Live Stage rebuild: with two weeks to go, will they make it?

Live Stage rebuild: with two weeks to go, will they make it? image

The Practical Classics team have been hard at work over the past few months and with just two weeks until the show, will the car be in good enough condition to drive off the Live Stage? Join us over the weekend to find out...

We've been catching up with Danny over the last few days to get the low down on how the Riley restoration project is coming along and here's what he had to say:

Here’s the deal. Before we rebuild a car ‘live’ onstage at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at NEC – and as a team, Practical Classics has now done this six times – we have to make sure it will go together. This means before we finish it at the show, we need to part finish it at the Practical Classics Magazine workshop.

Why? The reasons are mainly health and safety related. Grinding, welding and painting in front of 400 people has many potential pitfalls including death and blindness, so best avoided. We also want to make sure that when previous owner, Ron Jones, steps up to drive the car offstage at the end of the weekend (in memory of his father), he can actually do so. So we have had no sleep, Matt Tomkins, Theo Gillam and myself, and work on ‘CFB’ is moving on apace.

The vinyl roof fitting was completed with the addition of the guttering and rear glass, along with some tea and swearing (fiddly job). Theo and I then went over to Bromsgrove Engine Services to collect the engine. The 1 and a half litre lump had been through a lot of cleaning and machining but Greg and Keith waited for us to come over for some of the fun stuff. Theo dressed the head and block before  cleaning and polishing the ports as I removed the crank plugs and spent a happy hour cleaning out all the oil ways. An unbelievable amount of silt builds up inside the average crank – always clean it out properly when you rebuild an engine. Then a final clean and the RMA had something like an engine that was ready to rebuild.

It was a tough trying to find a set of piston rings. At some point the engine had been bored out by 0.030" and the Hepolite pistons are aftermarket with an obscure ring thickness. Two compression rings per piston and two oil control rings per piston of 2.5mm and 4.5mm thickness respectively. Much head scratching later (from a number of specialists), we were quoted £200 for a set from Cox & Turner engineering.

Engine building was progressing well so I left Theo in his den of iniquity and went back the workshop where Matt and I rebuilt all the front wheel and brake master cylinders with RM Club kits. Then, while Matt revived and refitted the mechanical linkage to the rear drums, I worked the excellent Automec brake line kit into the front wheels – yes, this era of RM had hydraulic front and mechanical rear brakes – and finally fitted the club’s remanufactured flexi hoses. Stopping – sorted.

Next, gearbox; which was spruced up with a fresh coat of paint and new oil. I consulted with Ron and he told me there were no issues when he last drove the car in 1971. Obviously, I won’t hold it against him if it explodes, but I can’t stretch to a gearbox rebuild right now. New mounts yes though! Again RM Club remanufactured items.

And that is where I have to leave it… will we make it to the NEC Live Stage ready to go? Who knows. We have a Hamilton Carpet set ready to fit, a loom from the excellent people at Autosparks is on its way… that will be a job and a half, Longstone’s finest tyres are on their rims, chrome is ready…. But there is still a massive list of jobs to do.


This is Ron Jones with CFB ‘as found’… he bought the Riley with his father (a Rolls Royce engineer at Crewe) in 1969 and drove it into the early 1970s. Then CFB was laid up in a barn. Every Christmas Ron and his father would pledge to start the restoration, but it never happened. Ron is an avid reader of Practical Classics and contacted Danny and team PC. The deal was done and this is the result… CFB is being rebuilt live so that Ron can make good on the deal he made with his dad, and drive it offstage at the end of the show weekend.