Reliant Restyled

Since the foregoing road test was written, Reliant has announced a major change in its plans for the Scimitar SS1. It has signed an agreement with Universal Motors of New York giving Universal the manufacturing rights to a restyled version of the SS1. Under the new scheme, Reliant will continue to build the cars, selling them in the UK and Europe under licence, while Universal will market the vehicle in North America.

Universal Motors is a privately-owned corporation which concentrates on the certification, marketing and distribution of specialist sports-cars in the US through an established dealer-network giving Reliant immediate access to a market it could not tackle on its own for such a low-volume product.

The American company has already commissioned William Towns, designer of the Aston Martin Lagonda and DBS and of the striking Hustler utility vehicle kit, to re-skin the SS1 without altering the structure, and the first pictures show the new shape to have extended wheel-arches front and rear, giving it a more aggressive stance, with much smoother side-panel treatment. The increase in track comes from a larger offset, apparently without detriment to the handling.

A new door-line removes the awkward scallop of the side window and reduces the visual height of the screen. Nissan will continue to supply the power, probably an eight-plug catalyser version of the turbo four as used for the Swiss market. Universal says, perhaps optimistically, that the first sales are planned for early 1989.

Development and tooling for the revised. soft-top (unlikely to be called Scimitar in the US) will be carried out by Reliant but funded by Universal, which hopes to sell 2000 units in the first year in America alone. Such figures would mean a bright future for the Midlands company, which has only sold 1400 cars in total since introduction in spring 1985.

Reliant's financial performance has, however, improved with the disposal of one of its factory sites and the sale of rights and tooling for its Scimitar GTE/GTC models to Middlebridge Engineering, which has put the old favourites back into production, and the company is currently raising £1-million through a rights issue. This will be used to rid itself of the debts and interest charges incurred over the development of the SS1, enabling it to use normal overdraft facilities to help finance the extra production. GC