Reliant Scimitar

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Reliant Scimitar
MHV Reliant Scimitar GTE 01.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Reliant
Production 1964-1986
Body and chassis
Class sports car
Body style coupe, estate, cabriolet

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 developed into a range of versions including a convertible launched in 1980. In 1984 Reliant launched the smaller Scimitar SS1.

Scimitar GT SE4 (1964–70)[edit]

Reliant Scimitar (SE4)
Reliant Scimitar before it became a GTE in Hertfordshire.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Reliant
Production 1964-1970
Designer Ogle Design
Body and chassis
Body style two door coupe
Powertrain
Engine 2553 cc I-6 (1964 - 1966)
2495 cc V-6[1] (1967 - 1970)
2994 cc V-6[1] (1966 - 1970)
Transmission 4 speed manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 92 in (2,337 mm) [2]
Length 167.5 in (4,254 mm)
Width 62 in (1,575 mm)
Height 51 in (1,295 mm)
Kerb weight 2,380 lb (1,080 kg)
Chronology
Successor Reliant Scimitar (SE5)

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 L Ford straight six from the Ford Zephyr / Ford 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 driver's mirror out of adjustment.[3]

In 1966 the SE4A was replaced by the SE4B, with a V6 3.0 L Ford "Essex" engine. A year later, in September 1967 the cheaper SE4C was introduced with a 2.5 L 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.[4]

Just over 1000 SE4s were produced.

1964 - Reliant Scimitar GT - (SE4)[edit]

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 Motorshow, 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. 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 - Reliant Scimitar GT - (SE4a/b)[edit]

Scimitar Coupe with 3 Litre V6 Essex engine (approx 591 built)

In late 1966 Ford dropped the 2.6 litre engine and replaced it with the new 3 litre Essex 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 re-inforced 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 - Reliant Scimitar GT - (SE4c)[edit]

Scimitar Coupe with 2.5 Litre V6 Essex engine (118 built)

Reliant lintroduced their third and final version of the V6 Scimitar GT in late 1967. To widen its appeal they launched a slightly less powerful Scimitar GT.

Using Ford's 2.5 litre version of the V6 Essex engine meant that the car could still reach speeds of over 110 mph, have slightly better mpg, 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 (1968–72) and SE5A (1972–75)[edit]

Reliant Scimitar GTE (SE5/SE5A)
Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5A 2994cc 1972.JPG
Overview
Manufacturer Reliant
Production 1968-1975
Body and chassis
Body style Shooting brake
Powertrain
Engine 2994 cc V-6
Transmission 4 speed manual
Borg Warner 3-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 99.5 in (2,527 mm)
Length 171 in (4,343 mm)
Width 64.5 in (1,638 mm)
Height 52 in (1,321 mm)
Kerb weight 2,620 lb (1,188 kg)
Chronology
Predecessor Reliant Scimitar (SE4)
Successor Reliant Scimitar GTE (SE6)

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 look at a couple of mock-up body designs for the new SE5. Wiggin told Wood to go ahead and do a proper master.

The SE5 was conceived and ready for the 1968 Motor Show in under 12 months. For the SE5 John Crosthwaite and his team designed a completely different chassis frame, revised and improved 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 gallon fuel tank. When designing the chassis Crosthwaite worked closely with Ogle body stylist Peter Bailey to modify and refine the prototype.

The SE5 came with the same 3.0 L 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 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 quite a bit and the GTE was now capable of 0-60 mph (100 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.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] [12] The 5a can be recognised from a 5 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)

Directly following the announcement of the car, Autocar magazine tested a 3 litre GTE (with manual transmission) in October 1968.[13] 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.[13] Overall fuel consumption for the test came in at 18.5 mpg.[13] The manufacturer's UK market recommended retail price, including sales taxes, was £1,759.[14] The 3 litre MG MGC GT was retailing at this time for £1,337 while Rover's 3500 was offered for £1,791.[14] Launch of the more directly comparable Volvo 1800ES was still four years away.

4311 SE5s were produced. 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.[15] 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. Princess Anne subsequently owned eight other GTEs.[16]

Scimitar GTE SE6 (1975-76), SE6A (1976–79) and SE6B (1979–86)[edit]

Reliant Scimitar GTE (SE6/SE6A/SE6B)
Reliant GTE in Lensfield Road 1976.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Reliant
Production 1975-1986
Body and chassis
Body style two door estate
Powertrain
Engine 2994 cc V-6 (1975 - 1979)
2792 cc V-6 (1979 - 1986)
Transmission 4 speed manual + opt Laycock overdrive on 3rd and 4th
Borg Warner Type 35 3 speed auto SE6/Ford C3 3-speed automatic SE6A on
Dimensions
Wheelbase 103.81 in (2,637 mm)
Length 174.5 in (4,432 mm)
Width 67.25 in (1,708 mm)
Height 52 in (1,321 mm)
Kerb weight 2,762 lb (1,253 kg) (automatic transmission)
Chronology
Predecessor Reliant Scimitar GTE (SE5)
Successor Middlebridge Scimitar

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 5a 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.[17] The extra length was used to improve rear-seat legroom and access which enhanced the car's credentials as a 'genuine' four-seater.[17] 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 6A from a 6 is the change to orange from red reflectors on the rear extractor vents, and the 3 vertical grooves in the front bumper (in front of the wheelarches) were removed. 3877 SE6As were made - making it the most popular version of all the SE6 shape.

Ford had stopped making the "Essex" engine by 1980, 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 carburettored engines (many owners have changed to the Weber 38DGAS from the Essex engine) and although the battery was moved from the 6/6A 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.

Only 437 SE6Bs were manufactured. Production ceased by 1986.

Scimitar GTC SE8 (1980–86)[edit]

Reliant Scimitar GTC
GTC M blue.jpg
Overview
Production 1980-1986
442 built
Powertrain
Engine 2.8 L Ford V6
Transmission 4 speed manual with overdrive
Ford C3 3 speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,637 mm (103.8 in)[18]
Length 4,432 mm (174.5 in)[18]
Width 1,720 mm (67.7 in)[18]
Height 1,321 mm (52.0 in)[18]
Kerb weight 2,790 lb (1,266 kg) [18]

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 beautifully proportioned 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 dash board. 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 convertible's may 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 (still in existence today), powered by a 3.0 Essex engine. Later Reliant replaced it with a 2.8 Cologne engine, because had Ford withdrawn their 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 and was well received by the motoring press. However in 1980 the country was heading into a recession and Reliant struggled to sell their £11,360 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 a very rare sight on our roads and is possibly the most desirable of the Scimitar models.

  • 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 over £40,000 now[19]

Middlebridge Scimitar (1988–90)[edit]

A 1990 Middlebridge Scimitar GTE

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, Nottingham, 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)[20]

The fifth Middlebridge Scimitar built was delivered to HRH The Princess Anne.[21] Only 78 Scimitars (all but 3 cars in RHD) were ever produced by Middlebridge before the company went into receivership in 1990. One GTC was made, using a LHD body from Reliant which was converted by Middlebridge to RHD but the car was never completed and eventually the body and chassis were separated and sold off to new owners. The production rights were subsequently acquired by Graham Walker Ltd., who still builds Scimitars to order.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "CARS Stand-by-stand". Autocar. 127 (London SE1: Iliffe Transport Publications Ltd). (nbr 3740): 45 (Reliant). October 1967. 
  2. ^ Cardew, Basil (1966). Daily Express Review of the 1966 Motor Show. London: Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd. 
  3. ^ "12,000-mile staff car report: Reliant Scimitar 3-litre". Motor. nbr 3453: 19–24. 24 August 1968. 
  4. ^ "'68 Models 2½-litre Reliant Scimitar". Autocar. 127. (nbr 3735): 25. 14 September 1967. 
  5. ^ Motoring News 3rd Oct 1968
  6. ^ Autocar magazine 4th June 1970
  7. ^ Design Journal August 1970
  8. ^ Autocar magazine 17th Dec 1970
  9. ^ Automotive Design Engineering . July/August 1973
  10. ^ Slice Magazine May 1987 Article by Peter Bailey. Head of the Transport Design Studio at Ogle when the SE5 was being designed
  11. ^ The Scimitar and its Forebears Don Pither 1987 ISBN 0-9512873-0-3
  12. ^ "Scimitar GTE". Retro Car Icons. Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  13. ^ a b c "New for '69 Brief Test: Reliant Scimitar GTE". Autocar. 129. (nbr 3790): 5–7. 3 October 1968. 
  14. ^ a b "Autocar recommended New Car prices and performance of cars tested". Autocar. 129. (nbr 3790): 126–128. 3 October 1968. 
  15. ^ "Cannock firm services Princess Anne's car". Birminghammail.net. 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  16. ^ "Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5". Sporting-reliants.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  17. ^ a b "Road Test: Reliant Scimitar GTE". Motor. 149. nbr 3833: 2–7. 27 March 1976. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Bladon, Stuart (1985). Observer's Book of Automobiles. Harmondsworth, UK: Warne. ISBN 0-7232-1675-4. 
  19. ^ www.scimitargtc.co.uk, with permission from the website author
  20. ^ A very brief history of the Middlebridge GTE - www.middlebridge-scimitar.co.uk[dead link]
  21. ^ "Scimitar No 5... by Royal appointment". Nottingham Post. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 

External links[edit]