Reliant Rialto

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Reliant Rialto
Reliant Rialto - Flickr - mick - Lumix(1).jpg
Reliant Rialto Estate
Manufacturer Reliant
Production 1982—1997
Body and chassis
Class Three-wheeled car
Body style 3-door hatchback, 3-door estate
Layout FMR layout, with single front wheel
Engine 0.85 L OHV I4
Predecessor Reliant Robin

The Reliant Rialto is a three-wheeled car that was manufactured by Reliant Motor Company, replacing the original mk1 Reliant Robin in 1982. The Rialto was designed as the replacement for the much loved Robin of the 1970s, it featured a much more squared off and aerodynamic body design, servicing panels, a single large windscreen wiper, a thicker fiberglass body and altered interior but the chassis, engine and a lot of large components were from the previous model. The improvements gave the Rialto a better high speed stability as well as improved MPG.

The Rialto was built in a number of different models from a saloon, estate, van, hatchback, pickup and flatbed. Rialto's also come in a number of different marks, the mk1 models from 1982 to 1983, the rialto 2 series 1983 to 1986 and the rialto SE series which released in 1987 until 1997.

Upon release the Rialto had a 12 month waiting list and was one of Reliant's best selling models ever but never gaining the praise as the more better known Robin.

Reliant Rialto
Reliant Rialto Saloon 
Reliant Rialto Estate 

The mk1 Rialto[edit]

The mk1 Rialto series came in 3 separate models, saloon, estate and van, the range consisted of Basic specification with a vinyl interior and could be ordered with a list of choice optional extras or GLS specification which came with a clock, FM/AM radio, voltage gauge, cloth covered seats with extra matching cloth covered areas on the interior, extra thick carpets with a carpeted boot area, GLS decals, leather steering wheel, spare wheel and radial tyres. All cars had a dark green dash with dark grey door cards.

Engine specification was Reliant's own 4 cylinder 850cc "red top" (nick name for the standard specification engine with a red rocker cover) and 4 speed gearbox, this engine was passed over from the previous mk1 robin and achieved 40hp, a top speed of 85mph and MPG up to 60mpg. Most noticeable parts on a mk1 rialto to spot its the first incarnation is the thick stripe which runs front to back, the stripe colour complimented the body colour, stripes came in gold, graphite and silver.

The Rialto 2[edit]

The Rialto 2 model was the 2nd version of the Rialto and released the public in late 1983, Reliant wanted to launch the original Rialto with these improvements but also wanted to release the model as soon as possible so the original mk1 rialto was a compromise to build demand using the the previous robin models major parts.

The improvements were a reworked engine, the 850 engine now had a ultra skimmed head to make it high compression along with a new camshaft for improved low end torque, a new needle in the SU carburetor and a specific distributor, this engine was named the "economy" engine, every economy engine has a capital E stamped on the head and every engine number ends with a capital E, the rocker cover was painted yellow which gave the engine the nick name "the yellow top".

To match this new engine the axle was given a new axle ratio of 2.78/1 (can be identified with B stamped on diff case), this combined with the engine gave the car a much higher top speed of 100mph and a mpg figure of 72mpg at 56mph, the engine now gave peak torque at a lower rev range and the axle made the Rialto cruise at 70mph (motorway speed limit) at a lower rev, this had a disadvantage of not been able to do 30mph (residential road top speed) in 4th gear.

Rialtos now had vinyl seats on basic models or corduroy cloth seats on GLS models, all rialto models whatever specification now had a vacuum economy gauge along with a new decal seat of a double coach line with "RIALTO 2" on the wings and rear door, also new hub caps. Another visual improvement on the rialto 2 was bumpers, black plastic bumpers which covered the front and back, these were only fitted on GLS spec.

By late 1984 the Rialto 2 was been re-release with a altered specification, the axle ratio was now back to the previous ratio of 3.23/1 as customers complained of not been able to use 4th gear at city speeds, along with this the economy gauge was no longer fitted with different interior trim.

Rialto SE[edit]

The Rialto SE brought a whole new demand to the Rialto range, in the previous rialto 2 range the best selling model was the estate but now in 1987 Reliant released to the public for the first time a hatchback Rialto, after much development it was achievable to get the strength in the roof for the hatchback hinges and this model was a huge commercial success and soon become Reliant's best selling model.

Mechanical parts of the new Rialto SE had now gone back to the standard specification engine but now with a grey rocker cover, the engine now used a pre engaged starter motor also for improved starting.

Bodywork now came in more brighter colours than before as well as now having a black decal boarder running along the bottom of the car which fades out and a single orange pin stripe running front to back in the center of the car.

With the rialto hatchback now in the range the rialto saloon was the cheapest car in the whole range but by 1995 the saloon was deleted from the range. The mk2 Robin release in 1989 replaced the rialto se hatchback.

By 1990 a roller bearing clutch was also introduced on all models.

The mk2 robin estate was release by 1992 but the rialto se estate run along side the car as the Rialto estate was sold as a cheaper version (even though the only differences between the cars were the body design). Some mk2 Robin estates were sometimes registered wrongly as reliant rialto se estates.

By 1995 the Rialto got the same improvements as the new robin, it gained 12 inch wheels, a new braking system, a very different interior trim and a new dashboard design with new dials, also this year a Reliant rialto pickup was built called the "Giant", this was then sold to the public in 1996 but only for a limited time on a small production run.

The last Rialto models to be built were the estate and production of the rialto finally finished in 1997.

Unfounded myths[edit]

One of the widely known myths is that a Reliant three-wheeled vehicle would have to have reverse gear removed or blanked off from its gearbox for someone to drive it on a motorcycle licence; this was only true in the early 1960s but was removed from law soon after as the lack of mobility in reverse was dangerous to the driver and other road users, but some how this has stuck and is a common myth.

The most obvious myth is that Reliants can't go round corners. This was shown on the BBC's Top Gear programme, but what wasn't shown was that the Reliant Robin that Jeremy Clarkson was driving had a 10-inch wheel on the driver's side, a 12-inch wheel on the passenger side and a 13-inch wheel on the front wheel, which caused the vehicle to be unstable on the driver's side hence why it always rolled on that side, all very well staged for television but some people actually believe it to be truth.

Another myth is that some people believe a Reliant - or any three-wheeled vehicle - isn't allowed on British motorways. This is not the case as any two-, three- or four-wheeled vehicle is allowed on the motorway as long as its engine size is over 50 cc.

A lot of people think the main character (Derek "Del Boy" Trotter) in the British television comedy series Only Fools and Horses owned a Reliant Robin. Many people have painted their Reliant Robins and Rialtos yellow with the famous "Trotters Independent Trading Co" lettering, but the model in the TV series was a Reliant Regal Supervan III.

Some people believe one can drive a three-wheeled Reliant on a compulsory basic training (CBT) driving licence, but this is incorrect as Reliants have engines larger than the CBT licence allows. A full motorcycle or full car driving licence is required, and the driver must also be over 21 to drive a Reliant.

Driving a Reliant on a motorcycle licence[edit]

Originally to drive a 3-wheeled Reliant on a motorcycle licence was only because when you passed a full motorcycle licence you were given a B1 class on your licence as well which gave you the right to drive a vehicle with 3 or 4 wheels up to 550 kg but B1 was stopped to be entitled in 2001.

More interest has been given to Reliants from January 2013 as the licencing was changed once again, now if you have a full A category motorcycle licence and over the age of 21 you can drive a 3-wheeled vehicle of any weight.

The age limit of 21 or age also applies for full car licence as well.

You can not drive any Reliant 3 wheeled vehicle on a CBT or any lower type of licence.


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