The Reliant Robin, Regal and Rialto three-wheeler cars have a certain air of eccentricity, a peculiarly British charm that is inextricably linked with ‘characters’ like Mr Bean, or Del Boy in the TV series Only Fools and Horses. Reliant was keen to dissociate three-wheelers from this rather whimsical image and wanted to promote them instead as sporty, fun cars for the young. With this in mind, the company commissioned Tom Karen of Ogle Design to work on a prototype.
When, in 1969, Reliant took over its rival, the Bond Motor Co, it immediately stopped production of Bond cars and used the Bond factory solely to manufacture its own Ogle car. Although the Ogle was soon moved to Reliant’s own workshops, the company marketed its new model under the Bond name. The Bond Bug was a triangular fibreglass wedge built on a modified Reliant Regal chassis with the same mechanics and 0.7 litre part alloy engine.
Instead of doors, the top of the car (including the side frames) was a hinged overhead canopy for people to climb in and out like pilots. The Bug came in three versions: the 700 – a very basic model without side screens; the 700E, which made slightly more concessions to comfort; and the 700 ES, a deluxe version with a higher compression engine, racing steering wheel, mud flaps and wing mirrors, and the generous inclusion of a spare wheel.
In terms of power, the Bug matched a small four-wheeler but it was pricier than the Mini, which meant it was bound to fail. Only 2,268 Bugs were built (all painted a virulent shade of tangerine except for the six white versions that were made as a special promotion for Rothman’s cigarettes). Unsurprisingly, this quirky little car now has a fanatical following and is much sought after.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1970 (until 1974)
ENGINE: 701 cc OHV Straight Four
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 75 mph (121 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW: When a new 750 cc Reliant Robin was launched in 1973, the Bond Bug 700s were dropped in favour of 750 E and ES versions. Apart from the larger engine, these were more or less identical to the earlier models. It is estimated that there are fewer than 900 Bond Bugs of any sort still in existence.