The Magic Number: Britain’s Three-wheeled Cars

(Image Source: Flickr)

The United Kingdom is a world leader in terms of three-wheelers, and has been for many years, with many of the most iconic vehicles having sold in large numbers in their prime. In the past, motorcyclists did not even need a new driving licence to be able to legally swap two wheeled bikes for three-wheelers, when the time came that they were in need of transportation that was a little bit more family friendly. Three-wheelers remain very popular in the Britain of the 21st century, with the highest regarded classic models shooting up in value in recent times.

The Reliant Supervan III

The Reliant Supervan III may well have disappeared into the mists of time and obscurity had it not been for a television programme. Produced between 1962 and 1973, the humble little three-wheeler was made infamous by the massively successful British comedy series Only Fools and Horses, which remains a perennial staple of British television. Popular culture has forever cemented it alongside Del and Rodney Trotter, the equally legendary characters played by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. The series is the reason why the great majority of such vehicles that still survive today have been spray painted yellow, in order to replicate its most famous design, and why the best examples have skyrocketed in value. There is no more famous three-wheeled vehicle in the United Kingdom than this.

The Bond Bug

When Bond Cars Ltd was acquired by rival company Reliant back in 1969, the discontinuation of the former’s own three-wheeler vehicle, so as to remove the main competitor to the Regal, was sadly inevitable. However, Reliant had the idea to exploit the Bond range in a different and sportier vein, which is why 1970 saw the unveiling of the Bug. Manufactured for only four years, the wedge shaped three-wheeler, which had just 2270 models actually made, made use of the 700/750cc engine that was found in the Regal, and was also based on a modified version of its design, but with a trendier, more 1970s appearance. This saw the conventional doors replaced with an enormous lift-up canopy.

The Reliant Robin Mark I

Before 1973, the only Reliant three-wheeled saloon was the Regal, which was positively ancient even then, with its 1960s-style tiny tail fins and reverse-rake rear windows. By 1973 standards however, the Reliant Robin Mark I had an incredibly modern appearance and became an instant smash hit with the company’s fans. The Ogle Design styling was a revolution in three-wheel vehicles in the 70s, and sold over 10,000 units within its first year on the market.

BN-1 Robin

In 1981, Reliant replaced the Robin with the new Rialto, but the Robin came back to life in the 1990s in a new look model, which was updated yet again before the end of the decade to have a softer appearance on its front end, and Corsa headlamps. However, falling sales saw the end of the three-wheeler in 2000 – until B&N Plastics acquired all the rights to the production and tooling, and created the BN-1 Robin in 2001. Just 20 cars were manufactured, but the vehicle now has a serious cachet among enthusiasts.