1936 Riley Kestrel 12/4 1½ Litre Sports Saloon


The Riley story began in the late 1800’s when industrialist William Riley began making cycles. It was William Riley’s sons who were fascinated by engines and indeed motor cars. The cycles became motor cycles and the Rileys also built and sold engines. In 1912 the Riley Cycle Company changed its name to Riley (Coventry) Limited to focus on the manufacture of wheels for the booming car industry. The attention soon turned to building cars, however, it was post the first World War that Riley really made its name in the car industry.

It was in 1926 that Riley introduced the Riley 9, a car that was to be the most popular early Riley produced with some 30,000 cars built over a ten year period. Many different models and body styles were built. Most were powered by a 1097cc four cylinder engine that was considered quite revolutionary in the day. Riley enjoyed significant success in motorsport throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s which further enhanced the reputation of these cars.

At that time Riley was booming and they produced many different model cars, including:

– Saloons: Adelphi, Continental, Deauville, Falcon, Kestrel, Mentone, Merlin, Monaco, Stelvio, Victor

– Coupes: Ascot, Lincock

– Tourers: Alpine, Lynx, Gamecock

– Sports: Brooklands, Imp, MPH, Sprite

– Limousines: Edinburgh, Winchester

Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer a very unique and fabulous 1936 Riley Kestrel 12/4 1½ Litre Sports Saloon.

The early history of this particular car is not known, however, it does have ownership history recorded back to the mid 1960’s. There are a number of subsequent owners noted on the car’s history file and it was acquired from a deceased estate by highly respected vintage car, Bentley and Riley specialist Brian Hussey in mid 2017.

Since Hussey acquired the car he has rebuilt the engine as well as gone through the car from ‘top to bottom’ to ensure it is fully sorted. This Riley Kestrel is today a beautifully presented car that runs and drives as good as it looks!

People are generally surprised when you tell them this car is a Riley. The look of the car suggests Delage, Delahaye or possibly Bugatti. But yet for a fraction of the cost this car is indeed a Riley and apart from being stunning to look at it has many innovative design features. The car has a sliding roof, suicide front doors and an inbuilt jacking system which was ‘just clever’ back then.  Riley struggled as a business and the following often used quote sums it up exceptionally well ” : . . . perhaps they did too good a job of making the cars and not a good enough job of managing the business.”

Finished in an exquisite two tone green colour scheme this vintage Riley is simply gorgeous! The Kestrel’s art deco design could well have come from one of France’s most coveted design houses.

The paintwork on this car is very good. On closer inspection there are stone chips evident that have been carefully touched up, however, it is not detrimental to the overall appearance of the car. All of the exterior trim, the wheels, chrome and glass are also in very good condition. The inside of this car is quite spectacular. The sumptuous leather seats just draw you in . . . they are in excellent condition and the smell is 100% pure English leather. The look and feel is like your most favourite vintage leather jacket and they are also very comfortable! That said it is compelling to pause and take in the look and feel of the entire cabin. The highlight is without doubt the sophisticated Jaegar instruments which sit in front of the driver. They are all sharp and clean. The polished timber, which is in very good condition, compliments the leather perfectly and then there’s the steering wheel and controls which are also in very good condition and just ‘business like’. You note the gear selector on the right hand side of the steering wheel which is part of the Armstrong Siddeley preselector gearbox set up. The engine bay is also clean and very tidy.

When cold the car needs full choke, a few pumps on the accelerator and then the engine fires . . . it coughs and splutters momentarily, then it quickly settles into an idle which smooths as you back off the choke. The engine warms quickly and then you get the chance to get the car mobile. What’s immediately apparent is that this car is well ahead of its time. It drives more like a car from the 1940’s or even 1950’s! Even today this Riley is quite comfortable in modern traffic and it enjoys the freedom to stretch its legs on the motorway when the opportunity arises. The Armstrong Siddeley preselector gearbox is unique but easy to get the hang of, and it’s far easier to live with than traditional crash boxes used on similar cars from the period.

The engine pulls strongly and the gearbox changes up and down when requested to do so. The steering is light and direct and this Riley stops well for a car of that period.

What a fabulous and unique opportunity. This Riley Kestrel 12/4 1½ Litre Sports Saloon surely presents great value compared to other comparable cars of this vintage!







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  • Riley Kesterl 12/4
  • 1936
  • Sports Saloon
  • Preselector Gearbox
  • 12370 miles
  • 1496 cc


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