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Reliant Scimitar SS1, SST and Scimitar Sabre (1984 - 1994)


In 1978, Reliant looked for a new design as they wanted a smaller 2 seater sports car.  At the time a designer called Tony Stevens had made an open top 2 seater based on the Reliant Kitten chassis.  The car was called the Cipher.  Ritchie Spencer of Reliant decided not to go with the Cipher, but use a design styled by Michelotti.  Sadly Michelotti later died before the full finished details were produced and the design went ahead regardless.  

The design was called the SS1 (small sports 1).  Reliant decided to use pressed plastic panels instead of making the moulds of glass fibre which could be time consuming.  Using a backbone chassis, the pressed panels could be easily bolted directly onto the chassis.  The majority of the panels were made by Dunlop, who used reinforced injection moulded plastic.  Reliant were still using Ford parts and used the 1.3 litre CVH engine in the first SS1's.

Reliant launched the 1300cc SS1 at the NEC's 1984 Motor show.  Reactions to the car varied as there were numerous panel joints which looked like a Lego creation, but Reliant truly believed that the SS1 was an affordable open top sports car for the younger generation.  The 1300cc engine was too slow, so they later sold 1400cc and 1600cc versions of the SS1.  Even though these engines greatly improved the cars and the press enjoyed taking them out for numerous road tests, the looks of the car didn't change, which sadly put people off from even trying the car first (never judge a book by its cover!)

Reliant couldn't do a great deal with the design of the SS1 at the time, but they greatly improved the car by adding a galvanised chassis, alloy wheels and a boot spoiler, however the biggest improvement was made by adopting a little bit more power in the shape of the Nissan Silvia's 1800cc Turbo engine.  This engine made the little SS1 into a very fast road car.  It had a top speed of 126 MPH and did 0 to 60 in less than 7 seconds.  However with the new power plant pushed up the retail price to 10,300 (though, still 1000 cheaper than the Toyota MR2).  Sales of the 1800ti did increase, but sadly were never what Reliant expected.


Reliant approached the British designer William Towns to re-style the SS1 for a possible launch into the American market.  This resulted in the superb looking SS2, but sadly the design was not used; however some of the features of the SS2 were used to re-design the SS1 bodywork, therefore losing its numerous joins. 

The re-designed SS1 was now called the SST (the "T" indicated William Towns work).  The bodywork was made entirely from fibreglass instead of the numerous injection moulding, this meant that Reliant could again make their own shells, which made the cockpit more water tight and quieter.  Although the design was much better than the SS1 body work the early SST's were still criticised for the use of fitted black bumpers.  The black bumpers made the rear of the car look very droopy; however the car was later fitted with colour coded bumpers as in the above photo.  Despite it's looks, the media praised the SST for its road holding and performance.

Scimitar Sabre

In August 1991 Beans Industries bought the Reliant Motor Company, who made one final attempt as redesigning the bodywork of the SST.  The result of which, was now called the " Scimitar Sabre" and the prototype Scimitar Sabre was shown at Earls Court Motor Show in October 1991. Finally launched in July 1992 the Scimitar Sabre had much smoother lines, wider wheel arches, and stylish colour coded bumpers.  Originally Reliant uses the under powered Ford 1400 CVH engine and later planned to use the Rover 1.4 'K' series and the 2.0 'T' series engines, but they dropped the 2.0 litre 'T' and used the Nissan 1.8 turbo charged engine.

Infornation courtesy of Dave Poole at Sporting Reliants

Scimitar SS1

Scimitar SS1

Scimitar SST

Scimitar SST

Scimitar Sabre

Scimitar Sabre

In 1994 Reliant made a few changes to the Scimitar Sabre , such as re-styling the front bumper/lights.  The Reliant Motor Company had finally got the impressive design they deserved; however by the time it had taken the Reliant team to get the design right, competition from other motor companies was too fierce for such a small company and ultimately it saw the end of Reliant sports car manufacturing. Reliant ended their production of any sports cars and tried to concentrate on the 3 wheeler car sales.

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