My First Car: Scimitar GTE

‘500 quid, only one rear window.’ These were the words communicated to me by ‘Towbar Fred’ over the bar in the pub I was working in at the time. The year was 2002, I was 18. The car was a 1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE (SE6A) Auto, in white with a blue/black vinyl Webasto roof and blue velour upholstery. 

Fred was trying to shift this car for a friend (Bob) who had lost his father and inherited it. He knew I was into cars and would be tempted, so I arranged to see it. When I arrived it was idling away in Fred's yard. I could hear the burble of the Essex V6 and as soon as I got out of the car I was completely sold (even though it was an auto and had no rear hatch). So I got the money together, mostly by borrowing from friends/my mum, and purchased it. Two weeks later I managed to insure it for nine hundred quid! And paid for this monthly, which I think I'm correct in saying, took up most of my monthly wage at the time.

Within an hour of ‘taking delivery’ a new rear window was fitted (a sheet of clear Perspex from Focus DIY secured with clear bathroom silicone) and I was on the road. Not having driven an older car before I wasn’t prepared for what would happen during my ownership. As I’m sure we all know, the Scimitar had a separate fibreglass tub plonked on top, which rattled like hell. The Essex V6 sounded great but only managed 12 or so mpg and cost 80 quid to fill up, and by the end of my ownership used to overrun after I turned the ignition off so as I walked away from it I heard a rattle and bang as the engine stopped, which made me look really cool in the college car park.

The kickdown on the auto gear box took an age to do anything after you gave it the beans.  And it only had three speeds. i.e. 55 mph in first, which was amusing. Other mishaps included throwing a tyre tread at 80 mph on the A172 approaching the A19 and experiencing near fatal brake fade on the Kirkstone pass in the lake district, so much so I boiled my brake fluid, and had to get trailered home to Teesside by the RAC, which took 6 hours...

The latter incident prompted me to sell the 'Folly of Plastic Death'. A geezer from Catterick bought it from me for 475 quid. I hope he is OK. So there we go my first car, The Reliant Scimitar, crap in places, crapper in others... but I loved it. Oh, and it overheated all the time. And the fibreglass body was in terrible condition.

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  • J4CKO 03 Jan 2014

    Always had a soft spot for these as a kid,kind of saw myself in one, we had a couple come through the dealers I worked for, drove them both and my abiding memory was they had a weird smell about them and were no way as fast as as I expected, they were autos and didnt feel much quicker than my 1.6 GT Capri MK1, the interiors always seemed to be damp, mouldy and falling to bits, felt a bit like a kit car, certainly cured my enthusiasm for them.

  • brownspeed 03 Jan 2014

    I had a "bathroom blue" one with wolfrace alloys when I was a 20yr old. (my second car so doesn't qualify me really)
    it looked the business.
    never EVER got it to reliably start once it had warmed through. would go with a good bump start.
    starter motor
    starter circuit
    ignition bits, coil, leads, dizzy etc
    exhaust- after the original fell off while passing through a big puddle
    rear hatch struts
    rear wiper
    window winders
    fuel tank - after it p*ssed all over my feet when i brimmed it once
    rear shocks
    trunnions (twice) first time after it failed on a blind bend on a country lane stranding me on 3 wheels (returning to type I suspected)
    radiator- when it burst outside my mates house in chester for no apparent reason.
    suffice to say i was on first name terms with AA relay.
    I was going to buy an elan, but a former elan owner talked me out of it-telling me they were terribly unreliable.HAH!
    PSU291P; i expect she's long dead by now

  • Raize 14 Apr 2012


  • vsonix 14 Apr 2012

    Always loved these. A good mate of my dad's had a blue one, my first ever experience of a UK B-road hoon at the tender age of about 10. We had a crappy Astra/Kadett 1.6 at the time in Dysentery Beige and I remember the first 'wow' was when I got into the Scimitar, felt like I was sitting on the floor rather than in an old-folks-home wooden armchair. Saw one on sale for a grand recently; would have been tempted if it hadn't been repainted in gloss paint with a broom (or at least, that's what it looked like)...

  • -JUT- 12 Dec 2008

    I've had two of these - an SE6A that was bought for £160 as a project car (talk about biting off more than you can chew...) and a very clean SE6B bought for a respectable £1000 a few years back. I say respectable because it had about 60k on the clock, no blistering to the bodywork or pitting to the chrome, and was generally in excellent condition. No major issues at all. It even came with a pair of driving gloves and aviator sunglasses in the gloevbox, and a Burt Bacharach tape in the stereo laugh

    Was brilliant fun to see people assume that you'd be a coffin dodger driving such a car, then give it some beans and step the back end out biggrin

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