Model Page

Scimitar GTE

Scimitar GTE

Production Run:

SE5 - 4,311

SE5A - 5,105

SE6 - 543

SE6A - 3,877

SE6B - 437

Total - 14,273

Production Date:

1968 - 1986

Engine:

2,994cc V6 Ford Essex (68 - 79)

2,792cc V6 Ford Cologne (79 - 86)

Built:

Tamworth (UK)

0-60:

8.8 Secs - 10.0 Secs

Max Speed:

119 - 122 Mph

The Scimitar GTE was a two door, four seat sports coupe produced by Reliant cars Scimitar brand. Introduced in 1968 the GTE was powered by a Ford Essex V6 3.0 six cylinder engine and gave sprightly performance with a top speed over around 120 mph. The most popular model in Scimitar’s history the vehicle went through several evolutions namely the SE5, SE5A, SE6, SE6A and finally the 2.8 litre six cylinder SE6B.

Scimitar GTE

Scimitar GTE

Whilst the original Scimitar GT had been successful for Reliant the fact remained that it was only a 2+2 seater, to make the model more appealing to a wider audience Reliant’s board opted to use the Scimitar GT as a base for a four seat variant. In 1967 Reliant turned to Tom Karen and Ogle design to develop the design of the new coupe, Karen would work again with Reliant mainly being responsible for the design of the three wheeled Bond Bug. Karen set about redesigning the GT body shell to accommodate a true four seats he did this quite elegantly by extending the rear of the existing vehicle using a rising roofline, something Karen dubbed as an “extended greenhouse”. A year previously Ogle design had commenced development on two projects the first being an estate version of the Anadol, a car manufactured by Reliant for the Turkish market. The second project resulted in the Ogle Glazing Test Special (Ogle GTS); this was an estate car based on the Scimitar GT featuring a glass roof and was a showcase for the uses of Triplex Safety Glass.

The Scimitar GTE clearly benefited from the lessons learnt in both exercises and shared much of its styling from these vehicles. Peter Bailey, body designer from Ogle Design produced a full sized mock up of the Scimitar GTE used an elongated version of the GT’s chassis. Progression was swift and Ogle built a prototype delivering to Reliant’s HQ in early February of 1968, Reliant specified a few changes such as the replacement of the 15” inch wheels with 14” equivalent and a restyled front nose. The restyled vehicle was put before Ray Wiggin who gave his approval to put the vehicle into full scale production. John Crosthwaite had previously worked for racing legends Cooper, BRM and Lotus, now employed as Chief Engineer at Reliant it was he who elongated the GT chassis for use in the new vehicle – the car being built on a steel backbone chassis with traditional Reliant fibreglass bodywork.

The vehicle was equipped with an advanced suspension setup using a coil over damper double wishbone arrangement taken from the Triumph TR6 utilising unequal length wishbones, a front anti roll bar was installed as standard. At the rear was a Salisbury live axle with longitudinal location rods and six link Watts linkage providing lateral positioning, similar to the front coil springs over dampers were fitted to the rear.

Scimitar Essex V6 Engine Bay

Scimitar Essex V6 Engine Bay

The car was equipped with a four speed manual gearbox, from 1970 a Borg Warner three speed type 35 automatic transmission was made an option and from 1971 a Laycock LH overdrive unit became an option for the four speed gearbox. Braking power was substantial enough thanks to the installation of Servo Assisted 3 pot Girling / Lockheed callipers at the front acting upon 10.6” front discs, 9” drums were fitted to the rear.

Power was delivered to the rear wheels from the Ford Sourced Essex 2,994cc V6 that was fitted to a number of vehicles in their range. The pushrod overhead valve engine was equipped with a Webber 40 DFA-1/38 DGAS Carburettor design was at the time powerful and generated plenty of torque; the lazy V6 was ideally suited to the characteristics of the GTE producing 138 bhp @ 4,750 rpm and 192 lb/ft @ 3,000 rpm.

The interior of the GTE was in the main a carry over from the GT model, the luggage compartment on the car was huge in comparison to its predecessor the space being access by opening the rear window. Reliant was the first to introduce separate folding rear seats creating the large load carrying ability. Optional extras included electric windows, full leather interior and full length Webasto sunroof.

Scimitar Full Leather Interior

Scimitar Full Leather Interior

Full production commenced in October of 1968, the GTE SE5 was released at the Earls Court Motorshow in London in 1968 to a mixed reaction but once journalists actually got to drive the vehicle they were usually impressed with the performance, handling and practicality. Notably the car gained favour with royalty with Princess Anne taking delivery of a GTE SE5 for her 20th Birthday. The SE5 gained a rear windscreen wiper in late 1968 and remained in production until October 1972 by which time 4,311 vehicles had been manufactured making this a very successful car for Reliant and Scimitar.

The Scimitar GTE SE5A was introduced in October of 1972 at this point the left hand drive model was discontinued, essentially the same vehicle the car received a revised moulded plastic dashboard and minor exterior updates.

Reliant wanted to move the car upmarket promoting the vehicle to the lucrative executive market. Introduced in 1975 the GTE SE6 retained a two door estate body shell but the wheelbase was increased by around 4 inches (improving the rear leg room) and the width of the vehicle expanded by a little over 3 inches. The style was revised giving the car an up to the minute style and the car was now equipped with safety bumpers.

The car was not as developed as previous versions and the car suffered from quality issues with water leaks a frequent occurrence, with the increase in weight the handling had also suffered somewhat taking away from the appeal of the original model.

Scimitar GTE SE6

Scimitar GTE SE6

The SE6 was somewhat of a disappointment and only 543 vehicles were manufactured before Scimitar replaced the model with the SE6A. This vehicle had a number of revisions to address the issues with the outgoing model and as such had much improved handling, improved brakes and an attempt was made to resolve the niggling issues with the SE6 – the LHD model was re-introduced at this point. The vehicle remained in production until 1979 when Ford discontinued the Essex V6, 3,877 SE6A’s had rolled off the production line.

The GTE SE6B replaced the SE6, at this point Reliant pulled the Scimitar brand and the car was now marketed as a Reliant. Ford had replaced the 3.0 Essex with the 2.8 V6 Cologne in their range of vehicles, Reliant followed suit and dropped the new engine into the GTE. The Cologne engine was much more free revving than the outgoing Essex but did not generate such a high level of torque, to suit Reliant modified the final drive ratio to compensate, unfortunately very few other changes were introduced and the vehicle became further outdated however in 1981 Reliant did add galvanisation to the chassis increasing longevity. Sales of the SE6B suffered with only 437 examples leaving the production line before the GTE was entirely discontinued in 1986 – the final vehicle being delivered to Princess Anne.

Today the values of the cars do not really reflect the scarcity and quality of the vehicles, poor examples can be purchased for as little as a few hundred pounds with top quality examples realising less than £5,000. Home restorations are a possibility with simple mechanicals but the fibre glass body can suffer from cracks and crazing, restoration of the body requires a high degree of skill and can not always be completed by the home mechanic.