'Star Wars' and the Reliant Robin Are Weirdly Connected

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How the Reliant Robin Connects to Star WarsAlbert L. Ortega - Getty Images

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May Fourth is, unofficially, Star Wars Day, a celebration of all things Wookiee-adjacent. It takes its name from "May the force be with you," a phrase that comes in handy if you wish to greet a Jedi or annoy a Star Trek fan. On such a day it seems fitting to celebrate a vehicle from such a cultural juggernaut, and what better example than the one that was actually a car underneath: Luke Skywalker's SoroSuub X-34 Landspeeder.

For a young fellow growing up on a moisture farm on Tatooine, the X-34 was basically a beat-up Ford Space Mustang. The twin suns and desert sands had weathered and pitted the metal, but it was still fast enough if you were handy with a space wrench, and it was a ticket to freedom after arguing with your uncle about having to stick around fixing regulators for another season. But the X-34 didn't come from a galaxy far, far away. Instead, it came from a place called Hertfordshire.

landspeeder from star wars
R2-D2, C-3PO, and the Landspeeder.MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images - Getty Images

Specifically, Luke's Landspeeder came from a workshop in the leafy garden city of Letchford, right in the heart of the U.K. There, a specialist design company called Ogle built a functioning Landspeeder on top of a quirky three-wheeled car named the Bond Bug. Fictionally, the X-38 is supposed to have six hover settings, controlled by adjusting its onboard repulsor system. In actuality, its ground-based tires were hidden from view by angled mirrors.

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Bond Bug.Anadolu - Getty Images

The Bond Bug was just one of a handful of cars produced by Ogle, which was originally founded by the dashing Lt. Commander David Ogle. A naval pilot who flew the Supermarine Spitfire during World War II, Ogle was a sports-car enthusiast and designed a lightweight coupe built on a Mini Cooper chassis. He called it the Ogle SX1000, and fewer than 70 were built, though it did get a brief cameo in the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.


Ogle's founder died in a highway crash en route to a race at Brands Hatch in 1962. Soon afterwards, the Vienna-born Tom Karen was hired on at the company. Karen was just 13 when his family was forced to flee Europe ahead of the Nazi invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia.

Karen would pick up where David Ogle left off, completing some of the small firm's in-progress automotive projects. However, his portfolio extends beyond cars to include toys. Among other things, it was Karen who designed the original Marble Run building toy, something that almost everyone has played and every parent has cursed about, after slipping on a wayward roller.

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Reliant Robin.Christopher Furlong - Getty Images

One of Ogle's biggest automotive clients was Reliant, though Karen would also design shooting brakes for Jaguar and Aston Martin. His best-known work is probably the Reliant Scimitar GTE, a wagon-backed coupe that became synonymous with Princess Anne, sister to King Charles. She owned at least eight of them, and a Scimitar GTE made an appearance in the Netflix series The Crown.

Karen also designed the infamous three-wheeled Reliant Robin, a car unfairly mocked in modern times. These were far more stable than depicted in an admittedly very funny episode of Top Gear, as that car was actually modified to roll over like a Labrador retriever that's just eaten its dinner. In reality, the three-wheeled Reliant was a sensible and thrifty way to get around.

It was also gave rise to the later Bond Bug, a lightweight two-seater with a forward-opening canopy, aimed at the youth market. Weighing just over 800 pounds, the Bug had a 750-cc four-cylinder engine good for around 30 horsepower. A more powerful 70 hp model was planned but thankfully never built, as driving it would have been about as hazardous as working on the notoriously guardrail-free Death Star.

It was a Bond Bug chassis that was used as the basis for the drivable X-38 Landspeeder, with two more more made as static props. The original was finished in a white as spotless as a Stormtrooper's armor, with the Lucasfilm movie magic applied later to give it that shabby patina.

Later, Karen would go on to design other wheeled icons, such as the bulletproof Range Rover Popemobile. Ogle itself still exists as a design studio and has built conceptual models for Honda and Nissan. For the former, Ogle's model makers created tiny autonomous vehicles, one a podlike RV that takes inspiration from the company's 1960s F1 racers. Ogle also built a portable EV charger for Honda called the ZipCharge.

So whether it's the fictional futurism of Star Wars or the very real future of Honda's EVs, Ogle and its designers continue to shape our imaginations of what can be. And doesn't that Bond Bug look like it would be fun to scorch around in, perhaps with a protocol droid riding shotgun? Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

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