1936 Riley 15/6 Kestrel – Classified of the Week

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By Chris Pollitt

Of all the now long passed names of the UK automotive landscape, there is one that still stirs the soul. A company known for flamboyant and exciting design, and a company that took luxury very seriously. We are of course talking about Riley. And while its bicycle-based beginnings might not be the most obvious link to luxury, the cars truly were. 

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This model, a 15/6 from 1935, is an exquisite example of what Riley was up to in its prime. It’s a rolling nod to art deco design. The name 15/6 relates to the engine. In this model, it was a six-cylinder 1,726cc unit with 51bhp @4,500rpm. However, the 15 was in relation to the car’s power. But as mentioned, it has more than 15bhp. This is because it was the RAC rating, which was calculated in a basic way. At its introduction, it was usually correct. However, as engine technology moved on, the mathematical base power was much lower than the actual power. Basically, the RAC rating was in fact hugely out of date. But anyway, that’s enough of the history lesson – let’s go back to the car! 

This 15/6 also carried the Kestrel name, which was what Riley called its flagship cars. Coachbuilt with, in this case, a six-light body that was sculpted to aid airflow (cutting-edge for the time). Built entirely by Riley’s craftspeople, the Kestrel was the epitome of luxury and refinement, with acres of wood and leather. Had you bought one of these in ‘35, you would be the envy of many a motorist. Though saying that, you would be today, too. 

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Sadly though, the introduction of the MOT, and the popularity of the Riley engine and chassis within the motorsport world meant that very few original cars survived. Indeed, the vendor states that he believes there to be possibly nine left. And that’s a shame, as it’s a beautiful machine. 

The car offered here is finished in maroon with a contrasting beige leather interior. It is, as you would expect, a restored car, but one that has been done to the highest possible standard. Furthermore, the engine was rebuilt during 2012 and there is a raft of paperwork to support all these works. It’s a car that has lived a cherished life, having been with its original owner for some 59 years, and after that it has been through the custodianship of four more people, including a private collector based in Switzerland. 

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This is a wonderful, beautiful and ultimately rare machine that deserves to be cherished for many more years to come. It comes supplied with FIVA identity card and full details of ownership, and is ready to go on its next adventure. A rare opportunity, this Riley 15/6 Kestrel is a mere £45,000, which for a car so rich in history has to be representative of a significant bargain. 

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