Unique of the Week: 1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE

Classic Cars / Comments

From the makers of the three-wheeled Robin comes this two-door wagon called the Scimitar GTE.

Defunct British automaker Reliant is best known for creating the Robin, a three-wheeled embarrassment whose knack for rolling over was once perfectly demonstrated by Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson. However, Reliant also built four-wheeled cars, although that's not really what it's remembered for. Old British automakers aren't exactly renowned for their quality. Still, Reliants still looked pretty good and many were powered by Ford engines.

The Scimitar (goofy name, we know) first appeared as a coupe back in 1964. Originally powered by a Ford 2.6-liter straight-six, this was later replaced in 1966 with the 3.0-liter Ford "Essex" V6. The car continued to receive updates over the next few years, specifically with another new engine and interior updates. Overall, the car received solid reviews and was complimented particularly for its nice exterior design. But by 1967, Reliant was looking to expand the Scimitar lineup with something different. In an effort to increase its versatility, the design team came up with a two-door wagon design that was prepared in just under one year.

Called the GTE, the unique design wasn't the car's only attribute. It received a different chassis frame, a new and relocated fuel tank, rollover bar, a revised suspension and cooling system. Power came courtesy of that Essex V6, giving it a top speed of around 120 mph. Two transmissions were offered: a four-speed manual and a Borg Warner three-speed automatic. Performance improvements continued to come over the next couple of years and the flat dashboard design was even replaced with a more styled molded unit. By the mid-Seventies, the Scimitar GTE was being marketed as more of a luxury car in the British market.

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It sold well but its funky design was not to everyone's taste. By 1980, Ford stopped building the Essex engine so Reliant replaced it with the Cologne V6, an engine that was only discontinued a few years ago. The wagon's styling was updated in the late-Seventies, but retained its quirky look. Like several other British automakers at the time, Reliant had money and production issues. By 1986, the Scimitar GTE went out of production for good as the company itself would soon be going through severe financial hardships. Reliant ended up closing its doors in 2002 after several unsuccessful attempts were made to get things back on track.

But for those looking to own something rare and unusual, this 1978 Scimitar GTE may fit the bill. Currently up for sale on eBay, this car could well be the only one of its kind in the US. Beginning back in 1997 it also had a two year body-off nut and bolt restoration done to Concours standard. Powered by the Cologne 2.8-liter V6 and mated to a four-speed manual, everything about the car is in solid condition inside and out despite the fact the restoration work is 15 years old. It supposedly runs very well even with 73,500 miles on the odometer.

It was imported to the US from the UK back in 2006 by a California-based collector, but was unable to drive due to strict requirements involving submitting a complete list of previous owners. It has a Buy it Now price of $14,900 but so far the bidding war hasn't met the reserve price. For those who are fans of quirky Seventies era British cars, this Scimitar GTE wagon definitely fits that description.

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