Reliant Scimitar SS1
ONE of the most important new cars at the NEC is the Reliant SS1. Since the demise of the Triumph TR7 and the MG sports car range, customers have not had the choice of being able to buy a reasonably priced two-seater sports car from an established British manufacturer with a wide dealer network. The SS1 goes on sale in the spring with two (Ford) engine options, a 1300 which will be priced at “under £7,000” and a 1600 which will ems “under £8,000”.
Early in August, W.B. and I were invited to the works at Tamworth to inspect the car and to briefly drive a pre-production model. We were impressed both by the car and the enthusiasm of the team which has constructed it.
Without pre-empting a full road test, we can report that it is a well-engineered, well finished and appointed car with delightful road manners. Reliant has found a handling compromise which gives both a comfortable ride and a taut feel. It was the sort of car to inspire confidence in a driver and although the claimed performance figures (the 1,600 cc version goes from 0-60 mph in 9.6 sec and touches 110 mph) are inferior to many “hot hatches”, I suspect that over a long journey on demanding roads, the SS1 will have an edge. The enjoyment of driving a relatively rare Reliant hopes soon to produce them at orate of 2,000 pa, rising to 3,000 pa once the American market is breached) open air sports car cannot, anyway, be quantified by performance figures. The car has been under development for the past three years and is the work of Ed Osmond and his team. Central to the plot is a wax-filled backbone chassis of enormous rigidity (the figures are about the same as those for a Mallock Clubman’s car) and great elegance. Suspension is independent all round with double wishbones and coil springs at the front, and coils and trailing
arms at the rear. Anti-roll bars are fitted fore and aft. Both models have nine inch disc brakes at the front and eight inch drums at the rear.
The body, styled by Michelotti, is bolted to the chassis and is made using a variety of techniques, notably RRIM (reinforced reaction injection moulding) plastic. In practical terms, this means that W.B. and I were able to jump up and down on individual panels (with permission, of course) without damaging them in any way. Neither of us is a featherweight.
Although Ford components are used extensively, Reliant have integrated them cleverly. The instrumentation, for example, is Ford yet the effect is Reliant. The car exudes a sense of integrity of design, even though it relies on externally-supplied components. Above all it is practical. Reliant have made it as corrosion-free as is possible. The Ford components are well-tried and inexpensive to replace. The hood can be
erected, it is claimed, in 30 seconds (it is a claim we do not doubt), the boot has reasonable luggage space and there is a further space behind the seats. A very tall driver might find it difficult to find a comfortable driving position, but 95% of the population should have no problems. Reliant’s confidence in its car may be gauged by the fact that it allowed critical eyes to see and drive it in pre-production form. The company is right to be confident for it has a product to be proud of. We await a full road test eagerly. One further point, the chassis feels as though it could take a lot more power. The engine sizes have been chosen as a result of market research the 1300 must appeal to the driver who might have bought a Spridgct, were they still available, while the 1600 fits into the slot vacated by the TR7. When you mention the possibility of a 2-litre or even a V6 2.8-litre engine, the men at Reliant will not actually deny that the
thought has crossed their minds. M.L.
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