Sunday, May 29, 2011

Clunker: Reliant Robin

Three wheel cars, or tricars, have been around since the late 1800s. They came with either two wheels in the front or two wheels in the rear. Because tricars did not have a fourth wheel and were light weight, they were cheap to insure. Insurance prices for tricars were the same for motorcycles.  One tricar with two wheels in the rear is the Reliant Robin. It was produced from 1973 to 1981 and reproduced from 1989 to 2002. It has been considered one of the worst cars ever made for being slow, underpowered, and rolls on its side when under braking or turning.

The wheel configuration greatly affected the Robin's lateral stability. The front of the car balances on one wheel. There needs to be even left-right weight distribution for the car to be balanced The left-right weight distribution is about 50-50, but when there is a driver and no passenger, there is no counterweight to balance the car. When the car brakes or turns, it would turn over on the side where the driver is. This is dangerous not just for the driver, but for any cars driving along the side of the Robin.

Not only does the Reliant Robin have problems with stability, but it is underpowered and slow. The Robin originally came with 748cc I4 that produce 32 hp and 46 lb-ft of torque. Later Robins came with a 848cc I4 engine that produced 40 hp and 46 lb-ft of torque.  Both engines were paired with a four-speed manual transmission. The 748cc engine got the Robin from 0 to 60 mph in 22 seconds with a top speed of 80 mph. The 848cc engine got the Robin from 0 to 60 mph in 16.1 seconds with a top speed of 85 mph. No matter what engine was in it, the Robins was slow and sluggish.

During Series 15 of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson proved that the Reliant Robin could not corner without tipping over. He drove it in a town and tipped over several times. He drove it around the test track and did not make it through the first corner without tipping over. The Stig tried to drive the Robin around the test track, and tipped over when trying to get past the first corner. Top Gear tried to use the Reliant Robin as a space shuttle during Series 9, Episode 4. The fuel tank did not disconnect with the Robin, and the Robin exploded when it crashed.

The Reliant Robin had horrible lateral stability because it was balancing on a single front wheel. It constantly tipped over when braking or turning and was a hazard not just for the driver, but for other cars on the road. Add a small, weak engine and poor performance, the Reliant Robin is one of the worst cars ever made. Somehow, there is a fan club and an owners club for the Reliant Robin. It is surprising that people are proud to own one.

Picture taken from


  1. right for a start i own a reliant and was involved in that episode of top gear and reliants dont roll over like mr clarkson showed, it is what is called a "JOKE" and not to be taken seriously, the only reason that reliant robin rolled over so easy on top gear was because the drives side tyre was 10 inch, the passenger side was 12 inch and the front with 13 inch, this was done to make the car unbalanced to make it roll over, so before you try to pass judgement on a car i hope u put in more research in before trying to write something about it without u even seeing one or even been near one to understand as they're have been hundreds of 3 wheeled cars made over the last 100 years and do u think a 3 wheeled car that sold for over 30 years and is the 2nd best selling plastic car in history would be so dangerious, to me it just looks like you watched that episode of top gear and then went on wikipedia! i seriously think u should use your brain before coming to such a conclusion................

  2. Makes you wonder if any of CarJunkie's reports are accurate! :-) The Reliants are great fun to hustle along and the engines were advanced for the time and used as the basis for the 750MC racing engines. A little more research than a spoof on Top Gear might have made this s more useful article!

  3. A truly comical review of the Reliant Robin. I don't think that Mr Car Junky has carried out any research at all. After all - Mr Clarkson "proved" that they just fall over... Clearly my 30+ years of driving one without a hitch counts for nothing?

  4. Think the other posters have a point. You should try driving one someday, I own a Mk1 Robin and it's remarkably quick off the lights although it's had plenty of (easily DIY-repairable) mechanical issues. And never tipped over either, though I've never cornered at speed. It feels more like a go-kart than a conventional car. Just as much fun in its own way than my "normal cars" (a Rolls-Royce and a sporty Mercedes).