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1937 Riley Sprite Two-Seater Sports

Ex-Works, William ‘Bill’ Innes & Roger F. Peacock, 1937 Monte Carlo Rally & Multiple MCC Trials


Chassis No. S27S 6031

Engine No. SS 6031

Registration No. CDU 63

+44 (0)1869 244 255


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Much like the preceding 6-cylinder Riley MPH, the Sprite was blessed with utterly delicious and well balanced styling reminiscent of the Alfa Romeo 8Cs by Touring and Zagato. Granted looks aren’t everything when it comes to a sports car, but fortunately the Sprite not only impresses the eye. The combination of the superb, Hugh Rose designed, 12/4 engine, a boxed in, stiffened version of the Riley MPH chassis, uprated brakes and either pre-selector or excellent short shift manual gearbox offer the pilot of a Riley Sprite with one of the most rewarding driving experiences available from the 1930s. As with some of the, perhaps better known, offerings of the period, such as the BMW 328 and Talbot AV 105s, the design and tractability of the Riley Sprite surpasses its age by some margin and there are many sports cars of the 1950s that fall well short of its performance capabilities on a winding mountain pass.

Despite an apparent ambivalence on the part of the marketing department at Riley to promote their new products the success of the prototype Riley Sprite, ‘AKV 218’ (See previously sold section of Robert Glover Limited) proved infectious and thus attracted the attention of many privateer lady and gentleman drivers. To this end many of the fifty or so Riley Sprites produced benefit fascinating, successful and extensive early competition histories in-turn ensuring their eligibility at some of the world’s most respected retrospective rallying and racing events, including the Mille Miglia and Goodwood Revival. This particular Riley Sprite ‘CDU 63’ offered for sale here is certainly no exception.

Registered ‘CDU 63’ by the Coventry Works on 7thJanuary 1937 this ex-works Riley Sprite was fitted with engine No. SS 6031, Torque Tube and Diff, Moss No. 29, works manual gearbox, a standard chrome radiator cowl, standard “long” wings and a tall windscreen with vertical fittings so that the aero screens could double up as wind deflectors. It was finished in works colours, painted blue, with blue upholstery and ivory wheels.

Once completed, ‘CDU 63’ was immediately pressed into action by W. L. (Bill) Innes, an apprentice at Riley, on the 1937 Monte Carlo Rally. According to some excellent research carried out by Philip Hill and included in the car’s extensive history file, Innes chose Umea in Sweden as a starting point and “with Work’s backing, as Entrant No. 58, he covered himself and his privately-owned “Sprite” with glory by finishing 23rdout of 81 finishers overall, 3rdin the under 1500cc Light Car Class and fasted time in the Final Tests in Monaco.”

For ‘CDU 63’ this proved to be the start of a successful and extensive competition career. It is thought that the car was sold soon after its successful debut to Roger F. Peacock, a fellow apprentice at Riley who competed in the MCC Lands End Trial held on the 26th& 27thMarch 1937 earning a bronze award. According to the Riley Record of July 1937 Innes did drive ‘CDU 63’ again, this time in the Riley Motor Club’s “Riley Twenty-Four” overnight held on the 25th& 26thJune 1937 finishing in Scarborough achieving a first class award on the trial and fastest time in the Arrival Driving Tests on Marine Parade.

The remainder of ‘CDU 63’s’ prewar competition career appears to have been in the hands of R.F. Peacock and is listed in detail in the aforementioned history compiled by Philip Hill. Although too lengthy to list in such extensive and concise detail here it includes in brief:

  • 1937 & 1938 MCC Lands End Trials (on full wings) and 1939 MCC Lands End Trial (on “Ulster” cycle-type wings)
  • 1938 & 1939 MCC Edinburgh Trials
  • 1938 Brooklands Junior Car Club’s Donington Park Race Meeting
  • 1939 MCC Exeter Trial
  • 1939 Riley Motor Club’s 24 Hours Trial to Southport

The original Buff Logbook, also supplied with the history file, shows that by 1947 ‘CDU 63’ was registered to a Mr. Edward Barris. The next recorded change of registered keeper was in 1960 when it passed to well-known ‘Rileyist’ Stanley Burville from whom it passed to a Mr. R. Baxter of Cheshire. During Baxter’s ownership ‘CDU 63’ was dismantled with the intention of restoring the car. The restoration never took place and it was in dismantled form that ‘CDU 63’ passed into the ownership of, gearbox specialist,Alan Voigt, before being purchased by Nick Benwell, a specialist in pre-war sports cars.

Although dismantled, the car remained complete and most importantly retained many of the correct and rare magnesium-alloy works parts, including the finned sump, brake backing plates and Moss rear axle.  The engine too retained its original timing case cover with the number stamped on it (SS 6031). The original works manual gearbox that had been fitted from new was still with the car. The body is also original and, although Nick Jarvis had replaced the front bulkhead section of the ash-frame, the remainder of the original frame and skin remained intact.

Nick Benwell instructed Michael Hudson to repair the remainder if the original body frame as necessary with the remit to retain as much originality as possible. Gratifyingly this resulted in the splicing in of a few small sections of wood to support the existing frame but most of the frame and all of the original body panels were retained. The original tall windscreen, complete with all of its fittings and aero screens, was also present as well as the original seats, door cards, hood frame, hood, tonneau, and even side screens! The original instruments and steering wheel were still with the car. A rough assembly of the parts was commenced but with too many projects on the go the car was sold to the current custodian who has commissioned the restoration of ‘CDU 63’ to its current high standard.

The basic assembly of the rolling chassis, including axle and brakes was entrusted to a firm of restorers local to the owner in the north of England. Once assembled, the rolling chassis and painted body, together with the engine gearbox were delivered to James Ricketts to complete. The gearbox had already been rebuilt but was stripped and checked by Ricketts nonetheless. The engine was completely rebuilt including new crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and camshafts and fitted to the car. The original seats, upholstery, hood frame, hood, tonneau and side-screens were retained and are offered as part of the sale but the decision was taken to replace the upholstery. A bench seat was fitted to allow for a taller driver to fit into the cockpit, which are known to be quite small on sporting Rileys of the period. The Upholstery was carried out by Elaine Ricketts and, as with the entire car, presents beautifully. New wheels were also fitted during the restoration.

Presented for sale in in beautifully restored condition both cosmetically and mechanically, ‘CDU 63’ retains all of its significant and rare works parts as well as its original body. It is offered for sale complete with its original upholstery and history file denoting its extensive and well-documented period completion history. Given the combination of its originality and period competition history it is sure to attract keen interest from the organisers of many of the worlds top historic racing, rallying and even concours events and will no doubt offer its future owner some of the best prewar sports motoring available. It is, of course, eligible for the Mille Miglia Retrospective event. Close inspection of this historic motor car and accompanying history file is both welcome and recommended.