The Reliant Scimitar was introduced in 1964 and progressively updated until series production finished in 1990. Reliant were upgrading their Sabre in 1962 when, in a moment of serendipity, a private commission from Ogle Design (penned by David Ogle) was produced on a Daimler SP250 chassis. This was adopted as the basis for the 2+2 Scimitar GT SE4 which was joined later by a 2-door, 4-seat estate and a convertible. All variants have the engine at the front driving the rear wheels.
The Reliant Scimitar was originally only available as the GT SE4 fixed-head coupe, a style which stayed in production until 1970. The well proportioned body is moulded in fibreglass and is mounted to a separate steel backbone chassis. Independent front suspension is provided through twin wishbones and the solid rear axle is located through longitudinal arms and Watts Linkage. Braking is provided by discs at the front and drums at the back.
Ford stopped production of the straight-6 engine, initially used by Reliant, in 1966 forcing a change to the 'Essex' V-6 with the new car being designated SE4a. The suspension and chassis were reworked to integrate the new power plant whilst the interior was also updated. A later, further refinement of the interior created the SE4b. The Scimitar SE4c, a short lived variant using a smaller capacity V-6, was introduced in 1966.
Another Ogle Design commission, this time from Triplex Glass and the work of Tom Karen, provided the inspiration for the Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5 launched in 1968. The SE5 is a 2-door sporting estate which, because of the extended roofline, may be considered as a full 4-seater. In 1972 a slight improvement in performance coupled to the introduction of a curved, moulded dash created the SE5a.
The 1975 model year saw Reliant targeting the executive market with the launch of the Scimitar SE6. This is similar to the SE5 but more luxurious and slightly bigger all round. An improvement to the brakes and suspension in 1976 produced the SE6a whilst a move to the 'Cologne' Ford V-6 with a slight change to the front chassis created the SE6b. Production of this car ceased in 1986.
Reliant approached Ogle Design for the Cabriolet Scimitar and Tom Karen was once more responsible for the design. The GTC SE8 arrived in 1980 with a new body from the B pillars back and additional strengthening to compensate for the lack of a fixed roof. Unfortunately a downturn in the economy meant that it was a slow seller and production of this also ceased in 1986.
The Scimitar was briefly resurrected by Middlebridge in Beeston, Nottingham from 1988 to 1990. This batch of cars use Ford’s injected V-6 coupled to a 5-speed gearbox. Since then Graham Walker Ltd have owned the design and tooling, producing spares and cars to order.
Reliant used Ford engines for all of the Scimitar's life, starting with the 2553cc straight-6 fed by triple SU carburettors. This was replaced in 1966 by the 2995cc 'Essex' V-6 with a Weber, the SE4c having the 2792cc version of the same engine. The SE6b and SE8 have the 'Cologne' V-6 with a capacity of 2792cc and were built with Solex carburettors, however these proved troublesome and many have been replaced by the earlier Weber. Throughout most of its life the Reliant Scimitar was fitted with Ford's 4-speed manual gearbox although an optional automatic was introduced in 1970. Overdrive was offered on the manual cars from 1972. The Middleton and Graham Walker cars have the standard Ford fuel injection set up and a 5-speed gearbox. A number of final drive ratios were used to match the characteristics of each different type of engine.
In all of its guises the Reliant Scimitar combines a torquey engine with high gearing and good handling. Add in the comfortable ride, large range and decent brakes and it becomes a particularly fine GT for cruising along motorways and charging up challenging back roads. However the poor cockpit ventilation may dissuade from driving for long in the sun. Parts supply is generally very good and not necessarily expensive, helped by the power train being standard Ford items. Although the body is fibreglass and not prone to corrosion resprays are expensive so this needs to be considered when buying, in particular look for bodged repairs. Chassis outriggers are prone to rusting and can indicate more serious corrosion on the chassis upper faces under the body. The electrics tend to be troublesome and particular care must be taken with the wiring loom - degraded insulation can lead to short circuits and the possibility of fire.
The Reliant Scimitar GTC SE8 is the most coveted version with tax-exempt early cars also being sought after. Apart from this condition is key, good paintwork and an undamaged original body (or at least a professionally repaired body) are desirable. Upgraded electrics, so long as this has been carried out well, do not detract from the value and will provide greater peace of mind.
Alternatives can be found in the Lancia Beta HPC, MGB-GT V8, or the Triumph Stag.
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