Well Lettered: 1950 MG Riley RMD DHC

Riley introduced the RM series car after the war and built the RMD series from 1949 until 1951. In 1949 production moved to MG, so some might call this car an MG. This rare DHC model is listed on eBay. Restoration began in the 1970’s and was never completed. It was repainted and should look nice under all the dust. The wood body frame is in good condition and there is no rust. This will be a beautiful and unique car when it’s completed.

The seats and door panels have been recovered in leather. There is still a lot of work to be done in here.

This should be the 2.5 litre engine. The cylinders were filled with oil. It looks mostly complete. Hopefully with a little work it can be made to run again.

The top bows will need to be replaced but it has a new top that was never installed. Lots of parts are included but some are sure to me missing. This car will be amazing when it is completed. What do you think this Riley could be worth if it could be reassembled as it is, replacing only the roof bows? Average values are about $25,000. What do you think someone will be willing to pay for it? This will certainly not be a quick flip.


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  1. Howard A Member

    Wow, what a neat car. Almost looks German in styling. I don’t recall ever seeing these ( in Milwaukee, Wis.,,,HA!) and thought this era British sports cars were all like the spindly MG T series. I’d love this even more than a TR6. What do you think, Jamie? Check out the dash, can’t find a LHD but you get the idea, beautiful. http://www.classiccarshq.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Ril-3.jpg

  2. Michelle Rand

    I have a 1950 Riley drophead coupe, RHD. It is fast, slightly exotic with aluminum panels and a GREAT engine. It’s very sprightly. Be careful with values. Some are crap, and some models seem to be, but are not the DHC with the 2.5 motor. Parts are a challenge because the Riley club in Britain has decided to take the stance that they will not send parts to the US for liability reasons, but my mechanic managed to find a guy right in our back yard who specializes them. Also, this situation just gives an excuse to go to Beaulieu Auto Jumble or something.

  3. Dave Wright

    These are great cars that have been “discovered” I owned one many years ago when they were inexpensive. Like a jag, the interiors are lovely and expensive to restore but I think drivetrain parts are very robust and less expensive to rebuild. I think once done, it would be a very reliable car. Off course, parts more common in Great Britain where there are rabid collectors for this mark.

  4. Wagon master

    Riley was independent until 1952. BMC didn’t own then yet. I owned one titled as a 52. Best british car I have owned! … as British cars go … This one needs a lot though. Great torquey twin cam engine. Cruises on hwy at 70mph effortlessly. I would be more than cautious about the underlying Ashwood frame!! Good parts network in the UK, but communicating what you are ordering and them delivering what you need is frustrating = british speak vs. US english. That’ll put behind 7 weeks with transatlantic returns with round trip parts procurements…… argh, reminds me why I sold it.

    • SamM

      I don’t see a twin cam here, looks ohv to me. Is this the original engine?

  5. Wagon master

    Twin cam in block with over head valve assembly. Google it.

    This car also has trafficators and left hand drive, which makes it worth something! In that condition at $11k, I’m already out!

  6. Dolphin Member

    Agree that it has a German look, and that you would need to examine the wood body frame, as you would with an old Morgan. If that’s bad you have a very big job ahead just to get that repaired correctly. The fact that the owner has an E-Type parked next to the Riley is a good sign I guess—a vintage Brit car fan.

    I remember Riley competing in motorsports but can’t find a reference right now. The torque of the (relatively) big 4-banger would have made it possible to compete. I believe they focussed on rally competition, although maybe not with this particular model, seeing as it is generally considered an “executive” car.

  7. ClassicCarFan

    @Wagon Master.
    Riley was bought out by the Nuffield Group which already comprised of Morris and MG (and others) in 1938. Due to the hiatus in car production for WW2 the parent company did not really start to reorganize the Riley branded range straight away immediately and this led to the Riley models immediately post-war to remain largely unique to Riley. It’s true to say that the process of parts sharing and dilution of the Riley DNA accelerated fast after the Nuffield Group and Austin merged to form BMC in 1952, eventually they ended up as lightly badge-engineered clones of Austin and Morris models. but Riley were not an independent manufacturer back in 1951, they had not been for some time.

    Like you say – it’s a twin cam but not double over-head-cam, cams halfway up the block, with short push-rods.

    I think the stretch to call this an “MG Riley” is pretty tenuous. They were all subsidiary brands manufactured by a parent company which owned multiple factories. As The group rationalized production they moved assembly of the Riley to their Abingdon factory. Austin Healeys we also built at Abingdon, nobody would call them “MG Austin Healeys”. …. This car was designed by the Riley team in Coventry, branded as a Riley and sold as a Riley.

  8. Dave Wright

    There is a Riley version of a Morris Minor near me I have been thinking about buying……..meet little car as if I need another project.

    • MikeH

      Go for it Dave! Minors are great cars with easy parts availability and I have seen the Riley version only in pics.

      • Dave Wright


      • Dave Wright

        Tried to post a photo…..I have done several Minors and they are great.

  9. A.J.

    These are neat but an unfinished restoration is always a bad deal.

    However, left hand drive convertible with prewar styling it feels like Riley’s have been undervalued. Double the size of the engine and maybe that wouldn’t be true.

  10. charlie Member

    A retired high school teacher rebuilt the top bows on my ’39 MG SA out of hardwood and did a superb job. He was a science teacher, not a shop teacher. I had the originals, although header was rotted in part, and one other was broken, for patterns. The hardware was still good. The canvas top had been replaced at some point and was still good. It was a big car and had operational landeau irons just like a contemporary baby carriage.

  11. Mark S Member

    I’m not a British car expert by any means, so please consider this idea as hypothetical. I would be inclined to replicate the wood frame in square tubular aluminum and tig weld it together. I’d then have it powder coated, and when reassembling the body panels I’d have a thin strip of Teflon added between the two dissimilar metals. After every thing was reassembled you’d be hard pressed to even see the upgrade. The body would last much longer it wouldn’t become lose and rickety over time and it would be much safer to drive in. Just a thought guys.

  12. A.J.

    This is not uncommon but replacing a wood framed car with metal generally devalues it to collectors by a significant amount. If the car is not worth anything anyways then it certainly doesn’t matter. This car is in a gray area but would argue for wood.

  13. Coventrycat

    Love those Rileys. Restoring this as original with all the old timey methods, and driving it only to car shows and cruise nights will still result in a car that will outlast the current owner and at least 3 after that.

  14. Chris A.

    Lots of Riley lovers on this post. My Dad and I restored one in the late fifties and he eventually sold it to the neighbor. Wonderful road car, heavy steering in town, hence the huge steering wheel. Unless the upgrade had been done, the brakes are interesting; hydraulic in front and mechanical in rear, but there is a factory kit to go all hydraulic. However Riley RMD brakes are huge and it stops as well as it goes. See : “Riley Restoration” on the web about a Canadian who really got into restoring one of the saloons. The DHC’s are top of the line and well worth restoring. A 2.5 liter “Big Four” in good shape has a lot of mid range pull and is good for about 100 HP. The dual cams and pushrods worked well to make a minature Hemi and these engines, although long stroke, responded to tuning. See “Healey-Silverstone”.

  15. ClassicCarFan

    Dave Wright, Mike H. There never was a Riley badged version of the Morris Minor – at least, not built by the factory. There was a Riley badged mini (Elf) a Riley-badged version of the 1100/1300 FWD family (Kestrel) a Riley “one-point-five” which was a twin of the almost identical Wolseley, and Riley badged versions of the Austin Cambridge/Morris Oxford “Farina” family – but no Riley version of the Minor.

    • MikeH

      You’re right–it is the Riley Mini I have seen in pics.

    • Dave Wright

      No…….it is a Riley Morris……..

      • Dave Wright

        I have photos but they won’t load

      • Dave Wright

        Riley 1.5

    • Dave Wright

      The 1.5 is built on the Minor chassis……..

      • MikeH

        You’re right Dave. The Riley 1.5 and Wolseley 1500 were both built on the Morris “floorpan” [I didn’t know that, I googled it]. But, they weren’t badge engineered Minors. The bodies and drive trains were different. I learn something everyday on this site.

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