Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki
Reliant Scimitar

Reliant Scimitar front view

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)[]

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 drivers' mirror out of adjustment.

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.

Just over 1000 SE4s were produced.

1964 - Reliant Scimitar GT - (SE4) Scimitar Coupe with 2.6 litre straight six engine

As the Sabre 6 began looking a bit dated, then Managing Director Ray Wiggin, started looking for a new design. While at the 1962 Motorshow, Ray Wiggin 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 a managing director of the Helena Rubenstein Company (UK) called Boris Forter, who later had another one built for his girlfriend.

Daimler didn't use the design, so Reliant approached Ogle Design and asked to buy the rights for the design. As well as some subtle changes, the body shell of Ogle SX250 was further modified to fit the existing Reliant Sabre chassis and running gear.

It retained the same straight six engine from the Sabre, but included triple SU carburettors as standard, which now produced 120 bhp and propelled the car to a top speed of 117 mph. It was 1964 when Reliant launched their new Scimitar GT at the Earls Court Motor Show. The Scimitar GT was praised for its elegant lines and performance figures for a price of £1,292. The price included wire wheels, 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 GT's.

1966 - Reliant Scimitar GT - (SE4a/b) 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 existing the 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, fitting a higher ratio rear axle (3.58 :1 replaced the 3.875).

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 facia board had crash pads at the top and bottom and improvements were made with the ventilation by fitting directional 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) Scimitar Coupe with 2.5 Litre V6 Essex engine (118 built)

Reliant launched their third and final version of the V6 Scimitar GT in late 1967. To widen the Scimitars 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.

To look at 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 GT's were sold before this version was withdrawn. The standard Scimitar GT carried on being produced until the last model rolled out of the door in November 1970.

Scimitar GTE SE5 (1968–72) and SE5A (1972–75)[]

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 3.0 L Ford Essex engine. 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.]].

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.

4311 SE5s were produced. The 5A model sold more than any other Scimitar, with 5105 manufactured. The Princess Anne was given a manual overdrive SE5 for 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. Princess Anne later owned 8 other GTEs.

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

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: 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. The SE6 was replaced by the SE6A in late 1976. 543 SE6 models were produced.

The SE6A displayed a number of changes, including brakes and suspension. 3877 SE6As were

DSC 0027

1977 Reliant Scimitar GTE SE6A – 494 ETE


Ford had stopped making the "Essex" engine by 1980, so one of the major differences with the SE6B was the engine choice. The German-built Ford "Cologne" 2.8 L V6 was used instead, and provided similar power but rather less torque at low revs. The final drive ratio was lowered to compensate.

Only 437 SE6Bs were manufactured. Production ceased by 1986.

Scimitar GTC SE8 (1980–86)[]

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, 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 designs quite often do. The hood was designed in house by adapting the hood frame from a Triumph Stag, with a bespoke cover manufactured from mohair. 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 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 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 £11360, equivalent to over £40,000 now

Middlebridge Scimitar (1988–90)[]

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 modernizations including fuel injection and a 5-speed gearbox.

Middlebridge Scimitar No.5 was delivered to HRH The Princess Anne. Only 77 Scimitars were ever produced by Middlebridge before the company went into receivership in 1990. The production rights were subsequently acquired by Graham Walker Ltd., who builds Scimitars to order.


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