A STRANGE LITTLE CAR: MY STRANGE LITTLE STORY.
It was when I was 21 that I bought my Bond Bug 700ES after seeing advertised in my local paper for £250. I recall catching a glimpse of it through an open garden gate as I followed my older brother Adam up a drive to inspect it. I'd been unsure what to expect. All I knew was I was going to see a three-wheeled micro-car (my brothers first car had been a 'proper' 60's bubblecar) which I could drive on my full motorcycle licence. All I wanted was something warmer than my RD350 to use through the winter. I got so much more. Oh sweet Jesus yes. So much more.
And there it was, in front of me. Bright yellow under several years worth of dust and spider poo. The seller, a Mr Power or Powers, was keen to show of its many original features. I stood in quiet shock as my brother looked it over. He seemed impressed. It was fired up for us to listen to and the little four-pot motor purred like a pussy-cat. Money changed hands and I became the proud owner of a rare (only about 1500 were ever made, of which 400-500 still exist) piece of British motoring history, of the most eccentric kind.
It's worth noting that I passed my driving test at the age of 25 at my first attempt, and was very quick to abandon the joys of Bond Bug driving!
My fun transport is currently a Robin Hood Engineering Series III vague copy of a Lotus Seven. More info on it can be gleamed from my
Kit Car Page.
I took The Bug (as it became known. I know. Not a great nickname, but I was lazy then) away, painted it black to hide a lot of the other colours it'd been, fixed it up, got it MOT'd and then blew up the all aluminium 700cc engine. I replaced it was an adapted Reliant Robin 850cc power unit which so much more powerful (relatively!) that it ripped the rear suspension to bits. Thus I replaced the twin rear coil-over-shockers with motorcycle ones. Then that engine exploded too, firing a piston clear through the thin alloy side-wall. I replaced it with a fresh 750cc unit from a Regal (I was getting good at swapping motors by now) which also only lasted six months or so before...
I could go on. It's been a constant battle to keep the car on the road. A battle I've chosen not to fight for the last few years, since the electrics and hydraulics both went south for the winter. I still have the car tucked away, awaiting for the day I'm in the mood to drag it out and strip it back to its component parts. I'd like to return it to as new condition but I accept that it's an enormous and quite possibly pointless task. I mean, it was a piece of quirky 70's poop when Reliant built it, so why return it to that? For example I won't bother putting an original 32hp engine back in it. Not now that I've experienced the heady pleasures of the forty throbbing horsepower you get from a standard Robin 850cc lump.
BUGGERED: The technical specs for my Bond:
- Model: 700ES, J reg. (April 1971) so Road Tax exempt (Whoop!)
- Three-wheels - One at each corner. Two alloy ones at the rear, with a pressed steel front and spare. This causes a problem because the steel and the alloy wheels use different wheel-nuts. Thus you have to carry a spare set of nuts for steel wheels in-case of a puncture.
- Steel ladder chassis under a fibreglass monocoque two-seater body, with a separate 'flip-top' roof/windscreen/bonnet section. The pictures show this more clearly than I can describe it.
- Mid-engined (well, it IS between the axles) layout, featuring an all aluminium 700cc 31bhp (original), 750cc 34bhp (later Bond Bugs and Reliant Regals) or 850cc 41bhp (currently fitted, as pinched from a Reliant Robin) push-rod in-line four cylinder engine.
- Four speed gearbox WITH reverse gear (to dispel all those rumours about it not having one!)
- Rear wheel drive via a simple Propeller-shaft, differential and live rear axle.
- Hydraulically operated drum brakes all round, with traditional cable handbrake.
- Hydraulic clutch (which causes a problem, as all similar Reliants used cable operation clutches.)
- Exhaust system from a Reliant Robin (adapted when the original Bond system rotted out.)
- Rear suspension utilising twin trailing arms, pan-hard rod and off-centre anti-roll bar. Plus coil-over-shock units from pair of motorcycles, model unknown.
- Opening canopy door (ideal for narrow garages!)
- Foot operated headlamp dip switch.
- No steering column switches what-so-ever
- Non-adjustable seats moulded into the fibreglass of the main tub.
- Other novelty items mine sports:
- Leaking fuel tank.
- The gelcoat (the top layer of the fibre glass) is prone to cracking.
- Yamaha Motorcycle wing mirrors.
Open top motoring, Bug style! Because the Bond is a three-wheeler you can do this with it and it's
AUGUST 31st 2002: MICROCAR RALLY
On a Saturday morning I popped to Tescos in my Kit Car (the sun had briefly come out)
only to discover not one but four Bugs in the car park! Imagine my delight as one owner (a remarkable Welshman with beads in his hair)
told me there was a Microcar rally taking place just up the road at the Steam Museum in Quainton.
After nipping home to get my camera, I raced over to a rutted field in the heart of rural Buckinghamshire to take some shots
(a few of which are scrolling above) and then beat the convoy to the Chiltern Brewery Museum where the road-run was due to finish. I shot three nice clear
.avi films (the links marked with a 'AVI' below) there with my little Fuji A201 digital camera. Later I used MGI VideoWave software to edit them a wee bit.
Have a look at the .mpg files marked with a 'MPG' to see the 'often comic' results.
AVI 777k / 4 second: How The Italian Job could have looked in back 1957.
MPG 1,064k cunningly edited file of the above original - With music!
MPG 231k extra-compressed file of the above - Also with music.
AVI 886k / 5 second: An 8mm-esque-home-movie style video clip.
MPG 1,461k file of minute green automotive fun. Includes a sound!
AVI 1,144k / 7 second: Featuring 3 Bugs and an even stranger wee car.
MPG Slow 'net connection? This little 440k file is the one to look at.
Deeply funny text from an original 1970 promo poster:
Most exciting new car idea in years!
Is this a three-wheel car or a wingless aircraft?
Answer: it's the Bond Bug: one of a kind; there's never been anything like it before!
One thing you can be sure of: it's a load of fun-to own, to look at, and-most important of all to drive. Just try it once, and "you've got the bug!" Everything else will seem commonplace, humdrum, timid and pale.
There are a lot of reasons why the Bug makes such exciting motoring.
The driving experience
When you stand by the Bug for the first time you realise, at once, what a unique machine this is. A conventional car has a more-or-less level bonnet, a more-or-less upright windscreen, a separate roofline, doors. The Bug has none of these: the whole top and front of the car sweep down in one uncompromising line.
This is the cockpit canopy.
Open the canopy-release, and the whole top of the car swings up and forward, aircraft style. You step across the side. pull down the canopy over you. The cockpit is roomy, but very snug; there are no concessions to Detroit-style glamour.; everything is ergonomic, functional, even a little austere. The seats for example, do not look like seats at all; they are more like astronauts' couches. You sit almost full length; it is surprisingly comfortable. Between your knees is the twelve-inch steering wheel. You are in the classic, straight-arm position of the racing driver. But you feel as though you were in an aircraft.
Now, start up. The controls are orthodox car controls. Everything is where you expect it to be; you know at once where you are and what you are doing. The steering response may be more immediate than you are used t-but apart from this, driving the Bug is just like driving any other car.
Except for one thing, the sheer, darned excitement of the Bug itself. You come steaming down some quiet country road. At a junction, you pull up beside another car;any car. See the heads turn! See the fingers point! As you drive away, take a looking your rear-view mirror, at the people behind you. It'll make you smile; they'll be talking about you! The Bug is like that.
Pull up in a village to buy some cigarettes; by the time you come out of the shop, it's as though all the children in the world had come out to see you. Draw up outside any pub or club you can think of; there won't be a car in the park with a bigger crowd around it.
Shopping, commuting, about-town
At the same time, the Bug is a serious, thoroughly practical two-seater car. It has a useful size boot and a range of well over 200 miles between fill-ups.
If most of your driving is workaday A-to-B, the Bug could be exactly what you need. It is cheap to run, quick to get in and out of, and highly manoeuvrable. Also, it is remarkably easy to park: You can drive the centre wheel right up to the kerb, and you don't have to leave room at the sides for the doors to open.
It is, in fact, an excellent runabout.
Better than that, it's a funabout.
Ride in comfort, Why not?
The Bug does not claim to be a sports car; there are plenty of these. The Bug is something else: a fun car. The ride is comfortable: it has none of the cart-sprung harshness which used to part and parcel of the 'authentic' sports car ride. But the Bug does not seek to do what a lot of limousines do-to 'cushion out' any feeling of speed. In the Bug, speed feels fast: you get the full exhilaration of it, whether you're cruising along at 50 or right at the legal maximum.
Partly this is because the Bug-and you in it-are much lower-slung than in a conventional car. Then again, you have excellent all-round vision: you can see the road whizzing past.
The Bug ride is unique, and as full of character, as the Bug itself. If there's one single thing about it that will stick in your memory, it's probably the way that, as you motor along, you and the Bug seem as it were to form one unit. This may sound fanciful, but in fact there is a good reason for it. Look at the way the human body is positioned in the Bug. The Bug is conceived, designed and built round the human frame as no conventional car can ever be.
One of the great things about the Bug's behaviour on the road is that 'it goes exactly where you put it'. You have far more immediate sense of control than you do with a conventional car. Partly, this is because of the exceptional steering response of three-wheel suspension, which makes for sure, safe handling, with or without a passenger. But there is another reason, and a very important one: the Bug's wedge shape.
The great advantage here is that the Bug "cuts through the air"; it is rather like the bow of a ship, slicing cleanly through the water. This means the Bug has very low drag, and good stability in high winds. It also gives excellent 'anti-lift' characteristics. It is this effect, combined with a low centre of gravity, that enables the Bug to 'hug the road' as it does.
This, of course, is part of the reason, why it is such fun to drive. "It goes exactly where you put it."
The Body: weatherproof, rustproof, needing no garage.
Rap the side of the Bug with your knuckle. There is no hollow, tinny sound: it gives a deep, solid thunk-thunk-thunk.
The body of the Bug is made not of metal but of tough, reinforced glass fibre. This is a big advantage to you; because glass fibre cannot rust.
Rust is the great enemy of the conventional car. Nothing makes it look worse. Nothing makes it lose its value more quickly.
It is a comfort to think that, when you sell your Bug, the body can still be as good-looking as it Was the day you bought it.
So if there's no garage for the Bug-don't worry. It doesn't need one!
Mini wheels, maxi tyre-life,
low repair and maintenance costs
The Bug takes standard ten-inch wheels. You can get a new tyre any time, anywhere.
How often you replace tyres is up to you: it depends on your driving! But three-wheel suspension is good for tyre-life: the single front wheel is always 'pointing the right way'. There is none of the scrubbing action on cornering which sometimes gives rise to un-even tyre wear on conventional cars.
Mechanically, the Bug is very robust and simple. The engine is a well proven one of which 80,000 of this type have been produced, and it has an excellent reputation for long life. This is because the block and head are all-aluminium-like a Rolls-Royce's. (Conventional cars have cast-iron engines.) And when rebore time comes around, it won't cost nearly as much as you think: the block has removable wet liners-so that, in fact, it doesn't need to be rebored at all. You just have a new set of liners put in; simpler, quicker, cheaper.
You have a big repair costs, too. Suppose that, one day, some other car bumps into your Bug. The actual bump may be quite small-but in a metal car, this could be enough to distort the whole body. With the Bugs glass fibre body, this distortion doesn't happen; the impact is not distributed through the whole body, but localised, to the area of contact. Holes can be patch-bonded without having to replace complete body sections. So, of course, repairs are cheaper.
Drive it on a motor-cycle licence:Tax it for £10 a year
If you've only passed the test or a scooter or a motor-cycle, and you've been holding back from buying a car-this is your chance. You won't need to take another test to drive the Bug.
When it comes to Road Tax, it is almost money in your pocket. Because the Bug is a three-wheeler, and weighs less than 8 cwt., it comes under a completely different set of regulations from conventional cars. This is why it costs only £10-as against £25-to tax. That's roughly 4/- a week as against roughly 10/-.
Country-wide servicing network
A lot of specialised, 'personality cars' have to be shipped back to the makers whenever they need servicing. Not the Bug. There are over 150 specialised garages up and down the country, ready, willing and able to keep your Bug buzzing along.
The normal warranty covers both parts and labour, lasts for a year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes sooner.
To make life easier for the budget-minded Bug-fancier, Bond have developed in conjunction with Hodge Insurance Brokers Ltd., a unique package-purchase scheme which covers, in one series of payments, all the different costs of getting your car on the road.
It covers a 2-year period and includes HP, insurance, and road tax.
Full details of the scheme and how it works are given in a special leaflet available from your Bug dealer.
Which Bug is your Bug?
Bug 700. This is either the simply-for-fun version, or the economy version, just as you like. No sidescreens or spare wheel (though these can be added later). Fixed cockpit-cover. The basic 'bare Bug' for fresh air fiends. seat belts extra.
Bug 700E. Mechanically the same as the 'bare Bug' version, but with full 'all weather' equipment, including sidescreens and frames, hoodlock and telescopic damper, sun visor and interior light, heater/demister, and a number of styling refinements. Seat belts and spare wheel extra.
Bug 700ES. The ultimate, knockout Bug: high-compression engine, Decathlon tyres, wing mirrors, mud-flaps, and extremely special interior appointments-including formula 1-type steering-wheel, headrests, extra side and centre seat supports, deeply quilted cockpit lining-the lot! Seat belts extra.
Any colour you like as long as it's Tangerine!
Reliant Motor Company Ltd., Tamworth, Staffs.
Tel: Tamworth (STD 0827) 4151