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Know your Supervan

One of the more popular of Reliant vehicles is the Reliant 5cwt Supervan that is based around the Regal 3/25 Super and the Regal 3/30 models though there often appears to be confusion as to what type of Supervan it is.  The Regal came in three Supervan guises, the Supervan, Supervan II and Supervan III.


Contrary to popular belief it is often assumed that the first Supervan was based on the Regal 3/25 with a slatted front end.  This is not the case, the 5cwt van version of the Regal 3/25 was called just that, “Reliant 5-cwt van”.  When the Regal 3/25 saloon received a front end restyle in 1965 it then became the Regal 3/25 Super whilst the old version (with slatted front end) became the standard version.  As a result when the 5-cwt van was restyled on the Regal 3/25 Super in May 1966, that then became the Supervan.  The Supervan was powered by a 598cc engine

Supervan II

The Supervan II arrived in September 1967 and was essentially the same as its predecessor (demonstrated in the Supervan and Supervan II brochures that virtually feature the same photographs) though was now fitted with a modified 598cc engine that featured changes to the cylinder head and exhaust manifold. This along with a new carburetor increased power from 24.5 to 26bhp. 

Supervan III

In 1968 the Regal 3/25 became the Regal 3/30 when it was fitted with a new 701cc engine.  As a result the van version now became the Supervan III.  This now gave the van a top speed of around 70mph (113km/h) although there was also an optional lower ratio rear axle available providing a rtio of 4:375:1 instead of 5.14:1.   In April 1969 a 21E version was also created that featured 21 additional extras.  By 1970 sales of the Supervan III were higher than of its saloon counterpart and Reliant introduced a makeover to give the vans more of a “Scimitar look” by introducing black vinyl and production continued until 1973 when they were then replaced with a new 5-cwt van styled on the Reliant Robin.

Other versions - Two Strokes Safari

Two Strokes Safari

A Reliant dealer called Two Strokes in 1967 created their own unique version of the Supervan called the “TS Safari”.Unlike the standard Supervan, the Safari was customised with a number of features that included a a plastic amber-coloured skylight and ‘Throuflow’ air ventilation consisting of a small plastic vent fixed into the rear
bodywork on each side.     This was followed up with a “TS Safari 2” in 1973 that based around the Supervan III. If followed the same theme although the sunlight was replaced with a folding canvas sunroof. This was also replaced shortly afterwards by a Robin version in the same year..

BBC Only Fools and Horses

In the UK one of the most famous Supervans is the one featured in the BBC TV series “Only Fools and Horses”.  The van is the main mode of transport for the programs main characters, Derick and Rodney Trotter and as such bears the livery “Trotters Independent Trading - New York, Paris, Peckham” on the side.  Supervans are often sold as being the van that was used in the program though several vans were actually used.  The van makes it debut in the 1981 episode “Big Brother” though it is not until the episode  “The Russians are coming” that the vans registration number of APL 911H is seen, this being the original registration of the vehicle.

By the second series the same registration is used although in the episode “The Yellow Peril” the van now has a white bonnet indicating that the van has been changed.  Action Cars, the company who provided the Supervans for series 2 are reported to acknowledge that several vans were used as with them being old, it was often easier and cheaper just to buy another van rather than repair one.  The number plates and sign writing then being transferred to the new vehicle.

Only Fools and Horses - Reliant Regal

By the third series the number plate changed to DHV 938D with this registration plate first being seen in the episode “Healthy Companion”.  The number remained for all following episodes and was transferred from vehicle to vehicle though it is believed that it was made up and did not actually exist on a vehicle.  The final car supplied to the BBC for filming in 1987 was known to officially be registration number NJB 33L.

Various vans continued to be used though interestingly by Series 6, in the episode “Dates” the van is chased and

seen launching through the air as it takes off over a humpbacked bridge. In the show the van just drives off but in reality when it landed it virtually fell to bits and so a stand by van had to be used to continue filming.  In the same series the van was nearly blown up in the episode “UXD” but writer John Sullivan had second thoughts when he realised that he wouldn’t be able to use the van again in future episodes. One of the vans in series 6 is known to officially be registered WTF 946L.

The TITCO van remained a firm favourite for every episode and towards the end of the “Only Fools and Horses era when the Trotters finally become millionaires, the adverts for the program showed a mock up of a stretched limo-style van that was used in the trailers for the 2001 Christmas episode, “If they could see us now.

RMC Members, click image to open up brochure

Reliant Regal 3/25 5-cwt van

5cwt-van 1963 - 1966 (Slatted front end)

Reliant Regal Supervan

Supervan 1966 - 1967 (Restyled front end and longer side bumper mouldings)

Reliant Regal Supervan II

Supervan II 1967 - 1968 (modified 598cc engine)

Reliant Regal Supervan III

Supervan III 1968 - 1973 (new 701cc engine)

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