Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Reliant Scimitar GTE

Back in 1968 choosing a car usually meant making some sort of compromise. If you wanted sporty performance it usually meant either losing out on practicality or opting for one of the sports saloons derived from the bog standard mass-produced saloon cars. Good cars, but hardly the sort of thing to set you apart from the crowd.

If you wanted a four seater with good load lugging capabilities it usually meant losing out on performance with a barge like estate car. Then a manufacturer renowned for making appalling little plastic three wheelers came up with a whole new concept - the high performance estate.

Reliant released the Ogle designed Scimitar GTE (Grand Touring Estate) in 1968. With a 3 litre V6 Ford engine giving the car 120 mph performance, a sub 10 second 0-60 time, four seats and the carrying capacity of an estate car, the GTE was something of a revelation.

Despite being in production in various forms for 18 years, the Scimitar never really achieved the recognition it deserved, thanks in part to the relatively small numbers Reliant could build, but also thanks to the arrival a year after it's launch of the saloon derived coupe in the form of the Ford Capri which was to dominate the market throughout the seventies until the arrival of the hot hatch ultimately signalled the demise of the coupe.

Even so, the Scimitar was good enough to encourage other manufacturers to copy the format - notably Volvo with the P1800ES and Lancia with the Beta HPE - and thanks to it's GRP body, it didn't rust away as quickly as the latter of those cars.

Reliant released a conventional convertible, the GTC, towards the end of its life and one of the last cars off the production found a royal home with Princess Anne. The GTE was an underrated car and is, today, largely forgotten - which is a shame. It deserved better.

My personal memory of the GTE comes from the mid eighties when myself and a couple of friends took one on a camping trip to the Lake District. The trip was a washout and the journey was made almost unbearable by the fact that the car was fitted with an 8 track - and we only had one cartridge of Barry bloody White which the owner insisted on playing over and over and over again.

Despite all that, the car was a comfortable, reliable and refined companion for the whole weekend. It was also a lot drier, warmer and more comfortable to sleep in than a tent!


Henry North London said...

My neighbour had one for years in British racing green. It was finally sold and I must say I missed its presence when it finally went even though I had never seen it move.

Anonymous said...

In love with this car since when i was thirteen. Its looks just stand out. Now twentynine still haven`t got the money for it!