Reliant Regal

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1953 Reliant Regal Mk I (5956843337).jpg
1953 Reliant Regal
AssemblyTamworth, England
LayoutFront-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Wheelbase1,931 mm (76.0 in)[1]
Length3,429 mm (135.0 in)
Width1,486 mm (58.5 in)
Height1,448 mm (57.0 in)
Kerb weight445 kg (981 lb)
PredecessorReliant Regent
SuccessorReliant Robin

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.[2]


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.[3]

In 1962, Reliant introduced the Mk VII,[4] 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.[5] 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.

Reliant Regal Mk III Convertible (1956-58)
1962 Reliant Regal Mk VI
Reliant Regal 3/30 (1962-73) with detail of front suspension

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[7] Nevertheless, this still represented a useful increase over the 26 bhp claimed for the 600 cc unit which the 701 replaced.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

A 1969 Reliant Regal Supervan III coloured as the iconic one from Only Fools and Horses

Reliant Regals and Robins enjoy something of a special place in British culture as symbols of British eccentricity.

An example of a Supervan III is the iconic yellow van belonging to Del Boy and Rodney Trotter in the long-running BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Many people claim to own genuine screen used vans but very few have any proof, British boxer Ricky Hatton bought a replica delboy van in 2004 which the seller claimed was genuine but later proved false. Another van sold for around £44,000 in 2017 to an anonymous buyer which was on display for 10 years in the Cars Of the Stars museum which was used in the "batman and Robin" Christmas special, it sold along a very good replica of an Adam West era batmobile.

There were several Reliant Regal vans used in filming; For Series 1 and most of Series 2 (up to and including A Touch Of Glass) a 1969 Reliant Regal Supervan II was used - distinguished by its number plate APL 911H and much 'dirtier' appearance, with an off-white colour bonnet, stickers to the rear door and distinctive paint pattern to the front. After A Touch Of Glass a new van was sourced and can be seen in the Series 2 Christmas special 'Diamonds Are For Heather'. This van remained in use until after Series 3 where others were then used. 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). Action Cars, Telefilm Cars and Cars of the Stars in Keswick England would hire vans for filming over the course of the TV shows life.

The registration number of DHV 938D wasn't real and is just a show plate made for production.

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 1972 Reliant Regal Supervan III, which gets tipped over, crashed into, or bumped out of its parking space. Two vans were used, the early van used in filming is easy to identify as its light blue, has 2 chrome wing mounted mirrors and has the earlier chrome rear lights, it also has rear windows which have been simply painted over. The 2nd van which seems to have only been used in the Tee Off, Mr. Bean episode is painted a much darker blue, has no wing mirrors of any kind, the larger late rear lights and also has rear windows which have been painted over, the inside of the doors have also been painted black.

A red Supervan appeared in the S4C Welsh language children's programme Fan Goch.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[citation needed]

In the 2016 Microsoft racing game Forza Horizon 3 which is set in Australia, the 1972 Reliant Supervan III was added to the vehicle roster.[11] The car was again featured in Forza Horizon 4, this time set in England.[12]


  1. ^ "1968 Reliant Regal 3/30 specifications". 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
  2. ^ "The Reliant 5cwt Supervan III". Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  3. ^ "Reliant Regal Mk I - Mk VI".
  4. ^ "Reliant Regal Mk VII". Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  5. ^ Holloway, Hilton (December 2000). "Robin's rest". Car: 106–108.
  6. ^ "News and Views: A Reliant Milestone". Autocar. Vol. 128 (nbr3768). 2 May 1968. p. 29.
  7. ^ a b c "News and Views: Larger engines for Reliant Three-Wheelers". Autocar. Vol. 129 (nbr3785). 29 August 1968. p. 54.
  8. ^ "Cer i Greu". Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
  9. ^ "Tomber". Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  10. ^ "Heroes and Villains". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Forza Horizon 3 Garage Update Rolls In With Reliant Supervan & Ford Woodie".
  12. ^ "Forza Horizon 4 Car List".

External links[edit]