Quick, well equipped and handsome, the One-Point-Five is a great car for historic rallies. Buying Guide Follow our eight-step guide to choosing the best Riley One-Point-Five.
Andy Bradley, Wolseley 1500 Spares Andy has specialised in these Rileys and Wolseleys for 30 years and has terrific stocks of used spares. He has remanufactured some parts, including handbrake cables.
Norman Hamer is One-Point-Five technical adviser to the Riley Motor Club and knows the cars inside out. He has competed in many rallies in his and says it’s ‘reasonably competitive and certainly comfortable’.
Neil Eyre has been working with BMC cars for 40 years, starting off servicing then soon setting up Earlpart to supply spares for the Riley and Wolseley, as well as most BMC cars of the Fifties to the Seventies, while still maintaining a garage to service the cars.
Its larger engine and high axle ratio give the Morris Minor’s sporty cousin a relaxed cruising gait in modern traffic as well as decent economy, and make it a much more usable car than many of its Fifties contemporaries – yet entry level for a useable car is just £1500. All the owners featured overleaf cover higher than average mileages; and this usability combined with traditional wood and leather (or leather-cloth in the Wolseley 1500’s case) trim make the car an appealing package to own.
The design – Gerald Palmer’s last before he left BMC – was originally planned to be the Morris 1200 and replace the Minor 1000. However, the Minor was selling so well that the new offering was launched in 1957 as the 1489ccWolseley instead (although 110 cars with the 1200cc engine were sold in Ireland). The hotted-up Riley appeared the same year.
With its two big carbs and an emphatic 36 per cent more power than the Wolseley, the Riley achieved class wins in the British Saloon Car Championship and big successes in rallying, especially with Pat Moss.
The two models were derived closely from the Morris Minor, but all their major panels are different from those of their illustrious forebear – even the chassis legs and the crossmember – which means you can’t use Minor repair panels on a Riley or Wolseley.
Provided you pick a good one, these cars are inexpensive to own. The B-series engine and gearbox were shared with many other models from the MGA to the Morris Oxford, so spares for those are readily available and there are also plenty of options to increase power.
Be aware, however, that parts exclusive to the two models are significantly more expensive than equivalent Minor items – if you can find them. Thankfully, the Riley Motor Club and two dedicated specialists still provide the vast majority of the parts you’re likely to need – and some items are even being put back into production.
Corrosion is the biggest enemy of both these cars, as it is of any everyday car of the Fifties and Sixties. These two are rare, which means anything bigger than a repair panel is going to be expensive – old stock panels are scarce and reproduction because of low volume (see Need to Know overleaf for typical prices). It’s usually better to source new-old-stock panels than newly made items that are likely to have been laboriously handmade and not as accurate as the original pressed parts.
As well as obvious areas such as the front and rear wings and valances, the doors and the sills (which comprise outer sill, central membrane and inner sill, all of which are crucial to the car’s structural integrity), it’s vital to check the front inner wings and the bulkhead – reach up inside the back of the front wing to check them. These areas are often missed by testers, so a current MoT is no guarantee of structural integrity.
Underneath, check the front chassis legs and the crossmember supporting the ends of the front torsion bars and the jacking points – all are notorious rust traps, often covered up by liberal application of underseal. Floors rarely rust badly except at the front corners, but should always be checked.
This is almost all exclusive to these cars and hard to find in good condition, especially for Rileys. To make matters worse almost all except the bumpers and main grille were chromed Mazak, which pits badly. Specialist platers can fill and rechrome pitted Mazak, but it’s a laborious job – and bear in mind that if you have just one chrome part restored it will show up all the rest.
Cabin trim is unobtainable new or even secondhand in good condition. Retrimming by a competent trimmer is straightforward, but still a very significant cost.
The headlining often needs attention, because the sound-deadening glued to the roof drops off on to the inside of the material, then condensation forms on the bare steel, drips on to the sound-deadening and stains the cloth.
The front suspension may look as if it comes from a Morris Minor, but it has some differences – the steering arm is mounted higher in the 1500 kingpin than the Minor’s. To check, see if the steering arms are at a crazy angle (when not jacked up). If so, it means the steering rack and steering arms on the kingpins are drastically misaligned. They should sit reasonably level. Steering geometry will be dangerously compromised if Minor kingpins are fitted – and the 1500 kingpin is rare and expensive. Trunnions need greasing every 1000 miles – if the steering is heavy, servicing has been neglected and attention is needed.
The brakes were the other major departure from Morris Minor practice, with larger Lockheed brakes on the Wolseley and even bigger Girling brakes on the Riley; the Riley front drums are a massive 2¼in wide, the Wolseley’s a much more conservative 1½in. Parts are now hard to find, especially drums, although Wolseley 1500 Spares still has a few used items.
BMC’s B-series engine is robust and reliable, but will keep running long after it’s worn out. Look for low oil pressure – 10psi at tickover is okay but it should hit 50psi-plus when hot. Wear also shows up in high oil consumption, blue smoke, rumbles and clattering noises and poor performance. The cylinder head can crack, so check for water loss, water in the oil or oil in the water.
The four-speed box lacks synchromesh on first and has a wide gap between first and second. A rebuild is inexpensive, but check the clutch slave cylinder isn’t leaking – a new one is expensive.
8 Rear axle
If things go wrong there are two potential issues. One is that its 3.7:1 ratio is highly sought after for raising the gearing on Spridgets, so even secondhand units carry a price premium. The other is that the halfshafts, shared with Morris Minors, can be a weakness in competition.
‘Gerald Palmer’s last design for BMC was originally planned to replace the Morris Minor 1000’
Quick, well equipped and handsome, the One-Point- Five is a great car for historic rallies. Wood and leather (or leathercloth) cabin offers luxury undreamt of in most small Fifties cars. Beware buying a project – panel rarity and prices mean getting a car to this standard is an expensive proposition. Robust BMC B-series engine is eminently tunable.
MEET THE OWNERS
‘I prefer driving mine to my Rolls-Royce or Jaguar’
Roy Foxcroft, Lancashire
Roy owns the One-Point-Five pictured on these pages. ‘I bought it 10 years ago when it was for sale in Southampton. I had a Volvo Amazon and arranged to meet the owner on the M5, and we swapped cars. It looked so good that when I pulled in for petrol on the way home I could have sold it straight away. ‘I have all the MoTs and service records.
The first owner kept it until she died aged 89, leaving millions to the National Trust. It’s the only one known with a factory sunroof. She’d had it restored in the early Eighties.
‘It’s a grand car. I’ve done quite a bit of winning with it, including Best of Show and Best BMC at the Riley Nationals. I used to do a lot of work on it myself, but since I’ve had a replacement hip I get the local garage to do it – it only costs around £40 a year to service. Over the years it’s had a new clutch, brake cylinders and control box.’
Richard Huelin, Wrexham
‘I passed my test in a Wolseley 1500 in 1962, though I saw it as an old man’s car at the time. As part of my recovery after an accident in 2009 I determined to buy one and take it on the Gordon Bennett Run in Ireland. In May I drove it to John O’Groats and Lands End and back to Wrexham to raise money For Wrexham Lions, clocking 644 miles in one day from Glasgow to Penzance.
‘It’s a Mk3 with two previous owners, both of whom kept detailed records. The second had it rebuilt. I bought it six years ago and have added 20,000 to its 58,000 miles. I’m delighted with it – it’s been very reliable and only let me down once on the road with a faulty rotor arm. I spend about £150 a year on servicing.
‘I prefer driving it to my Jaguar XKR or Rolls- Royce Spirit – I can have a lot more fun in it without getting into trouble!’
Stuart Dawson, Yorkshire
‘In 1957 my father bought a One-Point-Five new and I never forgot it – other classics didn’t appeal. I started looking in 2007. The moment I saw this one I said “I’ll buy it”. I couldn’t fault it – I paid £4200. It had had the front panel and three wings resprayed, and new pistons at 70,000 miles, but otherwise it was as it came out of the factory.
‘It had 100,000 on the clock then. My first drive almost put me off, but my brother-in-law told me to stop driving it like a modern car, so I tried again – and ever since I’ve loved it. Fitting a brake servo helped. My wife and I have added 25,000 miles in eight years and it’s been very reliable. It will keep up with modern traffic and do 65mph all day. I can never see myself selling it.
‘I normally spend £200 a year on servicing, but a recent cylinder head overhaul and new steering rack took that to nearer £1000.’
39,568 One-Point-Fives and 100,722 1500s were sold. Wolseley prices range from £500 for a project, through £1500-£3500 for good usable examples, to £7000 for a concours car. Rileys command 50 per cent more, or double for a well-prepped competition car.
The Riley was fast and exceptionally well equipped by 1957 standards. It had two-tone paint and two-tone leather/leather-cloth seats as standard. With 68bhp thanks to two big SU carburettors, it was also an appealing weekend competition car.
The Wolseley featured a full-width wood veneer dashboard, leather seats and carpeted floor. Offering performance with economy, there was even a ‘fleet model’ with leather-cloth seats designed for commercial travellers. MkIs had an enclosed ‘W’ on the front side wings in a curved dividing chrome above each front wheelarch.
The cars now had internal hinges for the bonnet and bootlid, a slightly lower ride height and a full-width parcel shelf under the dashboard. The Wolseley’s side chrome trim now ran from the front wheelarch to a point at the headlamp rim, then to the back of the car. MkII Rileys featured a slightly modified camshaft.
A frontal facelift introduced larger orange indicators in a circular front light unit, housed within wider side grilles on the Wolseley and in modified grilles on the Riley. Other new features included larger rear light clusters shared with the A40 Farina. Front seatbelt mountings were now provided and ride height dropped again. Interior trim was simplified and the front seats were now secured instead of hinged.
Austin Lancer and Morris Major, 1958-1964 BMC Australia built its own versions of the Wolseley 1500 as the Austin Lancer and Morris Major. In 1959 they were re-engineered with a longer wheelbase and 9in longer bodywork. In 1962 both were replaced by the Morris Major Elite, with a 1622cc engine, Zenith carburettor and telescopic rear dampers.
Converting a Wolseley’s engine to Riley spec makes a huge difference. Beyond that, enlarging and tuning the engine is eminently possible – or you could just drop in an MGB unit, although to avoid major gearbox changes it needs to be an early three-main-bearing unit.
Period performance tweaks included polishing ports, changing carburettor needles, changing the camshaft, fitting higher compression pistons, an aftermarket cylinder head and larger carburettors. The crossflow head and supercharger conversions are highly sought after and rarely seen, but bear in mind that overzealous tuning may result in an untractable and thirsty engine. Electronic ignition aids reliability and reduces maintenance demands.
Conversion to a Ford Sierra five-speed gearbox is desirable with a tuned engine. Converting to disc brakes is popular, adapting kits designed for Morris Minors; and of course Wolseley brakes can be upgraded to Riley spec.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 1957-1965 Riley One-Point-Five and Wolseley 1500
Engine 1489cc in-line four-cylinder, two SU H4 carburettors (Riley) or one SU HS2 (Wolseley)
Power and torque Riley: 68bhp @ 5400rpm; 83lb ft @ 3000rpm.Wolseley: 50bhp @ 4200rpm; 71lb ft @ 2600rpm / all DIN
Transmission Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering Rack and pinion Brakes Drums front and rear
Suspension Front: independent, torsion bars, twin wishbones, lever-arm dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: live axle, semi-elliptic springs, leverarm dampers Length 12ft 9in Width 5ft 1in
Weight 942/904kg (2072/1988lb)
Performance Top speed: 86/80mph; 0-60mph: 17.4/22.1sec
Fuel consumption 25-40mpg
Cost new £705-£815 (1960)
NEED TO KNOW
Engine rebuild £2500
Gearbox rebuild £500
Bodyshell rebuild £4000-£8000
Front wing (new or NOS) £450
Outer sill £125
Chassis leg £125
Bumper blade rechromed £350
Differential secondhand £250
Clutch slave cylinder £125
Full retrim £3000
Five-speed gearbox conversion £2000
Who can help?
Riley Motor Club rileymotorclub.org
Wolseley Owners’ Club wolseleyownersclub.com
Wolseley Register wolseleyregister.co.uk
Earlpart earlpart.co.uk, 01773 719504
Wolseley 1500 Spares [email protected], 07860 360690
Radford Panel Co radfordpanel.co.uk
NTG Services mgbits.com, 01473 406031
Brown & Gammons ukmgparts.com, 01462 490049
CAR FOR SALE
1957 Wolseley 1500, maroon and beige, resprayed four years ago. Bodywork and chrome are described as ‘very good’, while the original interior boasts ‘lovely veneers’. It’s for sale in Suffolk for £5250.