The other day we get an email from a guy named Jason Torchinsky who has not only read the feature we did on microcars A Quatrtet of Microcars, but also contacted Jonee the owner and driven them. Not only that, he owns a car that Jonee thinks is weird enough for us to be interested in. Specifically, a 1973 Reliant Scimitar GTE. Having never seen a Scimitar outside of Old Blighty, I informed him of course we’d be interested. Jason continued, “I think my Scimitar is only one of maybe two in California, and there’s not more than a dozen in all of North America.” Oh brother, were we interested. This past Sunday we arranged to meet up, drive the Reliant and go look at some cars, Jalopnik style. So much more after the jump you won’t be able to handle it.
Based on the same chassis as the Israeli Sabra, Scimitar production began in 1964. However, the name Scimitar was applied to at least six drastically different cars (sadly peaking with the ghastly Sabre in 1991). This particular yellow beauty is a GTE SE5. As you can see, it is a shooting brake, so you know we’re smitten. More important, it’s an all-fiberglass shooting brake with a beefy Essex 3.0-liter V6 mounted behind the front axle and four-on-the-floor with overdrive available in third and fourth gear. Right-hand drive, too. Curiously, the Scimitar GTE is the first production vehicle to have split-folding rear seats so as to best take advantageous of the cargo potential offered by that third door. Also, as Jason pointed out, at the same time Reliant was making the Scimitar, they were also producing the Robin and the Kitten.
The first thing you notice while driving the Scimitar is that Reliant engineers have the smallest feet possible. True, I neglected to wear my wrestling shoes, but even if I’d been barefoot I would have had a hell of a time getting to the pedals. And forget about a dead pedal; your left foot rests on the clutch. The second thing you notice is how comfortable everything else is. Okay, the steering wheel rests on top of your thighs, but in a comfy manner you get used to real quick. Jason has kept his car’s leather innards in excellent condition, and it jogged my memory of why I like British interiors so damn much. The big Essex mill provides plenty of torque (the block was designed for both gas and diesel applications) and the ride feels modern. My only beef (besides shifting with my left hand — which was actually really cool — and the pedals) is heavy-like-lead steering. Though, like fat clutches, I bet you’d get used to it. I noticed that when Jason was driving, the Scimitar handled rather well. Best of all, was the price. Jason traded a Volvo P1800 for it.
When Jason first contacted us, he mentioned that he and Jonee were thinking about forming a “weird car club.” We think that’s one of the best ideas we’ve ever heard. Jason and I got to talking about all the weird cars that (in some cases literally) litter the East Side of Los Angeles. Rather than just do a “standard” review of his car, we decided our time would be best spent on a car hunt. And man, did we score.
Our first catch of the day was this dilapidated Citroen SM. What a shame. You can see part of the rubber from the bumper has fallen off and is just lying on the ground. This is neglect bordering on abuse. Luckily, should someone decide to restore this beauty, the aircraft-grade aluminum is in top form.
The doors happened to be unlocked so we took a peek inside. The keys were in the ignition! You can see the brake bladder in the picture above. Be sure to click through the gallery to get a good look at all the other interior weirdness, especially those oval gauges. The really sad news is that Jason has talked to the owner, and he ain’t selling. Sigh...
Citroen 2CV AK400 Van
Parked right next to the SM is a car Davey would happily kill for, a Deux Chevaux AK400 Van with quad windows in the rear. Personally, we tend to agree with Jeremy Clarkson when it comes to 2CVs – they’re an under-owered French rip-off of the Bug that needs a piano or safe dropped on ‘em (we know that’s not entirely true, we know, we know). Still, there was something pretty damn nifty about this red gal. Many peoples’ days would no doubt be brightened as she drove on my, delivering baguettes or what not.
Peugeot 505 STI
Staying with France (for the moment), above is a Peugeot 505 STI. We like this car for a number of reasons other than its country of origin. First of all, this car is someone’s daily driver. That’s 20 cool-car points alone. Second of all, for a car released in 1978 it looks incredibly modern. Only the massive bumpers, tacked on for the US market give it away as being designed while Jimmy Carter was in office. Also, it very well might be a diesel. That’s another 20 cool-car points. As far as we could tell, all it needs is a new sunroof.
BMW 3.0 CS
Another daily driver, and this silver one sends the heart racing. She’s a BMW 3.0 CS. I drive by it all the time on the way to Scott’s house when I get called in for Karmann Ghia duty. But, as with all these cars, stopping to smell their auto roses is the right thing to do. In other words, be like Murilee. To our eyes this is one of the most beautiful German cars, let alone BMWs, ever built. Check out some of the remarkable detailing (like the air vents on the C-pillar) via the gallery.
Land Rover Station Wagon
This Land Rover was a totally unexpected find and one of the better cars we saw all day. First off, you’ve probably noticed we’ve been taking the time to obscure the license plates of these unwitting stars. However, this one is just too good. If you’re scratching you head, “Pequad” was the name of Ahab’s boat in Moby Dick. That’s plus 50 points on its own.
This station wagon can easily seat 10 adventurers and the passengers in the back have a roller coaster style “oh shit!” bar to hold on to. And just check how primitive that dash is. Our favorite feature is the motor for the rear windshield, which is mounted inside the passenger compartment. From the looks of it, someone sitting in the way back has to flip the switch!
Looks as if we’re not the only ones who are into obscure, abandoned cars. And if the owner of Pequad happens to be reading this, any man named Moses who lives at the Chateau Marmont can afford to pay $100,000, easy.
Jaguar XJS V12
We know that an XJS isn’t nearly as weird or interesting as the other cars we found on our hunt. But, there is something just so damn right about these Jags. Especially with the V12, blue canvas top and proper wheels. This and the Land Rover would make a great matched set. Moving on.
The car gods were really smiling on us today as we found not one, but two Checker Marathons within a few blocks of each other (We also passed a Maserati Bora). As both of these cars appeared to be in good, non-beat to crap condition, we’re going to go out on a short limb and declare that they weren’t taxicabs.
BMW 2000 CS
Next came this very rare 2000 CS. In fact, we’ve never seen one on the road before. Some of you will be aware that the four-door version of this car was pitched in the US as the Bavaria. We just lover the single white kidney. How something so simple can manage to look five-times better than all the BMW art cars combined is a mystery.
Then suddenly, something truly miraculous happened. “Where did you get that Scimitar?” we heard a man cry in a British accent while laying underneath the Bronco pictured above. “I used to have one of those.” One thing about Scimitars, they were akin to musclecars in England. Still, with only 5,100 or so built, we were pretty lucky to run into this guy. So, we talked for a bit about Reliants, his Bronco, the utter righteousness of Jensen Interceptors and then he said, “I have a Jag E-type. And a Shelby Cobra.” Our tongues dropped. I asked him where. “In the garage. Come take a look.”
AC Shelby Cobra Replica
While not a true original, this car was a devastatingly cool replica and built by AC, so it is about as close as you are going to get. That massive engine next to the Cobra is the all blowed up V12 out of the E-type. Remember, the Brits used to power Scorpion tanks with that sucker.
I wish you all could have heard the stereo gasp Jason and I let out when the cover was pulled back on this absolutely drop dead, get reincarnated only to drop dead again gorgeous machine. The restoration was near-flawless. And like all cars, these things look so much better sitting in someone’s garage then in a museum.
Even the interior was stunning. Or should I say, the interior was especially stunning. And the key in the center of the dash is bloody brilliant. Under the hood? Our new friend replaced the blown OEM engine with a racing D-type mill. Making this without question the greatest E-type in the world. Case closed, end of story, next. Talk about a Fantasy Garage...
This one is for Davey. We know it’s not a Manta, but hey, we tried. Next time, in addition to Mantas, we’ll be hunting for Volgas, Lancias, a Fiat or two and maybe even a Facel Vega. So stay tuned. And be sure to check out all the galleries as lots of great images didn’t make the post.