The sighting of a half-dead example leads us to consider the career of the Scimitar GTE.
Maybe it says more about my preconceptions of The Netherlands, but at first I thought my eyes were playing tricks when I glimpsed something in the view ahead of me as I drove down a neat looking street in the town of Goes in Zeeland.
Despite their admirable use of bicycles, and their enthusiastic policing of speeding, the Dutch have an impressive core of car lovers. So the discovery of a Reliant Scimitar GTE in Holland was not a surprise in itself – on that short trip I’d already seen a Dutch registered Rover P4, Mark 2 Jaguar and, oddest of all bearing in mind my half-formed ideas about Holland, Calvinism, etc, Bentley Arnage. But this car’s semi-abandonment on a neat looking street seemed to jar much more than it would have if seen in, say, South London.
A quick look at Google Street View confirms the suspicion that it’s been there quite a time. Last September its tyres were already empty and it had attracted a fair amount of moss beneath it. The GRP bodywork might put up with a fair amount of neglect before it starts delaminating, but that Webasto roof looks as if it will have given the elements access to the interior, so any restoration would be pretty costly.
Now, this is no criticism of the owner – there are 1006 reasons for not realising restoration projects, from the need to catch up on that boxed set of Breaking Bad to death. Anyway, I’m in no position to criticise. Somewhere, I have a small boat in a similar condition to this car, waiting vainly for me to rekindle my seafaring ambitions.
Inspired by the one-off 1965 Scimitar GT based Triplex GTS, made to showcase automotive glass technology, Tom Karen’s design introduced in 1968 ensures that the Ford V6 powered Scimitar estate still remains an impressive car, in marked contrast to Reliant’s terminally hopeless three-wheelers being made at the same time. The rising rear side window line was an ambitious and influential styling departure – you can see its influence in various places, from the much-maligned Austin Allegro Estate to the current VW Scirocco.
The car more-or-less invented a niche, which both Volvo and Lancia followed soon after and, at a pinch, you could even claim that Ferrari’s FF / GTC4 Lusso owes allegiance. It shows little of the clumsy detailing that you might expect from a small-scale manufacturer punching above its weight, and the whole shape exploits what you could do with fibreglass back then, shapes that couldn’t have been easily replicated in steel..
This is a later example of the first generation SE5 produced up to 1975. The slightly larger and more upmarket SE6 replaced this and ran for another 11 years. Reliant then sold the design to another company who produced an upgraded version until 1990, by which time it had lost the appealing lightness of touch of the original. It was then passed on to a further company where it remained ‘available to order’ for several years after.