The Death Eaters, Chapter 2: Reliant Regal | Hagerty Media
Welcome to a series we call The Death Eaters. With the help of the Lane Motor Museum and Kentucky's wonderful NCM Motorsports Park , Hagerty is exploring the stories and real-world behavior of legendary cars with infamous handling. The stuff of lore, both common and obscure, from turbo Porsches to Reliant three-wheelers. https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-profiles/death-eaters-reliant-regal/
One might ponder why on earth any responsible automobile manufacturer would conjure such a treacherous creation, or perhaps more poignantly, why would anyone ever risk their life to drive one. The reason: Taxes.
"The car proved popular in the UK market, where its three-wheel configuration meant that it qualified for a lower rate of purchase tax, lower vehicle excise duty and cheaper insurance than comparable four-wheel cars. The three-wheel configuration, low weight and lack of a reverse gear also meant that it could be driven on a motor cycle licence." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_Minicar
But people are better served with a design that has one rear wheel and two front wheels, as that's inherently stable. The modern Polaris Slingshot is a modern example of that. It's legally a motorcycle, even in the U.S. and yet has controls like a car, and the first ones even had GM engines and transmissions in them, though I think that's changed. If they had a roof, windows and heat/defrost they could even make a reasonable city car.
I wouldn't drive one of these on the road for all the tea in China, and that's coming from a guy with a 1700 lb. VW that seems little more than a deathtrap in modern traffic. These Reliants were absolutely terrible cars by any measure and I have no desire to even try out other than curiosity in very controlled circumstances. (Like the author.) In traffic? Not a chance!
As time moved on, the British laws even allowed for a reverse gear on three-wheelers such as the Reliant. Two other manufacturers existed - AC (yes THAT AC) which left the market to concentrate on "specialty" three wheelers for wheelchair bound folks (paid for by the Government) the Invacar. Bond carried on for awhile, with their rather simple little cars until 1965 when they introduced the 875. This was double-jeopardy. A rear-engine Delta 3 wheeler with the powerpack borrowed from the trouble prone Hillman Imp. When Reliant purchased Bond, it threw away those molds (literally) and introduced the Bond Bug with Reliant powertrain in the center and front hinged lift-off single door/roof combination. So when it rolled over, you couldn't get out......
Invacar also made their own effectively identical invalid three wheelers besides AC. Don't forget the Morgan 3 wheeler and check out the Grinnall (great name) Scorpion... The Bug had soft side panels so you could crawl out if inverted and still conscious....
After watching Top Gear on the Robin, its hilarious for sure but reading this article makes you wonder why they didn't put the two wheels up front like the BMW Isetta with a single driven rear wheel?? A bit more stable wouldn't it? I guess they didn't have any Ralph Nader types in England back then! BTW, there's a small Auto Museum in North Woodstock, NH called Kangamangus Collectibles that has a Robin parked outside. I had to stop and see one in the flesh!
My Dad used to own a 3 wheeled vehicle, it was a Cessna 172. Although it is now normal for an airplane to have a tricycle gear it always felt precarious enough with wings hanging out of each side, of course my imagination can go wild wondering what a 3 wheeled car would be like without the possibility to correct some undesired attitude with the ailerons or rudder to help. I also remember as a tyke wheeling around on my tricycle, or later "Big Wheel" which we were grateful to have a foot available to down on the concrete to avoid an inevitable face plant around the corner going from the driveway to sidewalk at too high of a velocity. If I seriously owned one of these 3 Wheeled monsters I would have installed casters under the front fenders on some springs only a few inches from the ground to keep the pucker factor in check...
Consider that the Reliant filled the niche that sidecars filled in the early 20th century. It was targeted at a poor man who had a family. Do another test with about 150 pounds in the back seat and tell us how it performs then (as it was designed to). Gonna be slow, but I bet it doesn't try to lift a wheel.
First comment: I can hardly type this because of the tears of laughter in my eyes! The conversation between driver and car was pure comedy! Second comment: You think Jeff Lane is insane and masochistic? First, he collects weird little cars (which is fine by me, as I'm insane too), and then he lets people take them out and see if they can be tipped over. (Tatra for the win on that one...) What's next, a swing axle VW with a cement filled refrigerator strapped to the roof? Sadly, not One pic of Reliant on two wheels? Did you go over 20 mph?? Keep these articles coming, Sam!
Er, Princess Anne had a Reliant Scimitar GTE - a much different four wheel sports estate. I see somebody else has mentioned the Bond Bug - worth a ride in that since you can see your feet at the base of the windscreen and at all sorts of crazy angles with the horizon as you corner....
Why didn't they just test in a WalMart parking lot? And why the back seat (I guess there's one)? Putting the driver and passenger over the rear wheels would have probably helped in the tilt department.
I'm not sure I could survive both Sam Smith and Jeremy Clarkson competing in a pair of these, but somebody please arrange it; with their narration, of course. Smith's VO/sh*#box conversation is within a hair of the hilarity of that TopGear segment, because Clarkson's is on film; do empty your bladder prior to watching it...
Tippy would be an understatement , How about roll over like a dog. LOL Cushman three wheelers were tippy to but at least you could jump off if the situation called for it . Here you are going to have to go along for the ride and hope all ends well. If it were a reverse three wheeler it would be a lot better, but still risky. I would rather have a Motorcycle any day even in the rain LOL.
A most entertaining description of a "car"? and it's foibles. I'm wondering about the manufacturer liabilities? If you were an average driver used to driving four wheeled vehicles, stepping into this trike or new to driving, I can't picture anything but trouble. I realize this is going back in automotive history but how could the insurance be less the a four wheeler was. The injury and death count had to have been high.
Great article. Utterly stupid conveyance. They say in the day there were no bad boiler makers, because a badly made boiler would explode and kill its creator. Pity the same isn't true in automotive design.
I actually own a blue one of these located in Scottsdale AZ for the last 6 years. I am pretty much done having my fun with it and need the space. Always great to pull up next to a $250k car at a show and have everyone gathered around the $15k car. if anyone needs to have it send me an email for more details to firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-751-1313. honestly not sure you can have more fun than this with a car. Not sure where they came up with the name reliant as it is not really reliable...lol. Price is $12k as is, runs and drives.