PRAC­TI­CAL MAGIC

Re­liant’s quick and cav­ernous sports car an­ti­dote is still epic value

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - BUYING & SELLING -

‘They have the grav­i­tas a sports car can­not match’

Many en­thu­si­asts don’t want a sports car, but do crave a car with sport­ing as­pi­ra­tions – some­thing that’s pokey, com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal, but with­out the matey­ness and beer-and­sand­wiches im­age.

So what fun-to-drive clas­sic can cover long dis­tances com­fort­ably with room for at least two adults and their lug­gage, but isn’t a sports car? The an­swer hailed from the Stafford­shire town of Tam­worth and was built by a com­pany bet­ter known for its three-wheel­ers.

The Re­liant Scim­i­tar GTE was a rev­e­la­tion when it was un­veiled in 1968, up­dat­ing the two-door sa­loon Scim­i­tar SE4 with a more vo­lu­mi­nous rear. The re­sult was per­haps the first sport­ing es­tate car – more elon­gated hatch­back than fam­ily hauler, and it struck a chord with buy­ers.

Per­for­mance came from Ford’s Es­sex 3.0-litre V6, with a choice of man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Au­to­car’s test of a man­ual trans­mis­sion ex­am­ple saw a 117mph top speed and 0-60mph in 10.7 sec­onds.

The first-gen­er­a­tion GTE SE5 was lightly facelifted in­tothe SE5A, but the big change came in 1975 with the launch of the SE6. Look­ing very sim­i­lar to its pre­de­ces­sor, it took on a more so­phis­ti­cated air with a longer wheel­base and in­creased track, which in turn im­proved cabin room. The later SE6B saw the Es­sex V6 re­placed by a carb-fed Ford 2.8 V6 with pro­duc­tion end­ing in 1986.

All was not lost, though – Mid­dle­bridge bought the Scim­i­tar’s man­u­fac­tur­ing rights in 1988, but went into re­ceiver­ship in 1990 after just un­der 80 cars were built.

It may not have had ad­vanced un­der­pin­nings, but it was a qua­siso­phis­ti­cated car at a time when im­age trumped re­li­a­bil­ity. And it’s pre­cisely that mix­ture that makes a Scim­i­tar such great value to­day.

Proof pos­i­tive of the Scim­i­tar’s value was seen last Fe­bru­ary at

Mor­ris Leslie’s sale, where a rea­son­able 1979 Scim­i­tar sold for £2415. ACA sold a sim­i­lar ex­am­ple for £2355 a month later, then made £2100 on a 1979 Scim­i­tar last June. His­torics sold a 1978 project for £896, while come the au­tumn three early 1970s cars made be­tween £2860 and £5610.

The Scim­i­tar SE5 and SE6 are still com­par­a­tively cheap and con­tinue to of­fer just-on-the-radar value, with the sort the of prac­ti­cal­ity and grav­i­tas that many chunky-knit jumper Bri­tish sports cars sim­ply can­not match.

V6 power and room for four and their lug­gage – yet the Scim­i­tar still sells for rel­a­tively lit­tle.

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