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 is a small car that was produced by Reliant between 1964 and 1974, conceived as a niche rival to the Austin Mini and Hillman Imp. It was marketed as the smart alternative, because it had a rust-free body, a robust chassis and frugal fuel economy. It was produced in saloon, estate and van variants, with 600, 700 or 750cc engines.


The car was a brain-child of Ray Wiggins, and developed after the death of the founder of Reliant, T.L. Williams. Wiggins believed that people in the future would be less likely to drive three-wheeled vehicles, such as Reliant's Regal, so Reliant engineers decided to modify the current Reliant Regal 3/25 to create a four-wheel vehicle. They built a rolling chassis, using many parts from other countries, to give it a conventional front engine steering/suspension, but felt that Reliant's 600cc engine wouldn't pull the weight of a finished car. Consequently, the engineers skimmed the cylinder head and fitted larger valves to the 600cc engine, giving it better torque to cope with the car's extra weight. Those engines were specific to the Reliant Rebel.

Reliant asked Ogle Design to design the Rebel, with the idea that it should look completely different to the Reliant Regal, but should save production costs by retaining some of the Regal's parts, such as its doors and windscreen. The car made its public debut in 1964. The show cars were pre-production models, built in Turkey and driven to Earls Court overnight to properly test their durability.


Upon launch in 1964 only one version of the rebel were produced, this was the saloon model with only one trim level and a accessory list, these models never had a model name besides "the rebel" but were given the nick name of the mk1 rebel, the vehicles were produced in very low numbers of around 100, they feature a fake upper grill, clear front indicators, a dashboard from the reliant regal but in black gelcoat, the reliant regal steering wheel and a unique design of front seats and only a minimum amount of carpet in the interior.

By 1965 Launched the "rebel deluxe" but never actually used this name again, this car was updated with a new dashboard design with different instruments, thicker seats, 5 leaf springs instead of 7 for a softer ride, top half of grill deleted, orange front indicators, a unique front steering wheel. This model in later years was simply named the "rebel 600" by reliant.

Later models introduced were the Rebel 700, this had many major changes including a chassis redesign, a engine redesign with a increase of 100cc, a move over to negative earth and many other specification changes. Around this time the estate model was introduced, the estate used all the same mechanical parts as the rebel saloon but with just a redesigned body with a large opening rear door and long side windows, later the long fixed side windows could be ordered as sliding opening windows. Very late in rebel 700 production a van version of the rebel was made, this was identical as the estate but without windows, not many were made.

The next evolution of the rebel was the 750 model, this car used many parts from the soon to be introduced reliant robin including its 750 engine, all synchromesh gearbox (slightly modified for the rebel) and its rear lights. This was by far the most popular rebel model selling as the saloon, estate and van model.


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. Whereas 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 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. ^ "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.