You can rely on Penny
THE currently dormant Riley motor company produced a string of attractive passenger vehicles and successful motor sport racers before its unfortunate demise in 1969, ensuring the marque has a dedicated band of followers.
Few are as enthusiastic as Sunshine Coast locals Ken and Wendy Leonie, who count a Riley 9 Monaco and this delightful 1949 Riley RMB among their classic car collection.
“I remember a number of students driving RMB Rileys when I was at uni, mainly because of their reliability and relatively low purchase price at the time,” Ken said.
The big touring saloons clearly made an impression on Ken, and in 2003 he and Wendy bought their 1949 example from a deceased estate auction in Brisbane.
“We promptly named the car Penny, to go with our 1932 Austin 10 roadster we’d previously named Tuppence,” Ken said.
The Riley RMB was a runner, but had numerous small problems from overheating to vaporising when hot.
With Ken having mechanical engineering expertise, these issues and a few cosmetic problems have now been rectified.
It’s a striking car to see in the flesh, and by Ken and Wendy’s account, very reliable too.
“We can drive it to Victoria or beyond without fear of any breakdowns,” Ken said.
“We recently attended the National Riley Rally in Beechworth, Victoria with about 80 of the RMB Series in attendance.
“Despite them coming from all over Australia, only one returned home on a truck. They truly are a remarkably reliable vehicle.”
They’re not too sluggish either. These RMBs featured a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with high-mounted twin-cams and very short pushrods, giving it all the cross flow head advantages of modern twin overhead cam engines.
With twin SU carburettors as well, the motor is good for 75kW and a top speed of about 160kmh.
Being an expert on the marque, Ken was keen to point out the engine’s motor sport heritage.
“It is based on the famous Riley Nine engine fitted to the Riley Brooklands racing car,” he said.
“Even today, our car easily keeps up with highway traffic and will pull up the range to Maleny in third gear.”
Although Ken has more knowledge than most when it comes to the oily bits of engines, he insists these cars are cheap and pleasurable to work on.
“They are purely mechanical – no electronics and no computers,” he said.
“The Riley Motor Club in each state sells spare parts, often a lot cheaper than for a modern car. There’s not a spare part that isn’t readily obtained.”
Both Ken and Wendy regularly enjoy taking Penny the Riley RMB on club runs and rallies as active members of the Blackall Range Horseless Carriage Club, and have an obvious affection for their easy-to-drive classic Brit.
“Penny is comfortable and handles the road well, but power steering and air conditioning would be welcome additions. But maybe I’m getting too soft in my older age,” Ken said.
Owners: Ken and Wendy Leonie.
Model: 1949 Riley RMB.
Details: English-built large touring saloon built between 1946 and 1952.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder twin-cam with twin SU carburettors producing 75kW.
Transmission: Four-speed manual.
Number produced: 6900.
Value today: $15,000-$20,000.