Lot 171: 1933 RILEY 9hp 'MARCH SPECIAL' 2/4 SEATER SPORTS TOURER
Black with British Racing Green Connolly leather interior
Engine: four cylinders in line, inclined overhead valves, 1,089cc, twin SU carburettors, 30bhp at 4,500rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual; Suspension: beam axle to front, live rear axle, half elliptic springs front and rear; Brakes: four-wheel cable operated drum. Right hand drive.
Operating under the motto "as old as the industry, as modern as the hour" by the time Riley introduced their trim Nine Monaco four-seater saloon in 1927, they had been building bicycles, tricycles, and motor cars for nearly three decades.
The 60mph Nine was a turning point for the company. Powered by a highly efficient 1,087cc hemispsherical head engine, its four occupants accomodated neatly within the wheelbase, with four wheel brakes adjustable from the driver's seat, the Nine offered great controllability, refinement, precision in controls and an excellent gearbox which, by 1933, featured all helical constant-mesh gears. It was an immediate success and, in the manner of the time at Riley, there was a host of variants, from the staid 1927 two-seater tourer, via Reid Railton and Parry Thomas's low-slung Brooklands Nine sports-racer, to the company's own sports tourers.
The 'March Special' filled a certain niche that had occurred in the 1931/2 seasons for a more sporting production 9hp model, before the advent of the Imp and while the 'Works' Brooklands specials were constructed. Deep in the depression, Riley itself had found itself struggling to supply this market as prices had been forced upward by 20 The ever inventive Messrs. Kevill-Davies and March Ltd., underpinned by none-other than the motoring personality 'Freddie', Lord March, produced the latest of a number of 'March Specials' which would grace a variety of chassis including A.C. They combined the already sporting Riley 9hp chassis with a close-coupled four seater tourer, with their trade-mark cutaway doors, built by John Charles and Sons at Kew. With twin spares at the rear and wire wheels completing the picture, this was a rakish tourer that balanced the existing popular Riley running gear with a modern sporting feel, and in retrospect may be considered to have given some influence to similar British cars of a few years later, such as the SS100.
Riley themselves seeing the finished article quickly embraced the project and ensured that the derivative was not only featured in their 1933 catalogue, where it is described as follows:"This truly fascinating design is the work of the well-known exponent of motor racing, the Rt Hon. The Earl of March and most definitely makes a very strong appeal to all sporty persons", but was also available through their dealer network, which must have meant that very few probably made it to the London premises of Kevill-Davies and March. All told it is understood that 53 such cars were built and sold in 1933, the sole year of production. The retail price was £335, and despite some suggestion that a six cylinder version would be made, none are known to have been constructed. Because they were not built at Coventry, they offered a range of colour schemes different to the standard production models.
This Concours winning car is the earliest "March Special" on the Riley Register, and would have been registered new in London in mid-1933.
It has been the subject of considerable restoration work. Mechanically this has included the fitting of high compression Omega pistons, a four branch manifold and straight through stainless steel exhaust system, the flywheel has been lightened and balanced and it has the Silent Third gearbox with Brooklands extension. The bodywork has been refurbished and repainted in black livery, while the leather upholstery and matched wheels are in British Racing Green. This combination suits this sporting car very well and its condition has been recognised at a number of concours events.
Exceptional Motor Cars and Automobilia|
Christies, King Street, London
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|Registration number||AGY 515|
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