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Reliant Motor Company

The Reliant Motor Company was formed in 1935 when Tom Lawrence Williams built the first prototype vehicle in his garden at Kettlebrook, Tamworth (UK) along with E.S.Thompson.  A former Works Manager at Raleigh who had worked on their Raleigh Safety Seven T. L . Williams left the company to build his own 3-wheeler. He completed and licensed the vehicle on the 1st January 1935.  This vehicle, “The Reliant”, was a 3 wheeled 7 cwt van powered by a single cylinder 600cc JAP engine which was then up rated to a twin cylinder JAP engine in 1936. It is believed Williams called the company Reliant as some of the old Raleigh parts he used had the initial R on them and so he needed a company name starting with the same letter. It was during a visit to the 1937 Commercial vehicle show that Reliant acquired the supply of the Austin 7 engine for their vehicles which they continued to use until 1939 when Reliant made their own 747cc side-valve engine that was closely based on the Austin 7.

With the onset of the second World War Reliant continued to produce vehicles until early 1940 when their attention was then turned to machining parts for the various ministries.  After the war Reliant started to reproduce vehicles in 1946. In 1952 T.L.Williams decided to modify the body of the Reliant van to accommodate four people, and so in 1952 the Regal Mk 1 was exhibited at Earls Court.  The Mk 1 had an aluminium body fixed to an Ash frame along with a convertible hood.  Over the next few years the Reliant Regal took on many forms (See below for greater details) with the Mk2 in 1955 which started to use glass fibre body panels.  In 1956 the Mk 3 was the first all glass-fibre Reliant.  The Regal was continuously improved upon with the Mk 4 in 1958, Mk 5 in 1959 and the Mk 6 in 1960 (The Mk 6 being Reliant’s last side-valve model).

In 1962 a major step forward was taken with the Regal 3/25.  Instead of an internal wooden frame this had a unitary construction body of re-enforced glass fibre.  Polyester was moulded in two major units (outer and inner) and then bonded together and bolted to a steel chassis.  The vehicle was also powered by Reliant’s new 600cc OHV engine which was Britain’s first flowline production light alloy motor engine.

Reliant had been exporting the Regal as a pickup model to markets overseas and its success was such that in 1967 Reliant created a new pickup type vehicle, the TW9 with a 10cwt carrying capacity.  The TW9 was easily adapted to be any kind of vehicle whether it be a pickup truck or a road sweeper.  The vehicle also found a good market in the UK with a 16cwt capacity.  It was also made under licence by BTB Engineering and sold as The Reliant Ant.

In 1969 the 700cc engine was introduced and Reliant’s production was such that it in 1969 the fifty thousandth 3/25 model was delivered.  In 1969 Reliant took over Bond, their biggest rival at the time and commissioned Ogle to produce sports 3-wheeler for the "young" generation” that used the Bond name.  This resulted in the Bond Bug that was sold from 1970 to 1974. Early Bugs used the 700cc engine though later ones used the 750cc engine when it was up rated once more in 1973.

In the same year Reliant introduced perhaps the most famous British 3-wheeler of all time, the “Reliant Robin”.  This vehicle, powered by the 750cc engine, showed completely different styling and was available as a Saloon or an Estate.  These first Robins were produced until 1975 when the Robin received more minor changes and a larger 850cc engine with a S.U carburettor.

In 1981 Reliant introduced the wedge-shaped Rialto which whilst still using the 850cc engine now featured a galvanised chassis.  Such was the fame of the previous “Reliant Robin” the name was reintroduced in 1989 with the Reliant Robin Mk 2. The 1990’s were a turbulent time for Reliant who called in the receivers on 0ctober 25th 1990.  The company was then brought by Beans Engineering for an estimated figure of 1.5 million but Beans were to call in the receivers 4 years later in November 1994.  Reliant was then acquired by the Avonex Group on 16th January 1995, who also had to call in the receivers in December 1995  Reliant was then purchased in April 1996 by “a consortium of Businessmen”.  From this point on business, for Reliant, had returned to normal and by the end of August 1996, production of the Reliant Robin had resumed.  In the first full year 720 cars were built with Reliant also expanding into lightweight commercial vehicles.  By 1999 Reliant  had also moved into import and distribution with various new models that included the Ligier Microcar from France, the Piaggio Ape commercial vehicle from Italy.

Reliant production ceased in Tamworth in late 1998 and in January 1999 the Reliant company moved to new premises and to a new purpose built factory at Burntwood. (UK)  In late February, Reliant introduced a new Reliant Robin Mk 3 Hatchback for the Millennium with a completely fresh design that was the first major change made to the Reliant Robin for 10 years.  After an announcement on the 26th September 2000, Reliant ceased making 3-wheelers in February 2001 although original plans had been to stop production in December 2000.  To mark 65 years (though it was actually 66 years by the time the last Reliant was made)  of 3-wheeler production Reliant built Sixty five Special Edition Robins (Robin 65) that were individually numbered with a plaque on the dashboard. The last Reliant Robin was collected by its owner on February 14th 2001.

In April 2001 Reliant Cars moved their premises to Cannock. (UK) and in the same month B&N Plastics announced that they would continue to make the Reliant Robin under licence to Reliant and production officially started April 30th 2001 with the vehicles being officially launched on July 12th 2001 and delivered to Reliant dealers in January 2002.  Unfortunately due to various problems production was put on hold towards the end of 2002.  In 2010 Reliant celebrates its 75th birthday though today it only exist selling spare parts.

Reliant have made numerous 4-wheeler sports along side their 3-wheeler range over the years with both an economy range of vehicles (The Rebel, Kitten and Fox) and a range of sports cars (Scimitar and Sabre). Reliant’s 850cc engine has found its way into many items including fire pumps, lawn mowers, boats and in the 1980’s there was even the Quasar Motorcycle that was a revolutionary covered motorbike capable of 100mph+..

A more comprehensive history of the Reliant Three-Wheeler can be found in the following books.

The Reliant Three-Wheeler 1935-1973 by Stuart Cyphus & Elvis Payne (2011)  RRP 7.95

The Reliant Three-Wheeler 1973-2002 by Elvis Payne & Stuart Cyphus (2012)  RRP 7.95

Note:

The Reliant buildings in Tamworth were knocked down in 1999.  In their place a new housing estate was created called “Scimitar Park”.  The main road into the estate is called “Tom Williams Way” after Reliant’s founder with the rest of the roads being named after Reliant vehicles.  These include, Regal Close, Robin Close and Fox Close. 

(A map overlay of the streets over the original Reliant factory can be seen here)

More information on Reliant 3-wheeler models:

Reliant & Reliant Regent (1935 - 1956)

Reliant Regal Mk 1 - Mk 6 (1953 - 1963)

Reliant Regal 3/25 - 3/30 (1963 - 1973)  

Reliant TW9 / Ant (1967 - 1987)

Bond Bug.  (1970 - 1974)

Reliant Robin Mk 1. (1973 - 1981)   Reliant Robin Mk 2 / 3 (1989 - 2001) 

Reliant Rialto (1981 - 1998)

Reliant Robin 65 (2000 - 2001)

Reliant Robin BN-1 / BN-2 (2001- 2002)

Reliant 3-wheelers - List of every model from 1935 - 2002

1935 Reliant 7cwt (restored as a copy of Tom William’s 1934 prototype)

1949 Reliant 8cwt van

1953 Reliant Regal Mk I

1957 Reliant Regal Mk III

1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III

1974 Reliant Robin

2000 Reliant Robin LX

My 1961 Reliant Regal Mk VI van in Regal Close in Tamworth. (The site of the old Reliant factory).

Supporting Documents:

Reliant Register 1935 - 2002: Register your Reliant

Article: The Robin is back

Article: Why do we call the Reliant Robin a Plastic Pig

Article: The end of an era for the Reliant 3-wheeler

Article: Motorshow 2000

Article: Restoration Project: 1935 Reliant 7cwt van

Article: Restoration Project: 1961 Reliant Regal Mk VI van

Article: Restoration Project: 1970 Reliant Regal Supervan III 21E

Article: Restoration Project: 1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III

Article: Reliant North Cape Challenge (2008)

Article: Tour of Reliant Motor Company works (1993)

Article: Robin Reliant – the car that doesn’t exist

Article: Aerial views of the Reliant factory

Book: How to Restore Reliant Regal by Elvis Payne. (2005)

Book: Reliant North Cape Challenge 2008l by Elvis Payne & Geoffrey Payne. (2008)

Book: The Reliant Three-Wheeler 1935-1973 by Stuart Cyphus & Elvis Payne (2011)

Book: The Reliant Three-Wheeler 1973-2002 by Elvis Payne & Stuart Cyphus (2012)

Launch of the Reliant Robin BN-1 - (2001)

My videos on YouTube

Old Reliant Photographs from 1957 - 1959 Rallies and Events

Old Reliant Photographs (General)

Rare 1967 Reliant film

Reliant newspaper cuttings 1935 - 1975

Reliant Advertisements

Reliant Press Photographs

Reliant Scale Models

Reliants owned by me

Reliant Owners Club - 43rd National Rally - 2001

Reliant Owners Club - 44th National Rally - 2002

Reliant Owners Club - 45th National Rally - 2003

Reliant Owners Club - 46th National Rally - 2004

Reliant Owners Club - 47th National Rally - 2005

Reliant Owners Club - 48th National Rally - 2006

Reliant Owners Club - 49th National Rally - 2007

Reliant Owners Club - 50th National Rally - 2008

Reliant Owners Club - 51st National Rally - 2009

Reliant Owners Club - 52nd National Rally - 2010

Reliant Owners Club - 53rd National Rally - 2011

Reliant Owners Club - 54th National Rally - 2011

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 1st Reliant Gathering 2006

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 2nd Reliant Gathering 2007

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 3rd Reliant Gathering 2008

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 4th Reliant Gathering 2009

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 5th Reliant Gathering 2010

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 6th Reliant Gathering 2011

Tamworth Heritage Weekend 7th Reliant Gathering 2012

Related pages on this web site:

B&N Plastics

Bond

Raleigh

Museums:

The National Motor Museum, Beulieu (UK) has a 1947 Reliant 6cwt van and a 1954 Reliant Regal Mk 1, a 1947 Reliant 6cwt van and a 1971 Reliant Regal Supervan III.

The “Cars of the Stars” Motor Museum, Keswick (UK) has the original Reliant Regal Supervan used in the BBC Series, “Only Fools and Horses”.

The Black Country Living Museum, Dudley, West Midlands (UK) has a 1949 Reliant 8cwt van.

Further Information and related Web Sites:

3-Wheelers.com:  View Links Q - Z

Google: Search for Reliant

 

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