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SNAPSHOT 13: Reliant 1956

Three-wheelers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly when they have the single wheel at the front, but they have been just as much part of the motoring scene as exotic luxury cars at one end of the scale, or mopeds at the other.

Considering that this Reliant Regal was 17 years old when it was photographed it is in remarkably good condition, the more so when it is revealed that it had spent much of its life in the fairly challenging motoring environment of the English Lake District.

Although it dates from 1956 this Regal has the aluminium bodywork as with the first examples that had been introduced four years earlier – the more familiar Mark III glass-fibre clad version being due to appear on the scene before the year was out. Under the bonnet is an up-dated version of the Austin Seven engine that had first come to public notice in 1923 and which was to power Reliant three-wheelers until 1962.

The six-cylinder AC engine that initially appeared late in 1919 is generally considered to be one of the longest-lived car engines with a forty-or-so years life-span, but the Seven engine must have run it close by the time Reliant ceased using it. In this area of longevity Citroën’s 2CV notched up 42 years, but ultimately the German Volkswagen flat-four engine was produced for even longer, particularly when the manufacture of these units in other countries such as Brazil and Mexico is factored in. However, these days such extended durations are unlikely to be repeated.

Whether three-wheelers of this Reliant’s layout and particular style will again put in an appearance at some future date is an open question, but with the level of regulations that car manufacturers have to follow these days, the ‘wheel at each corner of the box’ pattern seems likely to continue to predominate.


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