It might look like a cross between Thunderbird 4 and a space hopper, but if you want a classic to bring a smile to your face, then look no further than the Bond Bug.
Just one look at a Bond Bug is enough to know that it’s a child of the 1970s. The bug was the result of an unlikely tie-up between Reliant and Czech designer, Tom Karen. Reliant had just bought the Bond name, but weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Enter the Bug – Karen’s wacky design was the kind of car you tended to see in concept form at a motor show, but Reliant must have been feeling adventurous, since they put it into full production.
Despite its obvious deficiency in the wheel department, the threewheeler cost more than a Mini or Hillman Imp when new. Stop at a shop, and by the time you’ve climbed out, it’s as though all the children in the world have come out to see you. Draw up outside any pub or club you can think of, and there won’t be another car with a bigger crowd around it.
It’s easy to see the Bug’s appeal today too. Classic car buyers care less about the practicalities – the emphasis is on fun, an area in which the little Bond excels. And if you’re in the market for a car that looks like a wedge of Red Leicester on wheels, then your search is definitely over.
At the wheel
Open the canopy and the entire top of the car swings up and forward, aircraft-style. The cockpit is roomy, but very snug. There are no concessions to glamour everything is ergonomic, functional, a little austere, even. The seats look like astronauts’ couches and you sit almost full length – the classic, straight-arm position of the racing driver – a position that’s surprisingly comfortable once you’re used to it.
Between your knees is the 12-inch steering wheel. The controls are orthodox, though, with everything where you expect it to be. The steering response may be more immediate than you’re used to, but you have far more sense of control than you do with a conventional car. Partly, this is because of the exceptional response of three-wheel suspension, which makes for sure, safe handling, with or without a passenger. But there is another very important reason the Bug’s wedge shape. It cuts through the air rather like the bow of a ship slicing cleanly through the water. This means the Bug has a very low drag coefficient, good stability in high winds and excellent ‘anti-lift’ characteristics.
The Bug does not claim to be a sports car; there are plenty of those around if that’s what floats your boat. No, the Bug is something else – a fun car. If most of your driving is workaday A-to-B, the Bug could be exactly what you need. It is cheap to run, quick to get in and out of, and highly manoeuvrable. It has a surprisingly useable boot, and can top 200 miles on a single tank of fuel. Reliant sourced its parts from all over the place too the headlights were donated by the Austin Allegro; the Mini provided the drum brakes; and the bootlock’s usual home is on the glovebox of a Triumph Dolomite. Also, it is remarkably easy to park. You can drive the centre wheel right up to the kerb, and you don’t have to leave room at the sides for the doors to open. It is, in fact, an excellent little runabout.