The 1 ½-liter Riley RM was the company’s first new car in the postwar years. It was a rear-wheel drive sporting saloon with a propeller shaft semi-enclosed in a torque-tube, Girling hydro-mechanical brakes, independent front torsion bar suspension, and leaf springs and a spiral bevel axle at the rear. The elegant body was mounted on a wooden frame.
Riley publicly announced the RMA in August 1945, and sales commenced in 1946. Few were initially available on the home market, and most British motorists could only dream of its 80mph top speed and cabin with leather-trimmed seats. After 1949, a fixed pane replaced the opening windscreen on the driver’s side, and in 1950 the RM gained new instruments.
The Riley RME succeeded the Riley RMA in the summer of 1952. Early versions shared the older model’s prop shaft and rear axle, but a Hardy Spicer unit and lower ratio hypoid axle soon replaced these. The RME also boasted hydraulic braking and a larger rear window.
In September 1953 the Riley RME received a facelift, and production ceased in 1955 with no real replacement. The One Point Five, the next Riley with a 1.5-litre engine - was a very different type of car. The 1 ½-liter Riley RMs were only officially available as a saloon, although Riley made the larger 2 ½-lliter model in open topped forms. A 1,496cc OHV four fed by a single SU carb powered the RMA and RME. Transmission is a 4-speed manual with no synchromesh on bottom gear.
It may have been a postwar mode, but any RM had styling from the 1930s, from the split front windshield and thick pillars to rear-hinged front doors, but it also offered very entertaining handling, precise steering, a very flexible engine and the ability to happily cruise at 60mph.
The Riley RMA’s and RME’s chassis is robust, but all structural timber for the body is prone to rotting. Regarding metalwork, steel panels corrode and careful checks should be made of the area around the A-pillars.
When the last RME left the factory, it marked the end of Riley’s independent identity. For that reason alone, any RM should be celebrated, but it is also a car that can fulfil the marque’s famous slogan of providing the owner with ‘magnificent motoring’.
Competitors were varied and include the MG YA/YB Saloon, the Singer SM 1500 and Hunter, the Sunbeam-Talbot 80, the Lea Francis 14, the Jowett Javelin, the Lanchester 14, and the Citroen Light 15.