The Scimitar is probably one of the most underestimated classics on the road today and we look at a completely rebuilt example that shows just how good these highly practical sports cars are to drive and own
John Crosthwaite designed the chassis, notably locating the spare wheel in the nose in front of the engine and thereby freeing up extra carrying space in the rear. The same reliable Ford Essex 3.0 litre V6 that powered the Reliant SE4 Coupé was fitted and the car was available with a four speed manual gearbox. In 1970 the addition of overdrive on third and top gear became an option for the GTE and in1971 the luxury of two pedal operation became available with the introduction of an optional three- speed Borg- Warner automatic gearbox.
David Kuschel bought his two previous owner Scimitar GTE5 twelve and a half years ago. The car had covered approximately 120,000 miles and according to David the GTE was in rather poor condition, even though the previous owner had dealt with some chassis corrosion and had the car resprayed. Unfortunately the car was then left to stand unused for eight years and when David took it over, the paint had begun to peel badly.
As David recalled: “I had to start all over again putting all
the bad work right.” After cleaning and repainting the chassis, David then set about evaluating the condition of the GTE’s glass-fibre bodywork. “Although the car was green when I got it, when all the paint was stripped off I discovered it had previously been yellow. Eventually, after cutting through that layer I finally got down to the original colour, which was white”. David then explained that after the shell had been cut back to the gel- coat, it was taken to a body shop and resprayed in the correct shade of white the car had been when it left the factory back in 1969.
As the car had stood unused for so long, David also replaced all the rubber suspension with Poly-bushes all round. Other than this, the front suspension remains in standard trim but as the rear dampers were shot David decided to replace then with a set of Gaz adjustables. That way the suspension can be altered appropriately for load carrying, comfort or a sporty feel in seconds. Overhauling the brakes included replacing the front discs and fitting a new set of pads. At the rear, one of the wheel cylinders was found to be leaking, so after checking and cleaning the rear brake drums the cylinders were replaced on both sides and a fresh set of brake linings fitted.
The brakes lines had been replaced with new copper piping by the previous owner and these remained in good order but the brake fluid was of course replaced. David also noted how the fuel tank and the exhaust system had been
replaced with stainless steel items and as a result were still perfectly usable.
UNDER THE BONNET
Turning to the engine, David told us how he discovered a cracked exhaust manifold. “The manifold bolts were so corroded, it proved impossible to remove them whilst the cylinder head was in situ, so I removed both heads and took the opportunity to check the rest of the engine. Fortunately, the pistons, cylinder bores and bearings were fine, as a previous owner had rebuilt the engine at some point. After de- carbonising both heads and regrinding the valves. I fitted the replacement exhaust manifold”, recalled a very relieved David.
Luckily, David reckoned the interior has stood the test of time well and only required a good clean. However, having said that David admitted that the original front seats were been replaced by two secondhand black hide ones from a Jaguar XJS. “The originals were in perfectly good condition but these give better support and improved comfort. I've kept the originals, so they can always go back in the car if required,” explained David while continuing to show off the rest of the spotlessly clean interior.
Initially, the GTE was tending to overheat on very hot days and in very slow heavy traffic. David has managed to remedy that situation by thoroughly flushing and cleaning the cylinder block, fitting a larger triple core radiator instead of the double core unit that came with the car. Finally, he replaced the mechanical engine driven cooling fan with a new Kenlow unit and now the needle on the temperature remains in the normal sector.
As a precaution, the old coolant is changed every two years and when that’s done, the opportunity is taken to flush the system. About two years ago the clutch had to be replaced. Whilst working on the car David also changed the inhibitor switch, as he was experiencing a problem with the overdrive coming in on all four forward gears instead of just the top two ratios.
About a year ago, David felt that the steering was starting to feel a bit heavier than usual and on examination, discovered there was wear in the rack. A reconditioned rack was
obtained from Queensbury Road Garage at Kettering and now the steering has a lighter feel, as well as improved accuracy and directional sensitivity. More recently David decided to check the fibre timing gear wheel for wear as the ones on the Ford V6 have a reputation of unreliability.
This proved a wise decision, as upon examination the original wheel was beginning to break up around the teeth. It has now been replaced with a new aluminium wheel and is probably good for the life of the engine. The aluminium wheel was a noisier at first but has now settled down. Apart from that, the David reckons the car has experienced no other major issues and has now covered a further 20,000 trouble free miles, with David driving it almost every week – especially during the recent fine summer months.
David reports that his Scimitar uses no oil between changes, which are usually carried out just once a year. Furthermore, in these times when economy matters even while running a classic, it’s worth noting that the Scimitar is geared so it’s only pulls about 1000rpm at 24mph in overdrive top. David reckons 30mpg is easily obtainable unless the car is being used around town. Clearly the Ogle design Scimitar is just as aerodynamic as it appears.
David’s obviously very proud of his car and went to tell us how the Reliant always drew positive attention but that has increased over the last couple of years. “Most other road users are extra considerate towards the car and many folk wave and give it a thumbs up. After leaving a recent Scimitar event at Curborough, we decided to visit at Stratford on Avon on the way home. There was a large group of Japanese tourists in the town and when they saw the Reliant, they all came out into the road trying to take photographs with their phones. My wife and I wanted to take some snaps of Stratford but they all seemed far more interested in getting snaps of the GTE”.
ON THE ROAD
Getting behind the wheel of David’s Scimitar GTE, you are confronted with a typically ‘Sixties designed instrument panel. In many ways we preferred it to the later redesigned dashboard of the SE5A launched in 1972, as this version is simpler and seems purer. The instrumentation covers everything you need to
Mounting the spare wheel ahead of the Scimitar GTE's V6 Ford sourced engine provides more load area space.
An opening rear glass hatch accesses the Scimitar's generous 'boot'. The GTE's rear aspect is as pleasing on the eye today as it was when the car was launched.
A pair of comfortable Jaguar XJS seats fit nicely inside the Scimitar's spacious cabin, as does the smart looking leather rimmed Springall steering wheel. With 140bhp on tap, a V6 powered Scimitar is no slouch and a well sorted example can be great fun to own and drive.