Up until the early 1960s, Reliant Cars had only been associated with the production of their famous three-wheeler.
Later on, there were a couple of four-wheelers, the Rebel and the Kitten, but these didn’t stand much of a chance against the brilliant Mini which sold for less, yet offered so much more. It therefore came as rather a shock when Reliant (quite out of character and in collaboration with a company called Autocars in Israel) launched a small high-performance two-seat sports car called the Sabre in 1961, which was built in Tamworth until 1964.
Its replacement, the handsome Reliant Scimitar GT SE4 Coupe, had a 2.6-litre straight-six Zephyr engine and remained in production until 1970, although the elegant Tom Karen-designed GTE SE5, which came out in 1968, is the car that really put Reliant on the map, numbering Princess Anne among its many fans (she owned eight of them!). It’s not often that a four-seat derivative of a sports car is regarded as aesthetically more pleasing than the original design, but this was the case with the GTE which had elegant shooting brake bodywork.
The original SE5 was replaced by the SE5A in September 1972 which had a revised interior fascia, different rear lights and a slightly more powerful Ford 3.0 V6 engine. The new model was good for 0-60 in 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 121mph. In 1976 it was replaced by the wider and heavier SE6, the SE6A arriving in 1977 with improved brakes and suspension, the final iteration, the SE6B using Ford’s latest 2.8-litre Cologne engine. Production of all models came to an end in 1986.
First registered in Gloucester in December 1972, this SE5A has had just four local owners from new and was acquired by the vendor way back in 1980. A long-standing member of the Scimitar Owner’s Club, she used the car regularly until 1994 when it was parked up in her garage where it has remained ever since, although it has been started and moved regularly to keep everything free.
Always well-maintained by her garage proprietor husband, the car was undergoing a full recommissioning on the occasion of our visit to take these photos and should be in fine fettle by the time of the sale, a new brake servo and water pump being among the items that have already been fitted. The black interior looks to be in excellent shape and we are told that the full-length Webasto sunroof does not leak (unlike many Scimitars). The bodywork was repainted yellow from its original dark red over 35 years ago and still looks smart with none of the crazing that is often associated with these cars.
Some 14 old MOTs from 1981 to 1993 show that the car covered some 34,000 miles during this 12-year period and the 40,267 miles currently displayed could well be correct, judging by the condition of the interior and the engine bay.
Altogether a most appealing and practical classic from long-term local ownership that doubtless has decades of faithful service ahead of it. The icing on the cake is the transferable Gloucestershire number plate which doubtless has a value of its own.
Catalogue Amendment: 13 Old MoTs