The Riley 4/68 was the fifth and final member of the British Motor Corporation's 1-1/2 litre 'Farina' range to make its debut. It was a five-seater four-door front engine with a front engine driving the rear wheels. The 4/68 was made from 1959 until 1961 when it was succeeded by the slightly more potent 4/72. Production ended in 1969.
April 1959 saw the launch of the Riley 4/68, which represented the flagship of the medium-sized unitary-bodied Farina line-up – there was full instrumentation, including a rev counter, hide trim, pile carpets and lavish use of wood veneer for the fascia and door cappings. Asides from trim, equipment and badging details the Riley was nearly identical to the MG Magnette Mk III – cam-and-lever steering, all-round drum brakes and independent front coil springs and wishbones with rear semi-elliptic leaf springs. The lever for the manual gear-change was floor mounted.
In October 1961, the Riley 4/68 was superseded by the 4/72 which looked much the same but had a larger engine, a wider track, a longer wheelbase, greater power, and front and rear anti-roll bars. A new option was an automatic transmission with a steering column-mounted selector lever. Sales of the 4/72 ended in July 1969.
The Riley 4/68 was powered by a BMC B-Series 1,489cc S4 OHV engine and the 4/72 by a 1,622cc S4 OHV plant - both with twin SU carburettors. The standard gearbox was a four-speed floor manual transmission, with synchromesh on the top three gears, with the option of Borg Warner Model 35 three-speed automatic transmission.
Over the past decade, the Riley 4/68 had acquired a following as being the most luxurious members of the Farina range and in the case of the 4/72 it represented a swansong for one of the most famous car marques in British motoring history. Despite the famed diamond badge, twin carbs and tachometer neither model is any form of 'sports saloon'. However, as spacious and rather gracious transport the Rileys have a distinct appeal.
In common with the other members of the BMC Farina range, the running gear will present less of an issue than the Riley's elaborate upholstery and trim; the optional reclining front seats for the later 4/72s are near-impossible to source. The line-up uses much the same panels asides from bonnets and rear wings; the latter can be hard to find for the 4/68. Tired transmission is a widespread problem on the manual gearbox versions while the bodies are notorious for corroding; inspect the A-pillars, rear arches, rear spring hangers, the inner and outer sills, front floorplans and outrigger and wings. As with the MG Magnette, a Riley that is running sluggishly may well be suffering from worn twin carburettors.
Rivals to the Riley 4/68 and 4/72 include the Humber Sceptre Mk I and Mk II, the Singer Vogue I - IV, the Sunbeam Rapier Series III – Series IV and the Vauxhall FB and FC VX 4/90.