Space, pace, but maybe not that much grace. Not that it’s put anyone off. Sporting three-door estates aren’t easy to come by – but this is one of the best.
Born from the mad designs of the styling house Ogle, the Reliant Scimitar GTE was always going to have a curious life.
The blend of practicality and sporting appeal that makes the Scimitar such a useable and entertaining classic made it instantly desirable, while behind the wheel was a throbbing V6.
The smooth and torquey ‘Essex’ V6 engine that nestles in the nose had a decent turn of speed and relaxed cruising ability. The Cologne V6 made its way into the car in 1979, providing even more pace.
Grunt from either of the V6s is heart-poundingly fun when the mood strikes. The chassis is balanced, but plenty of wayward action can be had. The four-speed manual ‘box – especially with overdrive – makes the best of the power on offer though so that’s the one to go for if you prefer a more sporting and involving drive.
Being an estate, there’s plenty of space too. Passengers have loads of room, as does the luggage. Considering the room, practicality, and comfort on offer, the Scimitar is almost criminally undervalued. But that’s good news for buyers, and as long as you check the condition of the bodywork and interior there’s little to fear with this sporting estate. With such an appealing blend of attributes we like it a lot. You will, too.
TORQUE 152lb ft@3000pm
MAXIMUM SPEED 110mph
FUEL CONSUMPTION 21mpg
TRANSMISSION RWD, four-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
V6 V GOOD
Ford’s Essex V6 was used in the SE5, SE5A, SE6 and SE6A. It’s durable with regular maintenance so you’re really just looking for signs of neglect. Check for oil leaks, excessive exhaust smoke, and evidence of head gasket failure, and ensure the cooling system is up to scratch. And expect oil pressure of at least 40psi when warm – anything less could point to a worn oil pump drive. The fibre timing wheel was a weak point and most have been replaced with an aluminium item by now, but it’s worth checking, and don’t worry about tales of engine fires; it was a carburettor issue cured years ago, and as long as the fuel inlet pipe at the carb is secure – later ones were modified – it’ll be fine. In 1979, the new SE6B used the German-built Ford ‘Cologne’ 2.8-litre V6. These are generally reliable – and can see off more than 150,000 miles easily. Don’t worry about a rough idle – it’s pretty normal. Do worry about blue smoke.
Chassis rot is prevalent in these cars, as the chassis wasn’t galvanised. Examine the main chassis rails and outriggers, the seat belt mounting points, and around the fuel tank (including the tank itself) although the latter is hard to access completely with the tank in place. The roll-over bar running across the car and bolting to the central outriggers is another rust trap so check it thoroughly, and you should also pay attention to the area beneath the radiator and the spare wheel well in the nose.
Good news – the glassfibre construction means there’s no panel rust to worry about. Metal strengthening inserts in the SE5 shell can corrode and lead to cracks though. Every panel needs a thorough examination for cracks and grazing - concentrating on stress points such as hinges. It’s important to remember to check the paintwork thoroughly - a full re-spray is trickier and more costly than with a steel body. Watch for signs of micro-blistering, and ensure that a previous re-spray hasn’t been done to cover damage. Parts availability is generally good, but items such as window rubbers, rear bumpers on the ‘5’, and rear light units (shared with the Hillman Hunter) are scarce. You can spot a 5a by the reversing lamps incorporated in the light cluster rather than below the rear bumper.
Trunnions need greasing every six months to avoid excess wear. Worn bushes can be an issue too and while not difficult to sort it will be labour-intensive. Generally though, the steering and brakes present few worries other than wear and tear and parts are cheap, but the suspension needs more careful checking. Remember to check the mounting points for corrosion as well.
The Borg Warner 35 automatic added from 1970 should be smooth-shifting but may be in need of a re-build by now so budget accordingly if shifts are jerky. The 4-speed manual ‘box can suffer from crunchy shifts and jumping out of gear. Overdrive was added from ’71 and improves cruising ability but check it cuts in and out as it should, and check for leaks in the clutch hydraulics.
Interiors can get pricey – so condition is another important factor so check it carefully. A full carpet set can cost £264 alone. Ensure minor trim parts are present and correct and check the electrics too as poor earths and aged wiring cause a multitude of niggling problems, although the electric windows in a 5a were always slow. Other issues to watch for include broken front seat frames and excessive creaks and rattles that can signify a tired example.
There’s something very alluring about a sporting estate. You like the sound, and the grunt of the V6. Plus it’s an estate – and its lines are reminiscent of a sports car. The juxtaposition between the three whets many people’s appetites and it’s easy to see why. Parts support is great, and they still offer phenomenal value for money.