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

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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.

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