The celebrated Riley advertising slogan, ‘As old as the Industry, as modern as the hour,’ carried more than a grain of truth than many other such claims. The Riley family constituted a typical small-scale nineteenth-century Midlands industrial dynasty, starting out by making weaving machinery, and moving over the years into whatever showed itself to be the next best thing. This enterprising policy led them into bicycle building in the boom area of the 1880s and 1890s, which proved a lucrative move, and from there it was a natural progression to start putting engines on them, and so move into the nascent motor cycle field as the end of the century approached.
Percy Riley, the patriarch of the day, swiftly proved himself an ingenious and forward-thinking engine designer, developing clever new valvegear layouts among many other improvements. Consequently, it was a short step to mounting the motors in a bigger frame and moving into car manufacturing. The business prospered over the next twenty years, but the runaway success came with the introduction of the 9 Horsepower in 1926.
It had overhead valves and, for the era, a remarkable specific output for what was only after all 1100cc capacity. Lively and robust, the unit was to stay in production until WW2, powering a range of delightful and successful tourers and sports saloons of various sizes and chassis lengths, and it was this adaptability combined with a high level of salesmanship which enabled the Riley company to operate profitably, even during the dismal years of the Depression in the 1930s.
This enabled them to continue with a remarkably enterprising development program, one of whose most spectacular results was the Imp of 1934. It was a small, superbly-proportioned two seater, with slightly vee’d radiator, flared wings and spare wheel embedded into the rear panel. The overall effect was handsome and dynamic. The car was expensive by Riley standards – really almost a vanity project – and only 75 were produced in two years; however, the model was an instant classic, and along with its bigger-engined sibling, the MPH model, has remained a firm favourite with collectors and enthusiasts ever since.
This particular Imp is uncommonly correct with a completely known and recorded history from new, which is in itself very unusual.
Supplied new by Boon and Porter of Castelnau, Barnes, London in 1934. The car was owned by the same family throughout WW2 until 1948, when ownership passed to Mr Edward Charles Micklewright, and later to Mr Brian Michael Stacy. In June of 1959 however, AAD 566 entered into the long-term ownership of very well-known Riley personality Mr Walter Smith Williams (or Wally Williams), from Ewell in Surrey. The Imp remained untouched in the garage and off the road for 46 years as a part of his personal collection of historic and pre-war cars. A quite remarkable period of safe and secure hibernation for such a rare machine.
In 2006 the car entered into the ownership of the vendor. The vendor himself is a well known figure in the pre-war motorcar and motorcycle world, both with the restoration and racing of historic and pre-war motorcars, who set about the comprehensive and sympathetic restoration of the car much of which was initially attended to by Wally Williams. The work included an engine rebuild by John Bland, with instruments rebuilt by John Marks from Tunbridge wells, and body work restored by Bruce Bellamy.
The ENV pre-selector gearbox was also overhauled by John Bland, and other mechanical work completed by Ian Gladstone of Blue Diamond Services, the Riley specialists. The coachwork has been refinished in the correct shade of Summer Blue with a Grampian royal blue leather interior. The car also has a new double duck hood with double duck sidescreens and tonneau with a correct staybright radiator surround and stem guard with the car now sitting on brand new Blockley tyres.
The car is described as being in wonderful condition. It is sold with a vast history file from 1959 onwards, along with a buff log book dating from 1955, photographs of the restoration before and after, newspaper and magazine cuttings along with various MoT certificates for the car.
For further information or to arrange a viewing, please contact our sales department.