Of all three-wheelers produced in Britain, those manufactured by the Reliant Motor Company were the most like a conventional four-wheeled car or van. All but the earliest examples featured four cylinder, four-stroke water-cooled engines, and with a traditional rear-wheel-drive set-up, the power was delivered to the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox and a short open propeller shaft.
There were several advantages to owning a Reliant Regal (pictured above) or a Reliant Robin. Because they were three-wheelers you only needed a motorcycle licence to drive one, and they were much cheaper to tax.
You never needed to worry about being asked to give someone at work a lift home either – there was no chance of anyone willingly being a passenger in these particular vehicles.
In 1973, the Reliant Robin (pictured above) was released. The body was less boxy than the Regal had become and the chassis was adapted from the Bond Bug, a sporty little three-wheeler that hadn’t done as well as Reliant had hoped.
The bodywork was made from fibreglass because it was cheaper than metal. In fact, everything was done as cheaply as possible.
There were four versions – standard, super, van and estate. Despite being voted the “worst car ever” it was, in fact, hugely popular, and was on the market until 1981, returning from 1989 to 2001.
In the early days, the Robin had a 750cc engine. With 32 brake horsepower on tap, 0 to 50 took 22 seconds. 0 to 60 wasn’t really possible.
In 1975, though, Reliant fitted an 850cc engine. This improved the acceleration enormously, but the consequences were catastrophic. The big engine increased the top speed too. It would now do 85 mph And that was catastrophic as well.