The Reliant Robin (aka Robin Reliant) is a three-wheeled car which was produced by the Reliant motor company for 28 years after starting production of the vehicle at their factory in Tamworth , England in 1973. Production peaked at 330 cars per week at its zenith, but by the time it reached the end of the road (eek, bad pun, sorry) this number had dropped to a paltry dozen cars per week.
The Robin is unusual in more ways than just its single front wheel: the body shell is made from fibreglass. This has a range of pros and cons. On the pro side it makes the car very light (around 400kg), giving a fuel consumption of around 50 miles per gallon of petrol, and with a mighty 850cc inline 4 engine unleashing a stonking 40 horses the Robin's not as slow as it might look. Furthermore, its lightweight body allows it to sneak under the weight restrictions for being classed as a car in the UK, and so is technically a motorbike. This means that Robin drivers needn't have a full driving license (as is immediately apparent if you're ever stuck behind one in traffic). Another obvious bonus of the fibreglass shell is the rust, or lack of. The frame itself is steel though, so it's not immune.
On the con side a strong gust of wind may well leave you horizontal. Not ideal. Also, the acoustic qualities of fibreglass are not brilliant for automotive applications: while you may want to hear the roaring engine of your sporty Lotus, the Robin's engine is no auditory feast and you'll be hard pushed to escape it. Partly due to its fibreglass construction and partly its... umm... unusual look it gained the nickname The Plastic Pig.
The Robin really rose to fame when it was chosen as the company car for Delboy and Rodney on BBC TV's "Only Fools and Horses". The model used was the Robin Van, in vile yellow and permanently covered in grime. Reliant were apparently glad of the publicity and never complained once, despite the show putting their creation into the unenviable position of being the archetypal shit car.
The Robin was ultimately doomed to failure by a combination of factors. Its image was certainly something which Reliant were on a losing battle against. A revamped design for 2000 with teardrop headlights was still a million miles from cool. Add to this the price tag: well over 8,000 quid even without the extras. Ouch! Economical on fuel it may be, but at 8 grand it's not a cheap ride. The increasing number of people passing their driving test crushed yet another of the Robin's limited selling points and pretty much sealed its fate. Let's not get too downbeat though... it was a deeply crap car after all.
Here are some of the specifications for the Robin:
Further / Related Information:
The 3 Wheelers Website: http://www.3wheelers.com/
The Robin customised: http://www.performancepigz.co.uk/