Travelling 2000 miles to meet Emma

A 1923 Riley Tourer

Travelling 2000 miles at the blessed age of 89 to reunite with Emma, a 1923 Riley Tourer.

The above is what Mr Peter Frankland and his two daughters, Susan and Juliet, did between June 6th – 10th 2024.

The story started when Roberto Attard decided to buy a Pre-War car in 2022. After some online searches, his interest fell on a 1923 Riley Tourer. He did basic research about the car, travelled to the United Kingdom with his brother Oliver, and bought the car, which arrived in Malta at the beginning of September of the same year.

Roberto and Oliver did all they could to get as much information as possible about the car, and all pointers pointed at Mr Richard O’Dell of Silverstone. The brothers met Mr O’Dell for dinner at Swan Hotel Weatherspoon in Leighton Buzzard the day Roberto bought the car. Indeed, the pointers were right, and Mr O Dell had a vast knowledge of the car. Before leaving the pleasant evening spent together, Mr O Dell promised the brothers that on his return from a holiday, he would write down everything he knew and pass it on to them. Unfortunately, after some weeks, Oliver followed up on the matter with Mr O Dell, and he was shocked to learn that Mr O Dell had passed away. At this stage, the brothers lose hope of getting information about the car.

In December, the brothers established contact with Mr Jocelyn Martin via an online group for the 1925 to 1955 period. Mr Martin gave the brothers some information about the Riley, where he saw it last, and the last owner.

Things got a significant turn on April 11th of this year when Mr Martin informed us that Ms Susan Smith got in touch, telling him that she

“is tracing the whereabouts and owner of a 1923 Riley Tourer, reg XI 2007. My father rescued this car from a barn in 1967 and brought it home in boxes. It was a complete wreck. He spent 7-8 years painstakingly restoring it, and the car was a major part of my childhood. We used to travel to meets, and I know he was a member of your club for many years. At the time, we named the car Emma.

The car was eventually sold in the 1980s to fund my sister and my weddings, and he lost track of it after the next owner sold it. I have found details of Emma being auctioned in 2001 by H&H Classics in Warrington. The DVLA website shows the car is currently SORN, perhaps for the winter, but I haven’t gotten any further than that.

Dad is going to be 90 next year, and we have been reminiscing over the old photographs of the restoration recently, as well as reading the diary and long book of the work he did. It occurs to me that this might be of interest to the current owner, and if so, they might consider letting him see the car again in return for access to the car’s history.”

Mr Martin contacted Roberto and Oliver. Promptly, Oliver thanked Mr Martin for this information and confirmed they were willing to overcome all the obstacles, mainly the distance, to reunite Mr Frankland with Riley.

Mr Martin relayed the message and put Ms Smith in touch with the brothers in Malta. Ms Smith immediately confirmed that her father, at the blessed age of 89, was willing to travel to Malta, and they surely did.

They arrived in Malta on June 6th, and all was set for Friday, June 7th, a public holiday in Malta. Roberto’s brother, Oliver, picked up the Franklands from the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Attard at 10:00 and drove to the Historic Selmun Palace in Mellieha, the brothers’ hometown. Roberto, his son Huan, and Emma were eagerly waiting to meet the Franklands.

It was an emotional reunion for everyone, especially for the Franklands. Mr Frankland said that the restoration took him nine years and over 2000 hours of direct work, excluding running meets across the United Kingdom to source the original missing parts. During this project, he made many friends in the restoration industry and the pre-war Riley scene, and then he enjoyed the car for another eleven years. For Susan and Juliet, Emma was like family back then, so they used to refer to her as Aunty Emma.

While Mr Frankland commented and had a story about each part of the car, the most amazing fact was that Oliver told Peter the car was missing the side screens. Peter said it shouldn’t; they should be behind the back seat.

This argument was also brought forward when buying the car, with the dealer apologising and saying that the side screens were lost. Peter helped remove the back of the back seat so the side screens were surely there.

From Selmun, Roberto gave a ride to the Franklands to the main square in Mellieha for lunch at the La Vittoria Band Club, a place at heart with the brothers’ late father.

This experience is being dedicated to the memory of Mr Richard O Dell.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and please do get in touch if you have any questions or automotive stories worth sharing, you can email us on [email protected].


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