Minor British Institutions: Reliant Robin

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The Independent Online

First things first: the Robin was not the car featured in Only Fools and Horses; Del Boy's vehicle (pictured) was in fact a Reliant Regal Supervan. However, most of Reliant's ranges manufactured in Tamworth between 1953 and 2000 – Regal, Robin and Rialto – did share the same basic design: three wheels; a revvy little engine; glassfibre bodywork plus bits and bobs such as lights and wheels from more conventional cars of the era.

Reliants were driven by the poor and those without a full driving licence but, surprisingly, the "plastic pig" took quite a while to end up right at the bottom of the motoring pecking order. Reliants were inexplicably popular in the 1970s, perhaps due to their exceptional fuel economy.

At its peak Reliant even produced four-wheeled versions (Rebel and Kitten) and the lovely Scimitar sports estate. Then came the Trotters and the writing was on the side of the van for Reliant – output steadily dwindled until collapse at the turn of the millennium. Few survive.

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