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