Bodywork complete

A major milestone today – Bespoke Bodywork have completed their work, delivered the car back home and helped me push it inside the garage. I am thrilled, it has come out just the way I imagined and looks exactly like the sports-car I wanted it to be. There have been a few compromises along the way but nothing major that detracted from my vision.So overall I am a happy man.

First thing I tried? Getting in and out of the car… luckily that is pretty straightforward and will get even easier over time, for the rear passengers – you can literally jump in and out, so I am happy. More than happy actually, i love the car already.

I guess these are the photos you have been waiting for so I will let the pictures do the talking… apologies for the car being in the garage where the light is not great – I could not keep the transporter crew hanging around whilst i took a ton of pictures. I will have plenty of time to take better ones.

Many thanks to Chris, Dan and Harry at Bespoke Bodywork, you gentlemen listened to all my requirements, accepted my constant input with good humor and put up with my twice weekly visits to your workshop. In a little under two months you transformed my vision and my sketches into something solid. Your work is outstanding and I will certainly be recommending you to other vintage car enthusiasts.

If you are interested in some of their other work pop over to the Bespoke Bodywork Website

So here it is…. our vintage sports-car! I look forward to all the family days out (and a little bit of competition driving with the VSCC)


A fair amount of the side exhaust will be ‘heat-wrapped’ to prevent people burning themselves – just in case you wondered.

All the individual panels are temporarily held in position by crosshead screws / 6mm bolts… these all need to be replaced (over time) with period round-head screws and Whitworth bolts etc. The bodywork will almost certainly need to be adjusted as it settles into its final position and the areas where panels rub etc have been identified before painting. A coat of paint is a long way off and the car will be driven in naked aluminum until it is truly ready for colour… the fun starts here.

Put your name down if you want a ride… I am starting the list…


Final fitting…

This week the Riley is being put back together.

All the bodywork, floors, transmission tunnel, bulkhead, firewall, mud guards etc had been removed for final finishing. Essentially this is the fettling phase of the build where the entire bodywork is checked over by lightly sanding with a Scotch-Brite abrasive – this shows up where any little bumps or dips might be. The marine ply flooring receives a dark stain and a protective coating. The various brackets  and finished off removing any sharp edges etc and the gaps between panels are checked and adjusted. From this point the car really starts looking like a car.

Chris is currently manufacturing the external exhaust system in the style of the Brooklands race cars. The 4 pipes on the exhaust manifold all exit the side of the bonnet and merge into a single pipe that smoothly increases in size. This then feeds into a single ‘Brooklands’ silencer (which is specifically shaped empty box) and then the pipe follows the contours of the body tub out over the rear mud guard. I look forward to hearing it more than I will admit to…

As of today the car is partly reassembled and I have to say I am extremely pleased with it. In my eyes is a beautiful looking vintage sports car, it looks fabulous and certainly has a wow factor. I will share pictures when it is completely back together and ready to come home.


Almost there…

Not too much to report today as the car has been stripped back to an empty chassis to enable final finishing of all the components. 

Out of sight are the completed headlamp mounts, front seats, spare wheel mount, engine cooling pipe, instrument panel mounting tabs, fuel tank protection mounts (more on that another day) oh and the  various bulges in the bonnet etc. Work has now started on protecting the wooden floor from the elements and the exhaust system. 

I am mightily pleased with the work of the team at Bespoke Bodywork!

A Racing bonnet

The bones of the bonnet (or hood for our American friends) are now in place and it finally looks like a car. The bonnet looks much longer than i was expecting which is a good thing and I am really rather pleased with the overall look.

On the passenger side above the chassis, there is a fixed panel that fits beneath and slightly around where the exhaust manifold will exit the side of the car. The bonnet overall is center hinged so on that side, the bonnet closes down onto the top of the panel slightly above the exhaust, you can see the exhaust opening quite clearly in the picture below. The green colour is created by the protective film over the aluminum sheet and will of course be removed. The lower panel will have a long row of louvers cut into it to allow hot air to escape out of the bonnet area. The final 300mm or so of the bonnet is 0the passenger foot-well so that area will not have any louvers in an attempt to limit rain water being blown onto your feet.

Along the top of the bonnet you can see a row of vertical pins. These are temporary clips designed by the aircraft industry to hold metal panels in place during the construction phase and are holding the panel to a big brass hinge. They will be removed and replaced with some nice brass rivets.


The drivers side of the bonnet is effectively double hinged. It uses the same central hinge as the passenger side but it also has a hinge part way down the side that enables it to fold up against itself. In the picture below the lower part is not yet fitted as we were mocking up where the various bulges need to be to accommodate protuberances.

  1. The large oval on the left needs to be there to give sufficient space for the drivers foot to operate the throttle. The car is narrower without the overhanging saloon bodywork so the pedal is hard up against the side of the bonnet and is also quite close to the brake pedal. This is not a car for anyone with big feet or wide shoes! The bulge simply creates space for your right foot to operate the pedal through its range of movement.
  2. Moving forwards, the double oval is where the 2 carburetors are. The front carburetor would be  hard up against the side of the bonnet so it needs space to allow an equal airflow. This bulge will have an opening at the front to let cold air flow directly to the carburetors. To the right of this bulge will be 3 louvers cut facing forwards to let more cold air in. A common feature in vintage race cars
  3. Below the carburetor bulge will be a row of louvers to let hot air OUT of the bonnet area


Below you get a better view of the central hinge. There will be a row of louvers along each side of it, the primary function of those particular louvers is of course to allow the escape of hot air, but it is more for the aesthetics – i.e. it is more sporty.

In the photo also  visible is another of my design features – the rear bonnet curve has a wider radius than the front. The Riley saloon cars had that front tight radius all the way to the back which made the bonnet flat on the top and somehow more square looking. I wanted graceful curves everywhere but naturally I still had to match the shape of the radiator hence the transition from small radius to wide.  I think the Artisans have accommodated my request rather well – its a very smooth transition.


There was not enough room in the workshop to take a photo but when viewed from the side, the car looks nicely proportioned, looks as it should and is very definitely a sporting four seater. In a  week or so the construction work should be complete only requiring the finishing of panel fit, smoothing edges etc – then its back home for the rest of the build. The blog will slow down at that point whilst i save up money for the parts…

Firewall and bulkhead

The pace of the build is not letting up. The petrol tank is now almost complete and all the seams etc are beautifully welded together, the only items left to do are the mounting straps and the final placing of the filler neck. The filler cap itself will wait until the rear wheel mount is welded on and the TWO spare tyres are in position. In the picture below you can see the spare wheel and the petrol tank being mocked up prior to fitting. The filler cap obviously needs to be accessible but it does not need to be sticking out as much as the second photo shows.

In the top picture, note the rear of the bodywork curving above the spare wheel subtly, I am really pleased with how that worked out – somehow it makes the car look more sporting as do the rear wings presenting quite a lot of vintage rubber tyre.dsc_0131img_2946

Moving to the front of the car, the bulkhead is temporarily fitted as is the firewall. These were not fixed into position until I had sat in the car and we had agreed the maximum and minimum height of the steering wheel. Interestingly the throttle pedal  sticks out the side of the car so we talked about how the ‘bulge’ around my foot will look because it will be in plain sight when viewed from outside the car. Although this sounds a little strange, it is quite normal for vintage sports cars to be ‘fitted’ to the driver. Take away the expansive saloon bodywork and you are left with not much foot room so its fairly common to have bulges in the bodywork shaped around the driver. Plus i think people in the 1930’s were a lot smaller than we are these days.

Below is the first real chance to see the interior (minus the transmission tunnel). It is so much cleaner now with the handbrake moved to outside and the gear lever is on the steering column so there is nothing else in the middle. What you see is what there is. The gearbox cover has been designed to be left visible to passengers. I will probably only fit carpet to the wood floors.The side panels will be trimmed in a simple manner as befits the intended use of the car.

What was pleasing today was finding that getting into the drivers seat from the passenger side was really easy, you merely climb over the side, sit in the seat then swivel your legs under the steering wheel. All i have to do now is work out how to get into the seat from the drivers side. Getting out of the car was also easy, the bodywork easily supported my weight as I lifted myself up, out of the seat so many of my fears of struggling due to a lack of  strength in the body-frame have been diminished. Before the strength was only a theory but now it is clearly a reality. Joy.


Above you get a better view of the firewall and foot-well – all of this will be visible when the bonnet is open but this area is not yet complete. The bonnet now needs to be temporarily fitted so that all the constituent parts can be matched together. So that is the next step – a plain bonnet will be built, then all the louvers, bulges, cutouts etc will be added later.

Meanwhile and less visible to this blog, the fuel tank support frame, straps and mounts are all under construction. I am rather lucky that I have had the time to visit the workshop twice a week, otherwise I would have missed a lot of the build.

As Toad of Toad Hall would say…. ‘poop poop – exciting times’