RILEY RMA REVIEW

The RM series was the last independently developed Riley before the company was swallowed up by BMC in 1952. We take a closer look at the RMA

If the elegant, flowing lines aren’t good enough reason to buy an RMA, then how about the superbly crafted wood and leather interior? Or the torsion bar front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering that ensures it is as good to drive as it is to look at? An RMA provides a worthwhile reason to raid your bank account, but check any potential purchase thoroughly to avoid having to re-mortgage your house too. 


VITAL STATISTICS

1953 Riley RM

 

Engine                                    1496cc/4-cyl/OHV

 

Power (bhp@rpm)                  55bhp@4500rpm

 

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 78lb ft@2500rpm

 

Top speed                                75mph

 

0-60mph                                  25sec

 

Consumption                            26mpg

 

Gearbox                                    4-speed manual


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
 

The Riley’s bodywork provides the most scope for time-consuming and expensive repairs. As well as the chassis and bodywork, there’s an ash framework to worry about too. The earlier the car, the more likely it is to have suffered where it arches up above the rear axle. The body mounts are welded to the chassis and usually rust in isolation. Front wings rust adjacent to the beading where they attach to the body, and behind the headlamp nacelle where a metal plate is welded beneath the wing for the wing support bracket. Check the rear wing beading carefully too – any bubbling means there is severe rust beneath.

Sills consist of metal-skinned timber. Assess them by opening both doors and lifting them gently, while looking for movement in the pillar. Boot floors rust along the rear edge where the join a stiffener, and if the body mounts in the boot floor are weakened, the rear body can sag onto the bumper irons. Boot lids also bubble along the bottom edge, with the spare wheel compartment lid below often suffering as well.

ENGINE

The 1.5-litre engine should be good for 100,000 miles. You’re looking for oil pressure of 25-40psi at a hot idle, rising to an ideal 50psi at a steady 40mph. Very high pressures suggest part-blocked crankshaft oilways. If the bearings are worn, you may hear a knocking – but not a rumble – under acceleration. This can be addressed by converting to shell bearings. The first signs of piston rings and cylinder bore wear will be blue smoke from the breather on the inlet side of the engine. The piston stroke extends below the water jacketing, and they occasionally break piston rings. Gearboxes last well, but weak synchromesh and jumping out of third gear on the overrun are the first signs of excessive wear.

RUNNING GEAR

Steering play is usually caused by wear in the floating centre eye that travels up and down the rack. There is scope for adjustment, but if it fails completely, then rebuilding is a possibility. Rear leaf springs sag over time, so check that the car sits level and that the springs have retained their curvature. If the front of the car has a tendency to pitch, tired rear springs and dampers are likely culprits. Lower front wishbones can crack on early cars, but a webbing stiffener added later and progressively beefed up throughout production did away with this fault.

Brake cylinders can be rebuilt, but on hydro-mechanical systems it’s vital that the plunger is in good condition and that the linkages are set correctly. Poor braking may be down to a badly rebuilt system.

 

INTERIOR

Exterior fittings can generally endure rechroming. As well as rusting, radiator shells can suffer from starting handle damage when the guide tube cracks. Interiors last surprisingly well, and are usually saveable by the home restorer, providing the seats aren’t split or horrendously worn. Most are covered with a heavy-grained leather, so full professional retrims are subsequently expensive. Take this into account if a prospective purchase is in a poor state of repair inside.

OUR VERDICT

Despite the slightly daunting list of potential issues, don’t get the impression that the RMA is fragile or unreliable. Thanks to robust engineering and eminent driveability, bagging a good one will allow you to enjoy regular usage, perhaps even on a daily basis. Performance is leisurely, but the RMA is about so much more than that, so why not bask in the sumptuous leather and wood trim.

Recently Added

49340 1Sponsored Ad
1992
£Auction
S2 SE
  • 995
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104365
![CDATA[After a favourable reception was given to the incoming prototype 'Sport Equipment' versio...
15
01753 437 779
View details
49339 1Sponsored Ad
1978
£Auction
  • 102,791
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104364
![CDATA[The Bentley T-Series was the Bentley badged version of the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, ava...
13
01753 437 779
View details
49338 1Sponsored Ad
1963
£Auction
GT6R Le Mans Recreation
  • 37,895
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104363
![CDATA[Triumph ran three racing Spitfires during the 1964 and 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours race and con...
20
01753 437 779
View details
49234 1Sponsored Ad
1969
£Auction
3.5 Litre
  • 79,986
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104362
![CDATA[In 1965, Rover's Managing Director, William Martin-Hurst, secured the tooling and product...
10
01753 437 779
View details
20170803 105504Sponsored Ad
1970
£9,000
traveller
  • 29,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1095095
Tastefully restored 2017, MoT 2018. Snow berry white/black interior. Complete respray, new carpet...
8
07701338422
View details
49333 1Sponsored Ad
1966
£Auction
Cooper 'S'
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104361
Road registered 1275 'S' Works homage club rally carSuperbly prepared. Great period detail1293cc ...
3
01926 321 950
View details
49332 1Sponsored Ad
1970
£Auction
Series II Fixed Head
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104360
US export returned to RHD during its restoration with a colour change from SableEngine rebuilt in...
3
01926 321 950
View details
49331 1Sponsored Ad
1964
£Auction
Cooper 1071 'S'
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104359
Superb, bare-metal restoration to a Concours standardWinner John Kelly Cooper 'S' Trophy for 'Ori...
3
01926 321 950
View details
49232 1Sponsored Ad
1970
£Auction
Mk.I RS1600 FIA race car
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104358
In 1970, Ford opened their Advanced Vehicles Operation at Aveley dedicated to the production of t...
3
01926 321 950
View details
49231 1Sponsored Ad
1987
£Auction
  • 0
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104357
Ford had been working on a turbocharged machine that could compete with the new breed of `Group B...
3
01926 321 950
View details
See All Classic Cars for Sale