OCT 13th 2014

When is a Brooklands Riley not a Brooklands Riley?

Of all the great pre-war Grand Prix racing names, Riley is possibly the most commonly overlooked amongst the Bugattis and ERAs. This is a shame, because they were often highly competitive and in the case of the Riley 9hp Brooklands boasted one of the most revered engines of the time.

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The little 1087cc four-potter was a gem of a twin cam, supercharged, magneto-ignited motor and was seen as the most competitive entry into the 1100cc class (G) at Le Mans when fitted to the Riley Brooklands. Race wins and records were achieved at Le Mans, Ulster (where one won the 1932 TT outright!) and Brooklands. They were by all accounts outstanding competition cars, however a certain Riley works driver and Guildford garage proprietor named Alex Cuthbert reckoned the design could be improved upon.

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The Brooklands chassis was essentially a Riley Nine chassis with around 10 inches less wheelbase, but Cuthbert reckoned that this reduction adversely affected the way the car rode the bumpy Brooklands surface and decided to take the proven greasy bits off the Brooklands model and fit the lot to a Nine chassis. This was a bold move seeing as though the Riley had won the 1100cc class at the 1031 German Grand Prix, but nevertheless the Cuthbert Special was born, complete with a split at the scuttle to allow the body to flex as it rode the awkward Surrey track!

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The car did well in its new, extended-wheelbase form and in 1933 was fitted with a Powerplus supercharger and dry-sump lubrication. Running a pretty hefty 17psi of boost the little Riley was suddenly capable of 130mph, which in those days was not to be sniffed at. It went on to race successfully at Brooklands, Goodwood and Silverstone, eventually becoming part of the well-known Majzub collection.

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The current owner acquired it in 2005 and has used it regularly since then. Documentation with the car includes letters from Mr Cuthbert himself and photographs of the car throughout its racing life. Historics at Brooklands is offering it for sale at its November 29th auction. It carries an upper estimate of £70,000, which for a unique vehicle with such stout provenance we’d argue is very decent value.

Best of all, it’s road registered!

 

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