In 1952 a takeover by the Austin Motor Company led to the formation of the British Motor Corporation, or BMC for short. With the end of the RM series of Rileys in 1954 (often viewed as the last ‘real’ Riley) all future Rileys were more or less badge-engineered BMC products. It into this category that the One-Point-Five falls. As the sixties progressed, the cars were basically rehashed BMC Farinas, Minis and 1100/1300s, and in 1969 the last Riley was built.
When introduced in November 1957, the One-Point-Five was seen by many as a return to the early Riley principles of producing a small compact, sporting saloon. It boasted a neat four-door, four-seater lightweight body, mated to a lively 1.5 litre engine, finished off with a smattering of leather and wood luxury. Although a product of the British Motor Corporations policy of badge engineering and rationalization, and with underpinnings from the humble Morris Minor – the One-Point-Five can rightly be viewed as a true successor to the Riley Nines of the 20’s and 30’s.
The One-Point-Five, and its sister, the Wolseley 1500, were actually born from the ashes of BMC’s plans to replace the Morris Minor. Although quite separate and different from the Minor there are clues to its heritage. Constructed with a pressed steel monocoque and very similar floor pan, the One-Point-Five also boasted Minor front suspension and steering. However, it is the differences that make the car much more of a Riley. The engine and drive train were lifted straight from the MG range of sports cars – a 1489cc, twin carb engine producing 68bhp and an MGA close-ratio gearbox. The fitting of large efficient Girling drum brakes also added to the overall package.
To complement the sporty feel the car was trimmed to a high level with leather seats, wooden dash and a full complement of instruments for the sporting driver. Passenger space was good for such a small car, with four adults being accommodated and a useful boot space all adding to the attraction. The styling was traditional 50’s, which, fortunately, stayed away from the American craze of fins and acres of chrome – it was smart, understated and wore its Riley grill and badge with pride.
During its 8 year production run there were several minor changes to the car, the most noticeable being the introduction of the Mk III in 1961 with a few subtle styling differences. However by the mid-60’s it was becoming obvious to BMC that the One-Point-Five was becoming out-dated – and in April 1965 the last one rolled off the production line at Longbridge. In total there were 39,179 One-Point-Fives produced – making it the most popular model in Riley History.
Although seen and used as a family saloon, the One-Point-Five also had good sporting credentials. For several years it was campaigned successfully in the British Saloon Car Championship with drivers such as Les Leston, Harold Grace and Alan Hutcheson – coming first in class in ’58, ’59, and ’61. Rallying was also popular with BMC producing a team of three works cars for the 1958 season. However with the advent and development of the Mini the One-Point-Fives became outclassed and uncompetitive. In more recent times – with the increased popularity of historic motorsport – the car has become a regular entry in both rallies and historic racing.
Today the car is enjoying a renaissance with many enthusiasts realising the potential of these super little cars. Relatively cheap to buy and maintain – they offer the owner a chance to enjoy fifties motoring with a sporting edge.