A Reliant what? Bob Keyes is incredulous. Why? And he has
a point. In America, where everything is bigger, faster, louder and, well,
more, Tamworths minimalist plastic porker is totally unknown.
Instead, there is Bobs brainchild the Vigilliante. There are similarities. They both have three wheels . . . and,
er, thats it. The Vigillante is billed as The Worlds Quickest Street-Legal
Exotic. It will, reckons Bob, top 200mph, and it will also, he asserts,
outhandle pretty much anything. And, you know what, he might be right. Which
a bit of head-scratching at McLaren.
Big, genial Bob is a systems engineer
by trade; hes worked on everything from flight simulators to assembly-line
robots. Hes a bright bloke, not some backyard bodger. He is also, however,
a long-time three-wheeler enthusiast. In fact, his first experiment was
in the 70s, with the TriVette.
It began with the fuel crises, he remembers. Between that and the environmental
stuff, it seemed that the government was going to have to put more tax on
fuel so people would need more fuel-efficient vehicles. Which was where
I came in. The
TriVette I built had a little 850cc Fiat motor in the back,
it got great gas mileage 50 mpg or more and it carried two people, or one
and luggage, comfortably and quickly. It was sort of like a motorcycle without
the hassle. Soon, Bob and his team were building TriVettes to order from
a factory in Ventura, California. Customers would see one whizz past, flag
it down, then, astounded yet convinced, order one.
We sold quote a few with the stock
Fiat motor, reminisces Bob. But then customers started coming in and saying
look, the thing handles great and I get real good economy, but Id like more
power. So we found a firm that tuned Fiat engines. Then we
tried some other engines Beetle ones, for instance. We eventually made Turbo
TriVettes with about 220bhp they'd do 060 mph in 3.5 seconds and hit 140
Sadly, great though the idea of a
911-beating tricycle was, the TriVette was less successful than it deserved,
for one reason the US Government never implemented the threatened fuel tax.
Americans sighed with relief and went back
to their gas-guzzlers, and Bob resigned himself to the fact that the TriVette
was never going to make it from uneconomic hand-building to