Fam­ily car of 1974: Re­liant Scim­i­tar GTE SE5a

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

It’s ironic that the ar­rival of one of the fastest cars we ever had in the Turner fam­ily garage co­in­cided with the in­tro­duc­tion of fuel-sav­ing speed lim­its.

The Ogle-de­signed Scim­i­tar GTE was launched in 1968, in­tro­duc­ing us to the idea of a sport­ing es­tate later copied by Volvo, Lan­cia, Jensen et al. Pow­ered by Ford’s 3.0-litre V6 and with a light GRP body on a sturdy chas­sis, it had plenty of get-up-and-go, cou­pled with taut han­dling and a sur­pris­ing amount of room in­side. The SE5a of 1971 added a new dash­board, plusher in­te­rior and smarter wheels. Princess Anne was at the front of the queue to get one.

When ours ar­rived, it was one of the first also to have the bet­ter gear­box from the Ford Cor­sair 2000E, though this was a mixed bless­ing, as in our case, it tended to jump out of se­cond gear on the over-run un­til it was qui­etly re­placed by the fac­tory. Oth­er­wise, it was a de­light, with a fra­grant leather in­te­rior, eight-track stereo (ah, those big car­tridges) and room enough for a six­foot me to get com­fort­able in the back. Ours also had the long-strid­ing over­drive, con­trolled by a handy dash­board stalk next to the steer­ing wheel, which made trips to Scot­land a dod­dle – it’s pos­ing here with my mum on the way to Gairloch.

The longer, wider SE6 that re­placed it in 1975 was un­doubt­edly a more prac­ti­cal car – apart from any­thing, the big­ger headlights were more of a match for the car’s per­for­mance, es­pe­cially when coated with a film of road gunge. But I’d still take the pret­tier, tauter, ear­lier car.

The GTE of­fered practicality and per­for­mance. Not too many cars did both back then.

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