Reliant Rebel

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Reliant Rebel
Reliant Rebel 700 WPC 92G - 1969 (5675362439).jpg
Rebel registered January 1969
Manufacturer Reliant
Production 1964-1974
2600 made
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door saloon
2-door estate car
Related Reliant Regal
Engine 598 cc/700 cc/748 cc Straight-4
Transmission 4 speed manual
Wheelbase 89 in (2,261 mm) [1]
Length 138 in (3,505 mm)
Width 58 in (1,473 mm)
Height 55.5 in (1,410 mm)
Curb weight 538.8-603.3Kg
Successor Reliant Kitten

The Reliant Rebel was a small car produced by Reliant between 1964 and 1974, conceived as a niche rival to the Austin Mini and Hillman Imp, it was seen as the smart alternative as it had a rust free body, robust chassis and frugal fuel economy. It was produced in saloon, estate and van variants in 600, 700 and 750 engine forms.


The car was a brain child of Ray Wiggins after the founder of the Reliant (T L Williams) died as Ray believed that not all people would be driving 3 wheeled vehicles such as Reliant's Regal model in the future. So Reliant engineers set to work on the current Reliant Regal 3/25 to see what they could create, they built a rolling chassis using many parts from other countries to give it a conventional front engine steering/suspension but felt Reliant's 600cc engine wouldn't pull the weight of a finished car, so Reliant's engineers skimmed the cylinder head and fitted larger valves to the 600cc engine to give better torque for better pulling power of the extra weight, these engines were specific to the Reliant Rebel.

After this Reliant set Ogle to design the Rebel with the reasoning it should look completely different to the Reliant Regal but to retain some of its parts like its doors and windscreen to save some production costs. The car debuted in 1964 to the public with the show cars been pre production models built in Turkey which were then driven to the Earls Court over night to properly test the durability of them.


The Rebel had a body made of fibreglass. Because of this, the car's body did not rust, and it was proclaimed in advertising to be "its own garage".

On early 600 models the front had a fake upper grill, on later vehicles this was smoothed off to make a new look front.

There were 3 body shapes, a saloon, estate and van.


The car was launched with a 598 cc engine producing 24 horsepower; the engine size later increased to 701 cc in time for the October 1967 London Motor Show,[2] later this engine would be fitted into the Reliant Regal 3 wheeler, the new 700 engine gave the Rebel a top speed of 70 mph.

At the 1972 Motor Show the engine size increased again to 748 cc which gave a new top speed of 75 to 80 mph, but gave better acceleration. All Rebels return fuel economy up to 65mpg; this fuel economy and rust-proof body were key selling points to the Rebel, and the Reliant motor company's ethos for car design.

The Reliant Rebel engines were always of a higher compression and higher horse power because of the additional weight on the Rebel compared to the 3 wheeled variants, Reliant always introduced the new engine sizes into the Rebel first before the Reliant Regal or Bond Bug received it.

Chassis, suspension and steering[edit]

The chassis from center back is similar to that of the three-wheeled Reliant Regal, but the Rebel featured a conventional four wheel configuration which involved the front chassis section receiving conventional steering and suspension. In the Rebel's case this used the steering box from a Standard Ten with wishbones, trunnions and ball-joints from the Triumph GT6 / Vitesse and herald model. The standard 12" steel wheels have a PCD of 4x4" (4x101.6mm).


The car was introduced with a four-speed gearbox which featured synchromesh on the top three ratios with no syncro on 1st gear, this gearbox was based on the reliant 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 Reliant Robin gearbox, the gear stick was no longer on a linkage but just a very long gear stick. 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 introduced in 1972.

Production numbers[edit]

first registered September 1964

Only 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.

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. Where as the existing Rebel was powered by 598-748cc engines with 25-35 hp, the Rebel 1600 GT prototype [3] 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 always had a relationship with Ford using their engines in their sports cars with Reliant building Ford's fiberglass 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 sadly 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. Had the Rebel 1600 GT had been produced it could have started the trend for "souped-up" small cars long before the likes of the original Volkswagen Golf GTi and others appeared on the scene( but of course, long after the Mini Cooper and Cooper S which were the originators of this trend from 1961 onwards)


  1. ^ Cardew, Basil (1966). Daily Express Review of the 1966 Motor Show. London: Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd. 
  2. ^ "Exhibition Stand 105 Reliant". Autocar. 127 (nbr 3740): 45. October 1967. 
  3. ^ Lockton, Daniel (2003). Rebel without Applause. Minster Lovell: Bookmarque Publishins. p. 145. ISBN 1870519647.