By on January 14, 2021

Today’s Rare Ride is a sporty shooting brake from the days when there were still many British manufacturers building cars like it across England.

Let’s travel back to the Seventies when everything was brown, excepting this particular Reliant.

Reliant fielded a number of small cars between the brand’s inception in 1935 and its demise in 2002. One of the more popular among its offerings was the Scimitar. Introduced as a dedicated sports coupe in 1964, the successful Scimitar morphed into a few different offerings over its impressive 23-year run.

The Scimitar GT coupe that entered production in 1964 (the SE4) was a fresh visual design from a company called Ogle, though the chassis underneath was borrowed from Scimitar’s predecessor, the Sabre. Reliant ended up with the Ogle design after Reliant’s director saw the company’s SX250 coupe at an auto show. Based on the Daimler Dart SP250, Ogle built a couple of examples for a private buyer and offered the design to Daimler. They declined, but Reliant was very interested. They hired Ogle to change up the design slightly and make sure it fit on the Sabre chassis, and the Scimitar was born.

Reliant’s operation was too small to create its own engines, so it purchased Ford power: the inline-six from the Zephyr. Scimitar branched out later in its first guise with 2.6- and 3.0-liter V6 Essex engines from Ford.

Scimitar’s first major update was a complete body overhaul. Reliant turned to Ogle once more for a new design, which was ready for production in less than 12 months. In 1968 production of the GT (coupe) slowed, and the GTE (shooting brake) took center stage. The chassis was lengthened, there was a revised suspension, different cooling, and the spare tire moved to the front to give better, more wagony interior space. Carried over from the prior model was the Essex 3.0 V6. Prior to 1970, all Scimitars were four-speed manuals, but that changed with the introduction of a three-speed auto that year. Top speed of the GTE was 117 miles per hour, with a respectable run to 60 in 10.7 seconds.

The GTE was much more popular than the GT, and Reliant adjusted production in short order to build four times the number of GTEs to GTs. The original GTE (SE5) lasted through 1975 before its replacement by the SE6 version. SE6 targeted a new customer: the demanding executive car buyer. Wheelbase and overall length increased by about four inches, and the car got 3 inches wider. Per the dimensional increases, interior space improved and made the car more appealing to those seeking four usable seats.

SE6 became SE6A with further revisions late in the ’76 model year. With the A, suspension and braking was revised and improved, and there were minor visual alterations. The SE6A proved a quick seller; Reliant produced 3,877 compared to just 543 of the prior SE6. SE6A lasted through 1980, at which point Ford phased out the Essex engine Reliant used. The final Scimitar carried an SE6B moniker and used a 2.8-liter Cologne V6 instead. The engine change corresponded with the addition of a three-speed C3 automatic from Ford in place of the previous Borg Warner.

Late in its run there was time for one more Scimitar variant, the GTC. In a limited production of 442 examples, the C was a cabriolet. All GTCs used the Cologne V6 and were built between 1980 and Scimitar’s end in 1986.

But the party wasn’t over yet. Middlebridge Scimitar Ltd. bought the rights to the Scimitar and produced it in their own factory between 1988 and 1990. After that operation folded, production rights passed on to a company called Graham Walker Ltd., which built Scimitars to order through 2014.

Today’s Rare Ride sold recently via a British car dealer in Kent in superb condition. It is presently untaxed, so is likely not being driven.

[Images: Reliant]

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5 Comments on “Rare Rides: It’s a 1977 Reliant Scimitar GTE, You Know...”

  • avatar

    I remember the Scimitars, especially around downtown London, a very popular alternative to the MGB, TR’s and Sprite/Midget.
    The GTE look even better live, Ogle Design was the Go-To place in the Sixties, they had a hand in a lot of stuff.
    The fibreglass body was a big plus in the days of minimal rust prevention by manufacturers.
    An enterprising American might consider getting those molds from Graham Walker and creating some bespoke GTE for the U.S. market, I seem to recall underhood space could well accept a small block V8…..

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Like a number of the smaller British marques the Reliant Scimitar used a number of parts bin items from other manufacturers. The door handles are shared with the Austin Marina and a number of other British Leyland vehicles.
    A new fiberglass kit version of this would be neat, just install your own power train.

  • avatar

    That looks fun.

  • avatar

    I lived in London from 1969 to 1974. There never was a 2.6 litre version of this Essex V6 engine. The 2.5l version if anyone ever bought it, why bother, sat in lower trim Granadas, not the baroque Detroit ex-Falcon crapmobile, but a very nice all independent suspension bigger family car. There never was so much difference between Ford US and the decent stuff they made in Europe as there was in the 1970s. I’d take an Escort over a Pinto every time, and my parents back here had a ’71 Pinto 2.0 so yes, I know the difference. Drove five different Escorts from 1100 cc to late 1600GT on a trip to West Berlin in the late 1970s on vacation. The Pinto was uber crap all around and twice on Sundays. Also spent some time in a Cologne 2.3 V6 Granada in Germany in 1973, er, in Cologne actually. It was “owned” by the head of Ford Motor Credit Europe. Now there’s a story there; the car was very slow with a Borg Warner automatic sucking the life out of it, but he was an American to whom a stickshift was alien. It was a comfy car with nice interior and all of a single piece feel.

    In London, a workmate got a deal on a ’72 Scimitar GTE in ’73. Very nice to look at and quite refined and quiet inside, plus not tarted up with chrome like this later model shown here. It was dark metallic green with tan leather interior. The engine just chuckled along in a long-legged way and I’d call the car a GT, not a sports car, but it had some oomph when needed with 140 hp DIN. Probably weighed less than a modern BRZ and had way more torque.

    Imagine my reaction trying out a Capri when I got home to Canada to stay. With a 105 hp out-of-breath-unwilling-to-rev 2.8l Cologne V6 — compared to the barrel-chested Essex 3.0 V6 slurping high lead four star in Blighty — it was a total pussycat. Still, the Capri’s looks made the Mustang II with its puffy silhouette front fenders, wonky nose-up attitude, extra weight from the front subframe over a Pinto, and featuring Firestone death-trap steel cord breaking sidewall-shredding radial tires, seem like just another amateur Dearborn effort. Old college pal had a ’75 2.8 V6 manual Mustang II, and went through 22 tires in about ten months! All free. Then he bought some Michelins on his own dime. Ford US had a monopoly on shiny red cheap thin vinyl in those days, and also the curiously opposite dull flat cheap blue vinyl, so the interiors were bloody awful as well. Blech.

    Early Scimitars had issues with the rear Panhard rod breaking off which left them a tad directionless. So if anyone buys the listed one, check the rear suspension over carefully. The issue was supposedly fixed with a new design somewhere about 1972, but a good inspection never hurt. To look at, the GTE kind of made the Volvo 1800S and E look quaintly old-fashioned, though. It was very distinctive and handsome.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Nice posting.

      Those early Firestone radials were indeed dangerous. As mentioned previously I had 2 separate blow outs on highways with my Grand Prix on Firestones 500 radials that were only a few months old.

      As to Ford Europe, a friend did have a Cortina and unfortunately its unreliability lived up to the stereotype of British autos. Also it was the 2nd slowest car in our community, beating only an Epic Envoy (another UK import) and slightly quicker than a Firenza which may have been among the ‘worst’ cars ever sold in Canada. It was known as the Vauxhall Viva back in the UK, and was the source of the first class action lawsuit in Canada and the creation of the APA. Compared to those 3 vehicles my VW type III and Type IV shooting brakes were bullet proof modern rocket ships.

      As a result I always laughed when watching shows like The Sweeney with their police chases in Cortinas.

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