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Scimitar

Variations:

Reliant Scimitar GTE

Reliant Scimitar GTC

Reliant Scimitar SS1

Body Types:

Saloon

Estate

Convertible

Special Editions:

Ogle / Triplex Model

Data:

The Reliant Scimitar was first introduced in 1964 as a replacement to the earlier Sabre model. Clothed in a good looking 2 door glass fibre body, the Scimitar GT, as it was originally known, was based on a strong and sturdy chassis dervived from the Sabre. The Car was marketed as a 120mph handbuilt GT car, and featured a tuned version of the Ford Zodiac 2553cc straight six engine, providing a lightweight car with a strong and powerful engine. The Scimitar GT could be ordered with an overdrive gearbox to provide high cruising speeds at relatively low engine revs. Reliant produced 297 of the Scimitar GT, before introducing the new Ford V6 3 litre engine which provided even more power, whilst still retaining reasonable economy. At the same time, the chassis was modified to improve handling and the interior was revised to offer slightly more space. The Scimitar GT was really no more than a two seater, with space behind the rear seats for small children or possibly one adult. Approximately 1000 Scimitar GT’s were made in total, including the straight six and V6 models.

1969 Reliant Scimitar GTE

Photograph Courtesy of Dave Poole

Reliant Scimitar GTC

Photograph Courtesy of Kerry Croxton

SS1new1

1985 Reliant Scimitar SS1

Photograph Courtesy of Gregor Steele

In 1967, a design team named OGLE Design began to experiment with the Scimitar GT model in a bid to increase interior space. This resulted in the car being redesigned with an estate style body, with space for four adults, whilst still retaining the styling cues of a sports car / coupe.

The design for the new model was approved and was launched as the Scimitar GTE (SE5) in 1968. The GTE stood for Grand Touring Estate, which was exactly what the car was designed as. It could be used to transport four adults in high levels of comfort over vast distances with its huge fuel tank making it great for long-range distances. The GTE featured the same 3-litre Ford V6 as the Scimitar GT, and was a very quick car in its day. The car found favour with many celebrities and even Royalty, with Princess Anne reportedly owning eight Scimitars during their production run. The GTE was very much a unique car, but within a few years it’s design was copied by larger manufacturers such as Volvo and Lancia, neither of which managed to be as successful as the Scimitar. The GTE was face lifted in 1972 with a slightly uprated engine, a revised dashboard layout and minor styling changes. This car, termed the Scimitar SE5a, continued in production until late 1975 when an all new model appeared.

As the Scimitar progressed through it’s life span, it was thought that it could appeal to a more executive market with the launch of the Scimitar SE6 in late 1975. This car retained the overall shape of the earlier models, but was in fact longer and wider than before. This model was designed by slicing an earlier SE5a model in half across the roof and between the seats (much the same as a hot cross bun), and adding in some extra glass fibre. The chassis was also widened and lengthened to accommodate the new body. Although the running gear was much the same as the earlier model, the SE6 featured a completely new interior, which offered much more space and more professional interior fittings such as nylon seat facings as opposed to the vinyl in the SE5 models. It should be noted that later SE5a’s and SE6’s could be ordered with the option of leather seats, electric windows and fog lights. These cars were well appointed for their day. The SE6 was again updated in 1977 with minor trim details and different suspension settings, known as the SE6a. In 1979, Ford stopped production of the 3-litre V6 and started producing a 2.8 litre V6 as a replacement. This unit produced more or less the same power, but the torque was dramatically reduced. One of the Scimitar’s greatest assets was the low gearing which could provide the car with effortless high speed cruising. The loss of torque which resulted in the new engine meant Reliant had to change the back axle gearing to compensate for this. Scimitar GTE’s featuring the new 2.8 V6 engine were known as SE6b models. At the same time as the launch of the SE6b, Reliant experimented with a soft top version of the GTE, known as the GTC. These were elegant four seater convertibles, which were produced until the mid 1980’s. Approximately 442 GTC models were manufactured.

By the mid 1980’s, Reliant were selling barely a handful of the Scimitar GTE and GTC’s and so the range was dropped in 1986. Princess Anne owned one of the last models made.

However, this was not the end of the Scimitar GTE story. In 1989, the rights to the Scimitar were sold to a company named Middlebridge, who revised the car and brought in 450 modifications, including the fitting of the modern 2.9 V6 fuel injected Ford engine. Around 77 of these cars were built, and they are very sought after today. After the demise of Middlebridge, the production rights to the GTE / GTC were sold to Graham Walker LTD, a Scimitar main dealer who specialises in these models and provides a comprehensive spares service for Scimitar owners.

Thanks go to Martin North for writing the article above for this web site. Martin’s Reliant Scimitar web site can be seen at: http://mysite.freeserve.com/myscimitar