Not their finest hour: Reliant Robin

Celebrating the greatest cock-ups in automotive history. This week we look at the Reliant Robin
By Sony Thomas, Deputy Editor
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May 30, 2016
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The Reliant Scimitar was a significant car that set a trend that many relatively bigger brands followed. The elegant, sporty shooting brake wowed everyone, including British royalty (Princess Anne was famously gifted one by her parents), with its rakish lines and the powerful Ford-derived 3.0-litre V6. So when a carmaker with such a momentous model in its line-up decided to come out with a car as radical as the Mini, it was only natural for expectations to be high. But the resultant car, the Reliant Robin, was very different from the Mini. So different that a survey held a few years ago chose the Mini as the greatest British car, while the Robin was voted the worst car of all time.

Introduced in 1973 as a replacement for the long-serving Regal, the fibre glass tub on three wheels was a failed idea. From its absurd design and woefully underpowered engine to dangerously unstable handling, everything about the three-wheeler was a let-down. However, it did well commercially. The only factors that persuaded buyers into considering one was the tax and insurance concessions they got thanks to one less wheel and the fact that it could be driven by those who possessed a motorcycle licence.

It sure earned itself a place in British popular culture, but for all the wrong reasons. The Reliant Robin became the main butt of ridicule in several comedy shows and movies.

It was a poor reflection on Reliant’s status as a carmaker when, in 2001, it celebrated its 65 years in the business and two million vehicles with a special-edition Robin with a gold paint job, leather trim and walnut dash. For a year from then, a firm called B&N Plastics built the Robin under licence, but production ceased in 2002.