19th Oct, 2022 13:00

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

  Lot 96

c.1955 Hamilton Riley Special

Lot details

Registration No: VFO 150
Chassis No: 36511051
MOT: Exempt

  • Professionally engineered special built in period by Mr Hamilton who was reportedly a Riley employee
  • Sophisticated multi-tubular chassis equipped with independent front suspension, rack and pinion steering and drum brakes
  • Bodied in aluminium over steel with hints of Frazer-Nash Targa Florio, Jaguar C-Type and Aston Martin DB3 etc
  • Riley Pathfinder 2.5 litre engine, Moss four-speed manual gearbox plus overdrive
  • Recent damper set-up by Reiger Racing Suspension with associated specification sheet

Britain has a proud history of special building with everything from Austin Sevens to Bentley MkVIs being given a new lease of life. The process typically involves modifying the donor vehicle’s existing chassis and fitting a lighter, more sporting body. The Hamilton Riley, however, takes things to the next level. Reputedly created by a Riley employee named Mr Hamilton, the two-seater sits atop a multi-tubular steel chassis that is thought to be bespoke. Certainly, it does not correspond to any Riley model we are aware of. If anything, the construction is more like a 1950s sports racer such as a Jaguar C-Type or Aston Martin DB3. The superstructure is made from thinner gauge steel tubing, while the body itself is fabricated from aluminium.

Stylistically, the car resembles nothing so much as a Frazer Nash Targa Florio (at the least from the front). Although the side louvre panels echo those of a Jaguar C-Type, while the blisters above the rear wheels mimic Lister practice. The independent front suspension and rack and pinion steering are seemingly Riley RM-series derived with the leaf-sprung rear axle believed to have come from an AC. Powered by a Riley Pathfinder 2.5 litre ‘twin cam’ four-cylinder engine allied to four-speed manual plus overdrive transmission (presumed to be a Moss ‘box), the Hamilton Riley rides on 16-wire wheels shod with Michelin radial tyres and features drum brakes all-round. The bonnet is held in place with leather straps and the fuel tank accessed via a Monza-style quick release filler cap.

There is some suggestion in the accompanying paperwork that four Hamilton Rileys were completed (it would, after all, seem like an awful lot of effort to go to for a one-off). That said, we have found no trace of any siblings on the internet. The two-seater’s under bonnet ID plate quotes the chassis number of its 1946 Riley RMA donor identity and the engine number for the unit currently installed. It also lists a car number: THR001 which may well signify ‘The Hamilton Riley 001’. Pinning a precise year of manufacture on the Hamilton Riley Special has thwarted us. The Pathfinder was only introduced in 1953 and had the two-seater been completed the following decade then one might perhaps have expected it to carry disc brakes given the sophistication evident in the rest of the design.

Whatever the back story, we believe that ‘THR001’ bears the hallmarks of a professionally conceived and executed Special. Starting readily upon inspection and sounding decidedly rorty thanks to a side exit exhaust, the two-seater is able to accommodate a six-foot plus driver. The car rides better than expected because it underwent a damper set-up programme at the hands of the renowned Dutch firm Reiger Racing Suspension. Not long returned to the UK following time spent in a Continental collection, the Hamilton Riley makes an interesting comparison with the various fibreglass-bodied Jaguar C-Type Evocations we have sold in the past two years. Which would you rather have a potentially unique period machine or a modern facsimile? Offered for sale with continuation 'Buff' logbook, V5C Registration Document, Reiger Racing specification sheet and sundry documentation.

For more information, please contact:
Damian Jones
07855 493737


All successful bids must be paid in full by midday the day after the auction at the latest.

You can collect your new pride and joy from our venue until 1pm the day following the sale or our partners are on hand to help arrange safe transportation:


Auction: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, 19th Oct, 2022

An auction of classic & collector motorcars


Tuesday 18th October 2022 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 19th October 2022 from 9am
Additional viewing for lots 200-254 on Thursday 20th October 2022 from 9am

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