I had a 1959 Riley 1.5 back in 1968-70. It was a great car, with its very high back axle ratio could cruise at an indicated 75-80MPH easily. Twin SU's were difficult to tune, but were, I think, fairly forgiving. Handling was pretty good for the time; previous car was a 1957 Morris 1000 so this was much faster. Tires were Pirelli Cinturatos on both Morris and Riley. Brakes sort-of adequate. Had to have new rear springs fitted because they basically collapsed. Loved that car.
Subsequent car was a Riley 1100, which, while comfortable, did not have the speed or the feel of the 1.5.
I always did want an old Riley one and a half with the preselector box, but never got around to it.
On the western side of the Atlantic, I had a '61 Riley 1.5 from '61-'65. I loved the car. By simply removing a screw that held the rear seat back in place, I had a virtual station wagon. The spare was in a "slot" at the bottom of the trunk/boot, so nothing had to be removed to replace a flat. Smart design.
I bought a factory manual from Vivian Grey in the UK and had a lot of fun keeping it in tip-top shape. I made a sort of manometer as shown in an old Road & Track and had no problems with the SU balance.
I finally traded it for a VW microbus because of our expanding family. I wish I could find another to drive and pamper these days. Alas! Not many exist in the States.
I presently own a 1959 Riley 1.5 and have done so since 1995 when I bought the car in Vancouver, BC, Canada driving it the 1500 miles (recorded) north up the Alaska Highway to my home in the Yukon. We just chugged along - no radio - and only had one crisis 25 miles from its destination - electrical failure. Hitchhiked home to pick up another battery from my TR6 and we were home at last. Although needing some tidying I have not done anything drastic as I like the patinated look it has acquired through its 46 year life - pitted pot metal and all. Now only driven in summer time it along with its companions is much of a garage queen. And yes I do have trouble adjusting the twin carbs!
59 Riley 1.5
I live in New York and I love my Riley 1.5. Gets more comments than my MGTD.
No problem with the SUs... the engine was rebuilt and all other necessary items taken care of BEFORE fiddling with the carbs...ie: adjust valves etc.
SUs will give very little grief if all of the parts of the engine are in fine fettle.
Most people start screwing around with them and really do not understand how they work. Read an SU manual, find out what makes 'em tick and you'll have a great time.
The only problem I have with my car is getting 155 x 14 tires.
LI, NY USA.
I had a Wolseley 1.5 one winter in New Zealand, to supplant my motorbike.. Basically similar to the Riley.. It was a bit rusty, the front crossmember was shot, and the motor basically held the front end together.
The walnut dashboard was streaked by rain leaks too...
It played up once, and we suspected the electric petrol pump, in the boot. A knowlegable friend disconnected the output hose. I turned the key on and washed the windscreen with petrol. No fault there!
I don't recall the twin SUs. A friend's dad had these on a Triumph, and after many poor efforts at garages tuned them himself. In the end he tuned the car EVERY weekend, mostly to keep HIMSELF in tune with the process! Soon MG, Triumph etc owners with twin SUs were queuing for a quick tune-up.
My old car (1959) went to a prison officer who bought it for the inmates to rebuild as a practical project.
Hope they did well, and hoping it is still around..
I have 3 1959 Riley 1.5's stashed in my garage. Including parts from 3 others.
One Riley I drove until they no longer produced leaded regular gas. I'm hoping to get two of them back on the road when I retire. I had great fun cruising down the TransCanada Highway in 1979.