Britain has a proud history of small car manufacturers, with names like Jensen and Morgan being familiar. Most have, or had, a unique proposition – Jensen had a Chrysler V8 in a coachbuilt body, Morgan has the 1930’s wood-framed body, and Reliant built three fiberglass wheelers.
That statement deserves clarification – Yes, Reliant had built three wheeler vans and cars since the 1930s but they also built four wheeled vehicles, either as derivatives of the three wheelers or as separate vehicles. Perhaps the best remembered is the Reliant Scimitar GTE. CC Contributor David Saunders once owned one and wrote up the story of his Scimitar here.
The Kitten is therefore in a long tradition; it was a four wheeled derivative of the long running Reliant Robin (often incorrectly called the Robin Reliant) which ran from 1973 to 1981 (and then again under various new ownership and licensing agreements), and was perhaps the best known Reliant model.
The Kitten had a double wishbone front suspension and longer front wheel wells, as the engine was mounted further forward, grafted onto a Robin chassis and rear body. Power came from an 848cc four cylinder engine, based loosely on the engine of the pre-war Austin 7, giving around 40bhp, and driving the rear wheels through a four speed gearbox
This featured Kitten is the longer estate version; the regular saloon (above) was the bigger seller.
Like all Reliants since the 1950s, the bodies were built of fibreglass, mounted on a traditional steel chassis, with semi-elliptic rear springs.
Robins, and the later Rialto, can still be seen on the roads; the Kitten only sold 2600 in the UK and there are perhaps 100 still licensed, supported by an active ownership community.