The Reliant Robin: What is so funny?

Written by William Gee. 

No, really. Stay with me on this one. The Reliant Robin was a small, three wheeled city car built in Tamworth. Its’ older brother, the Regal, gained a starring role in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses.

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Photo: grassrootsgroundswell, Flickr

Sadly, it has been the butt of tasteless British jokes since its introduction in the 1970’s. People have pointed and laughed at its ‘piggy’ body and ‘lack of a fourth wheel’. However, I feel it is time to change this attitude and realise what a great little car the Robin was.

A few years ago, we all sat down on a Sunday evening and watched a particular motoring based programme and chuckled as Clarkson rolled a Robin. This gives the impression that Reliant three wheels were unstable and therefore dangerous.

However, a poll conducted by Confused.com in 2011 found that only 0.9% of all Reliant cars have ever been involved in an incident, making their owners the safest drivers on British roads

The body itself is quite interesting. Designed by Ogle, it would sit on its chassis very tightly still taking four people in comfort. In addition, its short wheelbase allowed the Robin to turn on a pinhead.

Different from most cars of the time, the Robin was constructed using fibreglass, hence its’ nickname, the plastic pig. Some advantages of using fibreglass are that it does not rust and it is very lightweight.

Unlike your British built, steel body Austin’s or Triumph’s that turned a nice orange color at the first sign of rain.

Moreover, the Robin offered a lifeline to some of Britain’s working communities. The Robin was very popular in the north of England where a large amount of mining took place.

This is because many of the working men only had motorcycle licences. However, the Robins B-1 category licence allowed the miners to travel to work in it, keeping them warm and safe during the cold winters.

The Robin is still quite a cost effective vehicle. Taxing a Robin costs £74.00 (as of January 2012), which is a similar rate to a motorcycle over 600cc

The Robin is also fuel efficient. Depending on which engine you have, whether it’s the 750cc or the 850cc, you can usually expect a return of 50-70mpg.

Mr White also stated, “People may laugh at them, but take a ride in one and you will soon be smiling.”

So please, if you see a Robin, do not mock and giggle. Remember the points stated here and that it really is a great British car we should be proud of.

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