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Well all, I threatened buying a reliant a few weeks ago and guess what. I've gone and done it. However instead of a reliant fox I've gone for the reliant Kitten instead. Its basically a reliant robin with four wheels and the engine further forward. Its the same engine and gearbox etc as the reliant robin and rialto's etc with minior changes over the years. This car is to be the new daily commuter while the spitfire is awaiting its new rebuilt motor. Its also going to be doing most of the winter commuting to save putting too much mileage on the spitfire. This is to be the sensible car, so no mad power transplants and no expensive upgrades that are not needed........Except the EFI........And probably a couple other mods.....Anyway here its is.......










Its not mint and is been sat in an old dears Garage for about 10 years as after her other half died she struggled to let it go. Steve then bought it off her and got it through a VERY LAX Mot and then I've bought it. It cost a little more than I wanted to spend but with it having all the bits and bobs and everything working I dug deep and coughed up the extra cash. Total came to £1550 delivered. Its had new brakes and cylinders and needs almost everything perishable replacing. However the beauty about these reliants is they are so simple and parts are very cheap. So I set to work quickly as I wanted to collect the wife from the airport in it this weekend........ More to follow....... 

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So I went ahead and ordered some silicone hoses from a hose company, and then ordered a complete service kit so almost all parts could be changed. I also got new rubber heater hose and carb hose as all these were in bad shape. First mod I decided to tackle was a electric fan conversion. I have fond memories of my robin, lifting the bonnet to regap the points or check the HT leads in the rain and every now and then with the engine runnign the fan would hit your fingers!!!! Bollo*ks!!!! So this was the first thing to fit. However this is when I found the first bodge.






Wrong bottom hose, probably from a regal or other reliant. The cable tie holds it away from hitting the alternator. Bloody typical.




Next thing to remove was the old metal cooling fan. This was fitted from new but should have been removed and replaced with the plastic type three bolt fan years ago as these four blade metal type had a tenancy to let go. The water pump needs changing too as this one has four bolts and the two should be changed together but someone obviously didn't bother with this Kitten. No matter as I don't need the fan anymore.....But ho Bollo*ks the water pumps buggared. I cracked on and ordered the replacement pump the next day but the fan fitting and thermostat fitting went very smooth indeed. First up disconnect the cracked hoses.




Note the carb over flow tray taking the fuel away from a hot exhaust....




Cracked and perished.










Note condenser to improve the radio!!!!! Funny not seen one for ages.




Finally removed the pump water hose, ho dear. The coolant wasn't blue, it was more dirty water coloured and the outlets where a little clogged.




One buggared water pump but after cleaning I reinstalled so I could crack on getting the car running. Just made alot of noise when reving under load.




Finally rad comes out and all is well.




Until I removed the rear block coolant drain plug.......Totally blocked, couldn't even stab a screw driver though the build up.




I've been told to add a can of coke to the coolant and run it for a couple mins and then leave a couple days. Apparently the coke breaks down the lime and crude build up but I just couldn't bring myself to do it....More on this later but that was all I managed that evening.

Edited by CHRIS211083
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Another day gone and another night working on the Kitten. Her "no name" is as I pushed it into the work shop after normal working hours.














Really chuffed with the condition, hence why I paid more for it. Anyway back to the first mod, I ordered a 9" fan from ebay and a £39 thermostat sensor and hose adaptor. Install of both was easy as I've done loads of these now. 




Fan can push or pull but I find push is better as it blocks part of the rad helping the engine get up to full temp and also it means a very clean hidden install.




Here is the fan fitted and rad reinstalled, also note the hose adapter. Below the relay roughly plumbed in to test operation. I've decided to run a completely different circuit for this fan. This means that when the car turns off the fan will continue to run till the temp is within spec. This is great as it shows its working and also stops any overly hot shutdown.




The next day the new pump arrived, old verses new.






Much bigger pump gaps on the old unit, shows the bearing has been worn for a while.




Unfortunately the pump didn't go on as easy as expected. The new pump is a complete cast unit and the stud holes were too tight. A quick reem with a drill bit sorted it but still a bit annoying. The car was then filled up with blue coolant and taken for a test ride that night. All seemed well and everything worked except the headlight switch which worked on and off but once on worked fine. So another will be ordered for when i fit relays for the headlamps(another mod).




I then parked the car up and ordered a few more parts that night. I ordered a Stealth electronic ignition kit for the dizzy as it was still running points. Infact it was running so well I refused to touch the timing or gap as the next day was the first maiden voyage for the Kitten. I planned a 90mile each way trip to pick up the wife. However would the car make it......


Finished work and bravely took some shots before leaving on the first big trip.




The Kitten drove nice up to 50mph, at which point you could tell the wishbone bushes and shocks were buggered. This I knew and soldiered on, the engine was pulling nicely and the car is a hoot to drive. It handles very well considering all the bushes that are shot. Unfortunately 30 miles into the trip the water temp gauge started to climb. It kept climbing to three quarters the gauge and I could hear the fan running but unable to cool it. I had thought I'd gotten away with replacing the head gasket, I even ordered one to have just incase but as soon as I pulled over I could see steam pouring out the rad overflow tube and knew what the problem was. Time takes its toll on these engines when the correct mixture of coolant isn't used. The pistons where pressurising the coolant system and forcing air into it. This air then pushes the coolant out the pressure cap and eventually you have not enough coolant in the system to cool it. I knew this was a possibility so I brought extra coolant. I simply topped the rad back up, turned around and headed back to camp stopping every 10 miles to refill the rad. Bit of a bummer but I had a backup car on stand by for collecting the wife if this scenario happened. Bit gutted it didn't make it but its quite easy to change a head gasket on these and it gives me chance to clear out the rear block drain plug channel so just another job to tick off. It was a long shot the car would make it but after insuring the car including breakdown for £117 fully comp if it did expire then I wouldn't be hesitating to call the recovery truck out. So after a fun weekend with the wife its now time to look into the head gasket replacement and also fitting the electronic ignition which arrives on Monday. Also to fit is a replacement lockset as it doesn't currently lock but being on a military base I think its safe for now. I'm also looking into superflex bushes for next month and new shocks all round. Next big trip for the Kitten is in two weeks, lets see if I can make it to its destination this time. Fingers crossed the head gasket swap works.



Edited by CHRIS211083
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Well done. I got a little worried after the first set of photographs, you had one with the bonnet up but I couldn't see an engine! :)  Hope you sort it quickly and have it cruising the motorways at a steady 60MPH, to Scotland and back will be the real test.

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I have "fond" memories of me and 3 mates sqeezing into a borrowed Kitten to go from Brighton up to North Wales in 1983.....economical, but it certainly struggled with hills when we were all in it with luggage. But then again an 850cc (i think) engine that was no surprise. Otherwise it seemed OK, just a tad small. I guess they really are a good little town car?

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Nice one Chris. Not that you want to (yet) I know these engines can be well tuned I've seen them engines in single seaters in the 750 motor club. I have a vivid memory when I was a kid in the back of my dads mk1 cortina being thrashed away from the lights by a robin reliant. Looks to be in really good condition.

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Ok so when a job needs doing there is no time like the present. First job day before yesterday was flushing the cooling system with two part heavy duty Cleaner.




This did a good job but even thought water started to slowly drip out of the rear block drain plug it didn't manage to make it flow. So after flushing thoroughly that was a hole nights job. Next day, Yesterday was head removal day Off with its head, with the aid of a home made head removal tool. Once off I used a screw driver from the top to finally break the crud up that had blocked the water ways so badly. Another job smashed and now the rear block drain flows nicely.




But before that here are a couple strip down photo's.
















While the inlet manifold was off I did a quick be of flow improvement. Removing the sharpe edges as best as possible.







After, not the best pic but you get the idea. Radius edge.




Block cleaned and new head gasket fitted.




Head numbers.




All looked good bar the tappets that I couldn't adjust as someone had snapped the tops off them so will be ordering a set of tappet adjusters next week after payday. Another job is ordering superflex bushes and Gaz dampers. Here are some pics of the front suspension thanks to Haynes.






Quite a good front setup really, Looking forward to seeing how well it will handle with it all rebuilt. Top and bottom ball joints are a good idea too. Unfortunately the new lock set hasn't arrived yet, and neither did the valve guide seals so will fit them another time. Last night the engine was reassembled and run up to working temp. I then allowed it to cool fully over night and retorqued the head. This really did need doing too as a full half turn came out of the head bolts. On a bonus note the engine isn't leaking any fluid from anywhere it shouldn't so fingers crossed the head gasket holds but tonight I'll go for a long run to test it. Will report back after the run.



Edited by CHRIS211083
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Well Bollo*ks, the engine is still blowing its coolant out. So tomorrow I'll do a compression test on the cylinders and see what we get. Bit gutted. Unfortunately it could be my fault. The reliant guys say to run the engine for 2 mins without coolant once the head gaskets been replaced. Then leave to cool over night, then re torque the head and run up to temp with coolant and then leave again over night to cool. Finally re torque the head and your good to go. I didn't run it without coolant, however it could be that the liners have moved or somethings cracked which I didn't see. Its only £15 for a head gasket set so I'll order another one and try again. If that doesn't sort it then I'll pick up a second hand unit which isn't too far from me. Have to say these Kittens are a right good bit of fun to drive. Your not going fast but you have a smile on your face.


More when it happens.



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Ok I'm a tad confused. I compression tested the Kitten engine today and all came back Green all around 150psi.  Bit strange, however not as strange as the orange spark plugs??? What caused this, is the head gasket gone. There is no water in the oil and the only know issue is coolant being pushed out the rad cap. Could the heated inlet manifold be leaking into the cylinders??? Whats the thoughts???






Another thing I found was that the rocker arms where worn, Had a good look at them today while replacing the four broken tappet adjusting screws. Makes me wonder if I should rebuilt the head etc on this motor only to need to do something else or get another known good engine....... Anyway whats the thoughts on the plug colour!!

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Plug colour seems to be a function of whatever weird chemicals they add to the witches brew that is modern petrol.  There was some comment amount RBRR folks about yellow tailpipes and pink plugs.


If there's water getting into the chambers the affected plug(s) are usually ultra-clean.  It is obviously possible for water to get in via defects in heated inlet manifolds (my Vitesse suffered from this once) but this doesn't explain the cooling system being pressurised.


It isn't  just that the rad cap is shot and can't hold a reasonable pressure?  Maybe the leak is not (yet) big enough to show on a compression test?



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Your probably right nick, I just wish it had worked perfectly the first time. I'm gonna remove the head tomorrow and take it for a check and skim or what ever it needs etc.


However I'm also gonna clean up the block face best I can to make sure its not got any cracks etc and to try and make it as clean as possible. I know scotch brite is one good tool. As was the stanley blade but I think this time I'll remove the studs so no stone is left un-turned. I know the engine has good compression and doesn't throw oil everywhere so I'll give it one last chance.



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Of course Chris you could always adopt the approach I used when I was sixteen and had my first Reliant a 1959 "Regal" don't think you can do it today bit then you could drive one on a bike licence at 16!, and if memory serves me right also on a provisional bike licence provided only one up or a passenger with a bike licence. I had in effect been driving a car for almost 12 months when I was seventeen and passed my car test about a week after!  Those were the days!


But anyway the side valve engine (Austin 7 copy) used to blow a head gasket about once a week, on a Saturday morning I used to limp around to the local motor factors, buy a new head gasket (about 2 shillings) and come home and have it changed by lunch time. At the time I could afford the 2 shillings a week, but not the cost of having the head and block skimmed. And as the engine always sounded as though the bottom end was going to fall apart at any time (but never did) it didn't seem worth it!


As at sixteen I was one of very few of my friends who had transport, I sort of became the party taxi driver at the weekends (got lots of invites, and back then Drink Driving was mandatory not an offence) I once got away with a speeding/careless driving offence on a Saturday night thanks to the Reliant, coming down a Hill someone shouted "here's the turning" so I turned sharp right, it didn't roll but went on to two wheels and used the side of the front wing as a runner (shaved about 1/2" of fibreglass off in one go) we came to a halt and it plopped back on to 3 wheels.  I got out to see a policeman walking across the road to me (back then a lot of them still walked around at night!) I really though we were done (also vaguely aware that if he asked every one to turn out their pockets that even more trouble might be in store "Afghanistan was more famous for cannabis resin than anything else then") He ordered everyone out of the car, and then started laughing as six further lanky teenagers extracted themselves from the Regal.  It wouldn't happen to today but he sent us on our way with a "Be Bloody Careful".


If you survived you could learn a lot about reading the road whilst driving country lanes on 6v headlamps whilst stoned!




For those of you unfamiliar with the Regal



And the first motorised transport I learn't  to drive in when my father let me loose on an old aerodrome at about the age of 8 (I sat on his lap and steered and worked the gear shift, whilst he worked the peddles) yet another Reliant a 7cwt Van with a JAP motor cycle engine.




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If you took your motorcycle license before 2000 then you can still drive the Kitten on the bike license as its 533kgs. 550kgs was the limit.


Crazy fun, however on an update note the head is off again and went in for skimming yesterday, should be ready for pickup today.



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Ok So again off with its head....




You can clearly see the wear on the rockers and the same type of wear was on the valve tops to but the engineering co. sorted the valve tops out.




Then spent an hour cleaning the block surface with a scotch brite pad after soaking it with gasket remover for a couple hours with a couple applications.




Head turned out to be a total Banana with only the two ends of the head in the same plane. So it was skimmed, valves cleaned up and seats recut followed by valve top refinishing to remove bulging and then pressure checked. 


1 day turn around £138.




I then ran the car without coolant for 1.5 mins to let the red part of the gasket take some heat. Allowed a full cool down over night followed by re torquing the head and resetting the valve clearences. It was then filled with coolant and ran up to working temp and then left another full night to cool. 8 hours later the final re torque took place and valves adjusted(which was needed) and final run up to temperature. I then left it over night and this afternoon I'm taking it out for a long drive to see if the problem still exists. If it still pushes the coolant out then the liners might have dropped with age but I'll also look into other areas that might cause issues that are a cheaper option to changing the block first. I also recieveed the replacement stealth electronic ignition kit which worked straight away and the car runs lovely. However after having the head skimmed I've had to retard the ignition from 14btdc to 10btdc to make it pull correctly. I have to say it pulls much better now and the mixture was much richer since the head skim and valve fix. Fingers crossed today goes well. As Roger the Reliant Kitten needs to start  earning his keep.



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Ha Ha and it looks like its Fixed!!!!!!! 


Its name is now Roger!!!!!! and he is Purring much better now but still needs more fiddling with mixture and ignition to get spot on. Initial thoughts are very capable vehicle and a joy to work on.


Just ordered some Superflex bushes for the front wishbone. I also have a 50-60mph steering wobble.Might be bushes or could be wheels need balancing.


More to come but for today I'm very happy.



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Ok so there was a juddering above 50mph so I decided to re grease the front bearings as I didn't know when they were last done. Glad I did as the grease must have been 10 years old at least. Its that horrible old school stuff that doesn't move at all so goes very tar like and hard. Horrible stuff. So I scooped it all out and inspected the bearings, timkens bearing were in and felt seals where all good so I just repacked them with modern waterproof bearing grease and then re assembled but only after packing the bearings till the old grease was forced out all black and gooey.




Stub axle look very mini esk as do the brakes and hubs.




Once put back together the car rolls much much better and the judder through the wheel is massive reduced to hardly noticable levels. That will be the tracking but first the wishbone bushes need replaced. I also cleaned up the drums and copper slipped the contact areas so every thing moves well. The previous owner had a garage change the wheel cylinders but why they didn't lubricate the other parts and actually clean the drum etc I'll never know!!!


Just arrived are the bushes, a new coil with more windings and a Gunson colourtune as my widebands at home and I need to set the mixture. I also joined the reliant kitten register which caters for all four wheeled reliants under 1000cc.  




These guys have spare parts that no one else can get and even get some re-manufactured from original  paterns. They also have a magazine as can be seen from the pic below which looks fun to read if tongue in cheek!!




More work to do but its getting better every day. Big trip on Friday up to Swindon. Fingers crossed all goes well.



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Three jobs done yesterday, first was new higher resistance coil which suits the electronic ignition but not points. So they old coil and points sit together in the boot just incase.




Second was the rear drums adjusted and lubricated as I don't trust anyone anymore!!! HA HA


Final job was not on the list but the exhaust manifold to down pipe gasket literally disintegrated!!!




I thought it was just exhaust paste the way it fell apart but there was some bits left once removed but not much. Another bodge was found but I have no pics. The manifold to down pipe studs shear on these every now and again if the gearbox support bracket isn't fitted. However on mine the either broke the stud and couldnt remove the broken stud so cut the side off the flange or brake the flange trying to unscrew the stud. Either way a bolt has been put in its place but its not something I'm gonna leave like that as its just asking to cause trouble on long journeys. Will take pics when I fix or replace it but for now it will have to do.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Few more bits done to Roger, a couple days ago I fitted new rear and drivers door locks. He can now be secured however the ignition lock I'm still waiting for. I also changed the gearbox mounts and engine mounts the other day too. Was a pig of a job but got there in the end. Tonight I fitted new top wishbone bushes. Superflex ones (no other choice available) and they went in fine once the old bushes were out. Unfortunately I couldn't remove the shock absorber on either side as there bottom bolts were seized. Next moths buy is new shocks, probably for Christmas but Looks like I'm gonna need new bolts too before I start this job as the current ones are probably welded to the bush sleve. Here are some photos....














Finally I've not refitted the radiator. Reason for this is I noticed some of the vanes are blocked with debris. I'm thinking about buying a new one but just wanted to see if the original one can be unblocked first. When I first got the car there was alot of crap in the water ways. Now its much more clear but the radiator isn't so fingers crossed it unblocks as I'm off to Scotland in it this weekend and can't afford a new one till payday. 



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