1974 Bond Bug

The Bond Bug was a small British 2-seat, 3-wheeled sports car of the 1970s. It was built by Reliant, first in Preston, then Tamworth, in Staffordshire, and was designed by Tom Karen of Ogle Design. It was a wedge-shaped microcar, with a lift-up canopy, instead of conventional doors. It was originally designed for Reliant and used a modified version of the Reliant Regal chassis, but was sold under the Bond Cars Ltd name after Reliant acquired them. The engine was front mounted and was the 700 cc Reliant four cylinder unit.

The Bug was available in a bright orange tangerine colour although six white Bugs were produced for a Rothmans cigarette promotion, one of which was also used in an advertisement for Cape fruit. Its fame was helped along by a distinctive Corgi Toys die-cast toy car. Although it had a fairly short production run (1970-1974), it has a fanatical following today, is much sought after by collectors, and has an active and enthusiastic club.

In contrast to the stereotypical image of three-wheeled Reliants as being ridiculously slow, the Bond Bug was capable of some 78 mph (126 km/h). This compared favourably with a number of four wheeled performance cars of the same era. The car was, however, not cheap. At £629 it cost more than a basic 850 cc Mini which was at the time £620.

Bug Trivia: Tom Karen also oversaw the design and production of Luke Skywalker's landspeeder from Star Wars: one of the models was built upon the chassis of a Bond Bug - the wheels hidden by mirrors at 45° to the ground.

Stuff

In 1969, Reliant (founded by T. L. Williams who had been building cars since 1935) merged with Bond. Most Reliants were three-wheelers, though claiming to be full-fledged cars as opposed to motorcycles from the very beginning. As a result, Reliant became the biggest UK manufacturers of three-wheelers. Although the Bond plant in Preston was eventually shut down, another Bond car was produced under Reliant management — the Bond Bug of 1970, a completely fresh new wedge-shaped car with a fibreglass body.

The Bond Bug, designed by Tom Karen, managing director of David Ogle Ltd., got rid of the idea that three-wheelers had to look like four-wheelers in the UK. Why design an awkward-looking radiator if the wedge-shaped front had the desired effect already?

The new car, being technically a motorcycle, was not allowed at the Motor Show, so Reliant scored a publicity coup by building a Bug whose body was joined Siamese-style back to back and showing it as a "four-wheeler" instead.

The recesses for the headlights and fresh air were somewhat rough and ready. The car is boarded like an aircraft, i.e. by tilting the cabin lid forward. And, like the Morgan with its exposed engine at the front, the Bond Bug is not too afraid to show its rear axle and exposed coil springs.

The Bug was produced for the 17 to 25 year-old age market and it was just offered initially in just one colour — a bright tangerine orange. It could be driven with a motorcycle license. When the Bug was discontinued in 1975, it was the end of Bond as a name.

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