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Reliant Scimitar GTE and Scimitar GTC  (1968 - 1986)


In 1967 Ray Wiggin looked at the possibility of extending the Scimitar GT to make it a true four seater.  Mr.Wiggin turned to Tom Karen of Ogle Design Ltd to come up with some ideas.  Tom Karen came up with the idea of extending the rear of Scimitar GT Coupe body shell and using a rising waistline/roofline (what Tom called an extended greenhouse) and before long he set about redesigning an existing Scimitar GT bodyshell to accommodate two separate rear seats.

Ogle Design's body designer "Peter Bailey" soon came up with a mock-up of the proposed GTE.  The body work had to be lengthened and the Scimitar GT chassis was elongated (hence the longer wheelbase). Ogle Design Ltd built a prototype of the proposed Scimitar GTE at their headquarters in Letchworth when it was then driven to Reliant in Tamworth for evaluation in February 1968. 

Apart from a few changes which included restyling the front nose/grill setup, fitting 14" wheels and modifying the rear ventilation; the car remained basically the same and Ray Wiggin made the bold decision to give the go ahead for the Scimitar GTE to go from a prototype stage to full scale production at the Reliant Motor Company.  Chief engineer John Crosthwaite (ex-BRM, Cooper and Lotus engineer) was employed by Reliant and his specialty was used to design a chassis suitable for he GTE as opposed to elongating the existing GT chassis's.  

By October 1968 the new Scimitar GTE was in full production. Reliant had their new Ogle designed Scimitar GTE (Grand Touring Estate) on display at the London motor show in 1968.  The Scimitar GTE was a very innovative design, but feedback on the design varied from the press who either loved it or hated it. The GTE interior was virtually identical to the GT model, but it had individual fitted rear seats that could be folded completely flat to increase the luggage compartment.  The luggage area was accessible by opening the rear window hatch. 

Another clever idea Reliant used was the rear arm rest, which was situated between the two rear seats and could hinge forward when the seats were folded flat to stop any luggage sliding forward into the cockpit area.  Journalists soon became quite impressed with the Scimitar GTE when they took it out on road tests.  There was no other production car like it at the time that offered high cruising speeds, enough room for four adults and have luggage space too.  The GTE still retained the Ford 3 litre Essex engine which had 138 BHP from the Scimitar GT, giving the car a top speed of 120 M.P.H.  With a four speed box with LH type Laycock overdrive unit the car was a pleasure the drive.  Later developments included an Automatic Borg & Warner and after a number of complaints from the press saying how dirty the rear screen got, Reliant quickly reacted by fitting of a rear screen wash/wiper (another Reliant first).

The Scimitar GTE was also a favorable mode of transport for Princess Anne, who had her first one for her 20th Birthday and has had another 8 GTE's since (and currently owns a Middlebridge Scimitar).  It offered Princess Anne high speed motoring (as she famously found out by getting caught speeding in it) and had plenty of room for the Princess's horse riding equipment.


In October 1971 Reliant gave the Scimitar GTE SE5 a facelift and it was now termed the "SE5a". The facelift included a slightly higher nose cone which raised the height of the front lights, a new one piece chrome dummy grille, "Scimitar Shield Logo" badges on the side of the front wings instead of the "3 Litre" badges, bolder Scimitar GTE lettering, polished sill strips, new rear lights with integral reversing lights and new door handles. The interior was also changed; a new ABS plastic fascia was fitted with new rocker switches instead of the older style toggle switches.  Warning lights were fitted in the instrument panel which indicated "radiator cooling fan", "low disc brake pad level", "brake fluid level" and "low fuel". Other additions included automatic windows, foot well vents (to supply much needed cool air into the foot wells during summer) and a tonneau cover was now available to hide your tools in the rear compartment.  Dunlop composite wheels were an optional extra as seen in the above picture.  The engine was marginally improved.  The inlet manifold had been changed from "O" port to "D" port which improved BHP from 138 to 145 and the carburettor was changed to give to car a top speed of 125 MPH.

Infornation courtesy of Dave Poole at Sporting Reliants

Scimitar GTE SE5

Scimitar GTE (SE5)

Scimitar GTE SE6

Scimitar GTE (SE6)

Scimitar GTC SE8b

Scimitar GTC (SE8b)


In response to criticism of cramped interior space, Reliant introduced their latest version of the GTE in late 1975, with the first models available for sale in 1976.  The new GTE was now called the SE6.  Although keeping the famous styling of the SE5 series, the SE6 was totally redesigned.  The body was approx. 4" longer and 3" wider.  This gave a much needed increase in interior space, with extra legroom and elbow room.  Externally the car could be recognised by its larger headlights, rubber bumpers and the removal of the quarter light windows.  The interior was completely redesigned, which was more luxurious using nylon seats with leather cloth and now enabled Reliant to explore additional buyers, namely the executive market. 

The car was originally criticised due to its softer handling, resulting from modified suspension and chassis.  However the car was more civilised and had a much smoother ride, which was better for long distance touring.  The car also came with the option of having power steering and composite alloy wheels.


In late 1976 the SE6a was introduced as a result of the much criticism by the press and public.  This revised model was virtually identical externally, but now included some improvements to brakes, now fitted with Lockheed instead of Girling.  The chassis was stiffer and suspension settings were modified to improved handling.  The car continued in production with minor revisions until 1980.
Optional extras now included alloy Wolfrace wheels.  


In 1980 the SE6B was introduced.  Ford had withdrawn the aging V6 Essex engine and had replaced it with the German built 2.8 litre cologne engine.  Due to the lower torque on the cologne engine, Reliant had to change the rear axle with a lower ratio to compensate for the lack of performance. The GTE is a successful combination of performance and practicality for both business and social needs.  There were now electric mirrors and intermittent wipers, rubber door strips fitted, seatbelt warning light, halogen lights and rear fog lights warning light.  The interior had new coverings and colours including black, chocolate or mushroom.  The luggage space is a good 20 cubic feet, but with both the individual rear seats folded down, this would increase to 40 cubic feet!

The badging on the front of the car was now just a Scimitar shield fitted to the dummy grill.  There was also an option to have an electric sunroof fitted. From 1981 SE6b's were made using a galvanised chassis to ensure the longevity of these wonderful cars.

GTC - SE8b

In 1978, Reliant started working on a prototype convertible Scimitar, based on the design of the Triumph Stag.  The soft top was farmed out to the Coventry Hood Company, who used highest quality German Happich material instead of cheaper vinyl which was traditionally used in most two seater sports cars.  The seating was the same as a normal GTE, which meant that the rear seats could be folded down so larger items could be put into the boot.
It was 1980 before the Scimitar GTC was sold to the public. Although an option, most GTC's were fitted with Wolfrace wheels, power steering, electric windows, electric aerial and people had to ask for the power steering to be removed to reduce the price.  This car was termed the SE8b and was available for 11,360. The Scimitar was good value for money and was compared with the Mercedes 280SL, which was 6,000 dearer. Optional extras included a hardtop fitted with rear screen heater. Production of the GTC finally halted in November 1986.

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