Bit of a setback

Although the car could be driven the gearbox was not working as it should. This car is blessed with having the ‘pre-select’ gearbox which is probably the best mix of a manual and an automatic gearbox that was ever designed. In theory it is impossible to stall the engine when coming to a stop with the car still in gear. There is no clutch to depress… which is how I knew that something was not quite right. Because in our car you *could* stall the engine which means that the automatic ‘traffic-clutch’ was not doing its job. I was a little hopeful that this was due to the car not being driven for 40 odd years and that it would free up naturally. Turns out I was miles away from the mark!

Fellow Riley enthusiasts advised that I could access the clutch unit through a small access panel which is sort of true and I could see that something was not right as the moving parts…. didnt!

After a fair amount of soul searching because I had only just got the car on the road – I decided the best way forward was to to take the engine out and take a proper look. Surprisingly this didnt take as long as I thought and I am glad I did because at some time in its life the clutch had failed completely and shredded itself AND a fairly chunky piece of metal.


The car looks a bit ‘hot-rod’… sorry about that VSCC…

Here we have the engine out and turned sideways so that I can access the clutch unit

…and this is the Amstrong-Siddley clutch unit. Around the outside are 3 heavy weights that swing out due to the centrifuge effect and thereby clamp the 2 drive plates together via the friction surfaces. When the flywheel speed reduces at tickover the weights fall back to their normal position – releasing the pressure on the friction material and thereby removing the drive. Quite clever really but it is soooooooo heavy.

And here is the clutch unit taken apart – you can see that both friction plates are destroyed and the metal plate (bottom left) has had its bunny ears snapped off…

I rather suspect that something would have exploded had I not taken it apart at this time!

The search is now on for replacement parts / a conversation with the racing boys who actually remove the entire unit and dont use it at all… apparently the factory grandprix ERA’s (English Racing Automobiles) which had far more powerful engines had the same gearbox but they threw away the clutch unit because of the sheer weight. At this juncture I have not decided what to do…

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