Today it was a cool 8 degrees with a chance of rain but it was also the date of the monthly car show I often attend in the Etype – but only on sunny days. The Riley of course is not going to be pampered like that. Friends will know I wanted a classic car I could use in all weathers, so out of the warm dry garage it came. I was decked out in my trusty old Flying Jacket – which sadly appears to have shrunk over the years and is now rather too tight for comfort. Shame really, seeing as I have had the jacket for nearly 40 years and it properly looks the part. But I digress! Decked out in my flying jacket, a WW1 flying helmet, silk scarf, a pair of 1930’s leather driving gloves (with the huge cuffs) and WW2 goggles – I was warm enough, apart from my right thigh which is clearly in the air stream. Oh and I had a cold face – memo to self to buy some sort of face mask for cold days.
I was feeling quite brave – the furthest I had driven the car was 5 miles, 2.5 miles out and 2.5 miles home. The White Lion car show is 8.5 miles away which is long way to push the car home if I broke it. I need not have worried, it was absolutely fine both in traffic and on the open road and I began to relax into the seat over time. The pre-select gearbox is rather nice to use even if you do have to get your brain into the right place initially. The exhaust has a nice comfortable growl at speed but that may well be because the deafening sound wave is behind me. It is loud enough to think you are way above the speed limit but in reality you are not. I don’t think I went over 60 (the speedo is not connected) and the engine seemed to be happy. Clearly, the car has more to give and could almost certainly get to 80, but 60mph is plenty enough for me. Moderns can overtake if they want to, I am enjoying myself and I won’t be entering motorways in a hurry.
On arrival at the show, a sea of faces turned in my direction (have I mentioned the car is quite loud?) and a rather enthusiastic organiser ran over before I was even through the entrance, asking about the car and then asking me if I wouldn’t mind parking it in the indicated prime position so that ‘absolutely everyone sees it on arrival’. ‘It’s the star of the show’ he says. ‘No problem at all’ I replied, with a smile that was probably visible from the moon..!
He was seriously pleased to see the car which was unexpected, but really nice. The owners of a 1930’s Alfa Romeo which is a pretty rare and valuable car wandered over and we had a fairly lengthy chat about owning and driving vintage cars. A number of smiley Riley owners, who as a genre would not normally ‘appreciate’ cars being converted into specials, were chatty and complimentary. What really surprised me though was how many people invited me to visit their car club, or asked if I would be willing to attend their forthcoming car show. Looking back, I was approached by people wanting to know about the car all morning and I barely got to see any of the other cars there. There was a nice old lady who liked the flowery cushions that I am temporarily using as seat cushions, but I really should look into the cost of having them trimmed properly.
I have to say I felt rather proud, its the first car I have ever designed and I love it more every time I take it out.
So, on its first proper outing – I think I can say the Riley was a bit of a hit. Driving home to avoid the impending rain, there were groups of smiling people waving as I drove past. I am still smiling as I write this – this is what classic car ownership is all about. Happy days.