There are certain classic cars which just seem to remain ridiculously cheap. Even with the massive upturn in values which the classic car market has experienced in recent years, and despite a committed following of enthusiasts, they just remain proper budget classics for no apparent reason. The Reliant Scimitar is most certainly one such car.
Though it truly boggles the mind as to why this is. Granted, the Scimitar can’t boast of build quality on par with a Mercedes-Benz. It also doesn’t have the motorsport history of Ferrari. And the V6 engine is a simple blue-collar Ford unit – but then, some of Ford’s own cars sporting the same engine, i.e. a Capri 3000 mk1, are now attracting very strong money. But even if we accept that the Scimitar SE5 and SE6 may have its faults or shortcomings, to me at least, it seems that it has plenty of appeal to offset that. For starters, that engine. Sure it’s just a Ford unit, but it sounds gorgeous, has bundles of torque and it’s quite sturdy too. The Scimitar is a proper Gran Tourer as well, offering comfort and legs to take you anywhere. Yet if you want it to be sporting and entertaining, while no Lotus Elan, it’ll have a decent go at this too. Then there’s the styling – a sleek and handsome shooting brake for the masses. The dashboard is perhaps a bit cheap and plasticy to look at, but the interior is still a pleasant place to be, and that rear seat has got to be one of the best looking rear seats in the business. And all of that from a British engineering company with an intriguing history dating back to 1935 with car production starting in 1952. What’s not to like?
The Reliant Scimitar GTE (Grand Touring Estate) was designed by Tom Karen of Ogle fame, and came about when Reliant wanted to update their coupé bodied Scimitar SE4, which in turn was basically just a rebodied Reliant Sabre dating back to 1961. The design of the new Scimitar SE5 was quite heavily based on the Ogle Triplex GTS concept car of 1965, which had been built to promote the new safety glass produced by Triplex. The new Scimitar GTE was launched in 1968, and while it shared the 3-litre Ford Essex engine with the last SE4’s produced, virtually everything else was different including an altogether larger chassis. The Scimitar GTE was positively received and praised for its performance and not least its design which was quite unique at the time (the Volvo 1800ES was after all still another four years away). In 1972, a few minor tweaks including a slightly higher nose cone to raise the headlights made it the SE5a, which remained in production until 1975. During those seven years of production, approximately 9,500 Scimitar SE5 and SE5a had left the Reliant factory.
Then for the following year the Scimitar underwent a thorough revamp, mostly in order to address complaints about the somewhat cramped rear seat. Despite expanding the car in every dimension besides the height, Reliant managed to retain the original design practically unchanged, with the exception of a few modern features such as more integrated plastic bumpers and the like. This became the SE6 which, again with various small revisions along the way for the SE6a and SE6b, remained in production until 1986 by which time almost 4,900 examples of the bigger Scimitar had found customers.
The early Scimitar SE4 is rare – properrare – and has thus crept up in value. But the SE5 and SE6 variants have been available as fully functioning MOT’ed classics for as little as £ 2,000 to 3,000 for what seems like forever! It defies logic. However, they seem to have finally – and deservedly – increased in value during the last year or two. That’s perhaps been helped on by the models 50thanniversary this year, which tends to be an occasion that always boosts the interest for any given classic car. While the later SE6 cars are no doubt more practical – if nothing else, simply because they offer more room – it’s the SE5 cars which are generally regarded as the purer incarnation of the specie, thanks to stylish slim chrome bumpers and not least a lower curbweight. While there are plenty of valid reasons for opting for the later car, it tends to be clean and unmolested examples of the SE5 which have increased the most in value. I’m also sure that our very own SE6-owning Claus Ebberfeld will share his views on SE5 versus SE6…
So on that note, what really caught our fancy this week was this fabulous 1973 Reliant Scimitar SE5a. It presents highly original in a very suitable dark red over a black unmolested interior which even retains the factory three-spoke steering wheel. It’s also sporting a set of period-defining Wolfrace alloy wheels. The selling dealer tells us that the chassis is in excellent condition (which is very important, as that’s the one part on the fibreglass Scimitar that will happily rust!), and that the 3-litre Essex engine runs smooth with good oil pressure. Rear brakes have recently been overhauled, tyres are good and the Scimitar comes with a fresh MOT too. Here are a few pictures from the dealer’s website to whet your appetite:
The dealer, who is based in the south of the UK, is asking £ 4,950 which currently equates to approximately Euro 5,650. Considering some asking prices I have seen recently for good SE5’s, at this price I would expect the car’s condition to be more “driver’s car” than “concours competitor”. But that’s of course fine too, and so long that the chassis genuinely is in clean condition and the complete drivetrain in equally good health, then there could potentially be a lot of smiles to be had in this handsome shooting brake – and all for a very modest outlay as well.
For more pictures, here’s a link to the dealer’s website: 1973 Reliant Scimitar GTE
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to email@example.com