From the Author
The UKs Midlands have had many car manufacturers which have contributed to motoring history, as well as popular culture, but there is one Staffordshire company which has been largely neglected in terms of serious analysis of its important role in the development of vehicle design and construction, as well as having enabled tens of thousands of British motorists to climb the first rung on the motoring ladder, through exploiting a long-standing licensing loop-hole. Reliant deserves substantially more consideration than it has hitherto received, and I would like to think that I have addressed this at least partially in Rebel Without Applause. As a design and engineering student and a young Reliant owner and enthusiast, I very much wanted to investigate the companys history and the reasoning behind the development of the cars, and I was fortunate to be helped by many people former Reliant employees and other owners. Rebel Without Applause covers Reliant from its insecure origins in 1930s Tamworth, through a period in the 1950s where it was seen as just another player in the overcrowded three-wheeler market, to the years of dynamic expansion when this innovative company briefly became the second-largest British car maker, producing vehicles ranging from high performance luxury Scimitar sports cars to economical small cars, both three and four-wheeled. Reliant was Tamworths largest employer for many years; the company used its unique experience in plastic body construction to set up the first motor industries in Israel, Turkey and Greece - and developed an amazing degree of self-sufficiency with the design and production of its own high economy aluminium engine, finding applications not only in a long line of small cars, but also in low-cost motor racing and a variety of industrial situations. Reliant was also one of the first British companies to make extensive use of emerging talent in design consultancies such as Ogle (and later IAD and William Towns), and with sufficient courage to bring radical concepts such as the Scimitar GTE and Bond Bug to full production, deserves commendation for encouraging this area of British expertise to flourish. Rebel Without Applause is only Volume 1 of the history; the subsequent long decline from the mid-1970s to the present day will be covered in the sequel in preparation, but a few years away from publication. After a series of changes of management from the 1980s to 1997 (and a move to Burntwood), Reliant finally abandoned car manufacturing in 2001, and today the company is based in Cannock, concentrating on importing a range of "speciality" vehicles, including the "BeUp", a four-wheeler described as a cross between a car and a motorcycle. A recent brave attempt by a Suffolk entrepreneur to start production of an extensively improved Robin, with superlative build quality and some very impressive plans, unfortunately has not met with success. Nevertheless, 70 years after its founding, the Reliant philosophy of lightweight construction, innovative experimentation with composite materials, and emphasis on both economy and individuality, has pervaded much current "best practice" in the motor industry, as well as the fields of engineering and design in general.
About the Author
Dan Lockton is an industrial designer and engineer with interests across the transportation and consumer product design fields. Part of the team responsible for Sir Clive Sinclairs radical forthcoming A-Bike (in conjunction with Hong Kongs Daka Designs), and more recently working for Mayhem UK, a London gadget company, Lockton also co-edited Good Thinking
(ISBN 190231641X), a handbook of innovative new technology products from young designers and engineers. Lockton studied Industrial Design Engineering at Brunel Universitys Runnymede design school in Surrey and is currently undertaking a Cambridge-MIT Institute programme in Technology Policy at Downing College, Cambridge. He was born and grew up in Devon.