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Reliant Scimitar GTE

Published: 28th Mar 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Yet it’s the regal Reliant that you associate with the Windsors and not Del Boy…

Yet it’s the regal Reliant that you associate with the Windsors and not Del Boy…

I’M AFTER A PRACTICAL SPORTS CLASSIC AND A FRIEND SUGGESTED THE SCIMITAR. IS IT A GOOD BUY?

The Scimitar GTE was a trend setter when launched almost 50 years ago instigating the first true sports hatch and even now provides a blend of performance and practicality as well as a touch of prestige few can match.  For what they offer these Reliants are incredible value for money and you can use one as a daily driver.

WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT ONE INSTEAD OF A FORD CAPRI?

For a start, the Reliant boasts a very good chassis design, especially the rear suspension which is far superior to the simple Ford set up. Also with the Scimitar, you could opt for overdrive, which was never offered on the similarly-powered Ford resulting in excellent cruising capabilities. The GTE is very practical and not only was it the first true sports hatch but also a car which featured split rear seating.

MUST HAVE BEEN FAST BACK THEN?

Too right it was – in its heyday the GTE was a 120mph sports car with the practicality of an estate. Only a Capri 3-litre offered so much go for the price and arguably the Reliant handled better. It was easily the best cruiser of the two thanks to the option of overdrive (for up to 25mpg) although most came as an automatic. Around half of those left have a towbar fitted, apparently .

SO WHY ARE THEY CHEAP TO BUY?

That’s the conundrum. Arguably it could be a lack of prestige but there again HRH Princess Anne’s love of the car is so well known. Spare parts are easy enough to obtain and there’s good support from owners’ clubs and specialists – so you tell us!

WHAT ARE THE BEST BUYS IN THE RANGE?

Most regard the original SE5/5A as the best GTE because it was handily-sized and the more sporty model.

In 1972, the Reliant received a mild facelift and the pokier Capri 3-litre engine with its added 10bhp (138bhp). This car became known as the SE5b. The SE6 arrived in 1975, where strangely Reliant saw fit to meddle with such a sound design by making it bigger (four inches longer, three inches wider), heavier and softer in a ploy to move three-wheel car maker Reliant upmarket. The SE6 is not so sporty to drive and its added mass made power steering essential.

By the end of the decade, the GTE, which was getting on a bit gained the Granada 2.8 V6 engine. Dubbed the SE6b, less than 500 were made. Appropriately enough, Princess Anne purchased the last Reliant GTE in 1986.

the SE5b. The SE6 arrived in 1975, where strangely Reliant saw fit to meddle with such a sound design by making it bigger (four inches longer, three inches wider), heavier and softer in a ploy to move three-wheel car maker Reliant upmarket. The SE6 is not so sporty to drive and its added mass made power steering essential.By the end of the decade, the GTE, which was getting on a bit gained the Granada 2.8 V6 engine. Dubbed the SE6b, less than 500 were made. Appropriately enough, Princess Anne purchased the last Reliant GTE in 1986.

THERE ARE OTHER MODELS, AREN’T THERE?

Yes, before the GTE was launched in 1968, the Scimitar was known as a coupé and featured a straight six Ford Zodiac engine. These variants are becoming quite sought after. The other spin-off was the GTC, which really took over from the Stag. Owners reckon it’s a better all rounder than the Triumph, although the styling isn’t as successful. The last Scimitars were cars made by the new owners Middlebridge, who reintroduced the GTE for a short time in a pretty potent 2.9-litre V6 EFI format (until 1990).

WHAT GOES WRONG?

Well, being fibreglass they can’t rot although the chassis can – and does – in a major way so check everywhere. You need to have a good crawl underneath. Sounds cheeky but insist the owner removes the front-mounted spare wheel to check the state of the chassis underneath!

At the back of the chassis, check the suspension mounts as these hold the rear assembly to the chassis. The fuel tank area is another danger zone.The chassis was galvanised in 1983 and many reckon SE6s are better protected. New chassis frames are available, including the main one, although you’re looking at £12-1300, plus fitting, naturally.

Mechanically the car is straightforward Ford and the front suspension is Triumph derived. However, overheating is a bane to all Scimitars due to its marginal cooling. Various mods are known to the owners’ club, such as better header tanks, Citroën fans, electric cooling fans and so on.

ANYTHNG ELSE?

The interior lacks stamina and many cars are ratty inside plus it’s odds on that most of the cars you’ll go and see will be misted up (leaks are common). That said, overall the GTE is a world away from Reliant’s three-wheelers and doesn’t feel like the kit car it essentially is. They certainly last the course as owners’ clubs reckon that out of the 1500 or so made 75 per cent of what’s left are on their books, so there’s a fair choice.

HOW MUCH SHOULDI PAY FOR ONE?

If you really want either a GTE or GTC then don’t delay as prices are expected to head north. Nigel Palmer, of leading Scimitar specialist QRG, based in Kettering, Northants, told us. “We sell cars for anything between £2000 and £18,000,” though, Palmer warns, “The range is still underrated, possibly because of the [three-wheeler] Reliant Robin connection.”

We reckon that around £5000 is ample for a really good GTE and say £7000 for a GTC. Average cars are under the two thou mark and project cost less than a grand. Middlebridge cars span from £2000 to £9000 depending upon condition.

Due to restoration costs it’s best to buy the sweetest Scimitar you can find from the outset. Tell the truth, prudent buyers with space to spare might think it worth considering buying a basket case simply for parts. Some bits, such as bumpers and fuel fl aps are expensive while early, rare four-spoked steel road wheels are hens’ teeth stuff these days

SO I’D BE A PLONKER NOT TO CONSIDER THIS RELIANT, THEN?

You said it – Rodders!



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