In a forum like this and among fellow classic car enthusiasts, there will always be a suitable appreciation of all which is old and nostalgic. We prefer old technology over the new and traditional design over cutting-edge. Yet every so often, even we need to acknowledge that there are certain aspects where new undeniably is better in every respect. Now before you scoff and turn your eyes up at me, how about when it has to do with safety – and not just that, but the safety of the ones you love and hold dearest in your life?
We at ViaRETRO always advocate driving and using our classic cars as they were intended all those years ago when they were first introduced to the road. But in doing so, we still need to stay safe, and acknowledge that both passive and active safety has come a long way since the cars we enjoy were first manufactured. Now we’re clearly not going to re-engineer a MG Midget with highly advanced crash zones or retrofit all sorts high-tech active stability and traction controls into a Porsche 356. But what we can do, is at least ensure that we’re held safely in place in our seat, in the unlikely event that things actually go really wrong. And terrible as it is to think about, sometimes it does – as I witnessed just last year behind the wheel of my Green Devil.
Well, less than two months ago I purchased my 1978 Reliant Scimitar with the intention of using it as my all-year-round daily driver. Needless to say, as a daily the Scimitar will be making school runs and all sorts of trips with the whole family aboard. In fact, as you’re reading this, my 41 year old fibreglass Brit should have hopefully succeeded in transporting my two daughters, my wife and myself on an 800 mile drive back to see family in Denmark, and should soon enough be taking on the return trip as well. So clearly, the two factory-installed static lap belts in the rear seat were never going to suffice.
I suppose I could have bought two cheap three-point seatbelts off eBay and attempted installing them myself. It would have no doubt been better than the old lap belts. But it’s the safety of my two daughters which is at stake, so I quickly decided that this wasn’t the time to go cheap. Instead I contacted the pros for help.
Quickfit Safety Belt Service are located in Stanmore just northwest of London. And yes, if we’re talking quality retro-fitting of seatbelts, they are indeed the pro’s! The company was established as far back as the very early 1960s, and the family owned company has been fitting seatbelts in cars and commercial vehicles ever since. During the 1980s they started getting involved with producing seatbelts which looked authentic for classic cars, and especially for the past 15 years or so this has evolved into being their main expertise. Now Quickfit has well in excess of 100 classic cars through their workshop every year, being kitted out with retro-looking seatbelts which comply fully with modern standards. They’ll do anything from merely rewebbing your old seatbelts to installing brand new ones with all fittings made to suit a classic car. This was precisely what I wanted for my Scimitar – and for not least for my daughters.
So I left my Scimitar with Quickfit for a handful of days, and I must say their workmanship left me rather impressed. On a SE6 Scimitar there is in fact anchor points built into the C-pillar for a three-point rear seatbelt, so this was obviously used as the top mounting point. But it’s a 41 year old fibreglass shell, and who actually knows just how strong that top anchor point really is? After all, a brand new three-point seatbelt won’t do you much good if it’s merely ripped out of its sockets when the going gets tough. Furthermore, a Scimitar was never intended to have inertia reels for the rear seat, so suitable fixtures needed to be created for them too. To solve all of this, the chaps at Quickfit fabricated a heavy-duty steel frame for either side, which both span much of the boot floor where the body attaches to the chassis, but then also works its way up the C-pillar thus reinforcing that factory top anchor point. The lower portion of the frame then holds the actual inertia reel which is neatly tucked away within the original cubbyholes either side of the boot floor. It’s quite a piece of work and, at least to my eye, it appears hugely over-engineered. But that is of course a good thing!
Framework fitted to the Scimitar and rear seatbelts ready to install.
Together with Pawel from Quickfit the decision was made to use a light beige webbing for the belts which would nicely complement the two-tone tan interior. The icing on the cake are the discrete chromed fittings which make the whole set-up look as if it’s a factory-fitted job. Finally, we also agreed that the 41 year old webbing of the front seatbelts might not be as strong any longer as one would like it to be. So Quickfit treated my front seatbelts to new webbing which was then obviously made in the same light beige to suit the new rear belts. Not only am I now confident that rear seat passengers can now travel with me safely, but it even looks amazing too. You can learn more about Quickfit Safety Belt Service on their website: www.quickfitsbs.com
The final result adds both safety and style.
The whole shooting brake concept is all about making a low and wide GT car a little more practical and functional. Well, now that my Scimitar has proper seatbelts for all four occupants, I can fully access all that practicality and functionality. I now own not just a classic car which I can use every day, but one which all of my family can use. Bring on the many joys of a family-friendly classic…