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2019. A new year. New adventures. And this will be the year where I can again start to enjoy every drive, even on what would have otherwise been a boring daily commute. That’s the theory anyway, and I shall be putting it to the test out in the cruel and harsh world of gritted winter roads, potholes and roadworks, commuting traffic and modern hybrid crossovers – even if it is a bit of a gamble.

Admitted, I’ve been rambling on about the concept of a daily classic for long enough now. First I complained about the boring commute in Bring ‘Fun’ Back into the Commute, and then continued to moan about not being able to find the right classic / youngtimer for the job in The Passionate Sunday Drive – on a Daily Basis. I know my colleagues here on ViaRETRO were starting to tire, and I’m sure that applies to our dear readers too. In reality, my 16 year old BMW 330Ci Sport was really a lovely and highly accomplished motor car in every perceivable way. I would genuinely recommend one to anyone who might bother asking my advice. But for me personally, it just lacked that difficult-to-define classic car charm. It’s not that I was seeking the ultimate driving experience as part of my commute. That would just be plain naïve, as I’m sure no one today commutes in a Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 or a Lotus Elan Sprint. No, I was merely seeking the physical and mechanical sensation of actually driving a car. Something which any classic will give the driver, more than will a modern car where you are cocooned from the whole experience.

So I’ve finally taken the plunge! Not to beat around the bush any longer, I took Claus’s advice to Treat Yourself, and gifted myself a Christmas present in the form of a 1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE SE6a. Not just that, but it’s brown! Well, a handsome maroonish-brown metallic, but that’s still brown to me. It’s the first brown car I have owned, and I’m well and truly excited about it. After all, we all know that few things in life manage to be cooler than a brown classic – let alone a brown Scimitar. And as if that isn’t enough, the interior is two-tone brown with velour seats adorned by Chesterfield-sofa-aping buttons. The whole seventies vibe has just about spun out of control, and I’m now looking forward to finding some Blondie, Fleetwood Mac and Status Quo cassette tapes to complete the illusion. I’m growing my sideburns too…

There can obviously be no discussion whether the Scimitar is a fabulous classic car – that goes without saying. But will it work as an all-year-round daily classic? Well, that one is probably up to discussion. I’ve presented my experiment to a few of my closest friend before publishing this introduction of the latest addition to my garage, and I’ve been met with a wide variety of reactions. Most loved it. Others were mildly sceptical. And a few simply rolled their eyes at me and proclaimed that this time I truly had lost my mind. A 41 year old, British, seventies, low-volume, fibreglass car as a daily? Sheer insanity said some. But is it? Now hear me out: I’m fairly certain that very few Scimitars were purchased brand new to live the life of a pampered fair weather driver. Most were no doubt pressed into daily action, and I’m equally certain that most would have dealt with this perfectly fine. Well, if the Scimitar could handle it 40-odd years ago, then why shouldn’t it handle it today? If something brakes or fails, clearly that particular part was no longer up to standards and needed replacing anyway. Which is what I’ll do, and then the Scimitar should arguably get on with its daily duties.

Some 40 years ago, the average family of four (or even five!) would quite happily get snug inside a Mini or a Fiat 600 and then proceed to drive the length of Europe to get to their holiday destination. In today’s modern world, people get rather lightheaded from just the suggestion. Just as they do from imagining a Reliant Scimitar being used as a daily car. But I maintain, if we could do it 40 years ago, surely we can still do it today as well. Famous last words

But it’s really a very tidy, original and unmolested Scimitar. Not concours of course, but who would ever want to drive a concours classic car through the winter? After all, that would physically hurt! But I’m only the sixth owner, and I really must thank the previous five for its beautiful condition. There’s only 47,000 miles on the clock, and while not 100% documented, there’s enough in there to make it very believable. The first owner kept the Scimitar for all of 24 years, having only covered a mere 12,000 miles by the time he sold it in 2002. The next three owners continued the trend of not driving it much, so when Rory (the fifth owner who I have purchased the Scimitar from) bought the Reliant in 2013, only another 10,000 miles had been added. Rory then took to driving the Scimitar as it was intended, racking up more miles in his five and a half years of ownership than had been accumulated in the cars first 35 years combined! Still, at 47,000 miles the stock 3-litre Essex V6 and 4-speed manual transmission with overdrive on third and fourth should have heaps of mileage left in them.

What I can see of the chassis looks very sound and rustfree. The fibreglass bodywork – while not flawless by any stretch of the imagination – certainly presents very decent indeed, after the third owner (a professional car painter) treated the Scimitar to a fresh coat of brown in 2005. At least I won’t have to worry about crusty wheel arches and door bottoms after driving my fibreglass classic through a couple of winters. My Scimitar has also been subtly upgraded with a few discreet and highly sensible modifications, such as an auxiliary Kenlowe fan, electronic ignition, a stainless steel exhaust, and very recently a new stainless steel fuel tank as well. Rory fitted new headlights too and the front suspension has been partially refurbished only some months ago. More importantly, Rory has taken the Scimitar on some great drives during his five years of ownership, including an amazing 500 mile, nine hour, non-stop run from Didsbury to John O’Groats just last summer – proof if any were needed, that this Scimitar is well sorted and ready to pile on more miles during my ownership. I’m ready to be proven wrong – in the meantime, I now look forward to every drive ahead of me.

Is my game of Reliant Roulette too much of a gamble? Will this seventies British shooting brake fail me miserably? Or will I from now on cruise to and from work in a bubble of seventies cool and classic car bliss? What say our ViaRETRO readers? Stay tuned as I report on how this gamble plays out for me during 2019…

 

 

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18 Responses

  1. YrHmblHst
    “what say our ViaRetro readers?” THIS ViaRetro reader says not only ‘cool!’ , but also ‘thats maroon my friend’ [the interior is brown] as well as ‘sideburns are VERY manly and absolutely essential whilst piloting a cool car, so get to it.’
    So there.
    Reply
  2. Claus Ebberfeld
    A warmhearted congratulation here from a fellow Scimitar SE6a-owner, Anders.

    As I think I commented on your earlier speculations I really don’t think there’s much difference between the reliability of different cars from the late Seventies as such – assuming most will have had some work done over the years, whether real restoration work or simply maintenance, I always think it’s more a question of that work than how the cars left the factory originally. And it seems your Scimitar has been in good hands.

    My own Scimitar has stranded me once, when a cooling hose burst – the one hose that I had NOT changed (because the one supplied in my new hose kit didn’t fit…), of course. No fault of the car as such, of course. Ohh, and then there were misfires on the maiden run on holiday in France back in 2015 – that grew worse until the engine stopped completely: A wire in the distributor had worked loose. With that attached roadside we were soon on our way again. Had it happened on the way to work I would have been late!

    Regarding the Scimitar GTE in general I am of course a huge fan of the concept: Grand Touring Estate is exactly what it is and I love the way mine drives, sounds and looks. Mine is a keeper and I am looking forward to hearing what yours will be.

    Well, and regarding the looks…the worst thing about your purchase? Judging from the photos and your description your Scimitar will make mine look scruffy!

    Reply
  3. GTeglman
    Huge congratulations, and happy New Year, Anders.

    Although it is not a car of my immediate taste, I still find it cool. The exterior color is amazing and the fine brown interior also looks really appetizing and not at all worn.
    The car seems to be very well maintained and in good shape. Along with the modifications made, I believe you’ll have a trouble free daily drive all year long, and it’ll be no gamble at all.

    If you really wish to play “reliability roulette” with bullets in all six chambers you can always flip it for a Bagheera or a Montecarlo ;-)))

    Cheers my friend.

    \Anders

    Reply
  4. Paul
    Looks beautiful Anders, looking forward to seeing it at the shows. Drive and enjoy as I know you will buddy
    Reply
  5. Ole Wichmann
    Hi Anders, Congratulations, that is a cool car, I wouldn’t mind driving myself. I actually saw a project in Denmark for 10,000 dkr over christmas, and for a splitsecond considered it.
    But I am sad to have to dissappoint you, Maroon is not Brown, it is more purple. My Triumph TR7 Convertible was maroon, and it was more purple. Look at your own photos!
    But it is a lovely car, and I can’t wait to hear your experiences with it as a Daily driver…
    Reply
  6. PAUL HILL
    Now I have the Scimitar on the radar. Thank you Anders! The bloody things are everywhere. I saw half a dozen scattered around the Brooklands New Years Day Event. I can’t seem to get the smell of an old fish tank out of my nostrils recalling a rough one a friend had in my youth. Due to a leaky back window I think. I too have had thoughts of trading my most reliable comfy, heated seated, air conditioned 19 year old Honda Prelude in for something older as I’m finding all these modern touches very unnatural. I’ve been swinging between ‘hot engined’ Riley Elf’s and Morris Oxfords but what I should really do is keep the ‘daily Honda’ and concentrate on the cars I already have, but that’s way too sensible right?
    Reply
  7. Anders Bilidt
    Dear Gentlemen,
    Thank you for all your enthusiastic and supportive comments!

    and , oh, please don’t ruin the illusion for me. Of course there’s an element of brown to my apparently maroon Scimitar… ;-) Well, if it’s maroon, then that works fine for me too. And if I can even claim that there might be a bit of purple in there, then that’s cool too as I haven’t owned a purple car since selling my Lilac metallic Sunbeam Imp Sport some 14 years ago…

    , like you, I too am a big fan of the Scimitar. To be honest, I have been ever since the first time I saw one. It’s a fab design, and I’ve long envied you for your yellow example. I know there’s about a days worth of driving between us, but we really ought to get the two ViaRETRO Scimitars together for a photoshoot! :-)

    @gteglman, hehehe… somehow I just knew you were going to slide in a comment of some sort about the Bagheera and Montecarlo. I’m glad at least that you seem to rate my Scimitar higher than both of those.

    , I’m sure we’ll meet at a show some time soon.

    @paul-hill, hopefully I’ll manage to keep my Scimitar fish-tank-free despite all-year-round use! Please don’t go all sensible on us Paul – live life a little. I’ve you’re thinking Riley, may I instead suggest a Riley One-Point-Five period-correct hopped-up engine and wide steel wheels. It would suit you down to a tee Sir

    Reply
  8. GTeglman
    Trust me, I rate your Scimitar much much higher, and I think you have made a excellent buy.

    After a lot of thoughts I can also reveal precisely what bugs me. It is the
    Wolfrace alloys. They might be original, but IMHO they are too rough and US’ish.
    I have studied pictures of Scimitars with Minilite wheels, and damn I think that combo makes it a killer shooting break.

    \Anders

    Reply
  9. Anders Bilidt
    @tony-wawryk, okay, so now it’s neither brown, maroon or purple – it’s apparently plum…
    :-D Well, regardless what we decide to call the colour, I just think it looks great on the Scimitar…

    @gteglman, I know that this design of alloy wheel was also quite popular in the Us, but Wolfrace alloy wheels were in fact produced in the UK. Besides being the factory option on Scimitars, they were also popular aftermarket wheels up through the seventies for a wide variety of British cars such as early Capri’s, Stag’s and MGB’s. Personally, I really like them. Still, I can’t deny my period-alloy-wheel-fetish, so yes I may one day try a different set of wheels on my Scimitar. If I do though, I doubt it’ll be Minilites. Much rather the period MAG alloys which were made famous by Princess Anne having them on her Scimitar…

    Reply
  10. Dave Leadbetter
    I knew you’d been eyeing up my sideburns… I didn’t realise you’d go this far…
    Reply
  11. GTeglman
    I know the Wolfrace alloys where a popular choice for a lot of 70′ cars, but I still think they lack elegance, but thanks for the free fact that they actually are a UK product.

    The MAG alloys are bang on the right ones for your Sicmitar ! To hell with Wolfrace (and the Minilites).

    Reply
  12. Anders Bilidt
    , I bow my head honour and acknowledge that my sideburns will never be able to match yours…

    @gteglman, right now there are more important projects I want to sort on the Scimitar – such as rust-proofing the chassis and installing three-point seatbelts for the rear seat. But I certainly won’t rule out that my Scimitar could very well end up wearing MAG alloys one day. ;-)

    Reply
  13. Mike foley
    Looks cool always loved the scimitar. Anders welcome to the fibreglass gang – I collect my gilbern gt tomorrow from the chassis restoration man. cheers Mike
    Reply
  14. Anders Bilidt
    Thx @mike-foley! :-) Even if the Scimitar isn’t my first fibreglass car… Remember, I also have the Rochdale Olympic. However, the Scimitar is of course my first fully functioning and usable fibreglass car, as it’ll no doubt still be a fair while until the Rochdale will move under its own power.
    Sounds exciting with your Gilbern project coming on nicely. I look forward to seeing it in the flesh…
    Reply
  15. Tony Wawryk
    there was a smart blue Gilbern GT at Brooklands on NYD, maybe you saw it in the piece we ran on the event? Good luck with yours, perhaps we’ll see it at an event later this year!
    Reply
  16. Anders Bilidt
    I can report that my game of Reliant Roulette played out to my advantage last Sunday.
    A roundtrip of almost 360 miles to the Sunday Scramble at Bicester Heritage and then back home were covered in sublime Grand Tourer comfort, while the Scimitar simply got on with the job and didn’t miss a beat in the process. I was well impressed with its performance which bodes well for its future as a daily driven classic car…
    Reply

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