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Blue Beauty: Frank J. Lang 1951 Riley Drophead 61D7906 (was) for sale in Illinois

(To enlarge any of these photos, please click on it.)

Frank J. Lang restored lots and lots of cars. American classics at first. Then his taste improved as he began restoring British cars. His masterpiece was this 1951 Riley RMD. He got the car to its present state a good many years ago, but he just could not go on. He knew it was his last restoration and he did not want it to be over. So he went on with his life, which is not yet over. But he recently moved into assisted living. His good friend Pat Sanchez, of Palatine, Illinois, has been deputized as the family’s sale agent for the car. He’s asking $40,000.

We think that’s a reasonable price for a car as far along toward perfection. Frank J. Lang is the only U.S. drophead owner we know of with sufficient sensibility to rectify a giant mistake, one we encounter too often on these North American shores. He pulled out a working Ford engine and replaced it with Riley engine 6549, the real McCoy. It is no longer a butchered drophead. All of us owe Mr. Lang a debt of gratitude for this. We can help by reaching out to all our friends and finding a proper owner who will give it the appreciation and exercise it deserves.

Now, about the price. Paul Storemont’s drophead 60D7579, long a staple of Bellville, Illinois, car shows, was sold to a dealer in St. Louis, Mark Hyman, who resold it to a friend of a friend of ours in New Hampshire for $27,000. That friend replaced Mr. Storemont’s naugahide interior with real leather, retopped the RMD with fine canvas, and headlinered it with real wool. He had the dash and woodwork redone by a company in Santa Barbara. He took the car down to the Amelia Island, FLorida, auction, where it fetched a cool $88,000.

All one has left to do with Frank J. Lang’s drophead, 61D7906, is install the windshield, hook up the rebuilt carburetors and attach the new stainless steel exhaust manifold. All the polishing of paint, chrome, leather, headliner, is done, as these photographs demonstrate, to near perfection.

But don’t take my word for it. Call Pat Sanchez at 773 580-4508 or email him at and make an appointment for him to drive the 43 miles from his house to his friend’s garage in Plainfield, Illinois, to open the door for you and let the sunlight glimmer on the Riley as it does above. Plainfield is 38 miles southeast of Chicago.

(Eight months after this article was posted this beautiful drophead found a home in Troon, Scotland.)

Bob Grinsell sells twice-restored Cyril Geofrey Fanning RMF

(To enlarge any of these photos, please click on it.)

This Riley RMF saloon, RMF10277, might well have been sold in 1953 or thereafter by the most New York blueblooded of British car dealerships on this side of the Atlantic, John S. Inskip, famous for its dealings in Rolls and Bentley. An attempt a decade or two later to drive RMF10277 across our continent came awry in Colorado as it threw a rod through the engine and its owner abandoned it. The authorities assigned it to a dealer who placed an ad in Hemmings, and it was purchased by Cyril Geofrey Fanning, Jr., of Portland, Oregon. Mr. Fanning, a longtime member (#159) of this club, did as well by the car as he could, but a restorer in Vancouver used unremovable deck screws in the ash frame and bondo in several body divots.

Mr. Fanning’s Portland residence was a stop on the “Round the World” Riley tour of RM Club Member Rod Forrest and his brother. Mr. Fanning was a Riley owning celebrity of the first order.

One legacy of Cyril Fanning’s ownership of this car, another RMF he owned (RMF10505), and a drophead (60-D-6094) he owned and sold, are meticulous well-written notes and correspondence. For some reason notes on the drophead but not the car remain with our Beaverton, Oregon, longtime member Grover Behrens (#269). Steve Tate, our restorer member (#321) from Yakima, Washington, remembers most of Fanning’s cars. He wanted RMF10277 after Fanning died in 1988 at age 54 of the dread social disease of the 80s, 90s and beyond, but it was sold to our most notorious former member, of Simi Valley, California, Fred Walker.

Fred Walker was known for swapping engines and components and never returning cars consigned to his care to their owners. Robert Grinsell, our most meticulous restorer/member (#190) from Manchester, Michigan, bought an RMA, 39-S-16195, and RMF10277 from Walker and was luckier than most. Both cars in exchange for cash payment were delivered. As typical of a transaction with Walker, RMF10277 did not arrive with its original engine, RMB2-975. Walker had substituted another. Grinsell believes the original engine finally came into the possession of Ray Sanders, of Paducah, Kentucky.

Here is the text of an ad Grinsell composed for RMF10277, which after years of restoration and ownership he wishes to sell.

Totally stripped down and restored by me in the 90’s to a high standard. New roof, headliner, wiring and excellent tires (2 new). New timber replaced where required. It has an RMB engine, bored, new pistons, rings, hardened valve
seats, modern oil filter. Featured in Hour Detroit Magazine, January 2011. Vinyl interior. Not a 100 pointer, but a beautiful car. Badges not included. $18,000. For more details call Bob at 734-428-9328 or email Located in Manchester, Michigan.

The shortcomings of Fanning’s Vancouver restoration have been remedied by Grinsell’s re-restoration. I asked Grinsell about the vinyl interior. He said it was done for Cyril Fanning and did not need replacing. A majority of the paper history of the car, including copious notes and correspondence about it from the late Cy Fanning, are included in the offer.

We would appreciate hearing from whichever club member or Riley aficianado is lucky enough to acquire this car so we may continue to monitor its history and use. We think it a superior value and would be so in excess of its asking price.

After posting this story, we heard again from Bob Grinsell, who has major components of a postwar saloon for sale as well. His message: “I have an RMB body shell, a little rusty but good & solid for spares. Has a front cradle & tranny. No complete rear end, no engine. Have seats, halfshafts, & misc. bits.” No prices stated. Make him an offer.

(Allan Young, an expatriate Brit resident in Sherwood, Arkansas, acquired this car nine months after this story was first posted. He did not learn of the car from us. He located it in a web sale site featuring British classic cars. He did not like the color, or is it colour, of the car as posted. He corresponded with Grinsell, who by return email sent better photos of the car, more accurately showing its color/colour. Young and his son visited Grinsell in Michigan. They bought the car, which now resides with them in Arkansas.)

Darling hear my prayer, Cara Mia fair, I’ll be your love till the end of time

I have been lost in a wonderful book about Rileys. It is Alastair Thomas’s The Rebuilding of Cara Mia IIb, an AUTO biography, published by the author in the U.K. I first heard of it in an email from Jim Fletcher, who took over the International Affiliation of Riley Clubs almost a decade ago from Victor Riley. Judy and I first encountered Jim and his incomparable wife Nancy when they came to California in 2006 to join our first club shebang, an overambitious road trip of Rileys that went from the Los Angeles area to the San Francisco area and back, with an entire series of parties and getogethers in both cities and in various stop-cities in between. After the tour Jim and Nancy stayed with us in Los Angeles and the next year we stayed with them near Oxford after completing the RM Club Irish tour and AGM in rainy Wales.

We were able to borrow the venerable Max Munk’s all black drophead for Jim and Nancy in California. Because it had been driven so little in the years immediately preceding it proved the problem car of the tour. Jim took it well and coped better than anyone else could. He provided Lola, a perky all-black RMA for Judy and yours truly in Ireland and Wales. An old family car, she was in fine running order. It took the well tuned ear of Gwyn Morris to detect an impending glitch, which he did by ear at twenty paces in a light rain in the car park before we left for the ferry ride leaving the Republic. There was no need to fix anything until we were well back in North America. Lola made it home through the rains like the thoroughbred she is.

A recommendation from Jim of a book about Rileys is not to be disregarded. Particularly one with an introduction by Gwyn. Jim’s own red drophead, one of the rarest of the rare, a 1 & ½ prototype drophead, registration LYX 92, was the car I chased around Ireland and across Wales. It is included several times in Alistair’s magesterial book, in drawing, photo and reference. I remember the night it caught fire in the West of Ireland while we were on our way to dinner. It was minor, electrical, the sort of thing one puts out and then gets on with the evening, which we did.

Alastair’s is not a survey book about the Riley drophead. Others have done that. Its main action is about rebuilding saloons into dropheads, but along the way one learns a whole lot more about the structures and subsystems of the several types of saloon Alastair conjured into his own custom drophead. It is a masterwork for anyone attempting to rebuild these fine post-war cars, the RMs. It is particularly strong in its information about the various coach-made dropheads and special ones. If you have always wanted a drophead, are skilled with tools, and have a more affordable saloon car to convert, this is definitely the book for you.

It will enjoy a place of honor in my library of great books about Dropheads and their prewar Riley cousins, next to the late Rev. Gathercole’s book of Imps and Robin Cameron’s book of MPHs

Alastair is a playful Riley owner with names. Each of his Rileys was called Cara Mia, a loving nickname for “my car.” Cara Mia IIb was literally his car to be and is now his car that is.

You can obtain a copy of his book yourself from the author. This assumes you are in North America. Address an envelope to Alastair Thomas, 218 Ongar Road, CM1 3NY, United Kingdom. Include your details and three crisp U.K. Ten pound banknotes. That will cover the book and postage to you. (I have no fear about sending banknotes through US and British mail My own brand of paranoia requires a sheet of aluminum foil folded over the currency). If by some chance you are elsewhere in our wide world of Riley cars and require a quote of what it could cost for a book and postage to your particular part of our planet, email the author at Wilkie is Alastair’s wife. After reading her husband’s description of her attitude toward the Cara Mias, it would be hard to imagine a more perfect wife for a Riley car fanatic.

For me, a left hand drive drophead owner, the principal value of this book is its ability to suggest fiddles and fixes to my own car. Others, I expect, who are not fortunate enough to own a drophead will be encouraged to follow Alastair’s resourceful example and make one of their own.

In addition, a forthcoming issue of the RM Club of the UK’s RMemoranda will carry an ad from Alastair for one of the two chromed Drophead rear window frames he had made for Cara Mia IIb. His cost for two was 700 pounds. Cost to the lucky buyer will be half, 350 UK pounds. As a reader of this website, you have a head start toward acquisition of the rear window frame, if you are interested.

My copy of The Rebuilding of Cara Mia IIb, an AUTO biography is inscribed on the inside of the front cover:

“With Best Wishes

I hope yours will be too.

For a closer look at the cover of Alastair’s book click on its cover and it will enlarge.

The late Bill Lewis, master story teller and prolific letter writer

Jean Lewis stands by “Black & Red,” her husband’s RMB, at the Briggs Cunningham Auto Museum, Costa Mesa, California, in 1974, thirteen years before it closed forever. Click on the photo and it will enlarge.
Below this text are links to three successive pages of a letter the late Bill Lewis wrote to Maureen and Ken Hodge, an Aussie couples with whom he and Jean toured Australia, as described in our article about Bill dated yesterday. Click on each page, from left to right, and you can read the letter in its entirety from images of pages just as the Hodges received them in 1982. Note that Bill often chose spellings of words not listed in dictionaries. We hope to publish others of Bill’s letters as they come to us.Bill Lewis Letter(1)Bill Lewis Letter(2)Bill Lewis Letter(3)You may need Adobe Reader or other .pdf-reading software on your computer to view the letter.

Bill Lewis, a tiny giant of the Riley world, dies March 15 in California

William J. Lewis, who with the late Varlie Gordon ran Riley Motor Club USA, through the seventies, eighties and into the nineties, died March 15 after a long battle with prostate cancer and the loneliness that settled over him after he lost his wife Jean to cancer. At one time Bill claimed to have founded the club in 1971, but he told me several times in his last years that there was an administration of the club that had preceded his.

No one could meet Bill without noticing what a remarkable person he was.

To help us in the task of learning about Bill after his death, I asked David Trunfull, a prominent Riley owner in Australia whom I met on the Riley RM Club tour of Ireland in 2007, for his memories of Bill and Jean, beginning in 1974. (David also sent us the photo above, taken by Ken Hodge, of Bill at a 1988 Riley Rally in Canberra, Australia. The inked on inscription identifies Bill as the not so tall bow-tied fellow in the white cap. For a better view of the picture, click on it; it will enlarge.)

David Trunfull writes:

I first met Bill, Jean and family on a tour of the U.S. in 1974 which was organized by one of our members, the late Les Mills.

Bill and Jean had driven in their new Volvo wagon from their home in Anaheim, California to meet us at Harrah’s Auto museum in Reno Nevada.

As an auto historian and auto modeller recognized by Harrah’s, he was able to get us privileged access to this and other fabulous car museums. Bill founded the International Association of Automotive Modellers in 1951. For those who were interested he was able to also get access to Harrah’s extensive library. Although as a 22 year old I was already an old car fanatic, my interest in car history was yet to fully develop, so unfortunately I did not avail myself of this special opportunity. Below is an extract of an article I wrote about the trip for our Club’s magazine “the Blue Diamond” in August 1974.

On our arrival at Reno we were met by Jean and Bill Lewis. Bill is the President of the Riley
Motor Club of the U.S.A. From the airport we went straight to Harrah’s for the first of our
two days there.

What can be said about Harrah’s that has not been said before? I will start by saying
they have approximately 1800 cars, 1000 of which are on display. There are 136 Fords, which
include one from every year from 1903 to 1953. The oldest is a Model A 2 cylinder and the
newest is a 1966 Custom 500 ‘Tudor’ Sedan. Why he has this I don’t know, but maybe one
day it will be a classic. There are 90 Packards, right up to one of the very last a 1958
Packard Hawk which shares the same body as the Studebaker of that year.

We were greatly indebted to Bill Lewis while at Harrah’s as he had doors opened for us that
would not usually be opened to the tourist. He also acted as our official guide and was able
to tell us a lot about the cars. We were shown completely over the restoration shop. Their
facilities are incredible. I’m convinced that if by chance Harrah’s Casino folded (really who
ever heard of a Casino that went broke?) they could start manufacturing cars tomorrow.

After seeing the restoration shops we were in for another treat. They had taken six of the
cars outside for us to photograph. The most impressive were the two 1931 Type 41 Bugatti
Royales, one of which was Bugatti’s personal car. There were only seven Royales built and
six of them still exist. We were lucky enough to see four of them. The remaining two are in
the Schlumpf Collection in France and it is doubtful whether we will ever see those. The
Royale has a 13 litre straight eight engine which develops 300 B.H.P. and has a top speed of 125
m.p.h. and at 72 m.p.h. the engine turns over at 1000 R.P.M. The other cars taken out for
us were a 1934 12 cylinder Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow, a 1937 Cord 812 Supercharged
Beverly Sedan, a 1934 12 cylinder Packard dual cowl Phaeton by Le Baron, and an air cooled
Franklin Roadster.

After viewing the museum we were introduced to their Chief Buyer and he informed us that
they were after a Riley Brooklands, so Ean you better watch out. He then showed us their parts
store and as far as we could see were crates of engines stacked 20 feet high. There was also
an L29 Cord parked in this shed.

We were to meet up with Bill and Jean again at their home in Anaheim, California after we had visited the East Coast.

Once again he had opened special doors for us, this time at the Briggs Cunningham car museum, where local Riley members also met us. I have photos of two Riley Dropheads that were there (one pale Yellow with louvered bonnet sides and an almond green one) These were of considerable interest to my good friend Grahame Glanville, who had just started the restoration of his 1950 Drophead, which he still owns today. As well as a couple of other RM’s there were a couple of BMC One Point Fives present. These were of interest to me as they were not sold in Australia.

Later that day Bill and Jean hosted a barbecue for all of us at their home. Looking at the slides I took (slides-remember them!) reminded me that they lived in a contemporary styled house at the end of a court in well maintained tree lined suburb. The house had an unusual roof (for us) of tarred foil/paper with pebbles on top. I was told houses were built light because of the threatening San Andreas Fault. Bill had his very smart red and black RMB parked out front and there were the remains of a Riley in the back yard, which I think he said he was restoring for Jean. He also had a silver grey Sunbeam Talbot 90 which was another car he was interested in, but to a lesser degree to Riley. His study was an Aladdin’s cave of car books, models, stamps and automobilia, and if you had a question about any make of car he was an excellent person to ask. One conversation I distinctly remember having with him was about the pros and cons of the front wheel drive Cord, a car that he had owned 30 years earlier. I think Bill said he had also owned one of these while serving in I think the Air Force in the U.K. after WW11.

He and Jean visited Australia in 1982 to attend our National Rally which was held in Toowoomba, Queensland, that year. Although I didn’t go the rally that year I did meet them at a club picnic in a Melbourne park. I remember Bill feverishly checking all the Rileys that were present for their chassis numbers (remind you of someone we know from Wales?) Toowoomba is about 1000 miles from Melbourne and they travelled with Dorothy Mills (Les had died by then) in her almond green 2½, and in convoy with Geoff and Ailsa Haworth in their two toned Brown RMD and Ken and Maureen Hodge in their 1950 RMB. From the article Geoff wrote about the trip in the Blue Diamond it is apparent that they visited much of the east coast of Australia, traveling over 2500 miles while they were here, visiting Riley friends in Sydney, Canberra and Cooma, before returning to Melbourne. Geoff finished the article by stating that Dorothy and Bill drove the 2½ at speeds he found difficult to match and therefore he was not entirely surprised when they “ran” a bearing. Nevertheless they nursed the car home in one piece. In a letter to Ken Hodge, Bill remarked that attending the Rally was the longest continuous drive he had ever undertaken in a Riley. Bill and Jean also accompanied Dorothy in 1988 in her green Riley 2½ to our National Rally in the nation’s capital, Canberra.

Sadly several people mentioned above, like Bill are no longer with us. In researching this article I have been reminded of what a profound effect the Riley Clan has had on many of our lives, due in no small measure to the foresight, enthusiasm and efforts of people like Bill Lewis.

Regards, David Trunfull
Rye, Victoria.
Rye, Victoria.
Owner of RMB 60S7440
and member of the Riley Motor Club (inc in Vic) since 1973

(David’s paranthetical comparison of Bill to a Welsh collector of Riley serial number data refers to Gwyn Morris of Gwernymynydd, Clwyd, Wales, who was kind enough to reconnect me with David to commission this article. Thanks, Gwyn and David.)

Put Yourself in the Picture This Fall

One damp day last autumn in Weybridge, Vermont, in Eric Killorin’s incredible garage workshop the AGM attendees of The Riley Motor Club Of North America posed for their group photo. We were the lucky recipients of the warm hospitality of Betsey and Eric and their sons. In the memory and spirit of that occasion, let me issue a call to all members of the club and their families to join us this fall in New York’s Finger Lakes for our 60th anniversary AGM:

Members who’ve owned and driven their own Rileys for a long time tend to come up with the best ideas for places for us to get together with our cars. Don Milligan suggested our site last fall in Vermont. As we were winding down that one Sarah Rheault and Sandy Turner came up with the idea of Watkins Glen at the south end of New York’s Seneca Lake for this year.

Sarah has driven around Seneca Lake in her Bugatti. And it is an old stamping ground of the Turner family. Sandy’s grandfather, who ran a bank nearby in Elmira, owned an Italianate mansion in Montour Falls, just south of Watkins Glen. Sandy’s great uncle was an architect who designed many prominent local buildings.

Sandy has arranged with the family that owns the mansion, in which his father was raised, for us to park our cars, tour the house and have lunch not far away.

We’ll circumnavigate the lake, visit wineries, have dinner in a castle, tour the Glen Curtiss collection of planes and other modes of transportation, visit the soaring park, and have a chance to drive our cars around the famed Watkins Glen racetrack.

At the suggestion of Sarah Rheault and others who have tired of two-day events to which they have driven or trailered their cars great distances, our meet will last three days this year for the first time.

We have arranged to stay at Seneca Lodge, a bit more rustic than any of our earler digs but a favorite over the years with the racing crowd. It is owned by one of the families that created the auto racing venue at Watkins Glen. Its bar is awesomely historic and comforting. As the lodge fills up we will post a list of alternate digs here on the club website.

We will begin the evening of Thursday, September 20, with cocktails and dinner at the lodge, and continue with driving events Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 21, 22 and 23. Our technical sessions will once again feature John Thompson and other members. Do join us and if you can bring your Riley car.

We suggest you book your rooms as soon as possible. The lodge describes its cabins as clean and unpretentious, no understatement. Its A-frames and motel rooms are more complete and modern. To reserve ask for Dora at 607 535-2014.

We are grateful to members Sandy Turner, Mickey Shemin, and James McMahon for scouting locations for this event.

For a closer look at the celebrities, click on the group photo and it will enlarge, almost magically.

Rare, (missed) opportunity to see a 1959 Riley 2.6

I learned today from Gary Harvey of Hillsborough, New Hampshire, that he and his father, Phil, plan to participate in the Saturday portion of our Vermont meeting. I am more than familiar with their perfectly preserved 1959 Riley 2.6, one of only three Riley 2.6s in North America. I had the pleasure of riding in it through the fall beauty of Northwestern Connecticut on the drive that Tim Gladding planned for participants in the 2005 meeting of Riley owners at Lime Rock. That’s the back of Gary Harvey at the wheel as the 2.6 passes through the West Cornwall covered bridge, photographed by yours truly. Below the car emerges, photographed by my wife, Judy. It was that ride that prompted me to plan a tour this year that includes all five covered bridges in Addison County, Vermont. Gary and Phil should arrive after we have traversed two of them in the morning, but they will have another pair to cross with us once we have lunched at Eric Killorin’s in Weybridge. Gary and Phil will not be the only New Hampshire Riley owners driving to join us Saturday morning. From their blueberry farm in Troy, Fenella and Anthony Levick will be bringing their fine 1937 Adelphi 12/4, which won the most original prize last year at our AGM meet at Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.

Phil once kept his 2.6 at his home in Wisconsin, but it moved with him to be near Gary. Three years ago they entered it in a local meet:


“On June 8, 2008 we entered our Riley 2.6 (the one in which you and Mrs. Riley toured with Gary and I at Lime Rock) at a British car rally sponsor by Brit Bits ( a local British car club) and the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire. The last count that I saw had about 45 British cars entered. They covered a wide range of marques. Our Riley was the only one in the show and, as usual, attracted much attention. Most car collectors had never seen one before and spent a great deal of time looking it over very carefully and expressing great admiration. When the awards were made our Riley won “Best in Show” competing with many outstanding cars that had been beautifully restored. Of course we were delighted.

“Phil Harvey”

Unfortunately, the heavens opened as they do in New England. The ensuing deluge prevented the Harveys, father and son, from bringing their beautiful Riley 2.6 from New Hampshire to join our group in Vermont. But we’ll always have Lime Rock.

Any of these photos, at the top or in the gallery, can be enlarged by clicking a cursor on it.

What is the purpose of this club?

Notice the fine carriage-work, even if you cannot see all of it. Ample upholstery. Clean design. It was 1953 and the Riley drophead was in Las Vegas to pose with Miss Monroe, who was there to portray Pola Debevoise in “How to Marry a Millionaire.” Riley Motor Club USA was in its first year. The car did its best to appear as alluring as the actresss, but Hollywood is fickle. They had a Singer in the wings as a backup. As the studios had Kim Novak to threaten Monroe with if she kept coming late to the set.

Early this year I received a call from a Studebaker buff in Phoenix called Morrie Shaw. He’d had a set of four wood interior window trims for a Riley saloon for more than thirty years. Their owner had left them to be refinished and had not returned. Morrie had long given up hope that he would. So he contacted the club in the person of yours truly. Morrie was headed to Bakersfield for a prewar auto swap meet, but we couldn’t work out a drop off place for them. So he shipped them to me.

In the meantime I’d been put in touch with Maurice LeBlanc, of Redwood City, California, who became a new member. He has a fine cream Riley RMB with an off-brand engine and drive-train. That change was made long before Mo bought the car, and he is not about to undo it.

I had spent a long time with aging club rosters trying to find a car from Phoenix that was the source of the window trim, but we had none on the books that matched. Until Mo mentioned that his car, before it blew its engine, had been from Phoenix. I asked him about his window trim. He said his was awful temporary pot metal.

Yes, thanks to the Riley Motor Club Of North America, car and window trim, after being apart more than three decades, have been reunited. It’s a small Riley world out there, and the glue that holds it together on each continent are its Riley clubs, ours included.

Enlarge Marilyn and the windshield of her RMD by clicking your cursor on them, giving an improved view of even the Cadillac in the background.

From the well-preserved files in Eric Killorin’s garage

Place your cursor on the headline above. It will turn blue. Click on it to widen these photos.

When I received the corpus of our almost moribund club in a cardboard box in a park in the San Fernando Valley at a small meeting of members in 2005, I knew almost nothing of our history. I learned a bit from Varlie Gordon before he died, and a lot more from Bill Lewis. Bill told me the club had originally been organized to attempt to pressure the Nuffield Organization to better support the Riley cars they had sold. Not enough spare parts were available. Until recently, I had no verification of the age of our club. But during my pre-conclave visit with Mickey Shemin to Vermont, I got confirmation of what Bill told me. In perparing for our members lunch, to be held Saturday, October 1, at the residence of Eric Killorin, I found in the files kept within Eric’s ample garage workshop area a copy of a letter dated May 3, 1953 from our club’s first president, Carl J. von Kampen to Karl C. Killorin, Eric’s father, from whom Eric inherited both his Riley and his 1924 Duesenberg. The letter from Carl in Los Angeles to Karl in Andover, Massachusetts, stated that our organization, which began its life as Riley Motor Club USA, was founded a little more than a year shy of six decades ago.

“I am glad to know that you have other Riley members to Riley with,” wrote von Kampen. “We are getting members here from a lot of places within the good U.S.A. Our club was started last October, 1952, and we meet every two weeks and plan things to do. Had a picnic breakfast last Sunday and in two weeks we go to Palm Springs Road Race. Then a trip to Wild Flowers in the desert.”

So we turn fifty nine years old next month. Also in the files we found a one cent post card postmarked July 27, 1951, to Karl Killorin:

“Mr. Killorin, Found the name and address of the man who has the 1950 Riley 5-pass. convertible – Linus C. Pauling, Jr., 132 Glen Road, Wellesley, Phone WE 5-3702. Good luck, Josiah Macy, Jr.” The return address was “Group Networks Laboratory…M.I.T.”

That very same car was acquired several years ago from Carole Lind, widow of the late owner Fred Lind, of Wellesley, by my namesake doppleganger member, John Henry Riley, of Mobridge, South Dakota, and only recently restored to running condition and fitted with a new top. John Henry was surprised when I told him that a winner of both the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and for Peace had owned his car.

Also Eric produced a letter from Henry F. Marley of Marley Motors, 1776 Post Road, Hillgrove, “HIGH GRADE USED CARS,” in Warwick, Rhode Island, offering two cars, a roadster and a saloon for sale used. Asking price for either was $2350.

“The Riley Saloon has a two-tone color combination, with black fenders and roof and a deep ivory paint on the body and genuine beige leather upholstery. This is a handsome looking automobile. The mileage on this car is 9345, with the original tires still looking new. The interior and exterior condition is spotless and one can easily mistake this saloon for a new car.”

Karl passed on the roadster and bought the saloon, which is shown in color, with bright yellow today where it once was ivory, in the black and white photos, including Eric in 1978.

Intrepid Don Milligan’s notes on New England highways

I have not seen Bobbie and Don Milligan since 2005 in Connecticut at Lime Rock at the first Riley event Kay and Doug Campbell put on at the request of Victor Riley himself. From my archive of Riley photos you will see the Milligans in a Lime Rock field next to their 1933 Riley Earl of March Special. I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing their RM Roadster, which is set to travel to Middlebury, Shelburne and Burlington. It was Don who first called the club’s attention to the wonders of the Shelburne Museum. He grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, as did our Saturday host Eric Killorin.

Don’s roadster was the lone Riley at Lime Rock this year. Here’s Don’s note to me about driving, particularly driving a Riley, through Irene-ravaged New England, with his predictions about access to our event:

“Well, the Vermont tourism folks are advertising everyday on the radio that they are still alive and well in VT.

“On Tuesday 9/6/11 my wife and I returned from Cambridge, NY with the RMC. We carefully avoided travel thru VT, but did some cross country thru central Massachusetts. One of the roads paralleled a river and we had an opportunity to review a mild version of what must have happened in VT. Impressive ! ! !

“Saturday 9/10/11 my buddy from NY traveled across route 9 (west @ Bennington to east across southern VT) into NH. This road goes thru Wilmington,VT which took a serious hit. Road was passable all the way. Temporary bridges, one lane where half of the road was washed away and some dirt roads, but all serviceable. Work progresses at a pretty good pace. Downtown Wilmington was every bit as expected, but the roads thru were useable. I expect that any “main” thoroughfare into Middlebury will be OK by the time we get there. If we have rain for our tour, we might expect a muddy field. Those who feel that their “baby” might get “dirty” will have ulcers. So be it, any Vermonter worth his salt can get around. Tourists are on their own. Damn Yankees will take a hit and get to work fixing things.

“Round trip Andover to Lime Rock Park, CT, north to Cambridge, NY and return to Andover was 668 miles. Rained all the way home, but just light rain. Top down all the way. RM behaved as it should. Lime Rock Park, vintage racing and all sorts of foreign and domestic machinery had but one Riley – ours. Keep in mind, that ours is a very scruffy Riley. However, we were amazed by how many people, Lime Rock folks and spectators, who went out of their way and actually thanked us for bringing the car. The vast majority feel it should be left unrestored. Guess it’s the in thing now.

“Sunday at LRP is a quiet day with no racing. There’s a church across the road from the park. They have a concours and club day for all sorts of marques. When we drove in to find a parking space, the folks checking cars in put the arm on us to enter their concours. They worked pretty hard on us as I had no intention on getting involved with their damn concours machinery with our poor old Riley that was loaded with luggage pending our journey to upstate NY. They prevailed and entered us in the {“Virgin Vehicles” Just as we found it, or non-restored originals} class. That’s what is says on the trophy. Got second place there. Had a hard time finding a place to put the damn thing in the car with all the luggage. It was a very unusual weekend with all the interest in the Riley. Also had “special” parking on Friday and Saturday of the event along with many other “special interest” machinery.

“All good fun ! ! !”

See you in Vermont, Don.

For a better look at the Milligans and their March Special, click on the image. It will enlarge.