Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Reliant Robin was first introduced in November 1973
, however today it is best remembered as Del Boys car from the hit series "Only Fools and Horses". The Robin was designed by Ogle Design Ltd, who empowered the vehicle with a water cooled four-cylinder 750cc engine that giving 32 bhp.
The body was constructed almost entirely from glass-fibre, which was then attached to a box steel chassis. Interestingly, the Robin was one of the first cars to feature a rear opening window, the "hatchback" trend soon to be adopted by car manufacturers all over the globe.
And while a three-wheel layout will never be as stable as a traditional car's, the Robin was not as precarious as many thought, as the driver and passenger were seated well back in the vehicle helping to bias the centre of gravity towards the rear driving wheels.
Purchasers could choose from 4 different models, including the "Standard", "Super", "Estate" and "Van". The "Super" was fitted with a more extensive instrument cluster, but otherwise remained almost entirely unchanged from the standard. In 1975
the Robin had its first makeover.
While changes to the body work were only minor and cosmetic, importantly the engine size was upped to 850cc, SU carbies replaced the older style Zenith units, and the engine now boasted a more healthy 40 bhp.
The Reliant Robin became the UK's most famous 3 wheeler, arguably better known today than the Heinkel Kabine and Messerschmitt Bubble Cars. And like the new Volkswagen Beetle and Mini, the humble Robin was to make a comeback. In 1989
, a much more modern looking Robin was revealed to the public.
The new fibreglass body was attached to a galvanised chassis, and the Robin now featured a single central windscreen wiper. The pick of the new look Robins was undoubtedly the "Commemorative" edition - released in 1998 as the company closed their Tamworth plant.
In 1999 a new Reliant Robin Hatchback was launched, featuring a complete new front end with tear drop style headlamps, new doors and a new tail gate. Naturally the Robin was still powered by the aluminium 850cc engine, however the creature comforts of the car were increased to include carpet, a radio cassette, chrome door handles, stainless steel exhaust
, fog lights and alloy wheels
The makeover also saw the replacement of the hatchback door with a new "swing" door, and the use of rather more attractive lights borrowed from the Vauxhall Corsa. And most importantly the cars rigidity had been vastly improved, thanks largely to the refinement in production techniques that Reliant borrowed from the boating industry.
Production of the Robin was finally to come to an end in 2001, with some 65 special edition cars being manufactured to celebrate the passing of the car. Dubbed the "65" (which we think was rather unimaginative), the special model featured leather trim, a walnut dashboard, fog lamps, alloy wheels
, stainless steel exhaust
and has a numbered plaque attached to the centre of the dash.
The last Reliant Robin was collected by its owner on February 14th 2001 and was a first prize in a competition run by the Sun Newspaper Lazarus was to return for another year however, when B & N Plastics began making the Robin under licence from April 2001. Known as the BN-1, the car retained the features of the 65, but was now afforded a re-engineered gearbox and axle, new dashboard and interior. Production finally came to a halt in 2002.
Many did not lament the Robins passing, remembering the confined cabin, primitive dash and ventilation system, low rear seats and wheel lift.