Reliant Scimitar GT, GTE & GTC a wonderful car and ahead of its time

scimitar oglenoor design 505 81 Reliant Scimitar GT, GTE & GTC a wonderful car and ahead of its time


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.

Scimitar GT

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.

Scimitar GTC

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

GTC Specification

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)

220px 1990 Middlebridge Scimitar GTE%2C green Reliant Scimitar GT, GTE & GTC a wonderful car and ahead of its time
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, 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

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