2001 Reliant Robin 65 / SLX 0.85L from UK and Ireland
A truly British built vehicle from a low volume manufacturer guarantees exclusivity and attention
Front brake drum internally scored - the part is unique to Robin MK3s and scarce.
Leaf spring snapped just above the axle.
Battery did not hold its charge.
Wood veneer in dashboard cracked and fell apart.
Paint lacquer on roof, bonnet and nose cone peeled badly.
The last Robin sold by Reliant was the '65' to commemorate 65 years of Reliant vehicle production. Each was sold with a gold plaque stuck onto the central console, engraved with the vehicle's first owner and build number (from 1 to 65).
In reality the '65' was a slightly modified Robin MK3, which had also been sold as the Robin SLX. The last Robin models were all very similar in appearance, with a separate bolted on nose cone, deeply recessed fuel filler and bug eye headlights.
All Robin 65s were painted in gold and came with mini style alloy wheels, leather seats, and white faced clocks along with wood veneer around the instruments (glued on). Red carpet and a factory sunroof rounded off a good package of trim for a Reliant 3 wheeler. The steering wheel was more modern than the familiar plastic type of old. Some Robin 65s were sold late into 2001, so had a '51' number plate, which is a talking point for the uninitiated.
The headlamps I found to be the best on any Reliant I have ever driven, and are the same as fitted to a Vauxhall Corsa B, which means you can replace them with modern looking Angel Eye / Halo lights.
Despite the modern electrics and updates to the engine, Reliant surprisingly stuck with 'old school' ignition points and S.U. carburettor. Interior noise is still as noisy as the earliest Robin ever was. Quite amazing really how Reliant managed to keep essentially the same design from 1973 to 2001, so the later models feel little different to the Robin MK1 once you are behind the wheel.
Appearance wise, quite pleasant to look at. The best equipped Reliant built 3-wheeler. The engines were variable in build quality, but in general the sealed cooling system and more modern electrics makes for slightly improved reliability over earlier Robin models.
All the usual Reliant issues are present, including poor access for major repairs, body rattles, leaking seals allowing rain water into the interior, doors that need to be slammed to shut properly, windows that steam up in the winter, and an engine that takes a while to warm up. These vehicles require frequent but simple maintenance, otherwise bits will fail or break.
These vehicles are built to keep the weight down, so if you are a bit rough or ham-fisted with the window winders, heater / choke levers, switches and bonnet release catch, expect those parts to break.
Spares, especially for the later Robins, are quite plentiful, as Reliant used many parts from popular cars of the same era. There is still a thriving enthusiast scene, so plenty of advice can be found on online.
As for owning one of these, the previous advantage that it could be driven on a full motorcycle licence and qualified for cheap road tax has been eroded, so really this is a vehicle you buy if you already understand the shortcomings as well as the joys of Reliant motoring. Not really recommended if you are expecting car-like luxury, handling and or performance.
Claims of 100MPH are mostly exaggerated. Real world top speeds are more likely in the 70-80MPH range (though some of the Rialtos from the early 1980s were capable of more). Flat out on a motorway for long periods still sees the temp gauge reading on the high side, but if you switch the heater on (pulling the heater lever out) the engine temp will drop slightly. Fuel economy is the biggest plus, as it is not too difficult to achieve 50MPG or more.
You really have to shop around for insurance to avoid excessive premiums. In theory insurance can be quite low depending on your post code. Yearly running costs are quite low as long as you look after these vehicles. The steering is probably the one area that could require an expensive repair should the usual wear and tear appear.
The Robin MK3/65 has a 12" wheel designated front brake drum, which is unique to the vehicle and like gold dust if it is damaged. Always check when buying parts for compatibility, as interchangeability is not guaranteed with the later Robins.
Prices are still on the high side for good running vehicles. If you are into these vehicles, then you will know that condition is more important than indicated mileage, as it can be quite time consuming putting multiple issues right. The limited amount of vehicles still on the road ensures that prices are less subject to seasonal factors that affect when is the best time to buy or sell. Bear in mind that they can be slow to sell if you advertise in the wrong places, and it still amazes me the crazy prices that some dealers try to sell them for...
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 8th January, 2015