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Reliant Scimitar GTE

Reliant Scimitar GTE Published: 25th Mar 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Pre-SE6 cars are the most sporting but the larger car is more family-sized and power steering is most welcome. The majority are
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If you’re after a cheap, practical, sporting workhorse, the sportshatch Scimitar GTE remains in a class of its own

HISTORY

1968 Launched that August as a sporting estate based on the more conventional SE4 coupé that preceded it but larger with better road manners and far more practical.

1972 Since introduction a rear wash/wipe were made standard, there was a mild facelift while a Ford automatic transmission became an option (1970) and overdrive was standardised from mid 1971. September saw the car gain the uprated 138bhp Ford Capri V6 engine.

1976 SE5 and SE5a are dropped in favour of a new longer, wider, more palatial but sadly less sporting SE6 that March. That said the cabin was made considerably classier, while power-assisted steering was now made optionally available, there was also a new 20-gallon fuel tank along with Girling dual-circuit brakes plus a stronger automatic gearbox too.

1978 SE6a is a much needed rethink with a stronger scuttle, stiffer front springs, a change to Lockheed brakes with larger rear drums and, strangely, smaller front discs. Stag-like GTC is launched for 1979 turning the estate into a 2+2 cabriolet. 1980 SE6b debuts with the new Ford 2.8-litre Cologne engine boasting better cooling and a lower final drive ratio; 437 were made. The final Reliant-built car was made in 1986, and delivered to GTE fan HRH Princess Anne, who else?

1987 Middlebridge buys the production rights to the GTE but it wasn’t until 1989 that a relaunched car became available. There was now a 2.9i engine and five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox, but before 75 cars had been produced, the company went bust. Within a year the production rights had transferred to Graham Walker, but production was never resumed.

DRIVING

With excellent handling, care of a pretty sophisticated Aston-like rear suspension set up, a decent ride and plenty of feedback from the brakes as well as the steering, the GTE is more of a driver’s car than you’d think any estate of this era could ever be.

We’re talking SE5 models here, because the SE6 that replaced the SE5a in 1976 lost too much of its driver appeal as it grew in length (four inches) and girth as well as weight. As a result the Scimitar’s edge was decidedly blunted.

When Ford’s 2.8-litre Cologne V6 replaced the Essex unit in 1980, the resulting SE6b was smoother and more refined, but it was also less gutsy.

The GTE’s forté remains its impressive long distance cruising ability thanks to tall gearing (particularly so with overdrive) and a massive fuel tank. SE5s were GTi quick too, less so the lardy SE6s which could see 0-60mph slump from a best of 8.7 seconds to a more sedate 11 second mooch but all were good for neigh on 120mph pace and a respectable 22-28mpg depending upon driving style.

WHY IT’S A WINNER

Reliant didn’t exactly break the mould when it made the Scimitar GTE (Gran Touring Estate) – after all it needed it to make the glassfibre bodies! What the company, best known for its three-wheelers, did however was create a new market sector, the sporting hatchback. With a huge fuel tank, the car can cruise at high speeds for mile after mile, while carrying a family and its luggage in comfort. Performance and handling aren’t lacking, and neither is the car’s practicality. Could this be the most practical sporting classic ever built yet also one of the most underrated?

FIVE TOP FAULTS

* BODY Rust isn’t an issue but, cracks, crazing and poorly repaired accident damage are all too common and can cause lots of grief and expense

* CHASSIS Some late SE6bs and the GTCs feature a galvanised chassis for better protection. The key thing to check is the state of the main rails, outriggers just behind the front wheels

* TRANSMISSION Prone to oil leaks and jumping out of second or fourth gears. SE5 and SE5a had different ratio back axles to accommodate the different gearboxes available

* SUSPENSION Triumph based front prone to wear in numerous places. Inner wishbone bushes wear, while the fulcrum bars on which they pivot can corrode. Also expect wear between the vertical link and bottom trunnion

* DETAILS Seat frames can fracture, fuseboxes can melt; SE5 units are under the bonnet while those in an SE6 are in the passenger footwell and the switchgear can become frail

Prices

Why is this car still so undervalued? GTE projects start at beer money, a fairly decent one for just £2000! So why bother with a project that will costs thousands when even the best cars rarely exceed £6000 and that includes the GTC which owners reckon is better than a Stag! These cars can look ratty quite quickly so view as many as you can before buying.

Verdict

The merits of the Scimitar GTE are as strong now as a classic as when the car was contemporary and they make excellent working classics – did you know that 50 per cent of Scimitars sported a towbar for instance? And if a GTE remains good enough for Royalty then who are we to complain?



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