1981 Reliant Scimitar Review

1981 Reliant Scimitar GTC 2.9 overdrive from UK and Ireland

Year of manufacture1981
First year of ownership2000
Most recent year of ownership2003
Engine and transmission 2.9 overdrive Manual
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 9 / 10
Comfort marks 7 / 10
Dealer Service marks 7 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 9 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.8 / 10
Distance when acquired143000 miles
Most recent distance168000 miles
Previous carTriumph Acclaim

Summary:

A distinctive rare beast - at a good price

Faults:

Power Steering rack started to play up at 155,000 miles. Replaced with reconditioned unit.

Electric window motor stopped working at 160,000 miles. Repaired by taking it to pieces, cleaning and rebuilding.

Headlamp switch occasionally temperamental.

Windscreen wiper stalk intermittent fault.

Water got in through hole in soft top, (which was my fault rather than the car's)

General Comments:

The Scimitar GTC is a rare car. Only 442 were made, between 1980 and 1986 and there are probably less than 300 left. It shares most of its running gear and parts with the GTE 6B models of the same period so my comments apply to that car also. The design, a natural evolution from Ogle's 1963 Coupe and 1968 GTE shapes is distinctive. Certainly it compares very favourably with its late 70's design contemporaries, even if the technology is somewhat earlier.

The body is fibreglass, and therefore will never rust or rot. The body is strong and resilient, and would easily 'win' any collision with a metal car. Myths about flammability are unfounded. The flip side of the coin is the crazing caused to paintwork by impact damage, which can include over-enthusiastic door slamming. This can take a long time to appear. To prepare for a good respray can take many weeks of intensive work. As a result there are some examples where much of the work has been skipped, and a superficially good spray rapidly deteriorates; Never buy a fibreglass car that has just been resprayed.

But the end result, I can testify, is worth it, and a quality respray will be better than Reliant ever managed.

The trim in my car is black (although I have seen brown, tan and blue). I have just recarpeted the whole car; after 22 years some predictable areas (foot-wells) were worn through. Other areas had developed a tinge of green as the sun bleached the black fabric. This was even worse on the velour seats so I have recovered these in black leather (why not, for a comparable cost?).

This is a four seater car, with good sized rear seats. Leg room in the back is limited, although by no means poor. The rear seats fold down to allow a massive storage space. A panel folds forward allowing access to the boot. I have transported an 11 foot Christmas tree and a passenger in the car without having the boot or roof open.

The roof is therefore large; probably bigger than any European soft-top of its age. After 22 years, the parts that get trapped in the frame during opening and closing start to fray and hence leak. The worst area is just above the driver's right shoulder, (and passenger's left). Water is retained in the foot-wells if neglected. New hoods are relatively inexpensive (£500).

It isn't an electric hood (although the windows and (sometimes) mirrors are). It can be a pain to put up and down (though this time is mainly spent avoiding the fabric damage described above). Worst of all is putting it up cold after it's been down under the hard top all winter, when it needs several minutes of stretching. Having said which, I now have it up and down in less than a minute, even less with assistance.

There is a substantial hard top too. This is the size of a double bed, and so storing it is a problem when it is off the car. It is stylish and well engineered and even benefits from rear screen heating elements.

The dashboard is certainly 1970's in style, and ever so slightly gloomy. There are plenty of dials and switches (one passenger thought it was like an aeroplane cockpit). I have seen examples where the fascia has been covered in walnut effect veneer. This can help sometimes, but can affect the character of the car.

Mechanically there is a ford V6 engine. My car has a new engine, a Scorpio 2.9, without the fuel injection. The 2.8 was standard, but not lead free. It is four speed manual with overdrive -a real 'go-faster button'. The engine is responsive and resilient. I know of one example that has done 350,000 with no reconditioning.

Handling is good, the drive firm and comfortable. The power steering is excellent, although it needs to be. The turning circle is significantly above average. This, along with a long bonnet can make reverse parking difficult at times.

I have just 'restored' my car, although this was predominantly a cosmetic exercise. The mechanics had been well maintained, and continue to be so. If well looked after (and this means regularly rather than religiously) there is no reason why this cannot be an everyday car. It must be one of the easiest cars to work on and tinker with.

All mechanical parts are generally obtainable and cheap, although some cosmetic bits and pieces can prove problematic. Rubber bumpers, for example, should be highly treasured!

The Wolfrace alloy wheels do indeed tarnish when not cleaned regularly. This can be frustrating, but after a good polish they really look good. I have to admit that I have had mine stove enamelled. The effect is not bad at all. Incidentally the tyres are much cheaper than one would normally expect for a sport's car (i.e full set for under £200)

I get 32mpg on a run. About town this is about 20mpg. A standard 2.8 would be 20% less, an automatic less still.

A concours example would set a purchaser back about £10K, more for the very best. On the other hand there are some rough examples for under £3K. (For SE6B models, these prices are £7K and £1K respectively)

I intend to keep mine for the foreseeable future and cherish it.

I have taken it to Provence and back with no problems, and plan to use it abroad often.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 15th May, 2003

Average review marks: 7.8 / 10, based on 1 review