To celebrate Tamworth's past, the second weekend in September is a Heritage Weekend where folks can walk around Tamworth and visit places (ie: Tamworth Castle and Middleton Hall etc) for free. As Reliant were once one of Tamworth’s largest companies, following the success of last year’s Reliant display, I was asked if I could get a group of vehicles to appear this year as well to mark Tamworth's / Reliant’s rich automotive history.
For months prior to the event I had been advertising the event on the Reliant forum at www.r3w.co.uk and over the months some people could make it and some couldn’t, then those who could couldn’t and those who couldn’t could. In the end I lost track of how many vehicles would actually arrive on the day. A week or so before the event I had an e-mail from a chap called Matt Greenly who said he had just purchased the FW9 prototype (Reliant’s attempt at a four wheeled Bond Bug in the 1970s and then abandoned) and asked if he could bring it along. I said by all means, it would be superb to have such a rare vehicle on display. A few days later I then get an e-mail from a chap called Jan Ram who said he has just purchased the Reliant / Lucas Hybrid vehicle (An experimental vehicle with both an 848cc Reliant petrol engine and an electric engine built in 1982) from a museum and he asked if he could bring that. I couldn’t believe my luck, the FW9 prototype and the Reliant / Lucas Hybrid, both in the same display, probably the first time these two vehicles have been seen together.
When the day arrived, I immediately looked out of the window. The clear and sunny weather predicted is not so apparent and huge grey clouds hover shamelessly above my house but at least it is not raining. My girlfriend (Caroline) and I fuel up with a hearty breakfast consisting of several bacon sandwiches and lots of tea and then we walk over to the garage to pick up Ole Blue (My 1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III). We had arranged a meeting point at my parents' house in Belgrave so that we could then drive in a convoy over to the Town Hall in Tamworth. As we walk across the car park I immediately notice Jan with the Reliant / Lucas Hybrid strapped to the back of his motor home. As I wave to him, Dave Poole appears from around the corner in his 1969 Scimitar GTE. "Well, with Ole Blue, that’s at least 3 cars we have", I thought to myself.
As I roll Ole Blue out of the garage, I then notice my brother (Geoff) arrive in his “bus” with Old Red (A 1949 Reliant 8cwt on loan from the Black Country Living museum in Dudley) on a dolly behind him, in hot pursuit was Pete and Dee Gnosill in a 1973 Reliant Rebel and a 1982 Reliant Rialto. “That’s 6 cars", I thought, we have now beaten last years display of 4 vehicles.
From 9:30am – 10:10am, numerous Reliants then started to appear, a bright pink Rialto (Sheila’s wheels) owned by Kevin and Sheila Thompson, and then a 1965 Scimitar GT owned by Martin North. Cars then continued to pour in, a Scimitar SS1 driven by Mark Cropper, then a Scimitar GTE owned by John Unwin along with a Scimitar SS1 1800ti owned by his daughter Yvonne. By now the neighbours were most puzzled by this every growing collection of Reliants and several came out to take a pre-display peek. As my parents live about 1 minute away, I popped into say hello and came back outside to find John Pearce had also arrived with his Reliant Kitten and Colin Lea in a Reliant Sabre. We had planned to start off at 10am when my brother had a call from Mark Barker in a Reliant Robin Mk 2. He was just 5 minutes away and so we waited for him to arrive, when he did, we all set off in one huge convoy, Reliant 3-wheelers and Reliant 4-wheelers of all shapes and sizes, all joined together in one long stream.
After just a few hundred yards the convoy seemed to grind to a halt, Old Red it seemed wanted to have a rest. Thankfully after a little bit of coaxing, she was up and running again and the convoy continued, a huge train of Reliants slowly meandering through Belgrave and Kettlebrook before finally swinging round into George Street in Tamworth. Leading the convoy, I slowly trundled down the street and turning into Market Street I was stunned when in front of me was a whole pack of Reliant Scimitars, all neatly lined up and on show next to the Town Hall. As the convoy behind me slowly caught up, we all parked up on both sides of the street. I had lost count how many Reliant vehicles were here now but thought at this rate, we are going to run out of street.
No sooner had we parked up the people of Tamworth were out and about looking at the vehicles, and like last year, the interest in them was amazing. It seems when people see a whole line up of Reliant vehicles, whether they be 3-wheeler or 4-wheeler, they have to just stop and look at them.
Shortly after Matt Greenly arrived with his Scimitar and the FW9 prototype on a trailer behind him, the FW9 was unloaded and slotted into the line up. Like the Reliant / Lucas Hybrid that was on the other side of the street, both cars were commanding a lot of attention from people who had never seen them before. To get both vehicles in the same display just a few feet away from each other was something special. Matt was closely followed by John Jenkingson in "Trevor", a 1973 Reliant Regal Supervan III that is also a TV star from the Welsh children's programme "Fan Goch".
As the morning raced by, the sun had still refused to come out, hidden behind a layer of grey cloud, it insisted on ignoring the weather forecast and wanted to remain hidden. Thankfully though, the rain realised it was needed elsewhere. As I wandered around I thought it’s ironic that the only car that people really associate with Reliant is the Mk 1 Reliant Robin and we didn’t have one there. A few seconds later, as if by magic, Geoff said, “A Robin Mk 1 has just arrived”. I look down the street and a huge white van had appeared with a white Reliant Robin Mk 1 on a trailer at the back of it. This is no ordinary Robin and I recognise it immediately from photos I have seen on the Internet. It was “Rockin Robin”, the Reliant powered by a 3.5 litre V8 Rover engine. As you can imagine, the vehicle has been modified some what to get the huge lump of V8 power into it. As the owner, David McHugh starts to unstrap the Robin and lay out the ramps a small crowd gathers around the trailer, every one had one thing on their mind – what on Earth does such a beast sound like.