Reliant TW9 – an Ant, which was useful everywhere

Reliant TW9 – an Ant, which was useful everywhere

You probably remember the little blue three-wheeler van that constantly had to deal with trouble caused by Mr. Bean. Well, it had a tougher brother in a shape of Reliant TW9. This truck, commonly known as the Ant, was a small three-wheeler pickup, which was very useful in a variety of applications.

Reliant was famous British manufacturer of small cars, most of which had only three wheels. Reliant Ant was a little different in a way, because it was a truck rather than a car. It had three wheels, but that didn’t get in its way of finding work in many different areas.

TW9 was introduced in 1967. It was a small pickup truck with one wheel in the front and a normal driven axle at the rear. It had a decently strong steel frame with a fiberglass cabin for two people. At first, Ant was equipped with a 700 cc engine, producing 27.5 bhp (20 kW) of power, but in 1972 a new 748 cc engine, making 32 bhp (23.5 kW), was introduced. The improvement was welcomed, because Reliant Ant was very slow and didn’t like carrying heavier loads. In 1975 Reliant started putting its 850 cc engine in the Ant, which had 45 hp (33.6 kW).

Reliant Ant was offered as a pickup truck. (Ian Roberts, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Interestingly, RHD and LHD Ant’s were different. TW9 meant for the domestic market had a loading capacity of 800 kg, even though it really didn’t like that sort of weight on its back. Councils in England, Wales and Scotland bought large amounts of Reliant Ant’s and used them in a variety of applications.

The chassis and cabin was said to cost £451. They were carrying water tanks, pushing snow plows, worked as refuse trucks and much more. People still remember Reliant Ant working as a road sweeper, while companies enjoyed tipper, van and fixed flatbed versions. Probably the most unusual looking is the Ant with a fifth wheel – in this configuration it was one of the weirdest semi-trucks in the world. Surely, the trailer had to be light, but they said that Reliant Ant could pull more than it could carry on its frame.

Reliant Ant could work as a Semi-Truck as long as the trailer is light. (Gregory Baser, Pinterest)

Meanwhile LHD version was mostly aimed at the Mediterranean region, where it was set to compete against Piaggio’s three-wheelers. LHD Ant could carry only 500 kg worth of cargo, but that was a much more comfortable weight for the tiny engine anyway. Eventually Greek company MEBEA started building these trucks under licence.

Reliant finished production of the TW9 in 1987 – it was manufactured there for 20 years. However, some other companies continued making the Ant under licence until 1995. Eventually businesses started using larger, more powerful trucks and delivery vans. Reliant Ant was not very durable or fast, which eventually caused it to go out of production. Now people are actually looking to buy Reliant Ant’s – enthusiasts see them as fun restoration projects and even turn them into fun-looking camper vans.

Also read:

Scammel Scarab – it is not your ordinary semi-truck – it is the mechanical horse;

Goliath GD 750 – three-wheeler truck with a tiny engine was more useful than it looks;

General Motors Bison – a vision of trucks of the future from 1964. Why didn’t it stick?

Scammel Scarab – it is not your ordinary semi-truck – it is a mechanical horse

Scammel Scarab – it is not your ordinary semi-truck – it is a mechanical horse

Pretty much everything that you ever buy at one point or another has been on a truck. Semi-trucks are just a crucial part of our civilization and economy and that is why manufacturers are constantly pushing for greater efficiency and performance. However, nowadays most semi-trucks look a bit similar, even though in history we had some pretty weird examples. Just look at the mechanical horse Scammell Scarab – one of the most bizarre-looking semi-trucks in the world.

Mechanical horse is its actual nickname. Back in the beginning of the 20th century rail companies in Great Britain had to use horse carriages for short distances. This, of course, is not very effective, but there were no trucks that were small enough to replace horses. In 1929 Karrier Colt was introduced – a three-wheeler truck, which was small enough to replace horse wagons and yet more efficient and easier to maintain.

Scammel Mechanical Horse, manufacturer in 1934-1948, had a wooden cabin. (Hugh Llewelyn, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Karrier Colt was called a mechanical horse because of its role in pulling trailers. It wasn’t very stable or fast, but rail companies didn’t really care for these characteristics. However, in 1930 a new improved three-wheeler semi-truck Karrier Cob was introduced and a bit later Napier & Son Company designed an even better mechanical horse and sold the design to the famous truck manufacturer Scammell.

British Railways made full use of impressive manoeuvrability of the Scarab. (Don O’Brien, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

And so in 1934 Scammell started manufacturing its own Mechanical Horse. Its front wheel could turn 360 degrees, which gave the truck unprecedented manoeuvrability. The automatic hitch mechanism received a lot of compliments from people who were working with these machines, because it allowed quick change of semi-trailers. This tiny truck had a wooden cabin which, at the beginning of the production, didn’t even have doors. Buyers could choose from two versions – the 1125 cc engine could tow 3 tons while the 2043 cc engine had a 6 ton towing capacity.

Scammell Scarab was not very powerful and its semi-trailers were not big either – up to 6 tons. (Supermac1961, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Scammell Mechanical Horse was widely used by rail companies, postal service and even military, which used the little truck in its warehouses as well as on aircraft carriers. However, the Mechanical Horse had disadvantages, the most obvious of which was the high centre of gravity. The engine was mounted in a very high position and off-centre to the left, which made the truck behave differently when turning left or right. These problems were addressed in 1948 when a new version, called the Scarab, was introduced.

The automatic hitch was one of the most important innovations of the Scarab. (BazzaDaRambler, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Scarab had a fully metal cabin, stronger frame and the 2 litre engine now used in both versions was installed lower and closer to the centre of the chassis. Scarab could reach about 32 km/h, which was more than adequate, because it was unmatched for its manoeuvrability. It even retained the front wheel, which could turn 360 degrees. Most importantly, Scammell Scarab was reliable and easy to maintain, because the engine was very easy to reach. Companies didn’t baby these machines – they were working hard and working very well.

The engine and transmission were easilly accessible at the rear of the semi-truck. (Andrew Bone, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Eventually, after 19 years of production it was time to replace the Scarab. In 1967 Scammell introduced the Townsman – a new three-wheeler semi-truck with a glass fibre body. It looked completely different and could reach 80 km/h. However, despite how modern the Townsman looked the history of the mechanical horse was over – its production ended in 1968 because of new regulations for semi-trucks.

Royal Air Force used Scarabs too. (Roland Turner, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the period of 1934-1968 Scammell sold over 30 thousand mechanical horses. Scarab, of course, was the most successful model. Sadly, there are not many Scarabs surviving till this day. This happened because they were used as tools and scrapped when they were done. No one protected them because no one thought they would become valuable museum pieces someday. However, it is a very interesting machine and little weird piece in the puzzle of the history of the semi-trucks.

This is how the more modern Scammell Townsman looked like. (Mikey, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Goliath GD 750 – three-wheeler truck with a tiny engine was more useful than you’d think

Goliath GD 750 – three-wheeler truck with a tiny engine was more useful than you’d think

Truck is a very important tool for many businesses around the world. In fact, for many businessmen it is difficult to imagine smooth operations and success in a competitive market without a truck. But in some periods in history trucks were difficult to purchase. That is why Goliath GD 750 could be considered one of the saviours of smaller German businesses after WW2.

Goliath company was established in Bremen in 1928. The company made its name by manufacturing small three-wheeler cars and some of them were quite successful. In 1931 Goliath introduced the Pioneer, which became one of the most successful cars in its class. Several thousands of them were sold without much effort. However, as you may imagine, the war paused the car industry. But even after it ended Germany did not look too good.

There were many different body modifications of the Goliath GD 750, but all of them could carry no more than 750 kg os weight. (Wouter Duijndam, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

When WW2 was over, people were lacking many things, including hope and economic resources. As years went by, things began looking better and businesses started needing tools for further development. And that is how in 1949 Goliath introduced the new kind of truck – GD 750. It was an affordable small truck with one wheel in the front and a more conventional driven axle in the rear.

Goliath GD 750 today looks tiny, but it was a useful tool back in the 1950’s. (Lothar Spurzem, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0 de)

GD 750 was essentially a pickup truck, but it was also sold as a van. It was what small businesses and farmers needed – an affordable means of transporting goods. Standard GD 750 had a 398 cc two stroke two cylinder engine, which was driving rear wheels through a 4-speed manual gearbox. This tiny engine (it is a truck, after all) produced 14 hp, which was enough to get to around 50 km/h. Presumably, top speed suffered if you loaded your truck too heavy. However, a little more expensive version had a 465 cc engine, which made 15 hp and allowed the GD 750 to reach 55 km/h.

Less than a hundred of these van version were made. (RudolfSimon, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

A simple pickup truck version of the GD 750 was the most popular, but there were 26 different body options. Stores opted for vans and farmers chose special trucks for carrying cattle. Limited power meant that the maximum load ingcapacity was just 750 kg, hense the name of the truck.

The interior was very simple – GD 750 was a tool and not a luxury vehicle. (Eckhard Henkel, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

Goliath GD 750 cost around 3.6-4.4 thousand Deutsche marks. It really did spread through the West Germany – around 30 thousand trucks were made until 1955 when the production ceased. In 1958 the Goliath brand also disappeared from the map.

Today GD 750 is just a cool vintage vehicle people restore and keep in their collections. (AlfvanBeem, Wikimedia)

Interestingly, Goliath GD 750 now is a valuable collection piece. Not many survived until today, because people of the period did not value these old trucks. Those who have driven it say that it was actually quite stable, especially if it had more weight at the back, but very slow – 50 km/h is not really the speed modern pickup trucks max out at.

Adorable city car from the 1950’s – egg-shaped vehicle is turning more heads than a supercar (Video)

Adorable city car from the 1950’s – egg-shaped vehicle is turning more heads than a supercar (Video)

Egon Brütsch Fahrzeugbau, commonly known as just Brütsch, is just another historic German car manufacturer. However, it was special in its own way, because it only created designs of  fiberglass microcar roadsters, mostly to licence them to other manufacturers. In its short history Brütsch made several interesting tiny cars, but one stands out as the smallest. How does 2.5 litres of fuel for a 100 km sound for you?

Company’s first car was Brütsch 200. It was a tiny three wheeled roadster with a single cylinder 191 cc engine and could reach 90 km/h. Brütsch itself didn’t make too many of 200’s, but it was licenced to a Swiss company A. Grünhut & Co. Brütsch 200 was only manufactured in 1954-1955. After its production life was over, Brütsch introduced another 3-wheeler roadster Zwerg. It was only a two-seater and a little bit slower with a top speed of 85 km/h, but it was more popular. Brütsch made 12 Zwerg cars, several more were manufactured by  Air Tourist Sàrl in France.

In 1955 Brütsch made Zwerg – Einsitzer – a version of Zwerg with a 74 cc engine and a continuously variable transmission. It could only do 75 km/h. Production of Zwerg – Einsitzer stopped in 1956 and Brütsch stopped making Zwerg altogether in 1957. In 1956 the tiniest Brütsch came about – the Mopetta.

Brütsch Mopetta was only 1,765 mm long and 910 mm wide. (Martin V., Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 4.0)

It was another three-wheel automobile, but this one had a single seat. Its egg-shaped fiberglass body was extremely aerodynamically efficient, allowing the Mopetta to very little fuel – just 2.5 litres for a 100 km. Of course, this was also courtesy of 49 cc engine. Brütsch Mopetta was created to replace a moped and thus did not have much in a way of luxury or comfort. In fact, it even had moped handle bars instead of a normal automobile steering wheel. The engine had a pull start and an integral three-speed gearbox. Despite it’s extremely light 89 kg weight, Mopetta could only reach 35-45 km/h.

Only 5 examples are known to survive. (Michael Stern, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Interestingly enough, Mopetta was not that cheap. It did cost only £200 in UK, but that is equivalent to about 2,200 Euros in today’s money. This, and, possibly, impractical design meant that Mopetta did not enjoy huge interest from buyers, although in various car shows it was always very popular. Its cute looks and character were admirable, but Mopetta was slow, difficult to get into and priced too close to a car. Brütsch made 14 Mopettas until 1958 when production was stopped.

Only a handful of Mopettas are still alive, one of them you can see in this video

Brütsch made cars alongside the Mopetta. It was another single seat 3-wheeled Rollera roadster, powered by a 98 cc, two seat 3-wheeled roadster Bussard with a 191 cc engine, 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster Pfeil with a 386 cc and another 2-seater, 4-wheeled roadster V2, powered by either 98, 247 or a 479 cc engine. However, none of these cars were as popular as the Mopetta and Brütsch went out of production in 1958.

No gauges and handle bars for a steering wheel. (Alf van Beem, Wikimedia)

Brütsch Mopetta started gaining popularity only after its production life was over. Brütsch tried striking a deal with Opel to sell Mopettas in its dealer network, but it didn’t go anywhere. Now you can only buy replicas, which are pretty good, or some other vehicles that look a little bit like the Mopetta. For example, Randy Grubb  makes Decopods, but it is unknown if he would still make some for sale.

Tesla vs. TopGear: the beginning of now famous company was hindered by dishonest review (Video)

Tesla vs. TopGear: the beginning of now famous company was hindered by dishonest review (Video)

We don‘t have to tell you what TopGear is – everyone knows this extremely popular TV show. However, did you know that it actually did some damage to Tesla at the beginning of its history? And it wasn‘t done unintentionally with some bad joke – Tesla is still not happy about one potentially dishonest review.

Tesla Roadster, which entered production in 2008, was a very interesting car. Electric sports cars were not that famous back in a day and people were still cautious about range anxiety and charging times. However, Tesla Roadster was exciting and had pretty serious people behind it. Notably, Elon Musk, who was already a famous business man at that time. Naturally, media was writing about Tesla Roadster and it found its way to TopGear.

The review in question appeared in 2008. Jeremy Clarkson started by highlighting good points, such as acceleration and modern electric drive. He said that the car does feel like it’s the future, comparing it to broadband, as opposed to dial-up. However, later he started criticising the car. At first he said it doesn’t feel as good through the corners, which is legit criticism as the car was much heavier than Lotus Elise on which is it was heavily based.

Tesla Roadster was the brand’s first automobile, created using Lotus Elise as a base. (Thomas doerfer, Wikimedia(CC BY 3.0)

Then it was said that the car ran out of battery in just 55 miles (89 kilometres), even though Tesla promised a 200 mile (322 km) range. Tesla Roadster was pushed off the track into the shed. Top Gear had two cars to test and eventually both of them were down with empty batteries and brake problems. The test was concluded by saying that Tesla Roadster may still not be ready for the road. Clarkson even pointed at a stationary wind turbine implying that the car takes time to charge, but Tesla roadster could be charged at home in just 3.5 hours.

Not only that. Tesla data logged both vehicles from the test and said that neither of them went below 20 % of energy left in the batteries. Therefore, none of Tesla’s cars had to be pushed off the track into the shed. BBC later admitted that it was just to show what would happen if the car ran out of energy. Brakes were not broken down either – we cannot know what was TopGear about.

What Musk thinks about Jeremy Clarkson?

You may think that this is basically irrelevant. TopGear is just an entertaining show with a little bit of automotive journalism. You can see that its clips have been scripted and reviews are subjective. That partially is what makes them so fun to watch. In fact, Elon Musk said that Tesla employee, who delivered cars for testing saw the script, which said that the car is going to break down – he was that even before tests started.

However, it is very much relevant when you are a small company trying to enter the market. Elon Musk said that many potential investors later asked why cars were breaking down on TopGear track. It actually could have caused significant damage to the company. In 2011 Tesla sued BBC, but the court figured out BBC is not guilty in this case. Tesla even had to cover BBC’s legal costs.

So what can we learn from this story? Well, a lot if you’re a new company in the automotive market. Also, don’t believe everything on car reviews – some things are subjective and some shows are mean for entertainment purposes only.

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