Three-Wheeler: 1984 Reliant Rialto


Fans of Top Gear and other British TV shows will recognize this three-wheeler as a Reliant. Offering inexpensive transportation with rust-free fiberglass bodies (but not frames!), the manufacturer offered three-wheelers from 1935 to 2001. This particular one is up for auction here on eBay, and is located in Trinidad, Colorado. Current bidding is up to $1,560 and there’s no reserve price. The seller explains in the ad that some work has been done to the little car, including new tires, radiator and battery. The tan paint isn’t exactly what I’d call a dynamic color, but the seller points out that you are going to get a lot of attention driving this anyway. It was licensed previously as a car in Vermont, and is now considered a motorcycle in Colorado; I would check what applies in your state before purchasing it. I’ve never driven a three-wheeler, but the general consensus is that it drives pretty much like a regular car unless you push it too hard. I’m not exactly sure what too hard is, but I wouldn’t mind driving one (and hopefully not finding out)! What about you?


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  1. Peter

    Cool posting, but I have driven a three wheeler (the Honda ATC 70 and 70, back in the ’70’s. I was 14 y.o. and, within the same day, I was confidently raising the inside rear wheel, in tight corners. But that was on a farm, not the road–and I would have flipped over backwards, coming up out of a gully, had my uncle not leapt off of his bike, and onto the front of mine–LOL But that had to do with my inexperience, and not the 3-wheel design).

    Maybe it’s just me but, to borrow Bill Maher’s line:

    “NEW RULE:

    A car should have at least as many wheels as it does engine cylinders.”

    (I saw that this Reliant has a four-cylinder engine, which is pretty surprising, IMHO).

    • Mark E

      If Volkswagen followed your rule that would make a VW Phaeton with the W12 engine quite an interesting sight! ^_^

      • Peter

        Whoops–Mark E.–you got me there! LOL

        I’d go back to my slide rule, except that I neither own one nor know how to use one.

        But I do agree–my “NEW RULE” formula needs work.

        How about this: “A car should have at least one wheel at each corner.”

        Good catch! ;-)

      • Peter


        My new “NEW RULE,” i.e., ” A car should have at least one wheel at each corner…” is also a (possible) “FAIL.”

        Why? Because this thing (kinda/sorta) only HAS three “corners.” I mean, technically, I see four, but the front two are so close together, with one big wheel under them, that it could be argued it’s a blunt, three-cornered “pod.”

        Wait–it gets worse: it took my WIFE to point this out to me! LOL (And, while I hoped admitting that would be cathartic, it was merely embarrassing–LOL).

        In my defense, I believe, in NYS, this would be classified as a motorcycle, but clearly, vehicles like the 3-wheel Morgans, even if (legally) motorcycles, seem like “cars” to me.

        So…bottom line? I surrender–LOL!

        If I comment on this thing again, Jesse, please “Lock” my access to this thread! LOL

        In the meantime, this “car-cycle” on barnfinds has got me looking for a nice, sturdy BARN beam…and some heavy rope–LOL.


  2. Barry T

    No thank you, would not want this even if it was free.

  3. sir mike

    you need to watch the BBC Top Gear episode of the Reliant with Clarkson driving…you can find it on You Tube.

  4. Mark E

    I have to give up watching these posts! There are too many quirky, affordable cars on here lately. First the Singer and now this! But the Reliant has the advantage of a roof, doors, windows and presumably wipers, so I could actually drive the 1,000 miles in the rain! Plus, unlike an Isetta or other micro car this one can apparently be driven at highway speeds! And, according to pics, it even has enough torque to tow a trailer in the mountains?!? Sign me up!!

    • Mark E

      Oh no! I actually asked the seller a question! Someone help me, please….I need some intervention!! ^_^

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Go Mark, Go!!!

        Asking for intervention from this group? I don’t think so :-)

    • Mark E

      Oh and as far as licensing, I happen to know that Minnesota allows licensing of 3-wheeled cars as motorcycles but does NOT require helmet use. I couldn’t care less personally because the car is over 25 years old so I would license it as a collector car for a ONE TIME fee of $45. Boom, job done! The thing that concerns me more is how do you insure this thing? I’m not sure if American Family Ins would even consider it while collector car insurance, which is based upon estimated value, would probably be laughing too hard to reply…

      Oh and in an addendum to the first post, I see from the pictures that the Reilant has a windshield wiper. Singular tense. No matter though, as long as it works! ^_^

  5. jim s

    seller has 2 of these cars. i wonder if the one with the sunroof is for sale also. less then 2 days to go and bidding is at just $1625. unless the price takes off someone is going to rare ( in the USA ) car for not much money. will it be someone on the site and will they try to buy the 2nd one? could it be used for Lemons/$500 limit racing?

    • Mark E

      Oho, I was wondering where you got that information until I got to the end of the ad. He just added the red script within the last couple of hours thanks to my asking him about the information in the listing: Options: Sunroof, Cassette Player

      The disappointment at it not having a sunroof is somewhat offset by the fact that he DOES own two of these and his knowledge should be helpful both in getting it to run reliably to drive home (should I win the auction) AND he should also be a good fount of information regarding parts supplies and owners club support, if any exists! (LOL!)

  6. Dolphin Member

    Sober second thought about 3-wheel cars:

    Push them too hard into a corner and they can tilt or roll. Unlike cars with a wheel near each corner, 3-wheel cars are unstable. I think most of them were designed that way to avoid being taxed as a ‘car’, not because it was better engineering.

    Google “reliant car tilting over”. Some of the photos that will come up are of Jeremy Clarkson’s antics, but not all of them are.

    • Mark E

      I tend to agree with you, in the Reliant configuration anyway. If the Elio ever enters actual production, it appears to be more stable with two wheels up front and one drive wheel in the back.

    • Dolphin Member

      RE: Mark E & Grr, yes I should have said that it’s the Reliant design with the single wheel up front that’s most unstable. The pre-war 3-wheel Morgans, with the single wheel at the rear, are pretty stable. That stability depends a lot on the engine being up front and low between the Morgan’s front wheels.

      The only reason I can see for 3 wheel cars is that it’s cheaper to make them, and in some place register them, and they weigh less. Leaving aside the recent 3 wheel cars that are engineered to lean into corners, it’s hard to see any real engineering or useability advantages to having only 3 wheels compared to 4.

  7. packrat

    Am glad i’m nearest the other coast and this would be too long of a drive. The want is strong with this one.

  8. Grr

    3wheelers with the single wheel in the back are stable, particularly if they’re FWD.

  9. Mark E

    Well, I was going to bid to win this tomorrow evening but in doing some research I discovered there are two Reliant owners groups in the UK and in the cars for sale section of one of them is a Rialto that’s lower mileage and better condition (fiberglass isn’t crazed and everything works) all for 1,500 pounds or offer.

    Suddenly I’m not as interested in this car anymore… -_-;

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      But Mark, that’s 3,000 miles away across a big ocean!

  10. jim s

    at just $1675 with about 12hrs to go!

  11. RickyM

    Must be a very rare car in the US ! Go Mark, grab a bargain……

  12. jim s

    sold at $ 2150. did anyone on this site buy it?

  13. Chris A.

    I’m thinking a Marmon 16 could have had optional drive wheels to make it a tracked vehicle. Hmm-the Marmon 16 ATV.

  14. Bill McCoskey

    I had the fortune to visit the Reliant factory in about 1996 or 97, and struck up a friendship with their chief engineer Tim Bishop, who like myself is a Tatra enthusiast. Tim was very proud of the Reliant 4 cylinder engine, unlike all the other micro cars in Europe & England, the reliant engine was a fairly smooth running motor because it was 4 cylinders. I was amazed to see that small 4 cylinder engine bare block was die-cast, not sand cast aluminum [aluminium in Brit speak], to keep weight down. The entire block weighed in at just 7 pounds!

    I’ve driven more than a few 3 wheel Reliants in England, and yes, they are unstable if you attempt stupid sharp turns at higher speeds, you can flip them. But as a basic small second car for running errands, they really are a nice driving car, but designed to be as light as possible, so there are NO FRILLS at all! [Example – 1 wiper arm/blade!]

    As for Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear, I understand he weighs in at over 18 stone [about 260 pounds], and while driving the Reliant Robin he shifted his weight around at the same time he yanked the steering wheel hard [watch the videos carefully and you can see the front wheel turning], and bingo – it tipped over. Believe me when I say that if the British Health & Safety agency thought they were dangerous, they would have banned them years ago. And yes, the Health & Safety people are far worse than what we have in the USA.

  15. CorvairJim

    Here are a couple of YouTube videos on the subject. The first is for all you classic rock fans out there, and the second is just a CLASSIC!

  16. Rich

    Reliant’s 3 wheeler’s were so popular mainly due to a law that classes them as a motorcycle in the UK, so you can drive them on a bike licence (you used to have to blank off reverse, not sure if this is still the case), and also from 16 rather than 17 for a 4 wheeled car. They can be made to handle, PPC magazine built this one with MGF based front suspension, turbo etc…

  17. Lord Serperior

    Mine is a 1985 Rialto II, the Estate version (which has much more room). I brought her to the colonies in 2013.

    Lovely car she is, practical and fun (and dirt cheap to run, even importing parts from the UK).

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