The Reliant Company can trace its roots back to the 1930s when, following the decision of the Raleigh Bicycle Company to cease production of their three-wheeled vehicles, Works Manager TL Williams and his colleague ES Thompson decided that there was still a market for this kind of transport and set about building their own version in the garden of Williams’ home in Kettlebrook, Tamworth.
It’s hardly surprising that the resultant machine resembled the Raleigh Karryall Van with which both men would have been familiar. Derived from motorcycle engineering practices, it was indeed little more than a motorcycle fitted with a box body and the fledgling Reliant Company was soon in business, operating out of a disused bus depot in Fazeley, Tamworth.
The latter half of the 1930s saw a variety of simple three-wheeled vehicles produced, initially using JAP motorcycle engines, but in 1938 Reliant began to use the four-cylinder 7hp Austin engine, a 747cc side-valve unit producing 14bhp at 3,500 rpm. Shortly afterwards Austin announced that they planned to stop the production of this engine, but were happy for Reliant to copy their design.
In 1946 Reliant introduced a slightly modified van called the Regent. Still visually similar to an oversized motorcycle, this simple three-wheeler was developed into a number of different models throughout the 1950s together with a four-seater car, the load capacity of the Regent increasing to 10cwt and being equipped with a few more luxuries such as sliding windows in the doors rather than canvas side screens. Perhaps the most significant innovation came in 1956 with the introduction of glass-fibre body panels to replace the aluminium ones. The Regent was eventually replaced by the Reliant Regal MkII 5cwt van in 1956.
Location: Elsecar Heritage Centre, Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley S74 8HJ
Photographer: Andrew Fairclough