A lucky and very rare find today at the Austin Cars and Coffee February 2017 show: a Riley Elf. We’d never seen one before! And quite a surprise when looking closely we discovered a Honda B16 engine stuffed under the stock hood (er, bonnet)!
Remember that when discussing engine swaps, you never ask “why?” and certainly not “how could it possibly fit?”. Swappers carefully measure, pound, weld, extend, and do whatever is necessary to make it fit. And the best swaps do not reveal to the outside world what is under that hood (except by sound): they look entirely stock on the outside. As does this Riley Elf.
The Riley Elf (and it’s slightly downmarket cousin the Wolseley Hornet) was an upmarket version of the British Mini Cooper, built by Riley Motors Ltd of Abingdon-on-Thames, England. The Elf used the larger available engines from the Mini and offered slightly more luxurious trappings. With the same wheelbase, but with added length for a trunk, the Elf was offered as an upmarket version of the Mini. Note the traditional, almost regal, upright and very large grill (very useful for covering up the tubular headers which protrude almost thru the opening!). Offered from 1961 thru 1969 in 3 generations, this 2nd generation “MkII” car offered a 38 HP version of the Mini’s .998 liter engine, and included improvements such as a twin leading shoes on the front drum brakes (the previous model had only a single shoe!). And thanks to this engine swap the original top speed of 77 MPH has undoubtedly almost doubled. Not many engine swaps can claim that!
This “VTEC Elf” was built for an owner in Georgia, where that same owner later offered it for sale. It took some time to sell, with a price dropping from 29,000 US dollars to 23,000. We were unable to discover how much it sold for or how it ended up in Austin Texas.
The Elf was modified with MiniTec’s MTB2 subframe, enabling the B16A engine swap. Which made 160 HP stock, although the original owner claims 180 – possibly due to the long-tube headers and cold air intake. You’ll note in the pictures that the clearances are extremely tight… and we think there might even be an issue with the headers rubbing. The swap itself is very creative, with the radiator off to one side and the original opening in the front for the large Elf grill now partially occupied by those same headers. Room was even found for the air conditioning system and a set of 4-piston brakes. Coilover shocks manage the increased engine and drivetrain weight.
Overall the car looks stock from the outside, and it’s the definition of the term “sleeper” – perhaps the most absolute we’ve ever seen.
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