Colin

                         AN ENGINEER'S LIFE  -  COLIN RIEKIE  

The 541 is often described as "an Eric Neale design", but his beautiful bodywork design would be nothing without the work of Jensen's Chief Draughtsman. The company was small enough not to bother with titles such as "Chief Engineer", but it is quite apparent that Riekie was an Engineer through-and-through.



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   -    A PERSONAL REMEMBRANCE BY AB (BARRIE) PRICE
   -    DETAILS OF THE LIFE AND WORK OF COLIN RIEKIE
   -    THE RIEKIE LETTERS



some_alt - A PERSONAL REMEMBRANCE BY AB (BARRIE) PRICE
NOTED BUGATTI EXPERT, AUTHOR, AND LEA-FRANCIS PROPRIETOR.

In the early post war years my firm ran a specialised service business for, among other makes, Triumph cars built prior to the Standard take-over during the war. A telephone call to arrange collection of a Triumph Vitesse stranded in Droitwich with a mechanical derangement was duly carried out and the owner came to collect the repaired car and announced himself as Colin Riekie, chassis engineer of Jensen Motors. A friendship soon developed and we both continued running Triumphs for several years until I sold Colin a 3 Ĺ litre Bentley, I think in 1953.

Colin spent his childhood in London in sight of Crystal Palace and I remember his saying how he had watched the burning building when it suffered the disastrous fire in 1936. Father, George Riekie, ran the English concession for the French Latil Company, which specialised in the manufacture of timber hauling tractors.
This operation had to close on the outbreak of war and the Riekies moved to Huddersfield where father and son were employed by David Brown, the gear manufacturers. [Later to become associated with Aston Martin].
I am not sure what position father occupied but certainly Colin served an engineering apprenticeship with this important firm.

                  

They both joined Jensen in or about 1946. George was appointed General Manager of the Pensnett, Brierley Hill, Factory which was responsible for the production of the JNSN lorry which incorporated an aluminium chassis which I think was sponsored by a leading aluminium processing firm in the Black Country.


Sub-contracting work was also done for the main West Bromwich base together with the assembly of the Jen-Tug mechanical horse, which did not attain the success which this clever little vehicle merited.

Colin was based at West Bromwich and undertook all the chassis work required. His most notable achievement will have been the 541 which combined a stiff structure but still using Austin front suspension components as on the Interceptor while Colin conceived the idea of using one of the five inch diameter longitudinal chassis tubes to act as a 'vacuum reservoir', you could apply the brakes for twenty or so applications without the engine running before exhausting all the vacuum.

Colin and I did most of the development testing on the first car and did several hundred miles over the summer of 1953 with girl friends sitting in the rear while we hurtled down the Fosseway to Cirencester and back. I remember the speedometer reading ninety miles per hour while I, as passenger, turned around to see the girls getting on with their knitting. I do not think girls knit these days; this incident resulted in the expression 'knitting at ninety', which became a saying which is still remembered. Colin, I think, tried to interest the sales department in using the expression in advertisements!

At this period the writer was becoming involved in the accident repair business and in this connection inspected several Austin A70s and A90 Atlantics which had suffered broken king-pins which part incorporated the lower wishbone pivot. This fault resulted in serious accidents, occasionally fatal. This part was originally designed for the Austin A40. Colin left my home one afternoon in this first 541 and I told him that the heavy Princess power unit placed on top of this front suspension should be a cause for alarm, this observation was dismissed but twenty minutes later while driving on a winding stretch of road, between Redditch and Alvechurch, a king-pin duly sheared; no doubt Colin was driving 'ten tenths ' as was his habit! Fortunately no other damage was done apart from long grooves in the tarmac. Austin retained this kingpin for the next range of cars - the A90 Six and so forth but must have improved the steel specification and heat treatment for the trouble did not re-occur.


Our little parties often included Anne Hall, nee Partridge, who was Richard Jensenís secretary. I am still in touch with Anne who has always been and still is 'a high priestess' in the Lawn Tennis Association.




Colin left Jensen in 1957 and joined the Rover Company followed by several years at Aston Martin and finally with Scammell lorries at Watford where he was astounded to find that their engineering methods were fifty years behind the times!

Colin had suffered a motorcycle accident during the Huddersfield period, which left him with a pronounced limp. He died just after turning sixty from cancer without fulfilling his potential. He married Jacqueline Spencer and had two children, but later they divorced.

The Jen-Tug

Colin engineered the Jen-Tug and evolved in conjunction with Metalastic of Leicester a novel quick release trailer attachment, which was probably patented- more research needed. I could tell you an interesting story about a Jen-Tug but that can wait for another day...

Thank-you very much, Barrie.

As a tribute to his old chum,
Barrie Price is currently restoring
one of the 541s that Colin designed.













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   -    A PERSONAL REMEMBRANCE BY AB (BARRIE) PRICE
   -    DETAILS OF THE LIFE AND WORK OF COLIN RIEKIE
   -    THE RIEKIE LETTERS

Please let me know of any omissions or amendments necessary. Stephen Carter 2012.