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Homepage. This page: Del and Rodney's favourite motor, the 3 wheeled Supervan III, from Reliant of Tamworth.
Classic vans and pickups

The Reliant Supervan III.

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Period Supervan images
When the Reliant Supervan III was penned in the late 1960s, it was just the latest in a long line of diminutive light commercial vehicles that the Tamworth firm produced. Rated at 5cwt, the Supervan III was based on the 3 wheeler Regal 'saloon'. At the time, Reliant were also known for having produced some interesting GTs, such as the Sabre of the early 1960s, and later the SE5.
Whereas driving a normal van would require a car licence, small-business owners who used a motorcycle for their commute, could legally pilot the Supervan on their bike licence. Stability, and a slight reputation for self-combustion, were not the Reliant's strongpoints admittedly, but few could argue with its practicality, and miserly appetite for fuel - up to 65 mpg was possible, so the advertising went. Road tax, at 10 instead of a car's 25 per year, would also appeal to the thrifty motorist.
Powering the small van was a new Reliant engine of just 700cc, based on their existing aluminium, overhead valve, four cylinder unit. Although 29bhp doesn't sound particular potent, the Supervan III was sprightly enough to keep up with 'A' road traffic given its light weight, thanks to the use of fibreglass for the van's bodywork, mounted on a steel box section chassis. The engine was water cooled, with a die cast aluminium cylinder head, and removable wet liners. A downdraught Zenith carburettor, and AC fuel pump, handled the motor spirit side of things, while a 12v battery looked after the electrical side of things. Power was transmitted to the rear wheels via a four speed gearbox (no synchro on 1st), and hydraulic brakes to all three wheels handled matters of retardation.
A heater and toolkit were standard Reliant Supervan equipment, although interestingly a spare wheel, passenger seat, and seat belts, were all listed as optional extras. Pity the tight-fisted owner who didn't opt for a spare wheel, when he or she had their first roadside puncture! With a turning circle of 24ft, and overall length of 135 inches (11ft 3ins), it was perfect for anyone who needed a handy carry-all to use in town.

Fame on the small screen

Although the Supervan hasn't got the on-screen profile of say Frank Bullitt's Mustang, or Bo & Luke Duke's General Lee, the three wheeler van found fame thanks to the BBC's sitcom about market-trader Del Trotter, and his dopey brother Rodders. This has led to a profusion of Supervans being 'restored' as "Trotters Independent Traders" replicas. A pale blue van also featured quite regularly in the Mr Bean series, usually parked in the firing line of a certain pale green Mini.
Welsh readers will know of another famous on-screen Supervan though! During a short break we took somewhere in Wales, only a few years ago, the peace and quiet was disturbed by the sight and sound of a bright red Reliant Supervan III bimbling up and down the adjacent country lane, stopping regularly, with the driver often to be seen in lengthy conversation with various people huddled nearby. Thinking that perhaps Postman Pat had rolled into town, we decided that this unusual sight necessitated further investigation. It turned out that a TV production company was filming a new children's TV art series called Fan Goch, a play on van Gogh we suspected (!). Not living in Wales, we never got to see the little van on our TV, so has anyone out there seen TRE 604L taking part in this programme?
Reliant Supervan on Welsh TV
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