Family car of 1974: Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5a
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.