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If you’re familiar with the Reliant Robin and you’re not a gen-Xer (or older) from the U.K., you probably know about it because of the iconic Top Gear segment where Jeremy Clarkson repeatedly rolls one of these goofy little three-wheeled cars in an attempt to make it across town. If you’re more familiar with the lore, you’ll likely know that many Reliant owners were upset by this segment. Reports of folks beginning to flip Reliant cars over began rolling in, and many owners claim Top Gear modified the Reliant Robin specifically to make it easy to roll.

Interestingly enough, they did. Of course, some folks won’t be shocked at all to find that Top Gear producers went out of their way to create a hyperbolic and tip-happy Reliant Robin. Some folks, though, are still in the dark about it. Thankfully, our friends at Donut Media are here to clear things up!

How unstable is a Reliant Robin?

Let’s be clear here. The Reliant Robin’s three-wheel layout is inherently unstable compared to a standard four-wheel car. You don’t exactly have to be a genius to figure that one out. Furthermore, Donut Media’s James Pumphrey does actually manage to get the Robin to tip over when turning through a corner a little too hot. However, it does not completely roll over.

In fact, Pumphrey reports that the Reliant Robin is quite a bit more stable than he would have anticipated. This is especially true since his expectations were set quite low, thanks to the Top Gear segment. So what gives? Why did Clarkson flip every left-hand turn he made in the robin?

What did Top Gear do to the Reliant Robin?

White Reliant Robin tipping over during a turn during Donut testing of Top Gear incident
Reliant Robin tipping through a corner | Donut Media, YouTube

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Toward the end of the Donut video, you see that the Robin catches its front fascia on the ground, which prevents the whole vehicle from flipping. Sure, it makes a healthy amount of sparks and is in no way a reasonably safe way to take a corner. However, it is much safer than flipping over entirely. 

It turns out that Top Gear producers and mechanics likely ran into this very same situation. Apparently, the Robin featured in the segment with Clarkson behind the wheel had an enlarged front wheel. This gives it more clearance on the front fascia, allowing it to roll completely. 

In addition, Donut says that Clarkson admitted in The Sunday Times that Top Gear staff modified the differential a bit, too. Though, no specifics about what modifications were made to the diff are included. 

Overall, it’s another case of never truly being able to believe what you see. There’s always more to the story! That being said, if you’re familiar with Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, and the hyperbolic standards of British humor, you shouldn’t at all be surprised to find this was a bit of a stretch of reality. All in good fun, right?