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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Discover Staffordshire > Local History > A history of Tamworth's Reliant cars

Reliant Robin

A history of Tamworth's Reliant cars

'Rebel without Applause' is a book that outlines the history of Tamworth car manufacturer Reliant. Here author Dan Lockton gives a whistle stop tour of the Reliant's history & a taster of what's in his book...

The Midlands have had many car manufacturers which have contributed to motoring history, as well as popular culture.
Staffordshire company Reliant, founded by the redoubtable Tom Williams, was one. Most famous for the Robin, in fact it produced a surprisingly wide range of cars - even sports cars!


Reliant has been largely neglected in terms of serious analysis of its important role in the development of vehicle design and construction. But Reliant enabled tens of thousands of British motorists to climb the first rung on the motoring ladder, through exploiting a long-standing licensing loophole

Rebel Without Applause

Reliant deserves substantially more consideration than it has hitherto received, and I would like to think that I have addressed this at least partially in Rebel Without Applause.


1) They were first produced in 1973 and were powered by a water cooled four-cylinder engine

2) You could buy the Standard Robin, The Super Robin, The Robin Estate & The Robin Van

3) HRH Princess Anne brought a Robin Super Saloon when living at Sandhurst Royal Academy

4) The Reliant Robin 65 was introduced in 2000. It was a special edition to mark 65 years of 3-wheel production.

5) No more Reliant Robins were made after February 2001.

6) The Reliant Robin was made famous by Del Boy and Rodney of Only Fools and Horses

As a young Reliant owner and enthusiast, I very much wanted to investigate the company’s history and the reasoning behind the development of the cars, and I was fortunate to be helped by many people – former Reliant employees and other owners.

Reliant - a journey

Rebel Without Applause covers Reliant from its insecure origins in 1930s Tamworth, through to a period in the 1950s where it was seen as just another player in the overcrowded three-wheeler market.

The book also explores the years of dynamic expansion when this innovative company briefly became the second-largest British car maker, producing vehicles ranging from high performance luxury Scimitar sports cars to economical small cars, both three and four-wheeled.

Jobs for Tamworth .... & Turkey!

Reliant was Tamworth’s largest employer for many years. The company used its unique experience in plastic body construction to set up the first motor industries in Israel, Turkey and Greece.

The company developed an amazing degree of self-sufficiency with the design and production of its own high economy aluminium engine, finding applications not only in a long line of small cars, but also in low-cost motor racing and a variety of industrial situations.

Del Boy & Rodney

Del Boy & Rodney with their Reliant

New ventures

After a series of changes of management from the 1980s to 1997 (and a move to Burntwood), Reliant finally abandoned car manufacturing in 2001, and today the company is based in Cannock, concentrating on importing a range of “speciality” vehicles, including the “BeUp”, a four-wheeler described as a cross between a car and a motorcycle.

A recent brave attempt by a Suffolk entrepreneur to start production of an extensively improved Robin, with superlative build quality and some very impressive plans, has unfortunately not met with success.


Nearly 70 years after its founding, the Reliant philosophy of lightweight construction, innovative experimentation with composite materials, and emphasis on both economy and individuality, has pervaded much current “best practice” in the motor industry, as well as the fields of engineering and design in general.

Daniel Lockton



Dan is a final year student of industrial design.

He started collecting information and writing about the Reliant Motor Company because there weren't any other books on the subject.

He got to know a lot of Reliant enthusiasts through the Reliant Owners Club and received a lot of help from former Reliant employees.
He also visited the Two Gates factory three times before it closed.

'Rebel Without Applause' is only Volume 1 of the history; the subsequent long decline from the mid-1970s to the present day will be covered in the sequel – in preparation, but a few years away from publication.

last updated: 08/12/2008 at 10:01
created: 25/07/2008

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