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RMC Archive

Reliant memorabilia from E. S. Thompson and Colin Fine-Thompson

The RMC Archives also consist of material that have come from smaller colections, a number of which have come from ex-employees.  Perhaps that notable collection that is part of the archive is material from Reliant founder E.S. (Tommo) Thompson and his son Colin Fine-Thompson.  Whilst some of the material was donated to Tamworth Castle museum in 1996 a detailed receipt of items donated show which photos and brochures were donated.  Thanks to E.S Thompson’s daughter, Pat Afford, a number of items have been donated to the collection,

The collection consist of photographs, letters, drawings and newspaper cuttings from both Tommo and Colin’s time at Reliant. Along with photographs of the 1934 prototype Reliant perhaps one item of particular note is a floor plan drawn by Tommo that shows the layout of Reliant circa 1939.  This is perhaps the only plan that shows the layout at that time when the worked in the old Midland Red Bus Depot.  The plan details the location of each worker and indeed that the company only had one telephone that was situation in T.L. Williams’ office. On the forecourt there are also two large petrol pumps shown as in its early days, Reliant used to sell petrol to supplement its income.

Reliant War Work

Parts A & B, Paddle spindles and associated clutch drums. The spindles were fitted with paddles which controlled the speed of rotation of the clutch drum fitted to the end of the paddle spindle, which in turn controlled the depth at which sea mines were submerged beneath the surface of the sea, The spindles and drum were contained in a box-like carriage which settled on the sea bed and was lost for all time.  Some 40,000 sets were made by Reliant under the most primitive conditions using standard Covmac centre lathes. The amount of swarf produced frequently enveloped man and machine, since to clear this would have cost the operator lost piecework time.

During World War II, Reliant manufactured over half a million parts for the war effort and whilst it was generally known that Reliant made parts for various air craft and tanks, what was not know was the actual parts they made.  The archive includes drawings made by Colin in April 1997 that cover in detail numerous parts that Reliant made during the War and what each part was used for (where known)  The two diagrams to the left are just a small example of some of the parts Reliant made that has been detailed by Colin and now sit in the RMC Archive.  Colin also details in the document that the parts were made 55 years ago (as of 1997) and so there are many parts he has forgotten and indeed details that as it was so long ago the sketches may not be that accurate. 

Along with photos of Tommo with the Regent prototype van in 1950, there are also photos of Reliant staff in the 1950s and newspaper cuttings.  Whilst working for Reliant Colin was for a number of years based in Israel and headed the projects for the FW3 and the Sabra.  As such the archive includes a few letters that were sent to Colin during this time.

Reliant Letter 1962
Sabra Motors letter 1962

One letter in particular was sent from Ray Wiggin at Reliant to Colin at Autocars Co. Ltd., in Israel and 23rd March 1962 and details the new FW3 export model that was set to become the Carmel. The letter states:

“Dear Col, We have now had an opportunity to take a few photographs of the F.W.3 without the undue haste applied to car number one, and a set is enclosed. We hope you like them.” 

Along with the letter are a series of photographs of the FW3 that were taken at Drayton Manor Park and Zoo in Tamworth.

Another letter from the same year is also addressed to Colin from Sabra Motors Corporation of America based in New York,   The letter is rather an excitable one that informs Colin that for the first time a Sabra not only finished a race but it also won it as well beating 18 other cars that included 9 Porsches and MGAs, Sunbeam Alpines and a Mercedes Benz 190 SL. One of the Porsches was, at that time, known to be the fastest on the East Coast.  That was unable to catch the Sabra as it would always pull away on the corners and so widened the gap all the time.  The Porsche came in second place.

Up until now Sabras, according to the letter, always overheated badly and had to quit the race and so this was the first race that a Sabra had finished.  The Sabra was owned by a 47 year old dentist called Ben Poster who wanted to prove that the car was a winner in its class.  He also did not push the car over 5,500 rpm as the day before oil gauge pipe had “popped out” just before the race and disposed of the connecting-rod bearings.

The archive also contains a number of photos that belonged to Colin that show the development of the Sabra Sport Prototype many of which have not been seen before.

It seems that in 1996 Colin was in talks with Tamworth Castle museum to set up a permanent Reliant display and as such donated a number of photographs and brochures to the museum. A detailed receipt from Tamworth Castle shows the items that were donated and Colin attempted to gain more images by contacting his ex-Reliant friend Tom Scott.

Reliant Death Announcement of T.L. Williams

6th March 1964

It is with deepest regret that we have to announce the sudden death of our Chairman and Company Founder, Mr. T. L. Williams.

Mr. Williams who would have been 74 on March 15th, was at his desk as usual last Wednesday, when he was taken ill.  He died on Thursday evening in Burton General Hospital.

The funeral service is planned to take place in the Methodist Church, Aldergate, Tamworth on Tuesday, 10th March at 3-0 p.m.

The Reliant Motor Company Limited,


The correspondence between Colin and Tom Scott is also most enlightening as in one letter they discuss the very first Reliant and Tom Scott confirms that the photograph of the Reliant in the Commercial Motor magazine in 1935 actually showed the prototype Reliant.

Along with these are letters to and from author Dan Lockton in 1997 when Colin assisted him with his book, “Rebel without Applause”. Dan has also notes in his letters that the photo of the pickup Reliant detailed as the prototype is actually a converted Reliant powered by a BSA Bantum engine as this is mentioned in Reliant Review no 48 (August 1971).

It seemed at the time that Colin had made contact with a Reliant Club hoping to get information from their archives.  He reports to Dan however that he was not too successful.

Another item of interest in the collection is a small car dated 6th March 1964, the day after Reliant ‘s founder Tom Williams died and releases news of his death with details on where the funeral is to be held.

The items mentioned on this page are just a small part of the items that have been provided by Pat Afford that were once part of her father and brother’s collection of Reliant memorabilia.

 The collection therefore is unique and we are delighted to have it as part of the RMC archives.  Our thanks go to Pat Afford for this material that is, in the land of all things Reliant, of great historical importance.

Update Sept 2019: Sadly Pat Afford passed away on ?? August 2019.

Reliant Staff 1940s

A rare photo from the late 1940s showing T. L. Williams (bottom far left and E.S.Thompson (top far left) with what is believed to be the directors at Reliant.

1939 Floor plan of Reliant

Drawn by E.S. Thompson, a floor plan of Reliant circa 1939.

1950 Regent Prototype

E.S. Thompson with the prototype Regent 10cwt van in 1950

Reliant FW3 prototype

Rare photographs of the FW3 prototype (To be the Carmel) seen here at Drayton Manor.

Sabra Sport Prototype

Rare photographs of the Sabra Sport Prototype (click here for more)

Reliant 7cwt Prototype

A letter from Tom Scott to Colin Fine-Thompson in 1996 confirms that this 1935 photograph used in the Commercial Motor magazine (also part of the archive) shows the prototype Reliant.

First Regal production car 1952

Pat Afford, also appears on one of the photographs,  She is seen here (far right) with her father (far left) and the first Regal production car in 1952.

The Reliant Motor Club

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