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Reliant Regal / Robin / Bug / Super

Published: 26th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Reliant Regal / Robin / Bug / Super
Bug cabin is stark but nicely sporty. Check canopy and sidescreens for ageing Bug cabin is stark but nicely sporty. Check canopy and sidescreens for ageing
Regal cabin is truly economy class… Regal cabin is truly economy class…
Bug used Mini wheels, better grip Bug used Mini wheels, better grip
The Super of 1965 had a more streamlined front end. The Super of 1965 had a more streamlined front end.
Period adverts majored on the car’s incredibly low running costs Period adverts majored on the car’s incredibly low running costs
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What are the Reliant Regal, Robin and Bond Bug?

Quite simply, they are the unsung heroes of the British motor industry, providing cheap and reliable transport for millions as well as employment for a large percentage of the population in and around the Staffordshire town of Tamworth. The Reliant company was founded be ex-Raleigh Cycle Company man Tom Williams to build a three-wheeled 5cwt delivery van. Nearly 20 years later,Williams built his first car and called it the Regal. Powered by an Austin Seveninspired 747cc side-valve engine, the model went through several changes up to the MkVI of 1960, by which time the body had developed from angular aluminium to rounded fibreglass.

In 1962, this car became the Regal 3/25 (three wheels/25bhp) with the (Ford Anglia-style) reverserake rear screen that most of us are familiar with. As well as road tax concessions and modest running costs, a legal loop-hole allowed anybody with a motorcycle licence to drive a three-wheeler, with a requirement for bikers to have reverse gear blanked off being removed in July 1963. Reliant finally ended vehicle production in 1998 to concentrate on importing European microcars, and the Tamworth factory was sold for redevelopment.


The Regal 3/25 was more like a conventional full-size car than any previous Reliant. With an all-alloy, 600cc ohc engine, it bridged the gap between bargain basement austerity and mainstream motoring. A restyle by design firm Ogle in October 1965 delivered a smoother front end with a smaller air intake.The revised car was called the Regal Super, and was followed by the first Supervan in 1966. One year later, engine tweaks boosted power to
26bhp and luxuries like a heater were added. To celebrate, the Super became the de-Luxe and the commercial became Supervan II. There was also variant with 21 (mostly chrome-laden) extras, imaginatively called the 21E. 1968 saw another name change to celebrate an engine enlargement to 701cc, the line-up consisting of the 3/30, 21E-700 and Supervan III. There was even a 21E Supervan available from March 1969. In complete contrast to the sensible Regal, the Bug was a wacky fun car aimed squarely at the youth market. With a shortened chassis and revised rear suspension, production started in 1970 and lasted until 1974. All were painted a vibrant tangerine orange.Initially available in three varieties, the 700 proved too basic even for whippersnappers and only one was built. The 700E had such refinements as an opening canopy and side screens, while the 700ES had more power (31bhp) and a few sporting decorations. October 1973 saw another capacity hike, this time to 748cc to create the 750E and 750ES. The Regal never got this 32bhp powerplant, because it was replaced by the new Robin. This was available in four flavours: Standard, Super, estate and van. 1975 saw some body tweaks and the final engine stretch, this time to 850cc and 40bhp. It was replaced by the Rialto in 1981, only for the Robin name to be revived eight years later.


These three cars have very different driving characteristics. The Regal with its big 13in wheels is stiffly sprung to help that single back axle contain body roll, and the ride can be rough. It is also extremely lowgeared, first gear being largely superfluous and 50mph being the most your ears can cope with for any distance. On the other hand, the steering is finger-tip light, visibility is excellent and the brakes well capable of grabbing such a light vehicle at those speeds. The Bug is as much fun to drive as you’d expect. The smaller 10in wheels contribute to a low centre of gravity and that revised rear suspension, helped by the addition of an anti-roll bar, both smoothes the ride and makes the Bug feel more firmly planted on the road. The Robin is as noisy as the Regal but more refined and spacious on the inside. Like the Bug, the Robin has 10in wheels and an anti-roll bar. Handling is superb at lower speeds, but windy days will have you battling to stay in a straight line and although the 850cc engine will propel you from 0 to 60mph in 16.1secs and on to a rather frightening 90mph! At those speeds the steering and brakes become largely cosmetic…


The Bug is the only one of the three to have achieved universal acclaim as a classic, and is priced accordingly. Really nice ones can go for £3000, while a few hundred could get you a project. Supervans seem to go for around £500 in most conditions, only to reappear soon after painted in Del-boy livery and priced anywhere from £1500- 3000. A Regal for £150 will usually look OK but be rotten underneath. £300 buys a decent project and even the best struggle to top a grand. Despite being the most usable of our trio, you shouldn’t have to pay more than £600 for a really nice Robin.

What To Look For

  • The number one enemy is chassis rot. They can go just about anywhere, but the rearward rails under the boot quickly rust when water gets in by the bump stops and the main rails go first under the rear seat.
  • The most critical area for rust is likely to be the A-frame that carries the front wheel. The tube across the back can (and usually does) rust without being seen, and the chassis brackets that grip it can also dissolve.
  • The steel framework surrounding the front quarterlights can rust on the Regal, but they are fibreglass on the Robin.
  • The glassfibre bodies will almost certainly be crazed. This needs to be dug out and filled before painting, which is a painstaking process. Before being sprayed, the glassfibre needs plenty of heat to dry out totally.
  • The lone kingpin lives a hard life and can become slack. In extreme cases, the stub axle can be worn oval too. This can be remedied by heating and shrinking, or an oversize pin and bushes made up.
  • The Bug was never that watertight, and you can fill the rear screen on a Robin with sealant but the water will still get in. On the Regal, gaps between the body and the door window surrounds can be enormous.
  • Regal petrol tanks are in the boot and rust unseen from below. Robin tanks are hung underneath the car and survive better, but the petrol pipes can get very brittle and cracked.
  • Older Robins with the Zenith carb had problems starting on a hot day and so owners cut cooling holes in the bonnet. This problem was eased when the 850cc Robin arrived with its superior SU carb.
  • Engines can be swapped between the cars with a little mixing of mounting of brackets , but gearboxes are harder to swap as the Regal and Robin clutch release arms move in opposite directions.
  • Despite being the same basic idea, Regal and Robin chassis are not interchangeable. The main beams are spaced differently, the Robin engine sits further forwards andthe swinging A-frames are different.
  • If you plan to do any work on a Regal, Bug or Robin, contact Veloce publishing (01305 260068, for the forthcoming book ‘How to Restore: Reliant Regal’ by renowned three-wheel champion Elvis Payne (


It may be considered a bit of a joke, but what’s wrong with having a laugh? Any one of these Reliants will worm its way into your affections. They are sturdy, simple and still as cheap as chips to run. Buy one, and see how it makes everybody smile. Lotus head Colin Chapman was so taken by Reliant during the early 1960s that it is rumoured he considered buying the outfit for both its expertise in glass-fibred cars – and the idea of a three-wheeler sports car…

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