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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 wilkiethomas@btinternet.com. 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
Alastair”

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.

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