On the 9th - 10th of September, Tamworth Borough Council held a Heritage weekend to celebrate Tamworth’s rich and varied history. This meant free access to the town’s treasures like the castle dating back from Norman times, the town hall, Middleton Hall and St Editha’s church opened up their rare double spiral staircase which is the only one in the UK.
As Reliant plays such an important part in Tamworth’s modern history, the council contacted me to ask if I could get any Reliant vehicles to exhibit in the town centre. Luckily I have “Ole Blue” (A 1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III) and after a quick chat with his boss, my brother Geoff managed to borrow a 1949 Reliant 8cwt van from the Black Country Living museum in Dudley. So I posted a message of the Reliant forum at http://www.r3w.co.uk and discovered that the weekend also coincided with a Reliant rally in Nottingham and so most Reliants were heading over there. Despite this, a few folks said they would pop across and bring a Reliant and so we were able to get a nice display.
The main day for the Reliant display was on the Sunday and as the street is pedestrianised we were told to get there before 11am as there were automatic barriers into the street that would not let us pass after 11am. So my brother and I polished our Reliants bright and early and I followed my brother (driving the 1949 Reliant) in Ole Blue down town where we parked our vehicles up outside the Tamworth Information Centre. Now, quite by chance, just two doors down from there I recognised a building from an old 1960’s advert featuring the Reliant Regal Supervan. So whilst the sun was on its best behaviour and the street was quite, I parked my car, borrowed an empty cardboard box and took a shot to recreate the photo from the Reliant advert. Mind you, looking at the original photo I have since discovered that all is not as it appears because whilst the building on the right hand side still exist, the building on the left hand side actually existed on the other side of the street!
Shortly after taking the photos, Dave Poole arrived in his 1969 Reliant Scimitar GTE which instantly amazed a few passers by as they were not even aware that Reliant made such a great looking sports car. They assumed Reliant only made 3-wheelers. We now had a line up of three vehicles but that soon moved up to four when a 1968 Reliant Rebel arrived. This was only a line up of four vehicles but the range made quite an impressive display. Pete & Dee Gnosill from the r3w forum were hoping to bring their Reliant Rialto down but sadly clutch problems meant they could not but like Str8lolly and his son, they turned up anyway to offer their support which was most appreciated.
The vehicles attracted a serious amount of attention and having such a range meant there was almost something for everyone. The amount of folks who stopped to tell of stories about when they worked at Reliant was amazing and much to my surprise even youngsters were stopping to look at the vehicles with genuine interest. One passer by was a chap called Norman Fisher who used to work at Reliant and still drive a Reliant, in fact, he had driven it down town. As the barriers into the street just didn’t seem to lock, he raced off to the car park and brought back his Reliant (a 1989 Reliant Rialto) to add to our display. By now, we really did have a good range of vehicles.
Whilst a few folks stayed by the Reliants and enjoyed talking to all those who asked questions and shared memories of their days at Reliant, I did escape to take advantage of everything else on offer. Having never seen the double spiral staircase I visited that first and the view of the castle from the top was amazing, then I went to the town hall, the castle and then off to Middleton Hall. When I got back to the Reliants, there were still crowds of people around them. It was great to see.
Eventually the day came to an end and the Reliants vanished one by one but before Geoff took the 1949 Reliant back to the Black Country Living museum, we drove down to the housing estate that sits on the old Reliant works ground and took a photo of the vehicle next to the “Tom Williams Close” sign. (Tom Williams being the founder of Reliant). This was probably the first time it had been back to this spot in over 50 years. Geoff then vanished to start his slow journey back to Dudley and I took Ole Blue back to her lock up before returning home and flopping onto my settee with a nice cup of tea. What a grand day that was.
My thanks go to the Black Country Museum for loaning us the 1949 Reliant and also to Geoff, Pete & Dawn, Str8lolly & son, Dave Poole, Norman Fisher and the owners (really sorry but I do not know your name) of the Reliant Rebel. Thank you for making the Reliant showing a great success.