midlands city of Coventry.

A few years later yet another two Riley brothers, Stanley, and Cecil joined the family business, again immediately after having completed their high school education.

After some initial setbacks, the Riley Engine Company began to gain some impetus and sell some vehicles, enough to finally convince William Riley, whose eye was always on the bottom line, to invest in the growing business and indulge his sons' preference for motorised vehicles.

By then, the Riley Cycle Company had wound up their motorcycle production division, and all of the family’s talents, facilities and assets were focused on the production of motor cars.

The Riley Motor Company continued to expand and flourish throughout the Twenties and Thirties, producing a series of well-built saloons and thoroughbred small sports cars, offering a choice of more than a dozen different models powered by either 4-, 6 or 8-cylinder engines.

By the late Thirties, the Riley brothers began to discover what many of the competitors would learn much later, that producing too many models, especially with very few standard parts was a recipe for confusion, discord, and financial disaster.

Under considerable pressure, disagreements between the Riley, brothers had reached such a level that the company, at least in its existing format, would be unable to continue.

Like some of their competitors had already discovered, Riley found the solution to their problems was to seek the comfort and security available by becoming part of the Nuffield Organisation, with a contract to that effect signed in 1938.

Nuffield, never ones to let sentiment stand in their way, renamed the company Riley (Coventry) Successors Ltd, although after resuming production after the Second World War, did continue to produce models in the Riley mould.

After the 1952 merger of the Nuffield group between the Austin Car Company to form the British Motor Company (BMC), Riley increasingly became a vehicle for the UK car giant’s policies for badge marketing, in which the same body designed was shared by as many as four or even five brands in the group.

From then onwards, the few Riley models introduced during the Fifties and Sixties were virtual clones of other models within the BMC range, with often the only visible differences between these cars were the Riley grille.

The last full-sized saloon car marketed under the Riley label was the 4/72 with a body designed by Pininfarina, powered by a 1,622 cc four-cylinder engine with twin carburettors and power output of 70 bhp.

It goes without saying that this same body was also used by Wolseley as well as MG. Today, the Riley trademark, which, at one time, signified the best in British motor engineering, is inactive, gathering dust in the archives of German auto giant BMW.

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