Autorama Feature Car! 1976 Reliant Robin

Of all the unique vehicles in the world, the Reliant Robin has to be in the top ten. This particular example is for sale here on craigslist in Riverview, Michigan  and was featured at the 2020 Detroit Autorama. Let’s thank reader Jim C. for the tip and read on to see more!

For those of you not familiar with Reliant or the Robin, let us give you a quick rundown. Reliant was a motor vehicle manufacturer in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England from 1935 to 2002.  Best known for the three-wheeled Robin, they made and sold a total of approximately 500,000 vehicles of multiple types (including boat hulls), in nine countries over the years. They also made kitchen counters, but that’s a whole other story. They began making cars from fiberglass soon after General Motors began the Corvette, and the Robin came to be in 1973.

Early Robins had a 750cc gasoline engine and manual gearbox, but by 1975, that displacement was bumped up to 850cc, and with lightweight body, fuel economy in the 40- to 50mpg range, and a price tag under 1000 British Pounds, it was in the right place at the right time…the Oil Crisis in ’74 made Robins look much more attractive than they might otherwise have been. Add to that the fact that the small engine and three-wheel configuration allowed them to be taxed as motorcycles, much lower than cars of the day.

So, let us look at the example presented here. The seller tells us that it is one of a small number ever imported to America and that its 60,000-mile chassis runs and drives, with all electricals functioning. We’re told that the paint is “driver quality but still shows well with a vinyl Union Jack British flag on the roof” From the pictures, we can see that it does indeed look to be in rather good condition, although we would like to see under the bonnet.

One would think that, for as many times as shows like Top Gear joked and purposely rolled one (literally, rolled it on its side through Sheffield multiple times), or indeed trashed beater examples for entertainment value, that people would generally not like them. This does not seem to be the case, apparently, as there’s a bit of a fan club in England. Jeremy Clarkson himself admitted liking them and said that they’re “…an absolute hoot to drive, partly because it’s light and nimble, and partly because passers-by are genuinely fond of it.

That’s what we think, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    It’s crazy they made a vehicle that was so unstable. I too watched the Top Gear episodes showing the Robin. Even the Stig rolls one on the track as a challenge not to. They could have placed 2 wheels up front like the current 3 wheel motorcycles of today but I guess that was the “English” way approach. Can you imagine the lawsuits a car like that would create in today’s society.

    Like 4
    • Fred Flange

      There was a 4 wheel version of this car. It was strangely called ‘The Reliant Kitten’. It was a truly dreadful car.

  2. Moparman Member

    Anyone see “Mr. Bean” lurking around this one, LOL?? :-)

    Like 5
    • unclemymy Member

      Not a sign of Mr. Bean, but an old Brit-com show on Saturday nights, “Last of the Summer Wine”, did a whole episode with the geezers riding around in what was referred to as a “three-wheeler”; and being able to drive it was considered by the group as somewhat of a special skill. First time I’d ever heard of such a cart.

      Like 5
    • Dusty Stalz

      Wrong show, but Del Boy and Rodders would probably like this.

      • unclemymy Member

        Nope, episode entitled “Shut up and Eat Your Choc Ice”. From Wikipedia – “After accidentally knocking a bale of hay down a hill, Seymour is determined the trio should get it back where it started. When they are unable to push it, Seymour enlists Compo to tow back with a Reliant Robin, but Compo is more interested in giving Nora, Ivy and Pearl a lift back home.” Quite a number of fans follow the different vehicles that appeared. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_of_the_Summer_Wine_(series_11)

        Like 1
    • Slightly Askew

      Anyone see the pilot episode of “Batman” where Robin says to Batman, “Quick Batman to the Robinmobile”?

      Fortunately they changed this little detail for the rest of the series.

      Like 1
  3. Howard A Member

    Crazy Vaclav’s Place of Automobiles. ( some sites say it was a Reliant, others say it’s a Harper Invacar),,
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HPVQ4FpVlY

  4. Lane A

    While the arrangement is less stable that two wheels in front, the Top Gear car was a special kind of dangerous. They weighted it so that it would roll at the slightest provocation. That episode, while funny, was not a realistic depiction of the Robin’s handling.

    Like 13
    • Bill McCoskey

      Lane A,

      You are correct. The producers of Top Gear wanted the Robin to roll over, but found it to be very stable on the road, so stable that they had to install weights in the headliner area to give the car a higher center of gravity.

      When I used to come over to England for 2 weeks each year, I had a friend in the “breaker’s business” [Scrapyard/junkyard for Americans] who would sell me a car that still had a month or more on the MOT inspection, and I would drive that car around before selling it back to him cheap. One of my visits involved using the only car he had available; a Robin. I loved it, except when I went to the Beaulieu Autojumble [the biggest vintage car flea market in Europe], and didn’t have enough room for all the car parts I bought there.

      Like 5
  5. Kevin

    A Reliant Robin and a Yugo in the same week? Folks are really bringing out their prize winners to make a few bucks while prices are up.

    • Jim

      I’d rather read about the quirky cars than yet another Mustang.

      Like 13
      • Solosolo ken tilly UK Member

        Or tri five Chev!

        Like 4
  6. That AMC guy

    I’ve heard the Reliant makes a great space shuttle.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b4WzWFKQ20

    Like 2
  7. Kieron Glover

    “Don’t be a plonker Rodney”
    This may only mean something to UK tv watchers
    Maybe someone could put a link up for me or Google
    Only fools and horses.
    If nothing else at this time it’ll give you a laugh

  8. Jim

    Jeremy Clarkson destroyed one of these on Top Gear:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQh56geU0X8

    Like 1
  9. bone

    Have you ever watched Reliant racing ? You can watch them on YouTube .There are racing divisions where all the cars are Reliants , and most of time they are all crashing into each other. Being fiberglass , pieces fly off everywhere. With all the carnage in one race alone I’m surprised they can still find any !

  10. luke arnott

    Reliant Motor still make parts for these(why?).They did make VERY good cars like the Scimitar once.

  11. Martin

    The putting a robin into orbit episode shows just how big the BBC budget was for top Gear. They got whatever they wanted until Jeremy punched a guy in the nose for giving him a cold sandwich.

    Like 1
  12. Brian M Member

    Whilst posted in the US forces in England in the late ’70s, I had occasion to encounter several of these. The locals recommended that, if in hilly country, one should overtake it as soon as possible as it and a loaded electric float were the two things you did not want to be stuck behind on a hill, as you were destined to be there for a substantial part of your life. I actually observed a Robin on a hill being overtaken by a chap on his bicycle.
    There is one of these outside of a gift shop/car museum in Lincoln, NH, painted a color similar to Mopar’s sub-lime.

  13. David Miraglia

    Saw that episode on Top Gear,left a permanent impression that Robins were easy to roll over.

  14. Bill McCoskey

    The chief engineer for Reliant in the 1990s was Mr. Tim Bishop. I met him when visiting the Tamworth factory, as Tim and I shared an interest in Tatra cars as well. [He was engineering a RHD conversion for the Tatra T-613 cars, as well as designing Bosch fuel injection for their mid-engine air-cooled V8.]

    During a factory tour Tim showed me one of the ways they saved weight in the Reliant Robin. He handed me a bare 4-cylinder engine block. It was an aluminum diecasting, and weighed in at a only 7 pounds!

  15. JoeNYWF64

    I guess gyros were never perfected?
    http://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1961_ford_gyron/
    Futuristic EXTERIOR styling stopped decades ago. Angry front & in some cases rear end “styling” & cheap plastic JCW looking tacked on trim is not futuristic, much less impressive. Even clean late 60’s production hardtop, hidden wiper, & hidden headlite design are all gone. & unbroken roof to rear quarter panel steel as well.

  16. George Waddell

    Reliant also made the Scimitar a 3 door GT estate and later a 2 door convertible all with 4 wheels but fibre glass bodies.

    They weren’t the only ones making a 3 wheeler in that configuration either, although they did buy out their main rival Bond but not before creating the wackiest car ever, the Bond Bug, it is a 3 wheel two seater sports with a lift off door / roof that usually came in bright orange.

  17. chrlsful

    i’m ok if 2 wheels in frnt

  18. JoeNYWF64

    I’m guessing someone may have fitted 2 training wheels that are slightly off the ground on at least 1 of these cars.

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