Reliant Scimitar is a wonderful car and ahead of its time in many ways – no roof gutters for a start. The Reliant Scimitar name was used for a series of sports car models produced by British car manufacturer Reliant between 1964 and 1986. The Middlebridge Scimitar was built between 1988 and 1990. During its years of production, it developed into a range of versions including a convertible launched in 1980. All have a fibreglass body mounted on a steel box-section chassis.
The GT Coupe’ replaced the Sabre Six, a small 2 seater which the company had been producing in small numbers from the early 60s. The new Scimitar GT, designated the SE4 ( SE being the first and last letters of Sabre), was designed by Ogle and was essentially a 2 seater coupe’ which utilized the straight 6 engine of 2,553cc produced by Ford for use in their Zodiac range. The Coupe’ chassis was very similar to that used for the Sabre with only minor changes to the track and wheelbase. 297 of these cars were built before Reliant introduced the SE4a/b.
Scimitar SE 4a/b
The change in engine size was forced on Reliant, as the straight 6 engine was made obsolete by Ford. The introduction of the new model saw the first V6 Scimitars. The engine size had been increased to 2,994cc and the new engine used a single Weber carburettor in place of the triple SU type fitted to the earlier models. The subsequent increase in power gave the car a higher top speed ( 120 mph) and a 0-60 time of 9.4 seconds. Improvements were also made to the rear axle location which improved high-speed stability. Reliant produced nearly 600 of these and clearly established the Scimitar GT as a fast and civilized 2 seater.
Scimitar GT SE4c
During 1968 Reliant introduced a further variant of Scimitar, the SE4c was introduced to offer a more economical alternative to the 2,994 cc model. The 4c had a 2.5 litre V6 engine. These cars were not produced in great numbers (118) although a 10% increase in mpg was achieved. Production of the GT ceased in 1970 with a total of 1006 cars produced.
Scimitar SE5 and SE5A
The GTE model was introduced at the 1968 Motor Show to a very enthusiastic press. The car was to revolutionise design concepts. Once again the car was penned by Ogle, Tom Karen being the designer. It can rightly be seen as the first ‘hot hatch’ although most commentators prefer to refer to it as the first ‘sporting estate’.
The 5a was introduced in 1972 and was produced in large numbers (for Reliant), more than any other model of Scimitar. The 5a had a brand new interior and there were changes made to the heating/ventilation system. From 1972 the 5a also had the new uprated V6 engine. This produced 138 bhp at 5,000 rpm compared to the 128 bhp of the earlier unit. Over 5,000 cars were produced between 1972 and 1975 and this version of the Scimitar GTE is often referred to as the ‘classic’ Scimitar. Production ceased in October 1975.
Scimitar SE6 & SE6A
The car still retained the classic rear window and rising body line of the original models. The new car was actually derived from the earlier cars with the original moulds being quartered and an additional 4″ added to the length with 3″ added to the width.
The SE6 was only made for a short time during 1976 before Reliant brought in the SE6a. Main differences being to the braking system which had been changed from Girling to Lockheed. Power steering had become an option by this time and with the increase in size and weight, this was considered a good thing. The 3.0 litre ‘Essex’ engine had been the mainstay of Scimitar production, but in late 1979 Reliant introduced the final variant of the GTE theme, that of the SE6b which was essentially a 6a but with ‘Cologne’ Ford V6 2.8 litre engine and detailed body and interior changes.
Reliant began planning their convertible in 1977 and commissioned Ogle Design to create a proposal. Tom Karen adapted his earlier GTE design and created a beautifully proportioned 4 seater convertible with a good-sized boot.
From the B post backwards all of the panels were new, extra bracing was introduced between the rear side panels and between the door hinge plates running under the dashboard. The roll hoop from the GTE was retained, and for additional support, this was linked to extra tubes running around the front screen creating a T bar design that would ensure the rigidity of the new body design. As the car sported a separate chassis and the extra bracing it did not suffer from the scuttle-shake that monocoque designs quite often do.
The hood was designed in house by adapting the hood frame from a Triumph Stag. This is quite evident as most of the nuts and bolts in the hood frame assembly are available Stag parts specialists.
A prototype car was produced in 1978 (still in existence today), this was powered by a 3.0 Essex engine. Later Reliant would replace this with a 2.8 Cologne engine as Ford withdrew their Essex engines from the European market and replaced them with the Cologne. The Cologne engine was slightly down on torque compared to the Essex engine, so to improve performance Reliant changed the final drive ratio from 3.31 to 3.54.
The GTC was launched in March of 1980 and was well received by the motoring press. However, in 1980, the country was heading into a recession and Reliant struggled to sell their £11360 convertibles in great numbers. As a result, many cars were left sitting at the factory for months until owners could be found.
Today the GTC is is a very rare sight on our roads and is possibly the most desirable of the Scimitar models. When compared to similar classic cars such as the Triumph Stag or Mercedes SL they offer exceptional value for money.
Quick Facts about the GTC
- A total of 442 production GTCs were manufactured by Reliant
- 340 were manufactured in 1980 (the first year of production)
- The first GTC known to have a Galvanised Chassis is number 372
- 3 were manufactured in 1981, 20 in 1982, 24 in 1983, 29 in 1984, 13 in 1985, 13 in 1986
- There is 1 known prototype, taking the total to 443 cars
- Many cars registered in 1981 were actually manufactured in 1980
- The GTC is lighter than the SE6B GTE on which it is based
Engine:- Ford Cologne V6 (60 degree) 2792 cc, 135BHP @ 5200rpm, 150lbft torque @ 3000rpm
Transmission:- Ford 4 speed manual with overdrive on 3rd & 4th / Ford C3 3 speed Automatic
Suspension Front:- Independent double-wishbone, telescopic dampers, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension Rear:- Live axle, trailing arms, Watt linkage, telescopic dampers, coil springs
Steering:- Rack & Pinion, 2.5 turns lock to lock, power-assisted
Brakes:- Dual circuit
Wheels:- 14″ Wolfrace or 14″ Steel
Chassis:- Steel frame or Galvanised Steel from 1983
Wheelbase:- 2637cm 103.8″ Length:- 4432cm 174.5″ Width 1722cm 67.8″
Middlebridge Scimitar (1988–1990)
After production at Reliant ceased, Middlebridge Scimitar Ltd. acquired the manufacturing rights to the Scimitar GTE and GTC in June 1987. This company, based in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, produced a 2.9 L version of the GTE with many modifications and modernisations (over 450) including electronic fuel injection and a five-speed Ford T9 gearbox with the Ford A4LD 4-speed auto as an option.
Reliant Scimitar Links
Reliant Scimitar GTE – Sporting Reliants
Reliant Scimitar – Wikipedia
Wikipedia – Reliant Scimitar
The Reliant Scimitar name was used for a series of sports car models produced by British car manufacturer Reliant between 1964 and 1986. During its 22-year production it evolved from a coupe (GT) into a sports estate (GTE), with a convertible variant (GTC) launched in 1980. All have a fibreglass body mounted on a steel box-section chassis, and Ford engines.
Scimitar GT SE4 (1964–1970)
Reliant's first Scimitar was a coupé based upon the styling of a Daimler SP250 prototype (renamed the SX250) and the chassis of a Reliant Sabre. It was first displayed in 1964. It was powered by a 2.6-litre Ford straight six from the Ford Zephyr and Zodiac. In order to keep cost down, many components in addition to the engine were existing ones originally designed for competitor models, a point emphasized for buyers of the early Scimitars in which unfolding the sun visor involved knocking the rearview mirror out of adjustment.
In 1966 the SE4A was replaced by the SE4B, with a 3.0 L V6 Ford "Essex" engine. A year later, in September 1967, the cheaper SE4C was introduced with a 2.5-litre version of the same engine and a reduction of £105 on the recommended retail price. The engine differed from the one fitted on the Ford Zephyr 6 in that the Reliant engine came with an alternator whereas Ford buyers had to be content with a dynamo.
Just over 1000 SE4s were produced.
1964: Scimitar GT SE4
Scimitar Coupe with 2.6-litre straight six engine
As the Sabre 6 began looking a bit dated, managing director Ray Wiggin started looking for a new design. While at the 1962 Motor Show, he saw a car called an Ogle SX250: it had been designed by David Ogle (of David Ogle Associates, later known as Ogle Design) and it was based on the Daimler Dart SP250 chassis and running gear. The car had been privately commissioned by Boris Forter, managing director of the Helena Rubenstein Company (UK), who later had another one built for his girlfriend.
Daimler didn't use the design, so Reliant approached Ogle and asked to buy the rights for it. Some subtle changes were made to the bodyshell and it was further modified to fit the Reliant Sabre chassis and running gear.
The new Scimitar GT car retained the straight-six engine from the Sabre, but with triple SU carburettors as standard it now produced 120 bhp and propelled the car to a top speed of 117 mph (188 km/h). It was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1964; it was praised for its elegant lines and performance figures for a price of £1,292. The price included wire wheels and a luxurious interior with comprehensive instrumentation. Optional extras included a choice of De Normanville overdrive unit, electric sunroof and ZF gearbox. Reliant produced approximately 296 straight-six Scimitar GTs.
1966: Scimitar GT SE4A/B
Scimitar coupé with 3-litre V6 Essex engine (approximately 591 built)
In late 1966 Ford dropped the 2.6-litre Straight Six engine and replaced it with the new 3-litre Essex V6 engine (as used in the latest MK IV Ford Zodiac). This meant that Reliant had to do a good deal of development work to the existing Scimitar GT to enable the new more powerful engine to fit and obtain best performance and handling.
As the Essex engine was shorter, it was mounted further back in the bulkhead to help improve weight distribution. The lower wishbones were re-positioned, the tower structures and cross members were reinforced and an anti-roll bar was fitted. Other modifications included replacing the wire wheels with wider steel wheels as standard, and the fitting of a higher-ratio rear axle (3.58:1 instead of 3.875:1).
The interior was updated to move with the times. There was now an all-anti-dazzle-black interior (including black instrument dial bezels instead of the previous chrome versions). The padded fascia board had crash pads at the top and bottom, and improvements were made with the ventilation by fitting directionally variable ventilator jets, as used by Ford.
This is what Autocar said about the new 3-litre Scimitar GT on 12 January 1967:
"At a Glance - High performance 2+2 coupe. Lusty, low revving engine in conjunction with high gearing gives effortless cruising at three-figure speeds. Good gear change, but rather wide ratios. Smooth, light clutch. Ride and handling very good, and much improved over the earlier car. Light, accurate steering and first class brakes with powerful servo. Ventilation improved but still not ideal. Fuel and range very good".
1967: Scimitar GT SE4C
Scimitar coupé with 2.5-litre V6 Essex engine (118 built)
Using Ford's 2.5-litre version of the V6 Essex engine meant that the car could still reach speeds of over 110 mph (177 km/h), have slightly better fuel economy, but ultimately reduce the cost to the public by approx £120. Externally, the only difference between the 3-litre and 2.5-litre versions was the small badge on the boot giving the engine size. Approximately 118 of the 2.5-litre Scimitar GTs were sold before this version was withdrawn. Production of the standard Scimitar GT continued until November 1970.
Scimitar GTE SE5 (1968–1972) and SE5A (1972–1975)
Tom Karen of Ogle was asked to submit some body designs based on the Ogle Design GTS estate car experiment for a new four-seater Scimitar, the SE5 Reliant Scimitar. Managing Director Ray Wiggin, Chief Engineer John Crosthwaite and fibreglass body expert Ken Wood went to Ogle's in Letchworth to view some mock-up body designs for the new SE5. Wiggin told Wood to proceed with a proper master.
The SE5 was conceived and ready for the 1968 Motor Show in less than 12 months. For the SE5 John Crosthwaite and his team designed a completely different longer chassis frame, revised suspension, new and relocated fuel tank, a rollover bar, new cooling system, spare wheel mounted in the nose to give increased rear space and a 17+1⁄4 imperial gallons (78 L) fuel tank. When designing the chassis Crosthwaite worked closely with Ogle body stylist Peter Bailey to modify and refine the prototype.
The main change introduced in the SE5 was the sports estate hatchback body shape, although other car manufacturers had also produced hatchback models.
The SE5 came with the same 3.0-litre Ford Essex engine used in the SE4a/b. This gave the SE5 a claimed top speed of over 120 mph (193 km/h). A Borg-Warner 35 automatic transmission was added as an option in 1970 and by 1971, overdrive on the 4-speed manual was offered. In 1972 several improvements were included in the upgrade to SE5A, including a boost in power. The extra 7 hp (5 kW) and maximum engine speed raised performance and the GTE was now capable of 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 8.5 seconds and top speed was raised to 121 mph (195 km/h). The SE5's flat dashboard also gave way to a curved and moulded plastic one.  The SE5A can be recognised from a SE5 at the rear by the reverse lamps which are below the bumper on the earlier model and are incorporated into the rear clusters on the later version (these were also carried over onto the SE6 and later). Badging changes included changing the "SCIMITAR" lettering from a narrow type-style to a fatter one.
Directly following the announcement of the car, Autocar magazine tested a 3-litre GTE (with manual transmission) in October 1968. They reported a maximum speed of 117 mph (188 km/h) and a 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) time of 10.7 seconds. Overall fuel consumption for the test came in at 18.5 mpg. The manufacturer's UK market recommended retail price, including sales taxes, was £1,759. The 3-litre MG MGC GT was retailing at this time for £1,337 while Rover's 3500 was offered for £1,791. Launch of the more directly comparable Volvo 1800ES was still four years away.
4,311 SE5s were produced. It was an instant success; GT production was cut down and the proportion of GTEs to GTs being built was four-to-one. Reliant increased its volume by 20% in the first year. The 5A model sold more than any other Scimitar, with 5105 manufactured. Princess Anne was given a manual overdrive SE5 as a joint 20th birthday present and Christmas present in November 1970 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It was Air Force blue in colour with a grey leather interior and registered 1420 H in recognition of her position as Colonel-in-Chief of the 14th/20th Hussars. Anne subsequently owned eight other GTEs.
Scimitar GTE SE6 (1975–1976), SE6A (1976–1980) and SE6B (1980–1986)
More of a luxury model than the SE5, the SE6 series was promoted to the executive market. These models were two-door sports estates, again with the Ford V6 3.0 L engine as used in the SE5A with 135 bhp,: the wheelbase was increased by 4 inches (10 cm) and the track by 3 inches (8 cm) making the cars correspondingly longer and wider than their predecessors. The extra length was used to improve rear-seat legroom and access which enhanced the car's credentials as a 'genuine' four-seater. Noticeable changes from the earlier models were the increase in the outer headlamp size from 5.3/4" to 7" and the replacement of the chrome plated bumpers with rubber ones. A Laycock overdrive on third and fourth gear was optional. The SE6 was replaced by the SE6A in late 1976. 543 SE6 models were produced.
The SE6A displayed a number of changes, including Lockheed brakes and suspension revisions. An easy way to spot a SE6A from a SE6 is the change to orange from red reflectors on the rear extractor vents, and the three vertical grooves in the front bumper (in front of the wheel arches) were removed. 3877 SE6As were made—making it the most popular version of all the SE6 shape.
Ford had stopped making the Essex engine for the Capri by 1981, and production stopped completely in 1988 so one of the major differences with the SE6B was the engine. The German-built Ford Cologne 2.8 L V6 was used instead (thus the chassis on the 6B differs from the 6/6A at the front) and provided similar power but rather less torque at low revs. The final drive ratio was lowered from 3.31:1 to 3.54:1 to compensate. All SE6Bs (and the SE8) were equipped with the quite troublesome Pierburg/Solex carburetted engines (many owners have changed to the Weber 38DGAS from the Essex engine) and although the battery was moved from the SE6/SE6A position to allow for injection equipment to be fitted, none ever left the factory so fitted. Some late versions (around 1983 on) came with the galvanised chassis as standard but the exact numbers and chassis details are vague.
Scimitar GTC SE8 (1980–1986)
Reliant began planning a convertible in 1977 and commissioned Ogle Design to create a proposal. Tom Karen adapted his earlier GTE design and created a four-seater convertible with a good-sized boot. From the B-post back, all of the panels were new, with extra bracing introduced between the rear side panels and door hinge plates running under the dashboard. The roll hoop from the GTE was retained, and for additional support this was linked to extra tubes running around the front screen creating a Triumph Stag-like T-bar design that would ensure the rigidity of the new body design. As the car sported a separate chassis and the extra bracing, it did not suffer from the scuttle shake that unibody convertibles could be prone to suffer. The hood was designed in house by adapting the hood frame from a Triumph Stag, with a bespoke cover made of mohair. A prototype car was produced in 1978 and was powered by a 3.0 Essex engine. Later Reliant replaced it with a 2.8 Cologne engine, because Ford had withdrawn its Essex engines from the European market in favour of the Cologne unit. This was slightly down on torque compared to the Essex engine, so to improve performance Reliant changed the final drive ratio from 3.31 to 3.54. The GTC was launched in March 1980, with a hardtop added after the Birmingham Motor Show that year. While it was well received by the motoring press, in 1980 the country was heading into a recession and Reliant struggled to sell its £11,360 convertibles in great numbers. As a result, many cars were left sitting at the factory for months until owners could be found. By 1986 the Scimitar GTC cost 20% more than a Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet, a similar offering in respect of seats and performance.
- A total of 442 production GTCs were manufactured by Reliant (+ 1 prototype)
- 340 were manufactured in 1980 (the first year of production)
- Factory galvanised chassis from production number 372 - 442 (earlier cars had a painted steel chassis)
- 3 were manufactured in 1981, 20 in 1982, 24 in 1983, 29 in 1984, 13 in 1985, 13 in 1986
- Most of the cars registered in 1981 were actually manufactured in 1980
- The GTC is lighter than the SE6B GTE on which it is based
- The GTC was 10% more expensive than the SE6B in 1980
- In 1980 a GTC would have cost £11,360, equivalent to more than £40,000 now
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- Bulmer, Charles (24 August 1968). "12,000-mile staff car report: Reliant Scimitar 3-litre". The Motor. nbr. 3453: 19–24.
- "'68 Models 2½-litre Reliant Scimitar". Autocar. 127. (nbr 3735): 25. 14 September 1967.
- Armstrong, Douglas (September 1969). "Reliant GTE". Motoring Mirror. Cape Town, South Africa: Motorpress. 7 (5): 44–45.
- Motoring News 3 October 1968
- Autocar magazine 4 June 1970
- Design Journal August 1970
- Autocar magazine 17 December 1970
- Automotive Design Engineering. July/August 1973
- Slice Magazine May 1987 Article by Peter Bailey. Head of the Transport Design Studio at Ogle when the SE5 was being designed
- Pither, Don (1987). The Scimitar and its Forebears. ISBN 0-9512873-0-3.
- "Scimitar GTE". retrocaricons.com. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "New for '69 Brief Test: Reliant Scimitar GTE". Autocar. 129. (nbr 3790): 5–7. 3 October 1968.
- "Autocar recommended New Car prices and performance of cars tested". Autocar. 129. (nbr 3790): 126–128. 3 October 1968.
- "Cannock firm services Princess Anne's car". birminghammail.net. 29 October 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
- "Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5". sporting-reliants.com. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- "Road Test: Reliant Scimitar GTE". The Motor. 149. nbr 3833: 2–7. 27 March 1976.
- Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (10 March 1983). "Automobil Revue '83" (in German and French). 78. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag AG: 445. ISBN 3-444-06065-3. Cite journal requires
- Bladon, Stuart (1985). Observer's Book of Automobiles. Harmondsworth, UK: Warne. ISBN 0-7232-1675-4.
- The web resource for the Reliant Scimitar GTC www.scimitargtc.co.uk, with permission from the website author
- scimitargt.co.uk - Matt Greenlys Scimitar GT website
- Reliant Sabre and Scimitar Owners' Club
- Information on Scimitars and other Reliants (in Dutch and English)
- Scimitar Drivers' Site
- sporting-reliants.com by Dave Poole
- Reliant Motor Club
- scimitargtc.co.uk, the web resource for Scimitar GTC
- Graham Walker Ltd. Archived 17 April 2021 at the Wayback Machine
- Middlebridge Enthusiasts Scimitar Site
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