In an earlier article on the BMW Isetta 300, we introduced you to the microcar and the reasons behind this class of car becoming popular across Post-War Europe. By the late 60s however, their popularity was on the wane and they were now seen as just cheap, easy to use alternatives to full-size cars. This was especially true of England, where the microcar fad had really kicked off and a whole host of carmakers were vying for attention.
The Bond Bug, however, tried to break this mould. The first car to be conceived after Reliant bought out Bond Cars, the Bug was aimed squarely at the style conscious 17 to 25-year-old, for whom economy and frugality were not exactly top priority. The supercar mimicking wedge-shaped styling and the bright orange fibreglass bodywork was the brainchild of industrial designer Tom Karen of Ogle Design. This design was functional, and the Bug was surprisingly roomy as a two-seater. The chassis was a reworking of the Reliant Regal by Chief Engineer John Crosthwaite. Its party trick was the clamshell opening which replaced traditional doors. The interiors in the base model were fairly spartan, with even window panes being an option. The top end ES trim made up for it by offering all manner of bells and whistles like alloy rear wheels, wing mirrors, sports tyres, upgraded interior, even a period F1-style steering wheel. Interesting trivia, the Bond Bug would later serve as a design inspiration to draw up Luke Skywalker’s speedster in the original Star Wars film.
Technically a motorcycle, the Bug featured coil springs at the front and rear. The engine, a 700 cc Reliant unit based on the Austin 7 that produced 29 hp in the base E trim. The ES trim bumped up power to 31 hp. Given that the Bug only weighed 394 kg, its performance can be described as spirited. The Bond Bug had a top speed of 122 kmph (76 mph), similar to its more conventional competition, namely the Mini 850 and the Hillman Imp.
The Bug was also priced similarly to its competition, costing £629 new, while its rival, the Mini 850 was for GBP 620. For almost the same price, you could have an inherently less fidgety, four-wheeled, full-sized four-seater hatchback with better cornering ability. The Bug, while quicker in a straight line, was clearly dynamically hampered by its 3-wheeled layout. The economic downturn that Britain faced in the early 70s also affected the Bug negatively, in its production run between 1970 and 1974, only 2276 units were built. Labour issues in the Bond and Reliant factories hampered overall quality and production challenges were a regular occurrence.
The Bond Bug was an inspired design, but given the issues, it faced during its run it never really became a resounding success. It was superseded by cheaper, safer, more conventional cars which provided all its benefits without most of the Bugs flaws. Lately, however, collectors have started appreciating the cars’ quirky design and characterful dynamics. This is endearing because the Bug has a lot of commonalities (in principle at least), with modern day city cars like the Smart FourTwo and Renault Twingo to name a few.