Press Report : Will Riley unveils new sports car project

 Birmingham Post, 25 March 2011

Will Riley with the Autovia SV and his staff

A Worcestershire sports car fanatic says he will be building up to 10 £65,000 coupes a month by this time next year after steering his troubled firm back on to the right road. 

Will Riley’s plans to market the 190mph SV model originally developed by MG Rover have been mired in problems since he bought the rights from the ashes of Longbridge. He lost a legal wrangle with Chinese owners Nanjing to use the famous red octagon on the cars he was building at his headquarters in Tenbury Wells. 

Mr. Riley then faced theft and fraud charges, which were dropped in court last week, and remains in dispute with former employees over wages. In his latest setback, bankers repossessed his workshops over a debt which he says was being repaid. 

However, now the larger-than-life Mr. Riley has unveiled a new brand using the resurrected logo of the Autovia car firm which manufactured limousines briefly in Coventry during the 1930s. Two-door cars with a powerful 4.6-litre supercharged V8 engine will be on sale within weeks for £54,000, he told the Birmingham Post from the Worcestershire home he is using as a base while he looks for new premises. 

‘Despite everything that has happened I never thought for one second about giving it up,’ said Mr. Riley. ‘I have sold my own private car collection to get this business back on track because I am committed to it. There have a been a lot of problems and, in hindsight, I ought to have paid a lot less for the rights to this car. I’ll make it work because I want to be one of the very few people making a great British sports car entirely here in the UK.’ 

Despite everything that has happened I never thought for one second about giving it up. I have sold my own private car collection to get this business back on track because I am committed to it. There have a been a lot of problems and, in hindsight, I ought to have paid a lot less for the rights to this car. I’ll make it work because I want to be one of the very few people making a great British sports car entirely here in the UK.” Will Riley, Managing Director, Sports and Racing Europe Limited 

Mr. Riley said the Autovia SV had been made lighter and more powerful since he trumpeted the MG version as a future classic in 2008. He said the lightweight carbon fibre bodies would now be made in Stoke-on-Trent after switching production from Italy. A new 5.4-litre model priced at £65,000, as well as a V6-engined part fibreglass version, will also be on sale later this year. 

The Autovia marque was a subsidiary of the Riley Motor Company Limited, from whose founders Mr. Riley claims to descend. It produced just a handful of cars before Riley was taken over by the Morris Motor Company in 1938. 

Mr. Riley said he was undaunted by the threat of a “double dip” recession but claimed banks had not done enough to support small businesses. He is facing his own battle with Royal Bank of Scotland, which seized his premises at the 2.5 acres plant last month. Mr. Riley claims that the bank has failed to help him recover more than £525,000 in Italian taxes which would have covered the £400,000 repayments. 

After theft and fraud charges were dropped last week at Hereford Crown Court, a West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said solicitors had considered whether there was enough evidence and the case was in the public interest. The charges related to a car which, it had originally been alleged, was sent back to the UK by a Canadian buyer for snagging work but never returned. 

‘The case against William Riley was originally judged by the CPS to pass both of these tests and he was charged with theft and fraud,’ said the spokesman. ‘As part of our continuing duty to keep cases under review, a Senior Crown Prosecutor carried out a further review upon receipt of additional information relating to the case. In the light of this further information, a decision was made to discontinue the prosecution on the basis that there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.’ 

[Source: Birmingham Post

[Editor’s Note:  Any AROnline readers wishing to find out more about the original Autovia Cars Limited can follow this link to the relevant page on Wikipedia. A quick check on the Intellectual Property Office’s website reveals that this badge appears to have been registered as a Trade Mark by or on behalf of Mr. Riley.]

Posted in: AROnline News
Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

51 Comments on "Press Report : Will Riley unveils new sports car project"

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  1. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Quick! Find more defunct marques, find out how their badges fit into the octagonal space on the bumper of that poor, hacked-up SV and register them.

    I have absolute confidence that a man who can’t get a bumper panel remoulded (or, let’s face it, filled and sanded) to suit a bespoke badge design can, of course, completely redesign a car, change the materials used in the construction and the plant making them and produce them for a reasonable price with UK labour costs (oh, wait, that’d assume the staff are being paid, right?)…

    I really want this car to succeed, as I do anything of this nature, but how anyone could have any confidence in the enterprise beggars belief.

  2. Adam Sloman says:

    Well, as someone fortunate enough to have driven an original MG XPower SV, I hope we don’t see too many of these ‘new’ cars from Mr. Riley.

    The SV still (to me) looks nothing short of stunning. However, I can’t help but think these cars will devalue the original, exotic MG Sport and Racing folly. Let’s leave those few 100-odd cars to attain their genuine classic status and remember a time when MG dared do something totally mad!

    The Autovia logo on the link looks like a circular badge stuck on an octagon. I wonder why?

    Not that I’ll argue with Mr. Riley – that dog looks like he might have something to say about it if I did…

  3. Rob says:

    Haven’t they carted this bellend off in a straightjacket yet?

    Incidentally, with regard to the badge design, it shows something that can’t work.

  4. Simon Woodward says:

    I am not sure about this one – I too liked the MG SV, but not the high price tag.

    The name ‘Autovia’ makes it sound like a bus company rather than a exclusive and exotic sports car.

    I question ” …making a great British sports car entirely here in the UK.” Doesn’t it use an American V8 which, as far as I can see, is a stock engine taken out of a crate, fresh off the boat from the States?

    I would be more impressed if someone was to buy the tooling for the MGF/TF and carried on making a small run of these great little cars. We could then have a KV6 GT version – a sort of cut-price Lotus Exige.

    Anyway, as Richard and Adam say in so many words above, all the guy has managed to do is stick an ‘Arriva’, sorry, an ‘Autovia’ badge on top of the MG octagon. Indeed, if you read back to the beginning of the year, Mr Riley said he was about to launch a new, updated version of the car, but what we have now got is much the same as before.

    I always support the under dog and any form of engineering that generates jobs for the UK but I fear this latest venture by Mr. Riley will only end in tears. I just hope I’m wrong…

  5. Darren says:

    Positive publicity for me and my car, or I’ll let go of the dog!

  6. Steven211 says:

    Mr. Riley just give up, your plan will fail again – if you made a cheap sports car like a Lotus or whatever, then you could be successful, but this car is too expensive for what it is.

  7. Brian says:

    Hopefully, we will hear some good news from a British vehicle manufacturer eventually – it may come from the Connaught Motor Company Limited in Wales with the Type D or Gordon Murray Design Limited in Surrey with the T25.

    A few years back CAR Magazine publshed a review – perhaps obituary would be more accurate – of the British car manufacturing industry and came to the conclusion that it now consisted of small specialist vehicle manufacturers.

    There are, of course, many foreign-owned manufacturing plants in the UK but no other country in the world has such a diversity of specialist manufacturers.

  8. Marty B says:

    This guy is clearly a few bolts short of a chassis… He won’t give up until they cart him away in a nice white extra, extra long sleeve coat that buckles up round the back… Bless him…

  9. Richard Moss says:

    Well, at least they are planning to build them in the UK.

    It’s funny how I get shouted down for saying that the new MG6 isn’t British nor a proper MG (I stand by both of these assertions) yet a home-grown attempt to build cars with some genuine (but short lived) MG heritage is ridiculed. Will he succeed? Possibly not, but there’s no reason not to wish him luck.

    Oh, and as for Adam Sloman’s snobbery…

  10. Ralph Ralph says:

    Even if it may seem unlikely that he succeeds, I give him a big thumbs up a wish him good luck!!

  11. Alex Scott says:

    I think that I’ve said this before, but Mr. Riley would better off going into the kit car buisness.

    Alex.

  12. Fevsisere says:

    Escaped mental patient alert in the Tenbury Wells area. Last seen trying to convince the local Chinese takeaway owners that he does indeed own the rights to the MG badge.

  13. Andrew-P AndrewP says:

    This is the last thing I expected.

    You have to give Will Riley credit for his persistence – I hope this works as some of the proposals/ideas work for me:
    – Lower price
    – Cheaper V6, part-fibreglass version

    However, I think it’s time for a facelift – not because the original is bad but it needs something new.

    Finally, as for buying in engines – that makes sense due to cost and risk concerns and many British classics have done this before (think AC, Bristol, Gordon-Keeble, Jensen, Sunbeam, TVR and, of course, MG Rover).

    Be good if this was to become the new TVR…

  14. Adam Sloman says:

    @Richard Moss
    I am many things, but a snob I am not. I think that, if you knew me or had read anything I’ve written about cars and motoring, you’d find I’m a pretty down-to-earth bloke from a working-class background.

    I was lucky enough to have driven an SV once – I don’t own one.

    My comment was an expression of doubt regarding Mr. Riley’s ability to launch this rebranded SV successfully. I have never ‘shouted you down’ – your opinion on the MG6 is as valid as anyone who contributes to this fine website.

    I seem to recall that some concern was expressed by MG XPower SV owners on their forum that poorly assembled Riley-built cars could cause harm to the value of the MG S&R-built cars.

  15. Roger Atkin says:

    Autovia, eh? A logical choice for Mr. Riley, of course.

    However, those aware of a.n.other online forum will be keeping a close eye on proceedings in case some fellow called Premoli appears on the scene…

    Any thoughts/rumours anyone as to where the V6 will come from?

  16. Ayd says:

    Why didn’t Mr. Riley re-brand the car as an RG (for Riley Garages)?

  17. Richard Moss says:

    Adam Sloman :
    The SV still (to me) looks nothing short of stunning. However, I can’t help but think these cars will devalue the original, exotic MG Sport and Racing folly. Let’s leave those few 100-odd cars to attain their genuine classic status and remember a time when MG dared do something totally mad!

    No, that’s good old fashioned snobbery. Rather Hyacinth Bucket, I would suggest.

    However, if you’d said “I doubt they’ll be much cop”, that would be different but you said “these will devalue the originals” which certainly looks and sounds like snobbery to me – especially when you don’t actually own one!

    Anyway, surely if the Riley-built cars are rubbish that will enhance the value of the MG Sport and Racing-built cars? After all, that would be in much the same way as the pre-Project Drive MGR cars are more highly regarded than the later, low rent ones.

  18. BajanDave says:

    Will Riley reminds me of Jerry Weigert, the man behind the Vector supercar project which was first shown in the 1970s but didn’t actually get off the ground until the early 1990s and even then met with little success.

    I think Mr. Riley should leave this car alone and, if he wants to continue in the sports car business, try to launch something simpler and cheaper (along the lines of the MGs that made the company famous).

  19. Simon Woodward says:

    BajanDave :
    Will Riley reminds me of Jerry Weigert, the man behind the Vector supercar project which was first shown in the 1970s but didn’t actually get off the ground until the early 1990s and even then met with little success.

    I think Mr. Riley should leave this car alone and, if he wants to continue in the sports car business, try to launch something simpler and cheaper (along the lines of the MGs that made the company famous).

    The history books are full of Jerry Weigerts! Didn’t the Vector have a 3 speed gearbox? There is nothing wrong with having a dream and taking a gamble but some dreams are a non-starter.

    You sometimes just have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Will Riley would be far better off making something people want and which isn’t a over-priced sports car with a name no one has ever heard of.

    You can find one of the real MG SVs with a very low mileage for £30k advertised in the classic car magazines. It will not be new but it will have the appeal of being part of MG history. Mr. Riley could offer a parts and service back up for the original cars. How is he going to find ten new customers a month during a recession?

  20. Simon Hodgetts says:

    Look, if the guy wants to pile all of his hard-earned and saved cash into keeping the SV going (a car I was never keen on frankly), then let him do it – let it survive or fail miserably on its own merits and those of Mr. Riley’s car company.

    However, as far as the branding goes – he can’t use his name on the car (mind you, neither would I – Hodgetts GT anyone?), so at least he’s using something with a heritage link to the original Riley car company which was latterly known as Riley (Coventry) Limited.

    I agree that the car could do with something of a make-over to distance it from the MG SV, but you should understand that new tooling costs millions – and Mr. Riley doesn’t have the money even to adapt the bonnet recess to take a different badge.

    Give the guy a break and let him get on with it – if it all goes sour, then fair enough. However, on the other hand…

  21. Chris C says:

    He’ll be bidding to buy Saab next or Bristol or DeLorean…

    Incidentally, has anyone else spotted that De Tomaso is back? The SV’s chassis is based on that of the last new De Tomaso, the Bigua. Here is a link to the new company, De Tomaso Automobili S.p.A.’s website.

  22. Simon Woodward says:

    @Chris C
    De Tomaso Automobili S.p.A. launched a new Deauville at the Geneva Motor Show. I thought that the car looked a bit odd – like a sort of over-sized posh Focus – but there is a strong rumour that they may launch a new Pantera.

  23. Jon says:

    I loved the Qvale Mangusta, but the SV just looks like a hideous kit car 🙁 and also reminds me of how mismanaged MGR was towards the end.

    Jon.

  24. RamsyMGR says:

    @Jon
    I take my hat off to Mr. Riley!

    I saw an SV for the first time the other day in a Norhants village and it was gorgeous.

    Give the man some credit!

  25. Ian says:

    @Adam Sloman
    Are there really a hundred of the original MG SVs in existence?!

  26. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    @Ian
    There are 23 which are still on the road – a twenty-fourth was written off after a minor incident in France.

    That information comes from a local owner who is known to me and active in the MG Car Club.

  27. Dr Bobby Love says:

    Richard Kilpatrick :
    Quick! Find more defunct marques, find out how their badges fit into the octagonal space on the bumper of that poor, hacked-up SV and register them.

    I have absolute confidence that a man who can’t get a bumper panel remoulded (or, let’s face it, filled and sanded) to suit a bespoke badge design can, of course, completely redesign a car, change the materials used in the construction and the plant making them and produce them for a reasonable price with UK labour costs (oh, wait, that’d assume the staff are being paid, right?)…

    I really want this car to succeed, as I do anything of this nature, but how anyone could have any confidence in the enterprise beggars belief.

    I know what your saying, but I’d like to think Mr. Riley did that to keep the shape intact and retain what he could of the car’s original marque. Admittedly, though, defining the “original” marque of this car isn’t that straight forward either. 😉

    All the best to him – the lower price and light weight version all good ideas. How about a big diesel with shed loads of torque (not that I own a Fabia vRS or anything). The car’s in desperate need of a facelift, though. Yes, it still looks great but current it ain’t. Doesn’t need much, but those arches looked old at launch, let alone nowadays. They just need blending into the wings a la 959.

  28. John Newey says:

    There were 56 RHD and 23 LHD MG SV, SV-R and SV-Ss built. It is believed that there are currently 49 residing in the UK – I know because I’m a lucky git and have got one!!

  29. Mark Hayman says:

    I hope that Mr. Riley suceeds this time. I wondered why he did not use his own name but then remembered that the BMW Group owns the Riley marque. However, he is using an earlier Riley brand name so there is a connection. Good luck, anyway.

  30. Simon Woodward says:

    Does anyone know whether the X80 still exists?

  31. Paul Taylor Paul T says:

    John Newey :
    I know because I’m a lucky git and have got one!!

    You’re inviting a backlash for this comment, my friend. 😀

  32. Jon says:

    RamsyMGR :
    @Jon

    I take my hat off to Mr. Riley!

    I saw an SV for the first time the other day in a Norhants village and it was gorgeous.

    Give the man some credit!

    Mr. Riley has nothing to do with how the SV looks so I don’t blame him for that and neither do I give him any credit. MGR looked like they took Marcello Gandini’s thuggish but charming Qvale Mangusta and slapped a load of Halfords crap all over it!

    Jon.

  33. David 3500 says:

    Mr. Riley is trying where the bigger might of MG Rover Group sadly failed. This is what Britain does rather well – produce low volume specialist cars that are out of sinc with mainstream tastes.

    Despite all the negative press he has received so far and the fact that I am not a fan of the SV, I really hope he succeeds and proves everyone wrong.

  34. David 3500 says:

    @Simon Woodward
    Well, if you mean the 2001 X80 Concept finished in metallic red which was unveiled at that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, I am guessing that it doesn’t exist anymore. With MG Rover Group having to be so economical with the use/re-use of cars for design concepts, the basic underpinnings would likely have been re-used for the SV project.

    However, there might be something more concrete relating to this in David Knowles’ MG XPOWER SV book.

  35. John Newey says:

    @Simon Woodward
    I seem to remember that X80 was only a mock up and partly melted under the hot lights at Frankfurt – that’s why any pictures have a pretty girl strategically positioned to cover the melted areas!

  36. John Newey says:

    @Paul T
    I am merely stating a fact. I’m never going to have money in the bank, because I love and enjoy cars (especially MGs) too much! I like the MG SV because it’s so different to pretty much anything else out there.

    As for the new car? I wish Will Riley luck, but I think it’s going to be really hard work for him to make a go of things in the current climate. I guess time will tell…

  37. James Riley James says:

    Yaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

  38. Bolin says:

    Okay, so who is going to put money on these cars being for sale in a few weeks time? Not me…

    I’m tempted to put money on there not being a single one sold, there being more court cases and that the very car in the photo above gets removed by the bailiffs.

    I wish I could believe that this project will succeed, but I would have to be mad to do so. The man currently doesn’t even have a workshop.

  39. Michael Goy says:

    John Z. DeLorean…

  40. Dan says:

    Malcolm Bricklin…

  41. Rob B says:

    Jon :

    RamsyMGR :
    @Jon

    I take my hat off to Mr. Riley!

    I saw an SV for the first time the other day in a Norhants village and it was gorgeous.

    Give the man some credit!

    Mr. Riley has nothing to do with how the SV looks so I don’t blame him for that and neither do I give him any credit. MGR looked like they took Marcello Gandini’s thuggish but charming Qvale Mangusta and slapped a load of Halfords crap all over it!

    Jon.

    I have to say that I couldn’t agree less… The Mangusta was a disturbingly ugly car which was improved no end by its transformation into the SV. I still believe that the SV would have sold like hotcakes if MG S&R had built the car with a more affordable GRP/metal body, fitted a smaller V6 engine and then priced it sensibly.

  42. Integrale _luke says:

    It’s so easy for people to slate this project. I work for Mr. Riley – he pays well and always on time and I’ve never had a problem. Why can’t we support British-made products anymore whether it be cars or anything else. At least someone is trying…

  43. Jon says:

    @Rob B
    I’ll agree to differ – I think the SV looks like a tacky, unsophisticated dog’s dinner!

    Jon.

  44. andy says:

    well ! as for all you negative assholes that have commented on william rileys attempts at produce,n cars in britain ! hows about you go try doen it !……..i hear stunned silence ! yeah thats about right what i expected ! quick to redicule an scoff at others but no brains or balls beyond that! yeah ! ASSHOLES ! best of luck william ! andy ,north ireland

  45. Dave says:

    The battle is over… or is it?

    I guess everyone needs a real update on William, his cars, my car, MG and the people behind it all.

    I’m the one that worked directly with Riley in an attempt at re-structuring the Company.

    I’m the one that bought the very last MG SV (chassis 626) that Riley stole, re-sold and was subsequently crashed.

    I’m the one the Birmingham Press has been trying to get a story from for the past 6 years on exactly what happened.

    There isn’t enough space on this website to explain it all… The story is so absolutely unbelievable, I’m now in the process of writing a book…

    I’m thinking of calling it “THE LAST MG”… good idea?

    Dave

    • Calum says:

      Dave

      Good idea,after all I own the last Autovia. Chassis number63144 registration FUU388 from 1938 final assembly carried out by Jimmy James Ltd of London as he bought all the remaining Autovias from Peat Mitchell and Marwick the Liquidators of Riley Coventry Ltd
      Regards
      Calum.

    • Freeman says:

      What happened to the book, Dave? Look forward to reading it.

      And what happened to William Riley’s project, can we have an update?

  46. christopher storey says:

    I believe that William Riley died in May 2012 or thereabouts . The company is still extant, with a man with the interesting name of Appolonius Nooten-Boon as the sole director, appointed after Riley ceased to be a director. I think we can infer that the project is dead

  47. Dave says:

    Sorry for the late reply.. I forgot I wrote something on this site and didn’t save the page, so I just found it once again in my usual and routine internet sweep..

    Yes.. Riley died in 2012 or 2013… it’s been so long now that I’d have to look up the details..

    As for the book.. well, let’s put it this way, the story for all this is still ongoing and the twists that occurred, not only after Riley’s passing, but even as recent as this year, will certainly make interesting reading..

    Want to hear something strange… I can carry on life and not think about the MG scenario for a month but whenever I try to write something about it, I feel physically sick to my stomach and a wave of exhaustion comes over me..

    Something about this just kills me whenever I have anything to do with this story.. I guess the pain and frustration was just too much for me… for so many years..

    Nice cars… awful experience… if you only knew how bad it really was..

    Dave

  48. andrew allen says:

    hi dave, I knew will riley before he ever took on this venture , indeed I stayed at his home many years ago in Worcester, there was a lady lived there with him Elizabeth I recall, I only wondered would you have an address or contact for her as I had lost Williams tel num ! if indeed you even knew her ? regards andrew

  49. Dave Cox says:

    I would love to speak to ‘dave’ and meet him for a pint!….to compare experiences of working for Will Riley!….I was one of his apprentices at his garage at Tenbury Wells in 1975 ‘WJ RILEY Sports and Thoroughbred Motors ‘ and he was full of pomposity in those days….getting the racing driver Raymond Mays to drop by to open his garage to much trumpeting and hoo -ha.
    I would accompany Riley to Shelsley Walsh hillclimb,where he raced and invariably crashed (the story of his life!) and he also knew another famous conman at Shelsley…Basil Wainwright, the man who ripped off Noel Edmonds for a state of the art helicopter!
    By the time I had the sack from Riley, the garage was about to go bust, but he appeared in the Daily Mail in 1977 in a 2 page spread stating he was going to build a world beating Jeep based on a Chinese military model with Ford mechanical parts. What William failed to say was that he had shoehorned a Ford Corsair engine into the jeep from a wreck out back of his house at Eardiston. This was the first of his grandiose plans, and there have been many others over the years. My e mail is davecoxvalespecial@hotmail.com if Dave wants to contact.

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