1966 Riley Elf With A Surprise Under The Hood!


This Riley Elf hides a surprise under the hood. Instead of the more common BMC A-series four cylinder, there’s a Honda VTEC! I realize that will offend some purists out there, but this conversion was done professionally with a lot of effort placed into keeping the car looking as stock as possible. Thanks to reader M. Patterson for this find! It’s up for sale here on craigslist in Royston, Tennessee for a pricey $29,000. I have enjoyed my drives in regular Mini’s, but I’m guessing this would be an entirely different experience. How do you feel about restomods like these? Let us know in the comments below!


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  1. Birdman

    …and it’s turbo’d….well…at least that looks like an intercooler in front there..unless it’s a custom radiator of some sort…

    • SkipM

      I’m pretty sure that’s a custom radiator, it looks like the original was removed to make room for the headers…

      • RedRiley

        The original radiator was on the left hand side of the engine, facing to the side, just like all early Minis. The one in this Elf is a standard aftermarket Honda radiator.

  2. Howard A Member

    My 1st reaction was BLASPHEMY!! An Asian heart in a British body. ( Bitter rivals in WW2)( I know, let it go) However, if one was to make a driver out of these, this would be a good way to go. Someone did a magnificent job on this car, and is worth every penny. It’s clearly an old style Mini on steroids. You’d be to 80 mph, while an original Mini was just grabbing 2nd gear. Pretty cool car.

  3. Rick

    Hardly ever see a Riley in NW Washington State, which is strange given our close proximity to Vancouver BC where there were numerous british cars sold new and driven daily. New “original” steering wheel? Wtf? And looks like BMC pulled the tailights out of the MG Midget parts bin. But bet it flies!

    • RedRiley

      The taillights are similar to Midget or MGB, but they are actually the same as the Austin 1100 or Austin America cars.

  4. Chris in Nashville

    I want it, I want it, I want it! Anyone wanna spot me $25,000? It’s for a good cause!

    • jimbosidecar

      get in line. If I ever get another Mini, this is the way to go.

  5. Dave Wright

    I am not very high on radical engine swaps.,,,,, but there is a great Riley Elf in a yard near down town Payette Idaho I have been thinking about.,,,,,

  6. Richard Lewis

    Being a Mini purist I would venture to say the car has been destroyed for the purposes of any real car collector.

    The conversion looks pretty good with the exception of the front fender extensions. It would be a lot easier to disguise the wider front track under fender extensions on a Mini.

    I’m really interested to see what this goes for. I’m afraid many of these types of conversions will never work out when you get to the point of selling them because the market is so narrow. I’m guessing this will command about 1/2 of the asking price on a very good day.

    • D. King

      Agreed, Lewis. I hate to see this. I hate it even worse when I see them win any sort of prize in a car show, except in a “modified” class.

      • Keith IH

        D. King & RL,
        I own a VTEC mini and I too struggled with the notion of it never being a classic mini again. Then I realized that I might be saving a mini that would never have been restored in the first place had it not been for my decision to have it restored/built. I also thought that Sir Alec (would he still be alive) might have smiled at the thought of ringing so much power out of his little car’s chassis. I’ve owned mine for eight years and enjoy it immensely. It wins an award in the modified class in every show it’s been in. As for weight difference, the Honda powertrain weighs a mere 30 lbs more than the original lump and with a LSD, torque steer is manageable. It’s still a ridiculous car in a fun way and puts a smile on my face every time I drive it! This Riley is a very nice example and I know the owner has every penny of the ask into it. Is it worth it? That’s up to it’s next owner . . .

  7. Birdman

    I just discovered there is a video of a ’68 Elf with this same engine swap on YouTube..if you google “Riley Elf” you’ll find it.

  8. redwagon

    ok does anyone else worry about weight ratios not front to back but side to side? it looks like the front left would be the heaviest corner of the car.

    almost said front drivers side but realized ….. o, it’s all so confusing ……

    • Howard A Member

      Hi redwagon, Mini’s traditionally lift the inside rear wheel on hard cornering. I doubt it will tip over. :)

  9. bonneville 64

    Somebody buy it and freak out these kids with the orange juice can tailpipes, who think they have something, just because it is loud.

  10. gunningbar

    Im wondering about understeer with a heavier front end… that aside.. take the vicar to lunch… wow!

  11. John

    I presume that the folks who did this also engineered the torque steer out of it. If not, it’s inside rear wheel will not be all it lifts.

  12. krash

    love it…..would absolutely be thrilled to bomb around in this Riley…w/o worrying that where/when I would be stranded with a spanner in hand and my head under the bonnet..

    * just curious: what other ways did the builder strengthen the framework given the added power/torque on the vehicle….I saw no mention of any additional chassis work…(I’m sure it was done given the quality of this build, just would like to see what additional work was needed to maintain the structural integrity of this little monster)


  13. Cameron Bater UK

    The Elf and the Hornets, I think look much nicer than the Mini of Austin and Morris, I love the Mini for what it is but in my opinion the 1300 carries off the lines better as its bigger, if I were to buy into the Mini market I’d go for an Elf or Hornet just because the design was a bit more refined and with the hips they carry off their lines in a way that the mini just can’t do.

    As to the interesting twist on a restoration I personally wouldn’t gain extra power by adding a Honda engine but I don’t condemn those that would.
    I’m thinking about dropping an MG front subframe, engine and all into a Morris Minor for example AND I know of a Subaru powered Morris Minor, the only important thing for me is has the job been done to the highest of standards.

  14. Peter Brookes-Tee

    In the UK we do like well engineered conversions almost as much as restored to original spec cars. I had two Riley Pathfinders that followed the RMD’s listed, beautiful cars just as good as Mk 11 Jags. Also a Riley 1500, twin SU carbs and a Rev Counter were supposed to make a big difference over the Wolsey 1500, I just finished a total rebuild of it in 1969 and it was pinched! That’s big money being asked, I agree with Richard.

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