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It soon attracted the attention of tuners and builders of 'specials' intended for sporting purposes. Parry-Thomas , who conceived the Riley 'Brooklands' initially called the '9' Speed Model in his workshops at the banked Surrey circuit. After Parry-Thomas was killed during a land speed record attempt in , his close collaborator Reid Railton stepped in to finish the job. Officially backed by Riley, the Brooklands, along with later developments and variations such as the 'Ulster' Imp, MPH, and Sprite, proved some of the most successful works and privateer racing cars of the late s and early s.
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Rileys also distinguished themselves at the Ulster TT, at Brooklands itself, and at smaller events like hill climbs, while providing a platform for the success of motorsports' first women racing drivers such as Kay Petre, Dorothy Champney and Joan Richmond. For series production, the engine configuration was extended into a larger 12 horsepower '4', six-cylinder and even V8 versions, powering an increasingly bewildering range of touring and sports cars. The soundness and longevity of the engine design is illustrated by Mike Hawthorn's early racing success after WW2 in pre-war Rileys, in particular his father's Sprite.
By about , however, the business had overextended, with too many models and few common parts, and the emergence of Jaguar at Coventry was a direct challenge. Disagreements between the Riley brothers about the future direction of the enterprise grew. Victor Riley had set up a new ultra-luxury concern, Autovia , to produce a V8 saloon and limousine to compete with Rolls-Royce. By contrast, Percy, however, did not favour an entry into the luxury market, and the Riley Engine Company had been renamed PR Motors to be a high-volume supplier of engines and components.
After the death of Percy Riley in , his business began producing transmission components and still exists today, producing marine and off-highway vehicle applications, as PRM Newage Limited based in Aldermans Green, Coventry. Percy's widow Norah ran his business for many years and was Britain's businesswoman of the year in By , Riley began to look to other manufacturers for partnerships.
Riley (given name)
A contract with Briggs Motor Bodies of Dagenham to provide all-steel bodies for a cheaper, more mass-market saloon had already turned sour, with dozens of unsold bodies littering the factory. It had withdrawn from works racing after its most successful year, , although it continued to supply engines for the ERA , a voiturette Formula 2 racing car based on the supercharged 6-cylinder 'White Riley', developed by ERA founder Raymond Mays in the mid-thirties.
But the Riley brothers were more interested in a larger British concern, and looked to Triumph Motor Company , also of Coventry, as a natural fit.
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In February , all negotiations were suspended. It was announced on 9 September that the assets and goodwill of Riley Motors Coventry Limited had been purchased from the receiver by Lord Nuffield and he would on completion transfer ownership to Morris Motors Limited "on terms which will show very considerable financial advantage to the company, resulting in further consolidation of its financial position". Mr Victor Riley then said this did not mean that the company would cease its activities.
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However, in spite of the announced intention to wind-up Riley Coventry Limited, perhaps for tax reasons, continued under the management of Victor Riley  presumably with the necessary consents of debenture holders part paid creditors nothing and former shareholders nothing. Riley Motors Limited seems to have begun trading at the end of the s when Riley Coventry Limited disappeared..
Nuffield took quick measures to firm up the Riley business. Autovia was no more, with just 35 cars having been produced. Riley refocused on the 4-cylinder market with two engines: Only a few bodies were produced prior to the onset of war in , and some components were shared with Morris for economies of scale. Though they incorporated a number of mechanical improvements- notably a Nuffield synchromesh gearbox- they were essentially interim models, suffering a loss of Riley character in the process. The new management responded to the concerns of the marque's loyal adherents by re-introducing the Kestrel 2.
After World War II, Riley took up the old engines in new models, based in concept on the 'Continental', a fashionable 'notchback' design whose name had been changed prior to release to 'Close-Coupled Touring Saloon' owing to feared objections from Rolls-Royce. The RMA used the 1. Both engines, being derived from pre-war models, lent themselves as power units for specials and new specialist manufacturers,  such as Donald Healey. The RM line of vehicles, sold under the "Magnificent Motoring" tag line, were to be a re-affirmation of Riley values in both road behaviour and appearance.
Victor Riley was removed by Nuffield in In early the Coventry works were made an extension of Morris Motors' engine branch.
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Riley production was consolidated with MG at Abingdon. Nuffield's marques were then organised in a similar way to those of General Motors: Morris was the value line, and Wolseley the luxury marque. Aside from their small saloons MG largely offered spartan performance, especially with their open sports cars, while Riley sought to be both sporty and luxurious. With Wolseley also fighting for the top position, however, the range was crowded and confused. The confusion became critical in with the merger of Nuffield and Austin as the British Motor Corporation.
The first all-new Riley under BMC, however, was designated the RMH, and because of its distinctive engine and suspension design, has been called 'the last real Riley'. This was the Pathfinder , with Riley's familiar 2.
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The RMG 'Wayfarer', a projected 1. Although this was the only postwar 6-cylinder Riley, its C-Series engine was actually less powerful than the Riley Big Four that it replaced. This was to be the last large Riley, with the model dropped in May and Riley refocusing on the underlitre segment. Riley and Wolseley were linked in small cars as well. They shared their exteriors, but the Riley was marketed as the more performance-oriented option, having an uprated engine, twin S.
With its good handling, compact, sports-saloon styling and well-appointed interior, the One-Point-Five quite successfully recaptured the character of the s light saloons.
Again, it was merely a badge-engineered version of other BMC models. The steering was perhaps the worst feature of the car, being Austin-derived cam and peg rather than the rack and pinion of the One-Point-Five. Overall, it could not provide the sharp and positive drive associated with previous Rileys, being based on the humble Austin Cambridge and Morris Oxford. The early s also saw the introduction of the Mini -based Riley Elf.
Again, a Wolseley model the Hornet was introduced simultaneously. This time, the Riley and Wolseley versions were differentiated visually by their grilles but identical mechanically. This also had stablemates in Wolseley and MG versions. Following objections from diehard Riley enthusiasts, the Kestrel name was dropped for the last facelift in , the Riley Between and a series of mergers took place in the British motor industry, ultimately creating the British Leyland Motor Corporation , whose management embarked on a programme of rationalisation—in which the Riley marque was an early casualty.
The badge began to be discontinued in many export markets almost immediately. The decision will end 60 years of motoring history. No other marques in the British Leyland stable are likely to suffer the same fate "in the foreseeable future". In spite of the decline of the marque under BMC , surviving well-preserved examples of the period are now considered desirable classics, the Riley 'face' and badge lending a distinctive character. The needs of enthusiasts are met by the Riley Motor Club, the original factory Club founded in