Reliant Scimitar SE5A – Project Profile

3

By Chris Pollitt

Ah yes, the old ‘rolling restoration’. It’s a notion we’re all familiar with. Buy a classic that can be driven, and then improve it as we go. It’s the perfect scenario, except when it’s not. Which is all the time. Because old cars, love them though we may, are temperamental things that tend to be in a mood most of time if they’re not cared for and loved. Seriously, in the case of many classics, a new puppy would be less work. But, unlike the puppy, if a rolling restoration gets a bit much, if the reality of living that life catches up, we can sell it on. That’s the situation with this week’s project of choice; a 1974 Reliant Scimitar SE5A. The owner had high hopes, but by his own admission, it’s not for him. “I have finally accepted that trying to do a rolling restoration on my SE5a on the street outside my house or on my dad’s drive isn’t practical so unfortunately have made the decision to sell it.” He explains, with a do doubt heavy heart.

Scimitar, Reliant Scimitar, Scimitar SE5A, SE5A, project car, restoration project, rolling restoration, barn find, motoring, automotive, car and classic, carandclassic.co.uk,

But his loss could be your gain. He’s done a great deal of work to this Scimitar, and as such it appears to be in pretty good health. It certainly doesn’t strike us as being an unworthy project. In fact, before committing finger to keyboard, we contemplated the act of finger to phone. But luckily for you, and for this writer’s relationship with his Mrs, we decided not to. As much as we would love to. And can you blame us? The flowing lines of the Scimitar have always been beguiling. The throb of that 3.0 Essex V6 never fails to appeal. And then there’s the whole ‘driving gloves’ image that we, frankly, love. Yes, this is one you should definitely buy. If only for our own vicarious reasons.

Scimitar, Reliant Scimitar, Scimitar SE5A, SE5A, project car, restoration project, rolling restoration, barn find, motoring, automotive, car and classic, carandclassic.co.uk,

What is it?

If you drive a Land Rover Freelander, nobody will stop you and tell you that Prince Philip had one. Got an Escort RS Turbo? Bet nobody has stopped you at the pumps to tell you Princess Di had one? The Reliant Scimitar, as anyone who has owned one will attest, will see you on the receiving end of ‘Princess Ann had one of those, you know?‘ more often than is entirely comfortable. We don’t know why, but we do know it will happen. But can you blame her? The Scimitar, launched in 1964, was a vision in carbon fibre. This caddish, brash machine was from the same people who made Del Boy’s van, but you’d never know it. It was a muscular grand tourer that, thanks to its unusual shape, was oddly practical too. It could seat four, it could carry a load, and it would do it all at an impressive pace. Remember, this engine was in the top-spec Capri 3.0S. The fibreglass Scimitar didn’t weigh nearly the same.

Scimitar, Reliant Scimitar, Scimitar SE5A, SE5A, project car, restoration project, rolling restoration, barn find, motoring, automotive, car and classic, carandclassic.co.uk,

Why is it a project? 

A lot of the hard work has been done by the sounds of it. The current owner has had for a couple of years and in that time he has fitted an aluminium radiator, all the hoses are new, there’s a new water pump, new starter, an electric fuel pump, new pads and shoes, carb rebuild, new seals on the doors and the headlights have been rewired with relays. He’s been busy, using his time to do a lot of good stuff. The car is a runner, but the seller states it’s a bit lumpy, but it’s not been on the road for a while, nor has it seen any fresh fuel for some time, so should be a simple tuning issue. The underside has apparently been treated, and certainly appears to be solid going off the pictures, but you should still check this. The interior needs work; there is an advert door card and the dash has warped a little, meaning the fit is a bit off. That, and it needs some general tidying. Then, finally, there is the exterior. The paint has gone (not sure if this is a gel coat coloured car?) and the body looks a bit grainy. It’s fibreglass, so rot shouldn’t be a concern. It might come back with with a polish, but a repaint may be more likely.

Five things to look for: 

1) Rust

The body might be fibreglass, but the chassis is very much made of steel. The seller states he’s treated the chassis, and there are pictures that show some of it in good condition. However, have a proper look, especially further within the ‘footprint’ of the car. Corrosion is a swine to sort on these, as fibreglass and nearby welding don’t mix.

Scimitar, Reliant Scimitar, Scimitar SE5A, SE5A, project car, restoration project, rolling restoration, barn find, motoring, automotive, car and classic, carandclassic.co.uk,

2) Engine

Is it just a fuel issue? It would be worth checking the condition of the fuel lines, and if you have the means (buy a Bluetooth endoscope camera online) check inside the fuel tank if you can. Also, look for leaks. The seller says the rear main seal is weeping, which is a big job for such a small part. But of there is anything else leaking or needing attention, it could be a good opportunity to do it all in one hit.

Scimitar, Reliant Scimitar, Scimitar SE5A, SE5A, project car, restoration project, rolling restoration, barn find, motoring, automotive, car and classic, carandclassic.co.uk,

3) Transmission

This car is fitted with the three-speed automatic. The car isn’t on the road, so it’s going to be difficult to check the full range of gears, but you can at least see how well it bites first, second and reverse. If there is any slip, it might just be a servicing/fluid issue, which is a messy but still DIY job.

4) Running gear

The differential is weeping, which will need sorting. But how is the diff itself, has it lost enough fluid to cause an issue? And grinding or crunching noises? Also, while you’re under there, have a look at all the suspension, as this is no doubt in need of a bit a of love. The brakes have been replaced though, which is great news and one less job for you.

5) Body

Fibreglass is a joy because it doesn’t rust, but then it can be a pain because fixing it isn’t easy. Look for any cracks or signs of damage particularly around the bumper mountings, front and rear valance and nose. As for the paint, it might come back with a heavy decontamination and machine polish, which would be ideal – the pastel yellow really does suit the car.

Scimitar, Reliant Scimitar, Scimitar SE5A, SE5A, project car, restoration project, rolling restoration, barn find, motoring, automotive, car and classic, carandclassic.co.uk,

What should you do with it? 

Dial it in mechanically, sort the interior out, give it a polish and hopefully that’ll be it. The Scimitar is not a car that’s ever going to be worth millions, so you have to manage your spend. However, this 1974 Reliant Scimitar is only £1,800 which is a bargain in anyone’s book. Spend a couple of grand on it, get it looking nice and you won’t lose any money. More importantly though, you’ll have a seriously cool classic that still cuts a dash today. It’s such wonderfully unusual shape, it’s a joy to drive, it’s cheap to maintain due to being largely Ford stuff underneath and, did you know, Princess Anne…

Enjoyed this article?

Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest articles, news, classic cars, auctions and events every Thursday - compiled expertly by the Car & Classic team