Riley W.D.Tourer/War Department Tourer


Initially only sold to the British Military, the car was released to the general public in 1931 but not mega popular to most buyers. Officially 'Riley Colonial Nine tourer' , otherwise known as the WD (War Department) model as the original series was developed for the War Office. The WD model resulted from a requirement for the War Dept for a rough terrain vehicle  that could do overseas expeditions as well as use as a staff car and as a result its specifications were upgraded  to include a strengthened chassis; stronger leaf springs; 21" wheels (31" diameter including tyres) providing increased ground clearance; dropping the differential ratio of 6.75.1 ; improving to a new long distance fuel tank; all steel body with a roll up rear window to provide better air flow when needed.

The War Dept ordered 77 under contract during 1931/32 but the factory also offered this "Army" model to the public in 1931 -still only in Army Green - although it appears not to have been popular as due to the different spec it was £310 as opposed to the standard tourers £285, and was dropped from the catalogue by 1932. The cars  sold to the public, still had oversize wheels, lower rear axle ratio, increased ground clearance and strengthened chassis frame. Another seriously rare model in this case more likely due to use than chopping for 'specials' as this was pre Jeep/Landrover


Army issue car with overpainted radiator grille

Clubs for this model:  The Riley Register,     The Riley Motor Club,    &  those from other countries listed here

Photo from HMWV plus more of John's WD restoration

Remaining Known cars :- 3 + 1931 9hp.

HX 647* ( Chassis number 601443*),      HX 650*( 6014*),       MV 543* ( 601456*),

The last chassis and registraion number is replaced with an *asterisk but known to the clubs .There will be others in other clubs and countries please click + email info


MAINLY MILITARY.-- A new Riley touring car, selling at £310, has just been announced. It is known as the "Army" model, for the simple but sufficient reason that it is an exact replica of the 9-h.p. cars which the company is supplying to the War Office. Behind the introduction of this car there is a wealth of interesting history. Some two years ago the military authorities took delivery of a standard Riley Nine tourer with a view to putting it through its paces. They tested it vigorously for cross-country perform ance, etc., and then suggested modifications. These were effected, and the car in its new form was delivered in July, 1929. In most respects the new Army model has the specification of the standard 9-h.p. tourer, but it has much larger tyres-- 31 in. by 5.23 in. and a greater back-axle reduction, this making the gear rather lower than that of the standard car. Even so, however, a speed of 60m.p.h. is possible. from The Sphere - Saturday 16 May 1931


One was entered by Rupert St George Riley (not a member of the family ) in the 1933 Monte Carlo Rally, but retired between Vienna and Budapest. p.94  A.T.Birmingham

It was subsequently learned that the W.D. Tourer completed the trial (1932 Cairo to Mogalla and return) without any mechanical trouble . About a year later the Riley 9 had the distinction of being mentioned in the House of Commons. When Mr Duff Cooper, Financial Secretary to the War Office, presented the Army Estimates, mentioned during the course of his speech that an interesting experiment had been made with four British-made vehicles. Three commercial vehicles and a 9 hp Riley travelled desert and rough country for a distance of 5,000 miles without any real meachnical trouble p.109 A.T.Birmingham



The army at Horseshoe Pass  Photo available from Stilltime

'How does one describe the Riley 9? In it’s day, the Riley works described it as ‘The Wonder Car’, and on the 16th of October 1931, Autocar stated, “First of the superlative type of 9hp car, firmly established, regularly improved and as yet scarcely challenged in its class, the Riley Nine has a very definite appeal to those who can appreciate performance, safety, comfort and an appearance out of the ruck.” There can be little doubt that the engine – introduced in 1926- Percy Riley’s 9hp, 1,087cc twin-camshaft ‘four’ was an outstanding design by any standards. Indeed, this engine went on to power various versions of Rileys until 1957. When clothed in stylish bodywork by Stanley Riley, the works pre-war offerings were among the world’s finest small-capacity sporting cars in the world. Right from the start, it was obvious that the 9hp Riley engine possessed enormous potential as a competition unit. At Brooklands, J G Parry-Thomas and Reid Railton were the first to demonstrate just how good it was. The success of their racer led to a production version, the Speed Model, which soon became known as the Brooklands Nine.

At the other end of the scale was the military four-seat tourer, known as the ‘WD’ (War Department) Nine, which featured a functional canvas hood with roll-up rear window and was painted in ‘War Office Green’. Its specification also included larger 21” wheels, a 6.75:1 rear axle, and a stronger chassis with increased ground clearance, making it ideal for use in Britain’s colonial territories. Indeed, the ‘WD’ model was exported to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – these models exported as a rolling chassis with bodies being fitted locally to save on import taxes. Another unique feature was the beautifully crafted tool rack stored in a fold-a-way panel within the driver’s door pocket. The early history of HX 6507 is as yet unknown, but from 1957-1967, the WD was owned by Riley Register co-founder Steve Smyth before being purchased in June 1976 by a Mr Maurice Griffiths. The car required restoration, which was subsequently undertaken by Ron Laws of Nottingham in 1993, including an interior re-trim by David Beswick of Derby. During the restoration, the original 21” wheels were replaced with the more standard 19” wheels from the 9. In addition, the rear axle was replaced with a standard 9 diff. Used regularly until laid up 1995, ‘HX 6507’ was re-commissioned in 2014, including a re-spray, new hood and interior trim. Purchased from the Bonham’s Beaulieu sale in September 2015, HX joined the Blue Diamond stable and was immediately given a full inspection and overhaul.

The decision was taken in October 2015 to participate in the Monte Carlo Classique Rally, over 1,600 miles in January from John O’ Groats to Monaco. The WD performed faultlessly with the only faults being a blown headlight bulb and paper exhaust gasket failure. http://blue-diamond-services.co.uk/blue-diamond-riley-services-monte-carlo-news/ Once it had returned from Monaco the car continued to earn its keep. I used it as one of my commuting cars, it regularly covered the 230 miles from my home to Somerset, the WD cruises at 60-65 and has achieved 72 MPH – all on the original crank. During 2016 the car covered over 10,000 trouble free miles.

It has continued to be used regularly and has also featured in a small video where journalists were encouraged to try driving a vintage car for the first time. http://blue-diamond-services.co.uk/how-hard-can-it-be-to-drive-a-vintage-car-turns-out-very-for-some/ It may not have the looks of an Imp, but for the task of eating up long distance cruising with luggage it will run rings around an Imp! John Lomas'



  from The Sphere - Saturday 30 May 1931




1931 Riley 9hp War Department Tourer © CLIFF JONES PHOTOGRAPHY

This was sold at Bonhams who took loads of lovely pics copied here. . . full link click here






From 1957-1967, the WD was owned by Riley Register co-founder Steve Smyth before being purchased in June 1976 by the vendor's late father, Maurice Griffiths. The car required restoration, which was undertaken by Ron Laws of Nottingham in 1993, including an interior re-trim by David Beswick of Derby. Used regularly until laid up 1995 now owned by John Lomas and regularly used