Reliant had been working on designs for a sporty three-wheeler based on Regal running gear since the early to mid-60s. However, reservations were expressed that the radical Ogle Design vision could detract from the conservative reputation of its current range. The Reliant buyout of the Bond Cars company in ’69 provided the perfect opportunity to bring to life the design penned by Tom Karen, of Raleigh Chopper and Reliant Scimitar GTE (Princess Anne owned one, don’t you know) fame.
So, despite being a Reliant in all but name, the Bond Bug hit the dealership forecourts in ’70 and was produced for only four years. It was first assembled at the Bond factory in Preston before production eventually moved to the Reliant factory in Tamworth.
Despite its flamboyant looks, the Bug was a simple beast. Using primarily Reliant Regal running gear, the 700cc engine was mounted within a new chassis that would go on to underpin the later Robin. The rear suspension was uprated to coil springs which, combined with the lightweight fibreglass clamshell body, made the three-wheeler far more stable that the reputation forged by the Regal would suggest. Good for 76mph, Bug drivers enjoyed a snickety four-speed gearbox and decent performance, thanks in part to its 394kg weight. On the road, it is undeniably great fun.
Of course, the Bond Bug is all about the design and its famous lift-up canopy that incorporated side windows in place of traditional doors. Apart from a few development and special order promotional vehicles, all are thought to have been produced in the customary bright orange paint with black details and interior.
Three trim models were initially available: a 700 with no side screens and a prop to hold the canopy in place; a 700E with telescopic canopy dampers, side screen and a heater; and a 700ES, which came with a high compression cylinder head that upped power from 29bhp to 31bhp, a spare wheel, wing mirrors, mud flaps, alloy wheels (just the two, obviously) and a fancy, race inspired steering wheel. What more could you want? Unfortunately, for most of the UK, the answer was a Mini, which cost less than a Bug at launch and came with the novelty of a wheel in each corner.
Reliant upped the ante in ’73 by introducing a new 750cc engine as part of a 750E and 750ES model shakeup. Sadly, the model would only survive for a further 12 months before Reliant decided to focus its attention on producing the Robin. In total, 2268 rolled from the production line and in 2021 their cult following is justifiably vast.
Bond Bug, Messerschmitt or that tricycle you had as a toddler, we’d love to hear your heroic three-wheeler stories.