19 January 2013
Bond Bug an eye-catcher
The name Bond is all the rage these days with the recent release of the movie Skyfall, but to the best of my knowledge a Bond Bug has never appeared in any of the movies.
The Reliant Bond Bug was an unconventional three-wheeled, two seater — and at a stretch I suppose you could call it a sportscar.
It was built in England from 1970 until 1974, and was designed by industrial designer Tom Karen, who is probably best known for designing the Bush TR130 radio that had a place in most British homes during the 1960s.
Some of his other achievements include designing the Scimitar GTE, Princess Anne’s choice of sportscar, and the design artwork for the iconic 1970s’ Raleigh Chopper bicycle.
The Bond Bug was created through the combined efforts of Karen’s body design for a chassis designed by John Crosthwaite, who was working at Bond Cars Ltd. Crosthwaite was well-known for his race car chassis design, having worked with Cooper, Lotus, Mickey Thompson, Intermeccanica, and Reliant. Towards the end of his career he worked for Hyundai.
The wedge-shaped microcar was very different from the conventional three-wheeler which was considered an inexpensive and slow form of transportation.
The Bug was neither, capable of 126 km/h. If one opted for the high performance 700ES model (750 cc engine producing 31 hp) the retail price was $1,970, $28 more than a practical four-seat Austin/Morris Mini 850.
Getting into a bug involves lifting up the canopy and stepping in; not an easy task if you are tall. Once you have manoeuvred into the passenger compartment, if you had opted for the 700ES version you would be treated to seats with a bit more padding, and an important accessory of the era — an ashtray. You’d also get padding over the engine cowl — which protruded into the passenger compartment, but did help reduce engine noise and heat reduction — two mud flaps, a rubber front bumper and something that is quite handy, a spare wheel.
When it came to the available colours, the Bug was a bit like the early Model T Fords (which were all black). Only the Bug was available in any colour you wanted — as long as it was tangerine orange. Six examples were specially commissioned in white for a Rothmans cigarette promotion.
The total production run produced 2,270 examples. My research indicates that 117 are known to still be in use and on the roads in the UK; five examples are registered in the USA; four in Canada and one of those is right here in British Columbia.