The Reliant Scimitar GT SE4b 3 litre

The Tiger from Tamworth

Graham Russell
By Graham Russell

Autocar January 1967 "At a Glance - High performance 2+2 coupe. Lusty, low revving engine in conjunction with high gearing gives effortless cruising at three-figure speeds. Good gear change, but rather wide ratios. Smooth, light clutch. Ride and handling very good, and much improved over the earlier car. Light, accurate steering and first class brakes with powerful servo. Ventilation improved but still not ideal. Fuel and range very good".​

The Reliant Scimitar name was used for a series of sports car models produced by British car manufacturer Reliant between 1964 and 1986. During its 22-year production it developed into a range of versions including a convertible launched in 1980. All have a fibreglass body mounted on a steel box-section chassis.

The Scimitar Coupé with 3-litre V6 Essex engine was a development of the original GT which had replaced the Sabre in 1964. Approximately 591 were built over a two year period before the introduction of the GTE

In late 1966 Ford had dropped the 2.6-litre Straight Six engine and replaced it with the new 3-litre Essex V6 engine (as used in the latest MK IV Ford Zodiac). This meant that Reliant had to do a good deal of development work to the existing Scimitar GT to enable the new more powerful engine to fit and obtain best performance and handling.

As the Essex engine was shorter, it was mounted further back in the bulkhead to help improve weight distribution. The lower wishbones were re-positioned, the tower structures and cross members were reinforced and an anti-roll bar was fitted. Other modifications included replacing the wire wheels with wider steel wheels as standard, and the fitting of a higher-ratio rear axle (3.58:1 instead of 3.875:1).

The interior was updated to move with the times. There was now an all-anti-dazzle-black interior (including black instrument dial bezels instead of the previous chrome versions). The padded fascia board had crash pads at the top and bottom, and improvements were made with the ventilation by fitting directionally variable ventilator jets, as used by Ford.

A spectacle in 'Drastic Plastic'
A spectacle in 'Drastic Plastic'

And what of the Tiger from Tamworth? Not quite the same as the Panhard Tigres that I own (and not quite so rare), but with only just under 600 cars manufactured they are exceedingly hard to find in good condition. Thankfully there are a small band of Scimitar enthusiasts who help maintain the breed and, co-incidently, I have just acquired this maroon SE4b from the family of one such fanatic.

A much undervalued classic car today when compared to some of its contemporaries and given its rarity.