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More from Ken Nelson, his engine and the history of midwest meets

Regarding my engine rebuild, yes, please do include my email address in the newsletter ( I welcome all comments and thoughts about the rebuild process. I have done about eight or nine engine rebuilds over the past 45 years, but spread out as they are it is often a “relearning” process. I have concluded, however, that these are sturdy cast iron engines which likely can stand their fair share of abuse or”‘lickin, and still come out tickin”. When I investigated my connecting rod conversion done in England (by I believe John Byron or one of the gurus there), it became very apparent the work was well done and functional, but hardly fine-tuned precision machining. Here are three pictures of one of the rod big ends after the Babbit bearings had been line bored out to accept MGB shells. The first is how the rod looked after shell conversion in England; the second picture is the rod cap with the shell after running 16,000 miles in my engine; the third picture is the same rod with a new replacement shell which seems to still fit well, and which I will be reinstalling in the engine. I don’t think this is the type of machining and parts we’d see in a Formula One race car, but it seems to work satisfactorily in a Riley 1 1/2 litre!

I did have the small end bushings redone at a machine shop in Grand Rapids, and here’s a picture of the rods and my honing of the cylinders prior to reassembly, which I hope to do soon. I also realize these bores aren’t perfect, but with unused NOS Hepolite .030″ oversize pistons, rings, and pins to install I think the engine will run adequately. As I mentioned earlier, I just did not want to embark on pulling the engine from the car and redoing cams and main bearings since all is well with them. I welcome all thoughts and suggestions.

Finally, I should also add a bit to the club’s history by relating that it was I, supported by Don Caldwell from Knoxville, who instigated and organized the yearly Midwest Riley meets which eventually ended up being held at Indianapolis for a number of years. I put on about 18 yearly meets before slowing down. I wasn’t quite as ambitious as you have been, however, and did not attempt a national meet. But I was able to get anywhere from about four to seven or so cars with a perhaps ten to twelve or so members together at various times by arranging a meet in association with another generic British Car show yearly. Originally this was arranged for Chicago with Don and I, and I held this also at Louisville, and Cincinnati, before settling on Indianapolis. I have a few stories about those meets, and I’ll see if I can dig some out to send you later if you wish. The most ambitious member then was Steve Tate who drove his drophead several thousand miles from Yakima, WA and back to attend one Indianapolis gathering. Sandy Turner was one of the Indianapolis members who owns his one-family drophead and was very enthusiastic and helpful in getting members to attend, along with Don Caldwell. Mike and Carol Long from Nashville, along with Carl Dorr from Frogmore (later renamed St. Helena), South Carolina were attendees from our southern states. Don Forrest had a beautifully restored red RMC he drove to our meet, along with another owner from Canton, Ohio, with an RMC transplanted with a Ford V8 power plant. Don Forrest’s car was sold and Carl Dorr’s car I believe ended up in Allan Campbell’s ownership. Don Caldwell bought a beautiful Riley Kestrel 6-light from Steve Tate, which he later sold to Mike Long after Don bought a beautiful 1935 PA Airline MG Coupe. Bob Grinsell from Michigan occasionally showed up and has restored at least 2 very nice RMs I’m told. So we have a bit of history for Riley’s in the Midwest, but most of the USA Rileys I’m sure ended up on the East or West coasts. Sandy Turner thought there might have been a Riley dealership somewhere in or around Indianapolis, but I have no knowledge of that. Perhaps someone else has details of where dealerships were located here, and how long they existed?

So now it’s off to the garage and some more skinned knuckles. Hope to meet you at least by next year!

Thanks, Ken. We had a similar experience at Indianapolis in 2008. Four fine Rileys in the field. Don Caldwell drove his RME to Indianapolis for the last time before selling it. Grinsell did one find RM and has long been at work on a Kestrel. Steve Tate later drove his roadster all the way from Yakima to Lime Rock and almost all the way home. There were many Nuffield dealerships in the Midwest. I met a man who worked for one while I was attending the meet I organized at Indianapolis.

For a better look at Ken’s engine block or any photo in the gallery below, click on it and it will enlarge.

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