Will Ron get to drive his Riley?

Will Ron get to drive his Riley? image

The PC and Riley RM Club team are still at it… rebuilding the car that lived in Ron’s shed for 46 years…

Danny Hopkins, Editor of Practical Classics Magazine is fairly explicit: ‘Panic? Yes. With three days to go to the show Theo and I were expecting to be torqueing down the head, instead we have only just finished machining everything.’ This delay came about after the white metal bearings in the engine were found to be cracking… ‘It wasn’t easy to spot but it was there. White metalling, like automatic gearbox rebuilds, is basically witchcraft. To do it properly you need to have attended Hogwarts and own a wand. However there are still places where it is done and one of those places is Formhalls.’ PC called with their short-notice demands, they said yes. ‘These guys do white metalling for historic racing, they know how to meet a deadline,’ Danny continued, ‘Theo and I grabbed our big ends and headed south. Formhalls is a family firm that boasts three-line borers, two rod borers, two Colchester lathes, five Bridgeport milling machines and some state of the art diagnostic equipment. Most importantly from the team’s point of view it has a custom-built casting shop.

‘We met workshop foreman Charles Tanner who has been at Formhalls since he was 15. Today, along with managing the busy workshop he also looks after the white metalling requirements having been taught the secrets in his teens. In 2014 he won young craftsman of the year - Theo and I were in awe. If classic cars have a future, we were meeting it.’

The process the team set in motion was slick. It was meticulous and precise, but looked effortless. By the time the bearings were ready it was obvious that this it was part science, part art and the guys doing it, were highly skilled. Since then Theo, with Hopkins holding spanners, have spent a week building the engine up. With the head still to be torqued we threw it in the van and went back to meet Tomkins at the PC workshop – and that us literally where we have to leave the team.

Will Ron get to drive the car on Sunday….? We owe it to him… and here’s why, in his own words…. ‘What am I looking forward to most,  as a fan of PC from day 1, is meeting the team  but then, there is a car that needs thinking about too….! Dad was an exacting Rolls Royce engineer and often - when examining someone's 'bodgery' on my latest wheeled acquisition - would shake his head, question my sanity and dismiss the whole affair with comtempt! Accordingly, for many years my desire to own an RMA was firmly resisited in the belief that they were far too sophisticated for the inexperienced to work on. Finally in 1972 dad relented and helped me to buy CFB intending that we could work on her together believing that I was now 'mature' enough to learn the skills needed for the restoration.  Unfortunately, due to dad's sudden and untimely death from cancer we were never able work together and, in consequence, nearly lost CFB. Happily after 46 years of hoping and 3 years of dedicated work by you and the PC team (including your daughter) I will be able to witness this deserving example of an iconic marque being returned to the road in tip top condition. Wonderful! If dad could be with us on the 11th he would shake every member of the team by the hand, put his arm on my shoulder and say, "That's the way to do it lad."’ Time to do it for Ron.

Come to the Live Stage in Hall 5