Rare Rides: It's a 1977 Reliant Scimitar GTE, You Know
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.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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