I’ve now been playing my game of Reliant Roulette for more than two months, and I’m thrilled to say that thus far I’m winning! The Scimitar hasn’t tried to take my head off just yet…
Any regular reader of ViaRETRO will know that I had quite a prolonged build up before finally buying my first daily classic driver. When I finally committed, there was a remarkable number of people trying to explain to me how bad an idea it was – not just friends and colleagues who don’t understand the allure of classic cars either, but even people who are clearly quite passionate classic car owners. It would apparently be unreliable, leave me stranded at the roadside, cost me a fortune to run, and some even went as far as claiming that driving a classic car every day would eventually dilute the special sensation we experience when we jump behind the wheel of our favourite classic on a beautiful sunny Sunday. The warnings only intensified when I revealed that I was considering a 41 year old British fibreglass classic produced in fairly small numbers. According to some, this game of roulette was doomed.
However, I stuck to my dream and have now been driving my 1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE SE6a for more than 2 months, and I’ve managed to add a not unsubstantial 4,000 miles to the odometer in that time. As such, I think it’s high time for an update on the experience…
Well, the short version could simply be: The Scimitar has been good as gold and I’m thoroughly loving it! But there’s of course more to it than that. Admitted, I’ve sunk a fair amount of cash into my Scimitar during my short ownership. But as I’ve always been a very strong believer of preventative maintenance, it’s all been pre-planned and deliberate rather than last second bodges to keep it on the road. Being a daily driver, I first wanted to ensure that I could safely carry my whole family in the Reliant, and thus booked it in with Quickfit for new three-point inertia seatbelts to be fitted at all four seats.
Next on the cards was a thorough service just as the suspension needed a bit of attention too – especially the rear shock absorbers which were in dire need of retirement. In a rare moment of clarity, I realised that much as I enjoy working on my classic cars, I just didn’t have the spare time at the moment to do so. I’ve also always been happy to admit that I don’t possess the spannering skills of an engineer or mechanic, and I would of course be working on a car which I frankly had zero previous experience of. So I bit the bullet and booked my Reliant in with renown Scimitar specialist Graham Walker in Chester. They have after all been selling and repairing Scimitars since the 1970s, so they have the required spares in stock and no doubt also the knowledge to make my Scimitar as reliable, comfortable and fun as I want it.
Their customer service was great all throughout as they took in my Scimitar on very short notice, with me needing it ready for a roadtrip I was planning. The mandatory service was seen to with all fresh fluids, filters, spark plugs, fan belt, and two new valve cover gaskets for good measure as the left bank was weeping just a little. Then I possibly went a little overboard when we got to the suspension. I could have probably settled for just installing two new rear shock absorbers, but I’ve always really valued a well set-up suspension, as I find it such a fundamental part of enjoying a classic car out on the road, so off we went in a frenzy of new parts. New adjustable AVO shock absorbers at every corner, new front springs (the rears really were good as new), every rubber bushing in the rear suspension swapped for a new one, several swapped on the front axle too, and after a proper wheel alignment, I must say the difference – both in terms of comfort and not least handling – was significant. Then the rear hatch was treated to a new rubber seal, and finally, they swapped in a new seat diaphragm in the driver’s seat, which really was quite a revelation for my buttocks.
Graham Walker finished the work just in time for a roadtrip I had been planning with my family. I had already driven my Scimitar from the Peak District and down to Bicester Heritage for their Winter Sunday Scramble and later also down to London when it went in with Quickfit. But this next trip was to truly test its touring capabilities and not least reliability. We needed to get back to Denmark for a 70th birthday and generally just to visit family and we had nine days for the roundtrip – seemed a perfect excuse for a roadtrip! My wife and two daughters were instructed to pack light, we loaded up the Reliant and set off for the Harwich night ferry which would spit us out again down at Hook of Holland the next morning. From there it was up through the Netherlands, northern Germany and into Denmark. A very comfortable 85mph / 135km/h on the German Autobahn translated into a mere 2900rpm with the Essex V6 barely ticking over, and our trusty steed paid back our confidence in it by not missing a beat at any point on the roadtrip. I of course knew I would enjoy the roadtrip, but to my great relief, both Mrs. Bilidt and the kids enjoyed the Reliant too, and found it amusing that every pitstop took significantly longer than planned as there would always be someone come over to ask about this rare and peculiar British shooting brake. Some thought it was a Jensen while others guessed Jaguar – the Scimitar clearly isn’t very well known outside of Blighty.
By the time we all got back home to the High Peak in the UK, the Scimitar had covered an impressive 2,000 miles and a smidgen without fault. She had consumed only about half a litre of 20W/50 engine oil on the roundtrip, lost a little bit of coolant (it’s not mixing with the engine oil though, so I’m not too worried…), and averaged a very acceptable 24mpg / 10km/l. More importantly, she had made the trip an absolute delight as there was a real sense of occasion travelling by classic car. I believe even Mrs. Bilidt and our kids bonded with the Scimitar.
So to all you non-believers out there – rest assured, there is still reason to have faith in the many virtues of our various classic cars…