Ex­pert Buyer

Re­liant’s wedge is se­ri­ous value for money. Here’s what you need to know

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - Theo Ford-Sagers

Re­liant Scimitar SS1

Seen many of these lately? Prob­a­bly not, un­less you’ve been hang­ing around Re­liant club events. Yet the SS1 oozes charisma with just as much idio­syn­cratic flair as any of its cheese-shaped ri­vals. Why are they so (dare we say it) cheap?

‘They def­i­nitely de­serve greater recog­ni­tion,’ says Mike Lit­tle­ton, ‘Small Sports’ Reg­is­trar of the Re­liant Sabre and Scimitar Own­ers’ Club (scim­i­tar­web.co.uk). ‘They’re ex­hil­a­rat­ing to drive and no prob­lem at all to look af­ter. Peo­ple buy them with good in­ten­tions, but then the wife in­ter­venes and they get put aside.’

The first SS1s, stand­ing for Small Sports 1, came with Ford CVH en­gines in 1.3- or 1.6-litre guise, plus an 1800Ti sourced from Nis­san – and very po­tent it is too. In 1990 came a facelift, 1.4-litre en­gines and a name tweak to SST. ‘Facelift’ how­ever barely does jus­tice to the sig­nif­i­cant changes made, the of­ten-wonky body pan­els now re­placed with a novel two-piece shell. The fi­nal few years of pro­duc­tion saw a new name – Scimitar Sabre (redo­lent of the Re­liant Sabre back in the Six­ties) – flared whee­larches and, from 1993, the ad­vent of a 1.4-litre K-se­ries en­gine.

None of this, how­ever, has a sig­nif­i­cant bear­ing on how much you should ex­pect to pay. ‘ Val­ues are pretty aligned,’ says Mike. ‘They’re priced on con­di­tion.’

Projects out­num­ber road-le­gal cars, of which there are cur­rently around 160 sur­vivors, a small num­ber of those be­ing the later Scimitar Sabres. De­spite the low pro­duc­tion, spe­cial­ist ex­per­tise and parts are both in ready sup­ply, es­pe­cially since one of the ma­jor sup­pli­ers re­port­edly un­earthed a cou­ple of con­tain­ers’ worth of for­got­ten SS1 bits about 18 months ago. ‘I’ve never had any prob­lems keep­ing my Sabre go­ing,’ says Mike.

They rarely ap­pear at auc­tion or on dealer fore­courts, but a smat­ter­ing of pri­vate ads can be found among the clas­si­fieds and on­line auc­tions. Close con­tact with club mem­bers is key, whether you’re seek­ing ex­per­tise to help keep one alive, or look­ing to buy your first Re­liant.

‘Some are wildly mod­i­fied for track use, and there’s a lot you can do to them,’ says Mike. ‘Our club holds an­nual sprint events where we in­vite other mar­ques along. Fer­rari own­ers don’t like hav­ing their noses put out of joint by lit­tle Reliants!’

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