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Homepage. This page: Andrew recalls the Riley Elf he owned in the early 1970s.

Andrew's 1966 Riley Elf.

Only a few days after providing photographs of his father's Wolseley Hornet, Andrew Willoughby emailed over photos of the similar Riley Elf that he bought for himself. The car was eight years old at the time and, like many cars of the 1960s, was already in need of improvement if its life was to continue in reasonable running order. Andrew takes up the story...
1966 Riley Elf numberplate in Andrew's garage
"My life started in a family with no cars, but my dad soon progressed through 803cc Austin A30, 948cc A40 Mk2 (Andrew's and his father's Mk2 A40s feature on this page), to a 998cc Wolseley Hornet. At 16 years old I had my 1956 Reliant Regal with an aluminium body, then my 948cc A35, and my 1098cc Mk2 A40."
"At age 19 I wanted something a bit more modern than the A40, so came across a Riley Elf, the same spec as my dad's Hornet, except for a lovely wood dashboard. It would be barely 8 years old, sold from new by Nidd Vale Motors to an elderly lady, then sold to Tom Grath, the parts man at Nidd Vale. It didn't cost me much, and I had the idea of spending money on it to rebuild everything, but no, every bit of it was so worn out! It was MoT'd and I ran it as my daily car to drive to Rose Forgrove Engineering at Seacroft, where I was a student apprentice. Green with a cream roof and a lovely green leather interior, all a bit worn, but it was fine for a student. Went like the clappers but goodness it used some oil. About twenty miles to the pint meant I was putting 2 or 3 pints in every day. The blue smoke from the exhaust wasn't too bad, but don't leave it ticking over in traffic. If you did, then the cloud of smoke as you pulled away was just amazing. At the time I was servicing a few cars 'on the side', so I put all the used oil into the Elf."
"I ran it for a year or more and did little to it. It passed an MoT without too much trouble, the certificate signed of course by S.Claus. It did look odd as a signature, but how else could Stan sign it? I put a pair of wings and a new front panel on it, but realised it just wasn't worth it. The engine was shot, it needed new sills inner and outer, a new rear subframe, and new brake cylinders, pipes, hoses and shoes. Throw it away! So I did. All I have left is the number plate. But it was fun. And some parts were re-used. My friend 'F' was using two Mini vans to create one useable car, so the front end of the Elf ended up on a van. Meanwhile, I bought an MG1100 (which now features on this page), a 1963 model that I bought in about 1974 and ran until 1977."

Dismantling of the Elf in photos.

The following photos show the part-dismantled Riley Elf. The first sees Andrew at the wheel of the sorry-looking car. The front end panels, along with the engine, doors and windscreen, had all been removed by this point. Apart from a lone Ford (Mk2 Cortina, which belonged to a neighbouring joiner), the cars in this snapshot are all from the BMC stable. A London-registered Mk1 BMC 1100 (BYY 332B) from 1964, sporting body-fillered rear arches carved into something close to the original shape (a common sight in garages throughout the 1960s and 1970s) was in to have new floors fitted - the job was referred to as 'York Minster' by Stan Clause. Over to the right is a Morris "Mini-Minor" Traveller woodie, also in for a spot of work.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
1966 Riley Elf
Following on, a photo showing the back end of the Elf nosed into a garage, the Mini alongside it. The Mini too is showing signs of wear to its body, the usual rot spots on the front wings are beginning to dissolve, filler coming to the rescue as a stop-gap repair. I remember our family's '67 Mini deteriorating in just the same way.
Rear view of the Elf

Building the Riley Elf/Mini Van.

As Andrew has already mentioned, once the decision had been made to pension-off the Elf, a plan was formulated to re-use the front end panels and grille on a friend's Mini van. The following photo shows the re-branded Riley/Mini van during its (re)construction. Look closely and you can see the roof vent that was fitted to the early Mini vans, and the two windows set into the pair of rear doors.
Front view of the Riley Elf van
Completing this set of photographs, the completed Mini van now adorned with the Riley front panel and grille. Not one for purists nowadays of course, but when Mini vans were just plentiful and cheap old runabouts, many owners did what they could to personalise their van to make it stand out from the crowd. Fitting front panels from either the Riley Elf or the Wolseley Hornet was not all that un-common, and the end result was well worth the effort, at a time when no-one was thinking yet of preserving and restoring these old workhorses to factory spec. Thanks for the photos and write-up Andrew, an interesting insight into running what are now "classic cars" back in their day.
Completed Riley Elf van
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