Reliant Rebel

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Reliant Rebel
Reliant Rebel 700 WPC 92G - 1969 (5675362439).jpg
Rebel registered January 1969
2600 made
Body and chassis
Body style2-door saloon
2-door estate car
RelatedReliant Regal
Engine598 cc/700 cc/748 cc Straight-4
Transmission4 speed manual
Wheelbase89 in (2,261 mm) [1]
Length138 in (3,505 mm)
Width58 in (1,473 mm)
Height55.5 in (1,410 mm)
Curb weight538.8-603.3Kg
SuccessorReliant Kitten

The Reliant Rebel is a small four-wheeled car that was produced by Reliant between 1964 and 1974. It was conceived as a niche rival to the Austin Mini and Hillman Imp and was marketed as the smart alternative, because it had a rust-free glass-fibre body, a robust chassis and frugal fuel economy. It was produced in saloon, estate and van variants. All had front-mounted, inline four-cylinder engines of 598cc, 701cc or 748cc driving the rear wheels.


The Rebel was the brainchild of Reliant Managing Director Ray Wiggin[2] and was developed after the death of T.L. Williams, the founder of Reliant. Wiggin believed that people in the future would be less likely to drive three-wheeled vehicles, such as Reliant's Regal, so Reliant engineers, after working on the development of the four-wheeled Sabra Carmel with Autocars of Haifa, Israel[3] decided to modify the then-current Regal 3/25 to create a four-wheel vehicle.

They built a rolling chassis, using many parts from other countries, with a conventional front engine, steering and suspension. But they felt that Reliant's 598cc engine wouldn't pull the weight of a finished car. Consequently, the engineers skimmed the cylinder head and fitted larger valves, giving it better torque to cope with the car's extra weight. The engine was specific to the Rebel.

Reliant asked Ogle Design to design the Rebel, with the idea that it should look completely different from the Regal, but should save production costs by retaining some of the Regal's parts, such as its doors and windscreen. The resulting car was 138 in. (3505 mm) in length, 58 in. (1473 mm) in width, and had an 89 in. (2261 mm) wheelbase. The curb weight of the Rebel, depending on the model, was between 1185 lbs. and 1327 lbs. (539 kg to 603 kg).[4] The Rebel made its public debut at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1964.[2] The show cars were pre-production models, built in Turkey and driven to Earls Court overnight to properly test their durability.


Upon its launch in 1964, only one version of the Rebel was produced, a saloon with a 598cc engine and only one trim level, but with an accessory list. The car never had a formal model name besides Rebel, but later became known as the Mk1 Rebel. About 100 of the vehicles were produced. They were characterised as being "rather slow performers" and "cost much more than other mainstream" small cars.[5] The cars feature a fake upper grill, clear front indicators, a dashboard from the Regal (but in black gelcoat), a Regal steering wheel, unique front seats and only minimal interior carpeting.

For 1965, Reliant launched the Rebel Deluxe, but never actually used this name again. The car was updated with a new dashboard with different instruments, thicker seats for greater comfort and five leaf springs in the rear instead of seven for a softer ride. The top half of the grill was deleted, orange front indicators replaced the original clear ones and a unique steering wheel was added. This model in later years was simply named the Rebel 600.

The Rebel 700, introduced in October 1967,[2] had several major changes from the 600, including a chassis redesign, a new engine of 701cc, a move to negative earth and many other specification changes. Also in 1967 the estate model was introduced. It was nine inches longer than the saloon and within two years was the best-selling Rebel.[2] The estate used all the same mechanical parts as the saloon, but had a large opening rear door and long, fixed side windows. Later, side windows that slid open could be ordered. In 1971, a van version of the estate was introduced, which was identical as the estate but without windows.[2] Not many were made. Both the estate and the van offered 46 cu. ft. of load space, which increased in the van to 60 cu. ft. without the optional front passenger seat.[6]

The next evolution of the Rebel was the 750 model, introduced in October 1972.[2] This car shared many parts with the three-wheeled Reliant Robin, which would be introduced in 1973, including its 748cc engine, all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox (slightly modified for the Rebel) and Robin rear lights. The Rebel 750 was by far the most popular Rebel, selling as saloon, estate and van models, although overall Reliant sales were declining in the face of competition from other manufacturers. Production of the Rebel ceased in May 1974.[2].


The car was launched with a 598cc engine producing 24 horsepower. After a few years, the engine size increased to 701cc and 31 hp.[2] The latter model was named the Rebel 700 in time for the October 1967 London Motor Show.[7] The larger engine gave the Rebel a top speed of 70 mph and would later be fitted into the Regal three-wheeler.

At the 1972 Motor Show, engine size increased again to 748cc - and 35 hp - giving the Rebel 750 a top speed of 80 mph[2] and gave better acceleration. All Rebels got up to 65 mpg. Fuel economy and a rust-proof body were key selling points for the car and was Reliant's ethos for car design.

Rebel engines were always of higher compression[4] and higher horsepower because of the car's additional weight compared to the three-wheeled variants. Reliant always introduced a new engine size in the Rebel first, before the Regal or the related Bond Bug received it.

Chassis, suspension and steering[edit]

The chassis from its center back is similar to that of the three-wheeled Regal, but the Rebel features a conventional four-wheel configuration with the front chassis section containing conventional steering and suspension. In the Rebel's case, this is the steering box from a Standard Ten with wishbones, trunnions and ball-joints from the Triumph GT6 / Vitesse and Triumph Herald models. The Rebel's standard 12-in. steel wheels have a PCD of 4 x 4 in. (4 x 101.6mm)[4] and the car rides on 5.50 X 12 in. tyres.[3]


The Rebel was introduced with a four-speed gearbox which features synchromesh on the top three ratios.[4] There is no synchro on first gear. The gearbox was based on that of the Regal, but had an extended tailshaft with a linkage for the gearstick.

By 1972 synchromesh had been extended to all four forward speeds as the gearbox was now based on the Robin gearbox. The gearstick was no longer on a linkage but "projects forward from the front of the transmission tunnel".[6] "The light-weight body material and the aluminium engine block meant that the car was some 15% lighter than the (slightly shorter) Mini and 35% lighter than the early Renault 5", which was also introduced in 1972.[4]

Production numbers[edit]

first registered September 1964

A total of "2,600 Rebels were made in saloon, estate and van variants. Most were sold in the UK but many were sold in the Caribbean islands".[4] Of the approximately 900 Rebels which were exported, a number of them were in "left-hand drive form to suit some of their export market".[8]

Rebel 1600 GT Prototype[edit]

During the Rebel's production run, Reliant had been experimenting with a more sporting variant to complement the Scimitar GT and forthcoming Scimitar GTE. Whereas the existing Rebel was powered by 598-748cc engines with 25-35 hp, the Rebel 1600 GT prototype [9] codenamed FW6 had been fitted with the 80 hp and 92 ft-lb (Net) / 91 hp and 102 ft-lb (SAE) 1599cc Ford Crossflow engine from the mk2 Ford Cortina 1600E. Reliant had a relationship with Ford using their engines in Reliant sports cars with Reliant building Ford's fibreglass truck cabs in return. The Rebel 1600 GT was a working road legal prototype and had it been given the go-ahead would have been launched in around 1968, but was never put into production as Reliant Management found out the Rebel 1600 GT could not only out perform the bigger Scimitar models (around the factory as Engineers had been racing them), but also reputedly featured a power-to-weight ratio of 204 bhp per ton which would have exceeded that of many modern sportscars.


  1. ^ Cardew, Basil (1966). Daily Express Review of the 1966 Motor Show. London: Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Reliant Rebel (1964-1974)". The Official Website of the Reliant Motor Club. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Culshaw, David; Horribin, Peter (1997). The Complete Catalog of British Cars 1895-1975. Dorchester, England, UK: Veloce Publishing PLC. p. 241. ISBN 9781874105930.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Reliant Rebel". Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  5. ^ Dan, Mike (2007). The A-Z of Popular Scooters & Microcars: Cruising in Style!. Dorchester, England: Veloce Publishing PLC. p. 204. ISBN 9781845840884.
  6. ^ a b "Reliant Rebel 750 5CWT Van". Commercial Motor magazine archive. 24 November 1972. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Exhibition Stand 105 Reliant". Autocar. 127 (nbr 3740): 45. October 1967.
  8. ^ "The Reliant Kitten Register". The Reliant Kitten Register. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  9. ^ Lockton, Daniel (2003). Rebel without Applause. Minster Lovell: Bookmarque Publishins. p. 145. ISBN 1870519647.