reliant scimitar

Reliant Scimitar: Rapid Plastic

The Reliant Scimitar represents a significant chapter in British motoring history, manifesting as both a sports coupe and sporting estate car.

It first caught the public’s attention in the mid-1960s, blending the practicality of a family estate with the style and performance of a sports car, an innovative approach at that time.

The original Scimitar, with its fibreglass bodywork and Ford-sourced engines, exemplified forward-thinking design and engineering.

Developed and produced by Reliant Motor Company (of 3 – wheeler fame), the Scimitar underwent various modifications throughout its production years.

From the early coupé models of the 1960s to the well-regarded GTE estate and later GTC convertible, each model variation offered something distinct.

Its combination of a durable chassis, versatile design and features, and the option for straightforward maintenance has garnered a loyal following that persists even as the vehicles become vintage.

Key Takeaways

  • The Reliant Scimitar is a distinctive combination of sports car and practical estate.
  • Its model range includes coupés and the pioneering GTE sporting estate.
  • The car’s enduring appeal is boosted by its ease of maintenance and classic status.

Origins and Development

Early Beginnings

Reliant ventured into four-wheeled sports cars with the launch of the Sabre in 1961.

It was the foundation upon which the Reliant Scimitar would be built, with the first Scimitar, the GT SE4, being introduced to the market in 1964.

This model featured a six-cylinder engine sourced from Ford, signifying Reliant’s strategic utilisation of existing components to manage costs effectively.

Design Evolution

By 1966, the Scimitar GTE (SE5) was unveiled, showcasing a significant design evolution: the practical yet sporty estate car style.

The Scimitar’s bodywork was the brainchild of the influential automotive designer Tom Karen of Ogle Design.

This was a pioneering move that combined sports car performance with the versatility of a family car.

The Scimitar solidified its reputation for offering a blend of style, performance, and functionality that appealed to a broad range of buyers.

The Reliant Scimitar SS1, launched much later, saw a departure from the estate version. It was introduced to cater to the market gap for affordable sports cars, representing Reliant’s foresight into changing market demands.

Model Variations and Features

The Reliant Scimitar range demonstrated notable versatility through its life span, evolving from coupés to estates, and showcasing several engine configurations and body styles.

First Generation Models

The origins of the Reliant Scimitar date back to the early SE4 coupé, which laid the foundation for the brand.

These models were distinctive for their use of a straight-six Ford Zephyr engine. The SE4’s sleek design and robust performance set the stage for its successors.

  • SE4 (1964-1970): The early coupé featuring a Ford straight-six engine, establishing the Reliant Scimitar’s sports performance pedigree.

Midrange Models

As the range expanded, the SE5 and SE5a offered more practicality, with the introduction of the Reliant Scimitar GTE a pioneering sports estate model.

These midrange models retained the trustworthy Ford V6 engine with increased cabin and storage space, appealing to a wider audience.

  • SE5 (1968-1972): Introduced as a sports estate, it came with a 3.0-litre Ford V6 engine, marrying power with functionality.
  • SE5a (1972-1975): Provided subtle improvements over the SE5, such as enhanced gearbox and performance tuning, addressing the demands of a more refined clientele.

Late Generation Models

The later models, including the SE6 series to the GTC, reflected Reliant’s response to the changing market, with greater emphasis on comfort and luxury while maintaining the sporting heritage.

  • SE6 (1975-1976): Aimed at the executive market, it offered more room and a plusher interior without compromising the Scimitar’s sporty essence.
  • SE6a (1976-1980): This iteration saw incremental updates, particularly to the interior and the chassis, to improve overall ride quality.
  • SE6b (1980-1986): The 2.8 Cologne V6 engine replaced the Essex V6 offering a more exciting driving experience and underlining the engine’s critical role in the Scimitar’s performance narrative.
  • GTC (1980-1986): A convertible model introduced to complement the existing range, with production numbers more exclusive than its estate counterpart.

Technical Specifications

The Reliant Scimitar is known for its distinctive combination of performance and practicality. The technical specifications are a testament to its engineering, offering balanced power with responsive handling.

Engine and Performance

The Reliant Scimitar came equipped with a robust 2.6-litre Ford straight-six engine which was known for its reliability and adequately powered the classic model.

Paired with a manual transmission, it provided a dynamic driving experience.

The later GTE SE6 version saw an upgrade with a 3 litre V6 engine, capable of delivering a power output of 138 bhp at 5000 rpm.

Suspension and Handling

The suspension setup on the Scimitar was designed to offer a sporty yet comfortable ride.

It consisted of independent coil springs ensuring it handled the road well.

The steering was direct and offered good feedback, contributing to the vehicle’s confident handling characteristics.

The car’s brakes were engineered to provide ample stopping power to match its performance capabilities.

Design and Bodywork

The Reliant Scimitar is distinctive for its use of robust materials and for its design which blends sports aesthetics with practical features.

Exterior Features

The Reliant Scimitar boasted an innovative fibreglass body, a key feature that set it apart from the conventional steel-bodied cars of its time.

This choice of material not only gave the Scimitar a sleek appearance but also contributed to a lighter vehicle weight, which enhanced its performance capabilities.

Moreover, select models of the Scimitar were adorned with chrome accents that underscored their sporty yet sophisticated character.

Interior Comfort and Dashboard

Inside the Scimitar, the dashboard design was functional and driver-focused with an array of gauges and controls positioned for easy reach.

The dashboard and interior were crafted to offer both comfort and a sense of luxury, evoking the car’s dual nature as a performance vehicle and a practical estate.

Seats were designed to provide support during spirited drives while also ensuring comfort on longer journeys.

Bodywork Durability

Durability was a hallmark of the Scimitar’s design. The fibreglass body was inherently resistant to corrosion, a common issue with metal-bodied cars, especially in the UK’s wet climate.

This resistance contributed to the Scimitar’s longevity and appeal on the classic car market today.

The utilisation of a steel box-section chassis provided a solid foundation, ensuring the car’s structural integrity over time.

Maintenance and Ownership

Maintaining a Reliant Scimitar involves understanding its common issues and where to find parts for restoration. Owners should be vigilant about the car’s condition to preserve its market value.

Common Issues and Solutions

Owners of Reliant Scimitars may face typical challenges such as bodywork deterioration, which is common in fibreglass-bodied cars. Regular inspections can prevent minor issues from becoming major ones.

Rust can be a concern, particularly in the chassis and outriggers, necessitating prompt attention and treatment.

Electrics in classic cars like the Scimitar are known to be temperamental; keeping wiring clean and connections secure helps mitigate these issues.

Overheating can also trouble these vehicles, so ensuring the cooling system is functioning correctly, with possible upgrades to the radiator or cooling fan, is crucial.

The carburettor might require regular tuning and cleaning to maintain optimal engine performance.

  • Rust: Apply rust treatments and sealants; consider professional restoration for severe cases.
  • Electrics: Replace old wiring and fuses as needed; employ a specialist for complex issues.
  • Overheating: Check the thermostat, clean the radiator, or upgrade cooling components.
  • Carburettor: Regular adjustments and cleanings; rebuild kits are available if necessary.

Restoration and Parts

Restoring a Reliant Scimitar can be a rewarding endeavour. The market for parts is active, which helps in finding the necessary components.

Replacement parts can be sourced from dedicated outlets and clubs such as Find Parts Reliant, which have extensive catalogues for enthusiasts.

The RSSOC ScimitarWeb can also be a helpful resource for technical knowledge, historical information, and parts sourcing.

Maintaining the vehicle’s values depends heavily on the quality of the restoration. Using original or high-quality reproduction parts and adhering to factory specifications where possible will uphold the Scimitar’s authenticity and desirability.

Market and Affordability

The Reliant Scimitar car remains an intriguing classic, with its market position influenced significantly by historical value and modern demand. Affordability varies, often reflected in the condition and rarity of the specific Scimitar model.

Pricing and Value

When discussing the Reliant Scimitar, prices can exhibit considerable range depending on the model and condition.

For a well-maintained Reliant Scimitar GTE, values might hover around £8,000, according to a price guide.

However, exceptional examples, such as fully-restored Middlebridge models, have fetched upwards of £30,000 historically.

It’s important to recognise that the Reliant Scimitar’s pricing is both indicative of its classic status and the quality of the vehicle in question.

Availability and Demand

Despite fluctuations over time, the availability of Reliant Scimitars might be challenged by economic factors such as a recession, which can affect both production numbers and survival rates of classic cars.

Demand persists among enthusiasts, which can help buoy values even during economic downturns.

Potential buyers should be prepared to act when these vehicles appear on the market, as the most desirable models, such as the limited production GTC, are often rare sights today.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section answers common queries relating to the distinctive features, performance, valuation, historical connections, and rarity of various Reliant Scimitar models.

What are the distinguishing features of the Reliant Scimitar GTE?

The Reliant Scimitar GTE is renowned for its combination of a sports chassis with a practical estate car design, boasting a fibre-glass body, a fold-down rear seat for increased cargo space, and distinctive styling that remained popular from its inception in 1968 through to 1990.

How does the performance of the Reliant Scimitar SS1 compare to other sports cars of its era?

During the 1980s, the Reliant Scimitar SS1 offered affordable sports performance, using robust components for a spirited drive. Despite its more modest engine, it held its own in the market with its affordable price point and unique design.

What is the current market value for a well-maintained Reliant Scimitar?

The market value for a well-preserved Reliant Scimitar can vary, but auction estimates suggest a range from £10,000 to £15,000 for certain models, dependent upon condition, historical significance, and collector interest.

Can you provide an overview of the relationship between Princess Anne and the Reliant Scimitar?

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, was famously associated with the Reliant Scimitar, having owned several of them. Her patronage contributed significantly to the car’s public profile and classic status.

What are the known differences between the Reliant Scimitar GTC and the GTE models?

The Reliant Scimitar GTE models were primarily distinguished by their closed-roof shooting brake layout, while the GTC was a convertible variation introduced later, providing a more leisure-oriented driving experience but remaining relatively rare compared to the GTE.

How rare are Reliant Scimitars today, and how many remain on the roads?

Reliant Scimitars are considered relatively rare. Specific production numbers have dwindled due to the passage of time.

Although exact figures aren’t readily available, clubs and enthusiast groups are sources of information on the surviving models that remain on the roads or as part of collections.