- The Washington Times - Friday, December 17, 1999

Doug Campbell, an undergraduate at Clemson in 1965, went home to Concord, N.H., and convinced his father of the necessity of a student having a car.
In June 1965 the father and son drove to Boston to investigate a 1950 Riley drophead they had seen advertised.
The younger Mr. Campbell recalls it was an unusually ugly olive drab green color, the top was ratty-looking and on the test drive the horn honked at every right turn.
Still, the elegance that once was captivated Mr. Campbell. He purchased the car with the handsome lines and the big chrome landau bars and set off for home, 75 miles distant.
While driving on Route 128, Boston’s version of the beltway, Mr. Campbell’s education was advanced. He learned never to trust the gas gauge on a strange car. Luckily, his father was following and fetched some fuel.
Once in New Hampshire the green paint was stripped off and Mr. Campbell repainted his Riley with a coat of British racing green.
With autumn approaching Mr. Campbell drove the 1,000 miles back to school without incident. During the next year he and his car with a leaky beige top became acquainted with two persons who would become influential.
The first person was a British mechanic who managed to keep the car running but convinced Mr. Campbell of the need to treasure the car. “His fear,” Mr. Campbell said, “was that the Riley would break down on the road and be towed to the junkyard.”
The second person was a fellow student named Kay who agreed to rides in the Riley despite the lack of a heater and the need for an umbrella inside the car during rainstorms. She actually became so fond of the car that she named the distinguished vehicle Victor.
A year later, in 1966, Mr. Campbell drove his vehicle back home to New Hampshire, storing it in his father’s barn.
Even without Victor, Kay saw fit to marry him. While they were at the University of Kentucky where he was a graduate student, the car languished in New Hampshire.
After school came a career in the Air Force. During that time the Campbells had the Riley trucked to her parents’ garage in Jacksonville, Fla.
The truck doing the towing blew an engine. While it was being replaced, the driver never bothered to call the Campbells. With no idea of where the car was, they worried themselves with what ifs.
In 1980 Mr. Campbell was assigned to Belgium. With the idea of restoration in its home country in mind, the Riley was towed to Baltimore for shipment to Antwerp.
Soon after settling in Belgium, Mr. Campbell joined the Riley Club in England. Through the club he met a fellow who could rebuild the mechanical part of the car.
Since the man was delivering a car to a customer in Germany, he could pick up the Riley on the return trip. After trucking the car to England, the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine was rebuilt along with the transmission. Now all the gears had all their teeth.
The brake system, hydraulic in front and mechanical in rear, was also rebuilt.
With the mechanical gear restored, the Campbells went to England to retrieve the car. They gave it a thorough once-over.
“When you slam the door and wood chips fall on the ground,” Mrs. Campbell explains, “something is wrong.”
The car was delivered to an artisan in Durham, in northern England, who agreed to tackle the coachwork. He simply replaced the wooden skeleton of the car, reupholstered the interior, installed a new dark-green-lined convertible top.
In exchange for a break on the price of restoration the Campbells agreed not to expect fast service. That agreement was stretched to the limit. The Campbells made frequent unannounced visits to check on the progress or lack the of it. Mr. Campbell was fearful of losing one of the few surviving drophead Rileys. Only 500 were built between 1949 and 1951.
After a few years in Belgium Mr. Campbell was transferred to Germany for another four years. After that he was reassigned stateside, with Victor still incomplete.
The two-tone green colors Mrs. Campbell had selected were applied under the new dark-green top.
Finally, in 1993, the Campbells received word that the car was done. They quickly flew to England where, upon seeing the car, Mrs. Campbell had a premonition and urged her husband to have the car trucked to London. He did, and he’s happy he did.
The man who rebuilt the car mechanically inspected the finished product and reported the restoration was correct, but the car had not been screwed back together properly. He told the relieved Campbells their Riley could not have made the trip to London and would have sustained major damage.
The Campbells spent a few extra days sightseeing while their car was reassembled correctly.
In October 1993, the Campbells drove to the port of Baltimore from their Oakton home to get their car. All sorts of things were unloaded from the ship and finally one of the stevedores came for Mr. Campbell. The car had been shipped in a crate that had been opened but nobody could figure how to start the car.
Mr. Campbell climbed into the car in the crate and drove it out. On the trip home he learned that the radiator should never be filled to the top.
When new, the car carried a $2,710 price tag. The 15-gallon gasoline tank can be filled from either side.
The long suicide-hinged doors feature a pair of ashtrays, the aft pair for the convenience of the rear-seat passengers.
A pair of S.U. carburetors feed fuel to the 100-horsepower engine. Nestled within what appears to be a polished piece of wood but is painted metal in the middle of the wooden dashboard are all the gauges including a 100-mph speedometer.
“We will never see that speed in this car,” Mr. Campbell says realistically.
A 6,000-rpm tachometer is one of the few optional extras on the car for which Mr. Campbell is grateful.
Mr. Campbell is now retired from the Air Force and, though dragging the Riley around the world was a trial, he has no regrets.
Working together, the Campbells can raise or lower the manual top in seconds. Then it’s time to take a therapeutic drive in the elegant old car with the 6.00x16-inch Michelin tires smoothing out the bumps as only a gentleman named Victor can do.

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