1953 Reliant Regal
|Wheelbase||1,931 mm (76.0 in)|
|Length||3,429 mm (135.0 in)|
|Width||1,486 mm (58.5 in)|
|Height||1,448 mm (57.0 in)|
|Kerb weight||445 kg (981 lb)|
The Reliant Regal was a small three-wheeled car and van manufactured from 1953 to 1973 by the Reliant Motor Company in Tamworth, England, replacing the earlier Reliant Regent three-wheeled cyclecar van. As a three-wheeled vehicle having a lightweight (under 7 cwt, 355.6 kg) construction, under UK law it is considered a "tricycle" and can be driven on a full (class A) motorcycle licence. A light-commercial version with a side-hinged rear door was marketed as the Reliant Supervan.
Following the launch of the Mk I in 1953, the Regal passed through many revisions in a short period, with the "first generation" using the original wooden frame and discrete-panel bodywork design through to the 1961 Mk VI.
In 1962, Reliant introduced the Mk VII, code named "TW7" (Three Wheeler 7). This version featured a new OHV Reliant engine, a new steel chassis and bonded shell design for the body, fully updated visual styling, and was badged as the Regal 3/25, Regal 3/30 (number of wheels/bhp), Regal 21E or Regal 21E 700. The 600cc engine produced 25 bhp (actually 598cc/24 bhp) and the 700cc engine produced 30 bhp (actually 701cc / 29 bhp). The 21E version was fitted with 21 extras, which were otherwise available as optional extras to the standard car. These extras included a spot light, a fog light, chrome plated bumper over-riders, sun visors, an oil gauge, outer wheel trims and metallic paint. In 1973, the Regal was replaced by the Reliant Robin (code named "TW8").
Regals MkI–MkII had aluminium bodies and 747cc side-valve engines. However, during the 1950s, the price of aluminium increased markedly across Europe. In response, Reliant developed an expertise in making panels of glass fibre which piece by piece replaced the aluminium panels, until the 1956 Mark 3 Regal featured a wholly glass fibre body. Unlike Panhard, who responded to the increased cost of aluminium by substituting heavier steel panels, Reliant's choice of the glass fibre technology ensured that the Regal was able to retain its advantageous light weight, with the resulting ability to use smaller, lower powered and therefore cheaper and more economical engines. The Regal Mk VI was the last Regal to be powered by a side-valve engine, as by 1962 Reliant had developed their own all aluminium 600 cc OHV engine that was fitted into the new Regal 3/25.
The Regal 3/25 version was introduced in October 1962 and unlike previous Regals, this no longer had a wooden frame and instead had a unitary construction body of reinforced fibreglass. Fibreglass was moulded in two major units (outer and inner) and then bonded together and bolted to a steel chassis. Meanwhile, on 25 April 1968, a year before BMC celebrated their 2,000,000th Mini Reliant sales director T.H.Scott personally drove the 50,000th Regal 3/25 off the assembly line at Reliant's Tamworth plant.
A few months later, in August 1968, the 701 cc engine introduced in the Reliant Rebel the previous autumn found its way into the Regal. For the three-wheeler, the compression ratio was lowered to 7.5:1, reducing the power to a claimed 29.5 bhp from the Rebel's 35 bhp. Nevertheless, this still represented a useful increase over the 26 bhp claimed for the 600 cc unit which the 701 replaced.
In popular culture
Reliant Regals and Robins enjoy something of a special place in British culture as symbols of British eccentricity.
An example of a Regal is the iconic yellow van belonging to Del Boy and Rodney Trotter in the long-running BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses. A Trotters' original van is now on display in the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, while one of the 'back-up' vans was sold in 2004 for almost £4,000 to British boxer Ricky Hatton, and another sold for around £44,000 in 2017 to an anonymous buyer. Afterwards, it was found this was just a replica (this was an older model that featured separate side lights, all models used in the tv series had their side lights incorporated in to their headlamp units). There were several Reliant Regal vans used in filming; in series 1 and 2 of Only Fools and Horses the inside of the van is red indicating the van's original colour was red. This a 1969 Reliant Regal Supervan II (registration APL 911H). All other Reliants used in the tv series were the 1972 or 1973 Regal Supervan III, dated by the type tail lights fitted. The fins of last Regals were remodelled to be flatter to incorporate the flat topped bulky tail lamps. All previous Regals used round topped flush tail lights (Lucas L572). Other Reliant Regals dating 1968-1971 were used in Christmas specials, identified by the Lucas L572 tail lamps.
In another TV comedy, Mr. Bean, a running gag involves the titular character played by British comedian Rowan Atkinson frequently coming into conflict with a light blue Reliant Regal Supervan III, which gets tipped over, crashed into, or bumped out of its parking space.
The 2011 Disney film Cars 2 features a French character named Tomber who is patterned on a Reliant Regal saloon car, with some creative modifications, such as the headlights of a Citroën Ami. His name means "to fall" in French, referring to the reputed instability of three-wheel vehicles.
A Reliant Regal is shown in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics with it falling apart and Batman and Robin coming out of it, a plot that appeared in an episode of Only Fools and Horses.
The Only Fools and Horses Reliant Regal appeared in cartoon form in a short Discovery Channel advert. The cartoon man was driving a sports car and after a short drive it turned into the Supervan with the announcer saying "What a plonker", albeit quietly, as a reference to Del Boy's famous saying.
In the 2016 Microsoft racing game Forza Horizon 3, a Reliant Supervan III was added to the vehicle roster. It features a conversion body kit for the vehicle which gives it two additional wheels at the front to resist its urge to flip on its side, a reference to the Top Gear episode of Jeremy Clarkson driving the Reliant Robin around the streets with the additional wheels equipped in an attempt to improve the vehicle's unstable handling (S15E1).
- "1968 Reliant Regal 3/30 specifications". Carfolio.com. 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- "The Reliant 5cwt Supervan III". Oldclassiccar.co.uk. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
- "Reliant Regal Mk I - Mk VI". 3wheelers.net.
- "Reliant Regal Mk VII". 3wheelers.net. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
- Holloway, Hilton (December 2000). "Robin's rest". Car: 106–108.
- "News and Views: A Reliant Milestone". Autocar. Vol. 128 (nbr3768). 2 May 1968. p. 29.
- "News and Views: Larger engines for Reliant Three-Wheelers". Autocar. Vol. 129 (nbr3785). 29 August 1968. p. 54.
- "Cer i Greu". S4c.co.uk. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
- "Tomber". disney.go.com. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- "Heroes and Villains". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
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