Thursday September 8, 2016
Written by Andy Roberts.
There is no such vehicle as a ‘Robin Reliant’.
Obviously, there is no need to point out this extremely obvious fact to readers of the Lancaster blog but to the wider world – including owners of ‘zany’ wedding cars and lazy tabloid sub-editors – the fact that the automotive star of Only Fools and Horses was a Regal Supervan Series III does need repeating. The idea of Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter using a Reliant came from the show’s creator John Sullivan; in most shows the automotive star is a 1966 model but in the early seasons, the Trotters use an H-registered Regal.
When the series began on 8th September 1981 it would not have been too unusual for a small-time trader to use a three-wheeled vehicle. Regals were still very common sights on British roads and around that time I had the pleasure of riding in a 1964 example. The luxuries were few – they seemed to consist of an ashtray and windscreen washers – and my overall impression was that we were in imminent danger of being blown off of the road whenever the Reliant was overtaken by a lorry/Mini 850/milk float/bicycle.
When the Regal was new, Reliant’s core market was drivers who held only a motorcycle licence but almost from the outset Only Fools did establish that Del could drive a car. There was the PB Series Vauxhall Velox 2.6 in Cash & Curry, the Ford Capri “Pratmobile” from the show’s sad post-Jolly Boys’ Outing declining years and, probably the most famous of all, the Old English White E-Type Series III with automatic transmission owned by one Herman Terrance Aubrey Boyce in the second episode Go West, Young Man. After 35 years, and only one appearance in the show, it will forever be known as the “Boycie” Jaguar and at the 2016 Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace it sold for £115,880. What would Marlene say?
UYP 694 M was originally sold by Henleys of London on the 11th October 1973 and was loaned to the BBC by its owner in Spring 1981. When Go West was aired on 15th September 1981 Only Fools was not a rating success – that would not really occur until sometime later – but the dialogue and the acting epitomised the series at its finest. Del was a far more hard-edged spiv that the “lovable” figure he would eventually become and Boycie was initially quite sinister, with John Challis delivering lines such as ‘You know it's only the E-Type Jaguar and Sebastian Coe that can make me feel proud to be British these days’ with great élan.
The episode has an additional bonus for classic enthusiasts with the 1967 Crayford-bodied Cortina Mk. II Convertible that the Trotters bought for £50 and attempt to sell for £199 – my favourite moment is when the oil pressure warning lamp is “fixed” by removing the bulb. Ironically, the Ford is a now far rarer car than any E-Type. In fact, the first series is worth viewing for the street scenes alone, a reminder of a time when Chrysler Sunbeams and Datsun 180B Bluebirds still roamed the streets.
Today, John Challis still enjoys driving his E-Type ‘very much’. And there is still no such car as a Robin Reliant.
WITH THANKS TO:
- Everyone at Red Marlin PR - http://redmarlin.co.uk/
- John Challis