Most people see Reliant as the makers of comedy cars, such as the Trotters 3 wheeled van or in the seventies the ‘plastic pig’ but the truth of the matter was these small economical runabouts helped with the foundations of a very successful company. The Reliant Scimitar was launched in 1964 in its original form it started life with the same chassis as Daimlers Dart but Reliant soon bought the overall rights and started producing the Scimitar using the Reliant Sabre running gear and a brand new steel chassis.
The Scimitar GTE came in 1968 as the SE5 was born with a longer all new chassis together with revised and improved suspension. This new Scimitar was constructed as a sporting estate car and proved highly successful. Designed by Ogle’s Tom Karen the SE5 was powered by a Ford 3.0 litre V6 engine so performance was good with close to 140 bhp under the bonnet and the body styling was so well received other manufacturers raced to produce their own versions such as Volvo’s P1800ES and Lancia’s Beta HPE.
The GTE SE5 was an instant success for Reliant with production increasing by 20% in the first year, power and performance continued to improve over the next two years and in 1972 the SE5A was introduced with performance statistics being much better with a top speed of over 120 mph and 0-60mph times a staggering 8.5 seconds.
Early SE5’s are nearly fifty years old so you have to expect some signs of aging. The body work is pretty forgiving as it doesn’t rot like metal but beware as the SE5 has metal reinforcement in the body shell and this can rot causing splits and cracks in the body. Anything wrong with the body can be repaired it just takes time and money. If the car is left without regular upkeep the chassis will eventually rot so check around the radiator and the front suspension mounting brackets for signs as well as out riggers and the B pillars where the roll bar is fitted to the chassis as this is a rust prone spot. Also the rear chassis can rust so check around the fuel tank.
Front suspension is double wishbone and mounted in rubber which eventually will perish or wear so check this. Front and rear suspension requires regular greasing. The Essex V6 is a strong engine and may only need a rebuild at around 150,000 miles with oil pressure around 50 Ib psi but never over 75 Ib psi, the car should idle at 10 lb psi. Clutches are hydraulic and have no specific problems but check for signs of wear, rattles and slips. When it comes to electrics modern replacements are much better than original factory spec so check for wiring looms with cracked coatings and also corroded contacts.
Check windows for water leaks and carpets for that matter, interior panels can crack if overexposed to sun light.
Princess Anne was given a manual overdrive SE5 as a joint 20th birthday and Christmas present in November 1970 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It was Air Force blue in colour with a grey leather interior and registered 1420 H in recognition of her position as Colonel-in-Chief of the 14th/20th Hussars. Princess Anne subsequently owned eight other GTEs.
Mark Wilkinson, Managing Director Says:
“The Reliant Scimitar GTE was a bold look back in 1968 and took off with many similar sporting estates copying its design. When it comes to car manufacture, Britain was indeed innovators ruling the World with its design and engineering attributes.”