1935 Riley Imp
Date of first registration: 20/05/1935
Registration: BXO 32
Chassis Number: 6027484
Engine Number: 56014
It was probably first drawn up early in 1933 when Donald Healey was associated with the Riley Motor Company. Certainly the beautiful lines of the Imp correspond quite closely with the later sports car that Donald designed.
From the outset the Imp was a success. In the 1934 Le Mans 24 hour race the Ladies Cup was won by Dorothy Champney and Kay Petre in a prototype Imp, despite Dorothy being severely burnt halfway through the race. By the end of that year she was to marry Victor Riley. He asked that she did not race again, although she agreed, mainly because she soon became pregnant, she got into a lot of trouble for test driving the prototype ERA without his knowledge!! Their son born 1935 (also Victor) is now the patron of the Riley Register.
All Imps were hand built in the competition workshops. Many famous racing drivers were in and out giving advice and probably assisting; it was quite common for a potential owner to be given a tour of the works, a cup of tea and the opportunity of personalising their new car.
BXO 32 was first registered on 20th May 1935 in London with the same colour combination and all mechanical features that you see today. At the same time another Imp was registered BXO 31 (still extant), a wealthy family buying two?
Although there is no history for the first few years of BXO, John Gathercole records in his definitive book “The Riley Imp” that in 1948 it was owned by KF Rouse who competed in hill climbs and sprints, probably with good results as the next owner Graham Galliers was a very successful motorsport competitor.
John Gathercole also mentions Tony Smith. He bought the car in order to introduce his teenage son Andrew to motor engineering. Andrew has kindly provided a lot more information about this part of the history. During their custodianship the ENV gearbox was rebuilt as a close ratio unit by Bill Morris with needle roller bearings. Many improvements to the engine were carried out with enthusiasm and maintenance. In 2017 the rolling road graph showed 59bhp and, with a 4.77 diff, a probable terminal speed of 89mph. Both figures exceed those originally quoted in Riley literature.
BXO also benefits from a David Ellison rebuilt carbs, a fan and electric water pump, 4 branch exhaust and a stainless steel baffled fuel tank as well as 5 Blockley tyres.
The current owner has for the past ten years enthusiastically continued to maintain and improve the car which includes enhancing the cockpit as far as possible for the larger driver. He has to concede that advancing years mean that the essential tasks of ownership will not be able to be continued and seeks a like minded custodian for the next chapter in the history of BXO 32.