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Reliant Owners Club.

48th National Rally  26thMay- 29th May 2006 (Coven, Wolverhampton, UK)

Last year I trailored a Reliant to the National but this year was the first time since 1991 that I had actually driven a Reliant to the National, the Reliant being my trusty 3-wheeled extension Ole Blue (1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III). The longest journey the car has made since the late 1970’s is 12 miles, so whilst 22 miles is a mere sneeze and you’re there in most cars, for Ole Blue this was something else. Driving down on the Saturday, I needn’t have worried though as the car performed flawlessly.  In fact the only fly in the ointment was on the M6 Toll road when I came to pay. Regular visitors to my site may be aware of my article a few years ago on Reliant 3-wheelers being charged a full rate on the M6 Toll road when their classification system clearly states that anything with 4 wheels or less is class one.  As I pulled up to the toll booth, a lady sat in her little ivory tower and reaching out towards me, I dropped £2.50 in her hand.  Immediately the hand clasped and withdrew like a predator clutching at its prey and then her eyes noticed that I had only handed her £2.50. The alarm bells in her head rang and with confusion she stated, “You are a pound short”. I said, “No, I’m not, this is a Reliant 3-wheeler” and before she could say anything I handed her a sheet detailing their classification system. She looked at me with raised eyebrows and then started to read what I had given her.  Then with a wry smile worthy of the Mona Lisa on a stormy day, she said, “OK” and opened the barrier.  I was on my way once more.

By this time someone up above had obviously been watching with great amusement at this little blue 3-wheeled van pootling down the M6 Toll at 50 mph. He called his friends over, “Hey Thor, have you ever seen anything like that before?”  Looking down Thor was far from amused and with a wave of his hand the heavens opened, and the rain came bucketing down. Suddenly I was sailing, I could hear the whoosh of water as my rear tyres carved through the water and my single speed wiper frantically tried its best to clear the windscreen.

Arriving at the rally the rain is still aiming for me and after chatting to the chaps on the gate I then look for a place to camp. Spying a gap near a Reliant Fox / Tandy Camper van I noticed Malcolm Norris busy unpacking. After the usual greeting I looked at the empty piece of land next to him and shouted,  “Malcolm, Do you snore”.  “No” he said, “If I do it doesn’t wake me up”. “OK, thanks” I shouted, “I’ll pitch the tent here then.”

About an hour later and the is rain still pouring down, Thor it seems is having a grand old giggle. Just then, a sound almost reminiscent of an old war movie fills the air as my brother turns up in a 1949 Reliant 8cwt van. Amazingly the vehicle has been borrowed from the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) in Dudley (West Midlands) where it works for a living as a general utility vehicle. The Reliant was an instant hit with people all leaving the protection of the marquee and clambering around to have a look. It was great to see such an old vehicle at a Reliant rally.  By about 3pm the rain finally came to a halt and the sunshine took over. This was a perfect chance to get the tent up and nip around to the local off license in Ole Blue to get a few cans of Scumpy Cider. 

Come Saturday night my brother had set up all his sound equipment as he was the DJ.  Having never been to one of my brother’s discos before he was actually quite good, in fact, too good really as with every song he played people were up and dancing away all night.  Half way through the night an auction was held to auction off a freshly signed copy of my Reliant Regal restoration book along with one of my models that I had hand painted. I had been fearing this all night, what would happen if no one placed a bid, what if it only fetched 50p? Bidding soon started and we were off £5, £10, £15 ... already I was exceedingly happy and thanking people for bidding, £20, £25, £30 by now I was stunned but still it carried on, £35, £40 ... final bid! Going once, going twice .. erm, what ever bit comes next and sold to the ever so jolly nice folks for £40.  I had a grin like a Cheshire cat, it fetched £39.99 more than I expected. Then came the raffle, I had one strip of tickets, yellow 211 - 215 I think it was.   I chose that as 214 was my dad’s old racing car number and so I see it as a lucky number.  Suddenly they call out, “Yellow 214”. “Woohoo” I shout and clamber up to survey the prizes. There are some grand things but one thing that stands out is a bright yellow tow rope. I ponder for a moment.  “Hmmm now if I have a tow rope, I won’t break down, but if I don’t have one, I will break down and wish I chose it”.  I’ll have the tow rope then. As I get back to my seat a couple of numbers are read out and then I hear, “Yellow 213”.  “Was that 213” I ask the folks around me. “Yes” they exclaim and so I dash back up there and this time choose a car shampoo kit that has a pair of fluffy dice with the words “Bad Boy” to hang in my windscreen.  Just the thing for the Reliant I thought.

Click on the title to see that group of pictures.







Once the raffle was over my brother continued with the disco and still folks were dancing away like there was no tomorrow. All the songs played were good dance tunes and as I sat there with Malcolm Norris, sipping my cider, we discussed what must be the worst dance floor song. We then hatched an evil plan to request a song that was so bad, it would clear the dance floor in an instant. We thought and thought but the synapses were just not firing and the old grey matter lay dormant. “I know a good one” Malcolm said, “9 to 5 by Dolly Parton”. Yes, that we thought would clear the dance floor. So going up to my brother and the little laptop he has for request, we type in the track and up it pops, CD 556 Track number 8. “Bro” I shouted, “Can you play this request”. “Sure”, he says. So, returning to our seats with evil laughter and hunched shoulders, we wait until finally the song is played, we quickly survey the dance floor ... did it work? No! Everyone carried on dancing and so our plan for World domination was completely futile! Once the evening finally drew to a close, I helped my brother pack up his stuff and then retired to the tent for the night. The fresh air and busy day (along with vast amounts of Scrumpy cider) had instant effect and I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Next day (Sunday) the weather was gorgeous. Indeed I woke with sunshine streaming through the canvas and heating up the tent. I heard my brother shuffling around in his sleeping bag and asked, “What time is it Bro?”. “Nearly 5am” he said. 5am!!!! Blimey, I thought it was about 9:30am or something. So trying to nod back off, I eventually gave up at about 7:30am and we got up ... and then waited for the burger van to open up for a full English breakfast.

By about 10:30am the cars were starting to line up for the Reliant line up for the grand opening and at first there did not seem to be that many Reliant vehicles but then each time you turned away and looked back a few more had joined the line up until in the end it was an impressive display. Along with the Reliant 4-wheelers there was a great show of 3-wheelers. The 1949 Reliant 8cwt van from the BCLM, a Reliant Regal Mk VI, a couple of Reliant Regal Supervan III’s, a Reliant Ant, a handful of Reliant Regal 3/30 saloons, two Bond Bugs and an army of Reliant Robins and Reliant Rialtos. This year all Reliant vehicles that drove to the rally were given free entry into the Car of the Day competition and so I entered Ole Blue into the Rescued class. Unlike last year, this time I left all my tools and jack etc in the back of my car. So much so it almost looked like a market stall. As judging was being carried out I wandered around meeting numerous folks and especially lots of people from the Reliant 3-wheeler forum (R3W) . As always, it was a case of recognising the car more so than the driver. There was also a good parts stall this year and I managed to find a few parts for Ole Blue that might come in handy one day. They are parts I do not need now but then parts that if I didn’t get now, would probably never be able to source easily if and when I ever do need them. I think owning a Reliant now means having a garage full of spare parts, and talking to many Reliant owners they would concur, much to the bemusement of their loved ones ... “But, you already have 6 spare engines, why do you need that one as well?”.

Once Car of the Day judging was complete I then had a go at the maneuverability in Ole Blue. This year the course involved driving through two canes in the ground that were four inches wider than the widest point of your car. I dove through this no problems, then drive the front of your car as close to a cane as you can without hitting it, I think I was 2 inches away. You then had to drive over six small cardboard squares on the ground, making sure that your front wheel hit all of them, I got three and missed three. From there, reverse as close to a cane as you can without hitting it. (I was 3 inches away) and then park your left rear wheel on a small square on the ground. I was useless at that and completely missed it.

My brother then had a go in the 1949 Reliant 8cwt van and then asked if I would like a go. I certainly would. First of all came the basics in how to drive the van though. The brakes are all rod brakes and so you have to pre-book in advance when you wish to stop, not only that but when the dash mounted hand brake is on the brake pedal sinks right down into the floor. Then there is the gearbox as it no synchromesh. First gear is far left and down, but if you go straight forward and up, you go straight into reverse and so you have to go up, across to the right and then up again for second and then all the way down for third. To start the vehicle you turn the key to switch the ignition on but then on the floor there is a small knob that looks like an old choke lever. When you pull this, it pulls the contacts into place at the back of the starter motor and starts the engine. With that in my mind, Geoff then pointed out the wonders of this vehicle that made it great in this competition. As the back was flat, you could reverse right up to a cane, so much so that when he did it they didn’t measure the gap as it was too small to measure. As the front headlamp was attached above the front wheel you could tell exactly where the front wheel was and know that the tyre was a couple of inches beyond that. Better still with the engine covers removed you could see the front wheel from inside the vehicle. So I paid my £1 and lined to to do the maneuverability competition again. Like last time I cleared both the canes, drove up to the first cane and managed to get the front wheel a couple of inches away from it. Got all six squares on the ground, reversed up to the last cane OK and then, just as I did in Ole Blue, completely missed the last square on the ground. “D’oh”.

We decided to also have a Team enter the maneuverability competition and so my brother, Kerry Croxton and me entered using the the 1949 Reliant 8cwt van. This seemed the perfect vehicle to do it in. I was first and amazingly had a good round, then Kerry had a go and also had a great round apart from when he was trying to get up close to the first cane. Like a tiger he approached it, sneaking up an inch at a time, closer and closer and then at the last second, suddenly flew through the air and pounced on it. Unfortunately his foot slipped off the accelerator at the last second causing  the van to jump forward landing on top of the cane. From the angle of the cane, it almost looked as though he had just been speared by a wandering tribesman. Finally my brother had a go but much to his annoyance did not do as well as before hitting two canes around the course.

Unlike the miserable Saturday, the sun continued to shine all day without hesitation, Thor obviously had got the day off. By early evening though as the award ceremony started, the wind was starting to pick up but still the rain held off. As for the awards I was delighted to come second in the Reliant 4-wheeler class of the maneuverability competition. This year I used Malcolm Norris’ Reliant Fox / Tandy camper van and it was only fair that I beat him using his vehicle as last year, I let him use Ole Blue for the competition and he beat me hands down. As for individuals in the maneuverability I came no where but I have figured that does not mean I’m necessarily bad, after watching other folks take part some are superb drivers. George Osborn won first prize using his Reliant Ant and he must have flown around the course in record time. No stopping and carefully gauging things, just dashing around the course as though he was late for dinner. He obviously knows his vehicle exactly. For the teams in the maneuverability competition, my brother. Kerry and I came first and so we each won a small trophy and a big cup to keep for the year. In the Car of the Day competition I was delighted that my car won first prize in the Rescued Reliant class and it seemed that other folks were as well. The raffle then took place and I had donated an Ole Blue mug and mousemat. They were items that I bought from my online shop as I wanted to see what they would be like. As each person who has a winning ticket can pick any prize off the table, I was really happy that both items went really quickly ... even going before bottles of wine and some other nice prizes.

Once the awards were over, it was then back to the tent to pack up. I had the easy option though as my brother was staying to do another disco for Sunday night so it meant just throwing my things into the back of the van and off I went. The car performed flawlessly all the way home even though a slight detour meant that it was a 45 mile journey; in fact my only real moment of terror was realising that I hadn’t set the video to record Dr. Who and so I’d missed it.  Car wise though my plan worked. By winning the tow rope in the raffle on Saturday, I would not break down ... because I had tools and a tow rope - but what I didn’t let on to the car was that if all else failed, I am in the AA.

Elvis Payne.

May 2006