Some of the more unusual and rarer items in the archives:
Bronze Reliant Plaque
For many years the Reliant building on the South side of the A5 used to have various bronze plaques attached to the wall directly opposite the main door. It is believed the first plaque dated from the 1950s and there were often changed as new subsidiary companies were established / taken over by Reliant. This particular plaque (which is exceedingly heavy measuring 29.5 x 66 cm) can be dated to 1963 (on account of Press Operations Ltd being formed in that year) and so was on the main wall at Reliant until 1969. A plaque was then created to include the Bond Motor Company which had then been acquired by Reliant. This plaque was then removed and was known to be then be in the Reliant foyer (with other plaques) until the South site was sold off in 1988. The plaque was then rescued from a skip by Derrick Smith and passed over to Elvis Payne in 1992.
Tom Williams’ chisels
One of the rarest items in the archives is a set of chisels that belong to Reliant’s founder, Tom Williams. Williams, like his father, was a carpenter, a skill he found particular useful in the early days at Reliant. This set of chisels were Williams’ personal set and whilst it is a long leap, it would be nice to think these had a hand in building the first prototype. All the chisels are embossed T.L.Williams (see image inset) and in the early 1960s were given by Williams to his gardener, a Mr Davis, whio in turned passed them onto his son (Bob Davis) who was also a carpenter. Bob Davis used to work at the same place as Elvis Payne and knowing of his interest in Reliant asked if he would like the chisels as he no longer used them. Naturally Elvis said yes and a set of Tom Williams personal chisels were added to the archive.
Tom Williams’ Theory of Heat Engines book
Tom Williams was a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and as such owned books recommended by them. One such publication is this book The Theory of Heat Engines by William Inchley printed in 1922. The books forward notes that it is “suitable for students reading for examinations of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers The books saver wishes to remain anonymous though recounts that when Williams vacated his self contained flat at Reliant (just above the drawing office) to move to a house in Hockley in the late 1950s, the flat was cleared out. A number of things were left in the flat (including dozens of boxes of cigarettes Williams was often gifted but not being a smoker never smoked and several books from Williams’ own collection. The other books are “long gone” but somehow this copy survived and was passed on to Elvis Payne. Sadly however it bears no insignia to connect it to Williams apart from the story above.
Lithograph Printing Plates
Elvis Payne’s Reliant Archives also includes a set of 12 aluminium lithograph printing plates that date from the 1960s /early 1970s and cover several models across the Scimitar, Rebel and Regal range in addition to several plates having mechanical diagrams on them. The bulk of the plates have 1/43 scale diagrams of each model and a list of points to check for on the vehicle. They therefore appear to be plates for printing pre-delivery inspection sheets of perhaps final checks on the production line. Each plate measures approx 32 x 25cm.
Letters, plans, forms and documents
As would be expected the archive contains numerous press releases, notifications and specification sheets. In addition to these are more unusual documents that came from the Reliant factory during the 1970s /1980s. These include documents like Christmas letters to employees, financial reports, internal memos, artist impressions, factroy layouts and site plans along with details of Reliant’s Youth Training scheme, role of the security guard and documents from HR detailing how employees were accessed.
1936 Reliant Brochure
To date only one original copy of a 1936 Reliant brochure is known to survive and that is the one in Elvis Payne’s Reliant brochure collection. The brochure covers 7-cwt and 10-cwt models powered by J.A.P engines. These were replaced in 1938 by the Austin 7 engine. Hopefully there are other copies out there hidden away in collections or currently undiscovered,
7cwt Pickup Brochure
This 7-cwt brochure in Elvis Payne’s archives appears to be a one off and designed on top of a Regal 3/25 brochure. The brochure is a hand made mock up made by Reliant around 196??? to send to the printers, however, the 7-cwt model was soon changed to be a 10-cwt pickup and so it is not known whether any 7-cwt brochures were indeed actually produced. What is interesting is that the 7-cwt mock up contained slightly different details to that of the 10-cwt and so dimensions for the 10-cwt model were stretched slightly further.
E.S Thompson & Colin Fine-Thompson collection
The archives are very fortunate to not only have material from Reliant founder E.S Thompson, but also his son Colin Fine-Thompson who also worked at Reliant. This material was all passed over by E.S, Thompson’s daughter Pat Afford. One extremely rare item amongst the material is a hand drawn floor layout of Reliant circa 1939, that was drawn by E.S.Thompson. Information about Reliant in its early days is extremely rare and until the discovery of this drawing, nothing was known of the actual layout of Reliant before World War II. The drawing not only details the location of certain work errors but also identifies the employees working in each area. Of particular interest is that the drawing also shows two large petrol pumps on the forecourt. Reliant in its infancy used to sell petrol to supplement its income. Another thing also noted is that at this point in time, Reliant only had one telephone and that was situation in T.L. Williams office. Presumably other members of staff would have to enter his office to use the phone. Williams, it is said, was very particular about phone calls received and not happy at all if they were not work related.
Other items from the Thompson collection can be seen here.
Ray Wiggin negatives
The archives contains numerous slides and negatives, some original and some appear to be comtact negatives made from photos. Whilst being the Managing Director of Reliant until 1977, Ray Wiggin was also a keen photographer and took many Reliant photos himself. The archive includes a selection of photos taken by Ray Wiggin of the Ford D-Type truck cabs on ??? 1966 and were then dropped off for developing at a nearby developer who has then developed the film and added Wiggin’s details to the order. Elvis Payne was given these negatives in 1992 and whilst the pack contained a number of photos of the Ford D-Type Truck with a Reliant built cab, examination of the negatives packed with it showed images of what appeared to be Ray Wiggin’s daughters on the last few shots (2 of which shown on image) - obviously taken to finish off the film. After 17 years of sitting unseen in the Reliant Archives, Elvis was then delighted to make contact with one of Ray Wiggin’s daughters, Ruth, in 2015 and the photos were then passed on to her who was delighted to see them.
The one that got away
Items are rarely ever sold from the Reliant Archive unless they are duplicates and even then, they are often kept. One such item that was sold was one of the original signs off the Two Gates South Side building. Elvis Payne purchased it locally in Tamworth from someone who bought it when the factory was being demolished in 1999. The sign was made of fibreglass with steel mounts attached to the back and was for a number of years stored in a rented garage. At 11ft x 5ft the sign was incredibly large and not the easiest of things to manhandle. In 2011 when Elvis moved into a new house, the rented garage was given up as the house now had a garage. Unfortunately being attached to a house the garage contained additional doors and so with a racking system on one side of the garage there was no room for the sign. As there wasn’t really anywhere in the garden to store the sign, it was then sold on.
The Reliant Motor Club
“The Club for Owners and Enthusiasts of Britain’s finest specialist car manufacturer”