How to Restore Reliant Regal by Elvis Payne. - SAMPLE TEXT

Identifying the cars

Regal 3/25 & Regal 3/30

As all Regals were made at the Reliant factory in Tamworth (UK), there are no concerns about finding a vehicle built at a specific plant, as with some other manufacturers. The quickest visual clue to a specific model will be the front of the car. Regal 3/25s from 1962 Ė 1965 had a very large front grill, with the Reliant badge mounted on top of the bonnet area. In contrast, the 3/25 Super and 3/30 had a more refined front area, with two small slots near the bottom, and the badge was mounted directly on the front of the car. Also on the 3/25 the front bumper extends round onto the wings and ends about half way. Reliant found that this made the front wings quite weak, however, and prone to damage, so on the Regal 3/25 Super and 3/30 the bumpers were actually moulded along almost the whole length of the wing. This small design change improved the strength of the front wings considerably.

Regals were available in saloon, estate and van versions. Whereas saloon and estate versions offer good all round visibility, Supervan models are known to have a large blind spot on the passengerís side of the vehicle. Even when new many Supervans only had a wing mirror on the driverís side. With two wing mirrors attached visibility is still not good, so many wing mirrors have been moved onto the side of the doors to aid visibility.

Regal 3/30 21E saloons/vans had a number of factory extras but even if most of these have been pulled off, thereís still a way of identifying a 21E. The 21E featured a small chrome strip inserted into the rubber around the front windscreen.  You may come across a Regal pickup. The chassis was stretched by 3.5 feet (1.06 metres) which gave the vehicle too much weight to comply with tricycle laws in the UK, so these were only sold in Greece. Therefore, if you find a Regal Pickup that isnít longer than a normal Regal, itís a homemade conversion.

Vehicle Identification Numbers

The Vehicle Identification Number plate, which can be found inside the engine bay of all Regals, displays both chassis and engine numbers. The chassis number is also present on the chassis on the left-hand side of the vehicle next to the windscreen wiper motor. This, however, can be quite hard to see with the body on. The engine number can just about be seen from inside the car with the engine access panels removed. Sitting on the right-hand side of the car you will see the engine number, at the back of the engine at the top of the cylinder block.

In the UK all vehicles manufactured earlier than January 1st 1973 qualify as Historic Vehicles and are, therefore, exempt from road tax. You may find in some cases a vehicle was actually manufactured in 1972 but not registered until 1973 (as in my case, UWX 875L was registered on January 4th 1973 but obviously has to be a 1972 vehicle). The chassis number along with the engine number on the VIN plate can be used to identify the year the Regal was manufactured. Incidentally, Reliant often sprayed the year of manufacture onto the inside of the wing. Look inside the wings and you may see the year of manufacture. The windscreen also holds a clue to the vehicleís age within its own codenumber etched on the glass. A list of chassis numbers and the dates they were manufactured is provided at the end of this book.

Body, paintwork & trim

The Regalís fibreglass body obviates any rust problems that you may find on other vehicles. All body panels and doors on the Regal will last indefinitely, but are prone to their own unique problems.

Star cracks

The body on Reliant cars is covered in a gelcoat top layer which gives a smooth finish but is prone to cracking. Check the body for Ďstar cracksí which, whilst small, cannot be simply painted over. Such cracks will need to be ground down to the fibreglass body and the resulting crater filled with a suitable product. Whilst star cracks are no problem to treat, and donít affect the overall running of the vehicle, they can be unsightly and time consuming to repair.
Special attention should be given to larger cracks in the bodywork which can hide several problems. Although large cracks may just be in the gelcoat they could mean a crack in the fibreglass panel itself. Furthermore, because older types of body filler are prone to cracking, a large crack could be a sign of previous damage repaired with body filler. If possible, look at the back of the crack/damaged panel to assess any work needed.

Body damage

Fibreglass is fairly easy to work with, so some body damage may not be as bad as it first appears. The most common locations for damage are the front and rear bumpers. While it may look nasty, most body panel damage can be repaired easily. The areas where body damage may be a little tricky to repair are: the roof (as this may require removing the roof lining); the back door on a Supervan (in some parts this is a double skin); and the top of the vehicle, at the front just above the badge. Repairs to these areas are not impossible, they just require a bit of lateral thinking.
Thereís a chance that the Regal may have been rolled over in an accident. Hopefully, you can assume most fibreglass repairs are good, but poorly repaired damage can easily be masked by paint, so the body should be inspected carefully for any irregularities. Look through the engine bay and at the inside of the wings. If they have a smooth consistent look then theyíve never been worked on. If they have masses of fibreglass patches all over them, however, then this shows past damage that may come back to haunt you one day.
Unlike a metal-bodied vehicle, itís safe to cut away a large section of a crash damaged body and graft in a section from another vehicle. As long as this is done correctly (and assuming there was no damage to the chassis) work like this should not cause a problem. A section of body that has been properly grafted in should not be visible under the paintwork, and itís only when the paint is sanded away that youíll see a join.

Doors

One of the main areas of concern is the doors, especially those on the 3/25 Super and 3/30. The standard 3/25 has a lower fibreglass section with an opening quarterlight window mounted on top. When the window winds up, there is no frame for it to rise up in. Because this meant that support for the glass was weak, in the Regal 3/25 Super and 3/30 a complete metal frame was added to assist the glass on its journey and support it. Being metal, however, this is prone to rusting and should be checked carefully. If the area around the quarterlight window is badly rusted, then in a worst case scenario this could be sealed shut. The frame also has a tendency to rust at the rear of the quarterlight window. Severe rusting may mean that it could be beyond repair and either a section of the frame or the whole thing would need to be removed. Note that this same frame runs inside the whole length of the door, supporting the glass when fully wound down. The bolts which hold the side of the frame in place are easily accessible, but the quarterlight window is hard to remove as, while it is supported by a hinge at the top that can easily be released, the bottom is held by a large stud which goes through the main frame, and is secured with a spring and two nuts. The chances are that 30 plus years of rain and snow will have taken their toll and, given its location, this stud wonít come undone without a fight.
Window winders
If the doorframes are badly rusted, the chances are that the cloth strip fixed either side of the glass is damaged also. The strip is there to help keep water out but, because itís mounted onto a metal section which rusts, water ultimately gets into the door and rots the metal channel that holds the glass in place. Try opening the window to see how smooth it is. If it wonít open you can try a little force but donít go over the top; the last thing you want to do is break the glass. If the windows donít open, the door may need to be stripped down. If the glass in either door is broken, then for 3/25 Super and 3/30 models this will mean a complete strip down. Unfortunately, the glass cannot be removed/inserted into the doors unless the frame is unbolted from the door.

Paintwork

The paintwork on a Regal can vary a great deal depending upon its history. Whilst some Regals may be gleaming, others may have been hand painted and may be covered in brush strokes. Reliant owners have always enjoyed tinkering with their cars and servicing them, and sometimes this means painting them with whatever paint theyíve got lying around ... only for it all to start peeling off a few weeks later. If youíre looking at a freshly hand painted Regal, the question you need to ask yourself is, ďAre there a million star cracks underneath just waiting to come through?Ē Sadly, many Supervans are passed on to make a quick profit, so all the cracks are quickly painted over so that they look good.
The very nature of fibreglass means that after a while paint is going to go dull. With a bit of work, however, it can be touched up and polished. Having the existing paintwork resprayed can be a timely exercise, as it will involve removing all chrome accessories and lights, etc., and then sanding down prior to the respray. Whilst itís possible to achieve a good result painting the vehicle at home, having the vehicle sprayed professionally will cost around £450 ... and that doesnít include preparation work or transportation costs.

Trim

Regals have several badges on the outside. The saloon has a Regal emblem on the front and on each side of the vehicle on the roof pillars, whereas the Supervan has just one badge on the front. At the rear of the saloon is a chrome badge that says ĎReliantí, and this is usually accompanied by either 3/25, 3/30 or Deluxe. In addition, 3/25s also had the chrome Reliant badge on each wing. The Supervan has a Supervan, Supervan II, or Supervan III on the back door along with a Reliant badge. A 21E version will also support a 21E badge.

Internal trim is very basic. The door trims were originally made of a cardboard type material covered with a plastic fabric. These often get damaged and are replaced with hardboard or MDF. The back of the door trims should have a sheet of plastic behind them to redirect any water that comes in along the window. If the vehicle has water near the side of the chair or behind it, thereís a chance that this sheet of plastic is missing or is damaged. It is easily replaced.

The Regal should have carpet around the engine bay and all over the floor, but itís quite common to find the carpet around the engine bay missing. On a saloon the roof lining will cover the whole roof, but on a Supervan it ends abruptly behind the door leaving the rear uncovered. Most Regal vans came with either brown or black PVC seats. Although a fairly resilient material it can be damaged easily. Regal saloons will almost always have their back seat, but Supervan models may not as, with some models, a rear seat was an optional extra.

All Regal 3/30 models are fitted with front seat belts, but the Regal 3/25 is not. Where fitted, tug the seat belts sharply to ensure that they are well secured. There should be no movement at the point they are anchored to the body. Check that the seat belts fasten securely and that there is no damage.
Chassis & swinging arm

The chassis on the Regal is the most important element as corrosion here can render the vehicle a write off. At first glance a chassis can appear to be perfect, but what looks like mild surface rust could turn out to be a rather large hole when poked. If possible use a screwdriver or other object to prod at various parts of the chassis that look suspect, and even those that donít. Oil and dirt are very good at hiding damage.
The chassis around the swinging arm is particularly important. If the Regal has no mud flap fitted to the front wheel, the road spray from the wheel will have been thrown straight up onto the swinging arm. Even on good chassis, this area can be suspect. The engine mounting brackets are equally important. There are two brackets at the front of the chassis and two at the back of the gearbox. The chassis also has an outrigger either side to which the seats are attached, and itís worth checking these areas with a torch.
Damage to the rear of the body can result in water being thrown up around the chassis. Check the chassis around the wheels, especially around the rear axle. On Supervans you should also check that the petrol tank mounts at the back of the vehicle are not corroded. Everywhere else, check both the side and bottom sections of the chassis.

The amount of damage to the chassis you accept depends upon the amount of work you want to put into it, significant damage will require the body being removed and, in extreme cases, the chassis may be uneconomical to repair. If you have welding equipment then youíll have a good idea of what you can do, but if you donít, factor in the cost of getting a welder to repair the chassis. Note that some professional welders may not tackle the job unless the body is removed first. It should also be noted that talk of using an old chassis from a Reliant Robin or, better still, a galvanised chassis from a Reliant Rialto is fruitless as neither will fit the Regal body without major work reshaping the chassis.

Wheels

When new, Regal wheels were painted white, but they can corrode badly once the paint flakes off. Check the wheel rims for any sign of corrosion or knocks. The original tyres would have been crossply so, as well as checking the tyres for general condition, you must also ensure that the tyres are not a mix of crossplys and radials. Vertical free play at the front wheel will mean that the king pin may need to be replaced. Check for any sign of movement at the rear wheels as this could signify worn wheel bearings.

Electrical test

The electrics on a Regal are very basic but a vehicle with a fibreglass body can be prone to bad earths. If the engine starts OK, get someone to check the lights and indicators as you try them. Donít forget the brake light, does the indicator illuminate each time you press the brake? If it does, it shouldnít. Chances are that your Regal is going to be at least 30 years old and the wiring could be very brittle. , so check for signs of cracking or aging. Also note that, as Regals have a dynamo, if youíre testing with the lights on, itís quite normal for the lights to fade a little while the car is stationary. If the electrics donít work at all, thereís not much you can do but look at the condition of the visible wires (unless you can attach a battery).

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