Reliant Motorsport History

For over 45 years Reliant cars have been entered in many grueling rallies, road tests, hillclimbs and are still very popular in all types of motorsport today!  

It all started back in March 1962 when Peter Easton suggested to the managing director of the Reliant Motor Company "Raymond Wiggin" that he should enter a Reliant Sabre into the Tulip Rally which was fast approaching.  Remarkably within a few days Ray Wiggin had made the necessary arrangements for a Reliant Sabre to be prepared and entered into the world of rallying!  Their main aim was enter the car into the rally was for research, testing and publicity.

Above:  15 CUE with later short nosed bonnet fitted for the RAC Rally of November 1962 

A prototype fixed head Sabre 4 was chosen to enter the modified with a 1962 Tulip Rally.  The fixed head Sabre was known as the Sabre GT ( not to be confused with a hardtop version of the normal open top Sabre 4).  The car was registered 15 CUE and had a curious round rear window (which were later changed on the production versions, along with square rear wheel arches).

The Sabre was standard other than a stage 2 Alexander tuned 1.7 litre Ford Consul  engine (which was already an optional extra for the road version) and the interior was fitted out with the necessary rally instrumentation which included a Halda trip meter, stop watches, map reading lights and an extra oil temp gauge.

Ray Wiggin approached his trade sales manager ' Arthur Rusling' and asked him to manage the new competition department.  Arthur happily agreed and soon they entered their works Reliant Sabre in the Tulip Rally (May 1962).  Arthur volunteered to be Peter Easton's co-driver.  Arthur had previous experience in rallies and knew the Sabre inside out.  Arthur also spent time running the new car in before the rally 

Although the car performed quite well, there was plenty of room for improvement, but sadly Peter Easton picked up a stomach bug and had to stop numerous times, due to sickness and they retired from the rally.  Although their rally had finished, Peter was able to recover after 24 hours he and Arthur got special permission to complete the stages to prove the Sabre could make it to the finish. 

In 1963 Reliant used their new 2.6 litre Sabre Six cars in the Alpine Rally.  Bobby Parkes and Gerry Cooper were in car 649 GUE and the famous Roger Clark was given his first ever factory drive along with navigator Bob Aston in  car 650 GUE.  They managed 1st and 2nd place after the Austin Healey 3000 works cars both retired. 

It was in 1964 on the Monte Carlo Rally when Bobby Parkes and Arthur Senior found out how strong the Sabre design was after their car left the road at high speed and ended up rolling 80 ft down  the mountainside before coming to rest nose first on the road below.  Both driver and navigator miraculously escaped major injury and managed to walk away with just minor cut and bruises.

There were various magazine articles about the incident, saying that the Reliant Sabre landed in a cloud of glass fibre on the road below.  This prompted  an angry Ray Wiggin to write a letter to the " Sporting Motorist" magazine in May 1964.

The letter reads: 

The Sabre Six did leave the road on the Turini special stage as a result of a burst tyre, but to refer to "a cloud of glass fibre" is very unfair.

I am enclosing 2 photographs which show very clearly that the vehicle survived this tremendous crash very well indeed and proved, once again, the extreme toughness of properly moulded glass fibre.

Obviously, any car which rolls nearly 80 feet down a scree slope, and lands nose first on a road, can be expected to suffer a good deal of material damage.  In this case, the Reliant withstood the terrible impact remarkably well, and Bobby Parkes and Arthur Senior walked away from the wreck with bruises.

There is no doubt that the crew of the Sabre Six owe their lives, in the main, to the construction of the coachwork.  The body, incidentally, was virtually a normal production example.

I appreciate that in the rush of reporting international rallies inaccuracies can slip through, but I hope that after the study of the photographs, and bearing in mind Reliant's second to none experience of glass fibre construction, you will agree that your comment was a slight on Reliant and glass fibre manufacturers generally.

As a matter of interest, you may have already noticed that among many press comments praising the way in which Reliant stood up to the battering, were some remarks expressing horror at what might have happened to a steel bodied vehicle in similar circumstances.

Signed

R. W. Wiggin, Managing Director of Reliant Motor Co. Ltd, Tamworth, Staffordshire.

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The car was beyond economical repair and was written off, but all the other works cars are still around today and some of them are still very competitive on various rallies/Hillclimbs!

 

The Works Cars:
 

Reliant Sabre 4 GT

Registration Number: 15 CUE

Competed at 1962 Tulip Rally.

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Above: Peter Easton next to the Reliant Sabre GT.

 

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Above: Arthur Rusling & Peter Easton having to wait  a a level crossing during the Rally (Note the round rear window and square rear wheel arches).

 

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Above: The rally prepared interior.

 

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Above: Arthur Rusling & Peter Easton at the start of the Tulip Rally in May 1962.

 

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Above: The Sabre has a new shortened bonnet fitted.  Jimmy Ray & John Hopwood finish 38th place in the RAC Rally in November 1962

 

 

Reliant Sabre 4:

Registration Number: 6 EUE

 Competed at 1962 RAC Rally, 1963 RAC Rally.

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Above: Derrick Astle and Peter Roberts shortly retired from the November 1962 RAC Rally after rear axle broke.

 

 

Reliant Sabre 4:

Registration Number: 7 EUE

Competed at

1962 RAC Rally and 1963 Monte Carlo Rally.

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Above: Tony Fisher & David Skeffington finished 92nd overall after a church jumped out in front of them and damaged their lights!!

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Above: Ken Trickett and his ex works Sabre 4.  Ken looks very proud after restoring the car after many years off the road.  Well done Ken, it looks great!  

 

 

Reliant Sabre 4:  

Registration Number: 42 ENX

Competed at 1962 RAC Rally, 1963 Monte Carlo Rally, 1963 Circuit of Ireland, 1963 RAC Rally, 1964 Welsh Rally, 1982 RAC Golden Fifty, 1983 Coronation Rally, 1985 Welsh Rally Demonstrations, 1985 Coronation Rally, 2001 Rally of the Tests, 2002 Rally of the Tests.

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Above: 42 ENX, started off as a Sabre 4 open top roadster, seen here on the tail of the works Le Mans Harrington Alpine on the 1962 RAC Rally.

 

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Above:  Reliant later fitted the GT body.  Leslie Griffiths waiting for the next stage of the 1963 RAC Rally.

 

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Above:  Unfortunately, they crashed while in 3rd in class, and finally had to retire, with that than an hour away from the finish line!

 

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Above: John Valler and Geoff Cooper take flight in the Ex-works Sabre 4 on the Coronation Rally in the early eighties. 

 

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Above: During the Coronation Rally in 1985, John Valler and Geoff Cooper have a major incident after landing nose first from a jump, which forces the car to veer off into another stranded Lotus Elan!! The car was rebuilt in 2001.  

 

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Above: John Valler and Geoff Cooper competed in the 50th Anniversary of the RAC Rally, which was celebrated in great style with the Rally of the Tests revival-rally in 2001

 

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Above: 42 ENX on the famous set of "Heartbeat"

 

 

Reliant Sabre 6:

Registration Number: 648 GUE

Competed at 1963 Coupe des Alpes, 1963 Spa-Sofia-Liege, 1964 Welsh International Rally.

 

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Above: Raymond Baxtor and Douglas Wilson-Spratt driving their Sabre 6 on the Spa-Sofia-Liege Rally of August 1963.

 

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Above: Bobby Parkes and Peter Roberts at the beginning of the Loton Park stage on Welsh International Rally in 1964.

 

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Above:  1966 Dyrham Park - Bob Marsland driving the Sabre

 

 

Reliant Sabre 6:

Registration Number: 649 GUE

Competed at 1963 Coupes des Alpes, 1963 Spa-Sofia-Liege, 1963 RAC Rally, 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.

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Above: Bobby Parkes and Gerry Cooper on the 1963 Coupe des Alpes Rally

 

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Above: Bobby Parkes (with the baseball cap) deep in thought before on of the stages on the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally

 

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Above: Bobby looking for his keys??

 

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Above: Bobby and Arthur leaving Reims

 

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Above: Bobby Parkes & Arthur Senior enjoying the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally before their massive accident

 

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Above:  After rolling down an 80 foot hillside and hitting the road nose first below, Bobby and Arthur walked away with minor cuts and bruises.  A credit to Reliants' build quality

 

 

Reliant Sabre 6:

Registration Number: 650 GUE

Competed at 1963 Coupes des Alpes, 1963 Spa-Sofia-Liege, 1963 RAC Rally, 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.

 

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Above:  Roger Clark and Bob Aston on the 1963 Alpine Rally

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Above:  Peter Roberts and Graham Warner leading Bobby Parkes and Arthur Senior on the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally

 

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Above: Graham Warner and Peter Roberts enjoying a rest after surviving the Monte Carlo Rally in January 1964

 

 

Reliant Sabre 6
Development Sprint Car

Registration Number: 876 HWD

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Above: Reliant built this special Sprint Sabre Six originally to enter the 1963 Le Mans, but they couldn't get an entry as it was over subscribed, so instead the car was used for Hillclimbs/Sprints and driven by Bobby Parkes, Bob Marsland and Tony Marsh amongst others.

 

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Above: With a tuned Ford Zephyr engine 6 cylinder engine, fitted with Raymond Mays heads and triple 45 DCOE Webber carbs, this car would do 0 - 60 in 6.1 seconds in 1964!!

 

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Above: Various shots of  876 HWD in the hands of Bob Marsland, Tony Marsh and Robin Rew (note the various paint jobs and bonnets!)

 

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Above: The car was lowered and had experimental independent rear suspension with double wishbones and adjustable bottom links.  Note the lowered and widened rear wings to house the IRS and wider track.

 

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Above:  In 2006 with a new lick of paint, back to its original colour, Geoff Hotblack's one of a kind Sabre 6 sprint HWD 876 looks superb.

      Thanks to Dave Womack for these photographs.

 

The Privateers

 

Reliant Sabre 6:

Registration Number: WGV 287

This car was a actually a Reliant Dealers Car.

Competed at 1963 RAC Rally, 1964 Monte Carlo Rally.

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Above: Garage Owner Graham P Warner, Steering Wheel Garage in Bury St.Edmonds, joined John Spiers for the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. 

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Above: In 2007 WGV 287 was totally restored by its current owner.  It's fantastic to see the car looking soooo good!!!

16/06/2009

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Above: WGV 287 is now for sale at:

http://www.classiccarsforsale.co.uk/

 

 

Reliant Sabre 6:

Registration Number: 660 XYB

Car was a actually a Reliant Dealers Car.

Competed at 1965 Monte Carlo Rally.

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Above: Alex Griffiths and Stuart Turner are forced to retire in their privately entered Reliant Sabre 6

Special thanks to Jim Stark from Forum Auto for the above pictures.

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Above: Although the car has now be re-registered, it is still used for various car rallies and marathons by it's current owner.

 

 

 

Reliant Sabre 6:

Registration Number: WGT 889

The Sabre belonged to Reliant Dealer "Mike Watts".

Competed at 1964 Commanders Cup - Snettertons 24 Hour Endurance Race.

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Above: Graham P Warner and Mike Watts set a new record at Snetterton in May 1964 in their completely standard Reliant Sabre Six

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Above: Magazine article from Autocar 12th June 1964 


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Above: Advert from "Motor" magazine from June 1967

 

 

Reliant Scimitar GT (Coupe)

Registration Number: ORE 459F

Car was a actually a Reliant Press Car.

Competed at: 1969 Austrian Journalists Rally.

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Above: Edward Eves at the wheel of the Scimitar GT press car during the Austrian Journalists Rally in 1969.

Article from Autocar 18 September 1969:

"The ultimate ride and handling test took place when I (Edward Eves) drove the car in this years Austrian Journalists Rally, an event sponsored by the Martha petrol people and organised by the Austrian police.  This rally traditionally takes place in the Corinthian mountains to the south of Vienna and this year consisted of one roughly 60-mile circuit covered twice, one in daylight, then once at night.  With the four timed sections to be covered as quickly as possible, the Scimitar looked as if it might come into its own.  It seemed a certain class winner, being alone in the 3 litre GT class.  However, the scrutineers swiftly discovered that it had not been homologated and relegated it into the unlimited sports prototype class: this it shared with a lonely 2.3 litre Capri driven by a pair of keen German colleagues who had been practicing all week.  Unfortunately they had not practiced well enough and motored smartly into thin air on the first bend, injuring themselves when the car eventually stopped lower down the hill.  So we could not help winning the class.  Nevertheless, the whole affair was a splendid dice and I was able to discover just how tough the Scimitar was when driven to the limit on dirt roads."

 

The Rally Team
 

During Reliants' Rally years, they had a host of Drivers and Navigators including:

Alec Lobb, Alex Griffiths, Arthur Rusling, Arthur Senior, Bob Aston, Ernest McMillan, David Skeffington, Derrick Astle, Douglas Wilson-Spratt, Ernest McMillan, Gerry Cooper, Graham A Warner, Graham P Warner, George " Bobby" Parkes,  Jimmy Ray, John Hopwood, John King, John Spiers, Leslie Griffiths, Mike Hughes, Peter Easton, Peter Roberts, Raymond Baxtor, Robin Richards, Roger Clark, Ronald Crellin, Stuart Turner and Tony Fisher.

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Above: From left to right, Bobby Parkes, Arthur Rusling and Bob Aston.

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Above: October 2002 - Ecurie Cod Fillet re-union re-unites some of the Reliant Works Rally Team members.  From left to right, John Hopwood, Raymond Baxter, Arthur Senior, Roy Dixon, Bobby Parkes and Jimmy Ray.

 

Bobby Parkes

George Parkes, known as "Bobby" was one of the most successful drivers/navigators for the Reliant Works Rally Team and stayed on the team for 3 years.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Bobby at his home near Morcambe on 9th of August 2005.

Bobby is 80 years young and still  has very fond memories of the 3 years that he was with Reliant and praised the Reliant Sabres and the team members.

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I found Bobby to be a true gentleman, very kind and hospitable who was still very enthusiastic about his rally days.  He kind enough to show me his collection of rally memorabilia and tell me many fascinating stories of his rallying career.

 

Rally Results
Month/Year Rally Details Car Reg No Driver Navigator

Car No.

Result

Other Details

May/1962

 

Tulip Rally Sabre 4 15 CUE Arthur Rusling Peter Easton 16 Retired Peter fell ill.
Nov/1962

 

RAC Rally Sabre 4 6 EUE Derrick Astle Peter Roberts 25 Retired  
Nov/1962

 

RAC Rally Sabre 4 7 EUE Tony Fisher John King 36 Retired Rear axle broke
Nov/1962

 

RAC Rally Sabre 4 42 ENX Bob Aston Gerry Cooper 78 34th Originally this car was an open top roadster with a hard top fitted for rallying, but after a major 'off' in Scotland, the car was rebuilt with a GT body.
Nov/1962

 

RAC Rally Sabre 4 15 CUE Jimmy Ray John Hopwood 27 38th  
1963 Ilfracombe Rally Sabre 4 42 ENX Alex Griffiths Stuart Turner ? 1st Finished with 100 points ahead of the second place car!!
Jan/1963

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 4 6 EUE Derrick Astle Peter Roberts 139 3rd in class  
Jan/1963

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 4 7 EUE Tony Fisher David Skeffington 172 92nd Hit a church and damaged lights!!
Jan/1963

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 4 42 ENX Jimmy Ray Mike Hughes 156 Retired Crashed while in 3rd place, with less than 1 hour to the finish!
Apr/1963

 

Circuit of Ireland Sabre 4 42 ENX Tony Fisher Ronald Crellin ? 3rd in class  
Jun/1963

 

Coupe des Alpes Sabre 6 648 GUE Jimmy Ray Peter Roberts 1 Retired Hit a tree.
Jun/1963

 

Coupe des Alpes Sabre 6 649 GUE Bobby Parkes Gerry Cooper 3 1st in class  
Jun/1963

 

Coupe des Alpes Sabre 6 650 GUE Roger Clark Bob Aston 2 2nd in class  
Aug/1963

 

Spa-Sofia-Liege Sabre 6 648 GUE Raymond Baxter Douglas Wilson-Spratt 7 Retired Left the road after hitting bollard.
Aug/1963

 

Spa-Sofia-Liege Sabre 6 649 GUE Bobby Parkes Arthur Senior 6 Retired Hit a wolf.
Aug/1963

 

Spa-Sofia-Liege Sabre 6 650 GUE Robin Richards Alec Lobb 114 Retired Crew Fatigue.
Nov/1963

 

RAC Rally Sabre 4 42 ENX Leslie Griffiths Stuart Turner 69 6th in class Private Entry, 6th in class, 65 overall.
Nov/1963

 

RAC Rally Sabre 6 649 GUE Bobby Parkes Roy Dixon 16 3rd in class  
Nov/1963

 

RAC Rally Sabre 6 650 GUE Raymond Baxtor Ernest McMillan 18 Retired Raymond Baxtor dislocated his shoulder on the first section, when the Sabre shed a wheel at pace after the tyre burst.
Nov/1963

 

RAC Rally Sabre 6 WGV 287 Graham P Warner John spiers 176 Retired Private Entry.
Jan/1964

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 6 649 GUE Bobby Parkes Arthur Senior 263 Retired Fell 80ft off cliff.  Car written off.
Jan/1964

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 6 650 GUE Graham A Warner Peter Roberts 247 4th in class 4th in class, 94th overall.
Jan/1964

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 6 WGV 287 Graham P Warner John spiers 43 5th in class Private entry, 5th in class, 158th overall.
Jan/1964

 

Welsh International Rally Sabre 6 648 GUE Bobby Parkes Peter Roberts 12 2nd in class 2nd in class, Fourteenth overall.
Jan/1964

 

Welsh International Rally Sabre 4 42 ENX Alex Griffiths Stuart Turner 29 1st in class Private Entry: 1st in class. Thirteenth overall.
Jan/1965

 

Monte Carlo Rally Sabre 6 660 XYB Alex Griffiths Stuart Turner 99 Retired Private entry.
May/1964 Commanders Cup - 24 Hour Endurance Race at Snetterton Race Circuit Sabre 6 WGT 889 Graham Warner Co Driver: Mike Watts n/a New Record Graham Warner of the Steering Wheel Garage, Bury St. Edmunds, and his co-driver Mike Watts set a new record, completing 621 laps of the Snetterton race circuit, doing 1684.3 miles in 24 hours at an average speed of 70.18 miles per hour in a standard showroom car.
1969 Austrian Journalists' Rally/Martha Rally Scimitar GT ORE 459F Edward Eves N/A 7 1st in Class  

If you have any information or photographs of these works cars or worked with the Reliant Rally team then please get in touch with me.

Email me:

dave_poole8@hotmail.com

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