A major factor in attraction to the product is safety, so this is key to structure design: superior protection of the occupants in the event of a crash. The 3 wheeler design was a unique development of its times – it grew in part from government regulations of the time which allowed anyone with a motorcycle licence to drive a 3 wheel car … (It’s like.. a motorcycle and sidecar, right bro’?! ..but no helmet.) There was a problem – it was a bit unstable … I know, for when I was at Reliant, a callow youth, I would race a “company car” from the Two Gates factory up Watling St. to the works offices on some pretext for fun – they were a little unstable (not as the Clarkson scam, of course) but very quick. So, my Robin has 4 wheels, but the front 2 are covered by bodywork, giving unprecedented aerodynamics – which is a significant plus.
This layout restores stability to the vehicle, I don’t think the reduced track width of the front wheels will significantly affect stability, if at all, and the rear track is adequately widened. Front suspension is now independent, no longer leading, and turning circle is good – with a clean front and a flat uncluttered floor the body cuts through the air.
Now to the “package” layout (seating and components etc.) – I have moved the front wheels centreline forward and the wheelbase and given increased space in the front footwell, but with no overall increase in length (dimensions are generally the same as current Nissan Micra). The body sides are pre-assembled on the bench by technicians, or possibly, on an independent robotised assembly line – if financially viable – this design has one wide sliding door per side, and a whole side is assembled and tested for slide etc. before attached to the main chassis structure. A wide sliding door has advantages …. In the fields of safety: (very strong protective side unit) – Access: (to front and rear seats and tight spaces) and manufacture and assembly – also in reliability over hinged doors.
Once the sides are solidly fastened to the chassis, which includes the safety roll over structure providing location fixtures for the sides, then the roof can be fitted .. note: it may be possible at this point to fit the whole interior in one go from above before permanently fitting the roof to the sides – because of the total access – then finish off by fitting the roof, screen glass and tailgate etc.
Another small innovation which cost nothing is the area of function: obviously, the most wear is in the driver’s space, the driver’s seat and contact points wear out soonest .. so my solution in this design is for the driver’s seat to be trimmed in darker, more hard wearing material – the seat frame itself is identical both sides, but the driver has more supportive and substantial foams beneath the material – the passenger seat has softer foams and the fabric is lighter in colour (to emphasise the drivers importance of course).
As a teenage Industrial Design student at Birmingham College of Arts I was offered a 5+ year engineering apprenticeship with Fishers and Ludlow Ltd. in Castle Bromwich, at that time the largest independent vehicle body supplier in Europe – I was very pleased to accept… altogether I stayed about 8 years in a very intensive mass productive environment.
Then I married and we bought a bungalow in Dosthill, Tamworth – I got a job with Reliant Motors, close by – my planned intention was to get established and then become Design head for the company, however, it was not to be as one fateful day, looking out of the office window at the main road I saw a convoy of Ogle Design cars – Ogle Mini’s – approaching, and knew that was that for my plans, so the following week I applied for a design job with Triumph Motors, just down the road in Coventry, and got it.