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  1960's | 1970's | 1980's/90's

Here are some of Reliants prototypes, designs and other interesting ideas from the 1980's upwards.



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Above:  The Cipher chassis at Reliant

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Reliant/Stevens Cipher

The Cipher was a wonderful design from Tony Stevens.  It was based on the Reliant Kitten chassis and running gear with the alloy 850cc engine.  It had a top speed of 93 mph, but achieved 44 mpg.   Tony displayed his prototype Cipher at the 1980 motor show, which received good reviews, but it needed a huge investment to produce further cars.  

Tony Stevens took his design to Reliant's manager Ritchie Spencer who agreed to take the design on as a trial.  Reliant built two Reliant Ciphers, but decided that the 850cc engine was too small as they wanted a more powerful roadster, plus the work that had to go into the Cipher was not cost effective for Reliant to continue with the design any further.

Only one of the two Reliant Ciphers still exists, which is in the hands of car enthusiast Thomas Touw from the Netherlands.  Thomas also owns 2 of the 6 Ciphers that Stevens made himself. (Lucky Man!!) 



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These amazing pictures have been recently donated to me.  (Thanks to Mr G)

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Project SE82

Reliant approached the famous Italian car styling company "Bertone" to come up with a design for a possible replacement for the existing Scimitar GTE.  

Reliant allegedly spent over £100,000 with Bertone to design this car.  Even though Reliant had spent so much money and time on the project, due to rising petrol costs and a troublesome sales market Ritchie Spencer (the MD of Reliant) decided that the car might not be a viable project and would be unlikely to sell the car for a profit and therefore decision was made to bring the whole project to an abrupt end.

A full sized mock up of the car was built along with a mock up interior.

As the design plans were scrapped, sadly it wasn't too long before the car was too!


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Above: Design Sketch of the SS1

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Above: Mock car built ready for the Motorshow (Note the Michelotti Logo on the wheel)

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Above: SS1 Chassis being designed

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Above: SS1 Chassis at Reliant  

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Above: Engineers tried fitting a V6 engine in the SS1!

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Above: Prototype SS1 (Number 1)

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Above: Prototype SS1 being tested at MIRA

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Above: Prototype SS1 being compared with Triumph TR7 and Fiat X/19

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Above: Prototype SS1 (Number 2)

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Above: Disguised bonnet for road test!!

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Above: Reliant launch the Scimitar SS1 at the 1984 Motorshow




Scimitar SS1

Reliants Managing Director "Ritchie Spencer" saw a gap in the market for a low cost convertible sports car.  The design objectives were to provide the pleasures of open top motoring in a stylish modern car which would be easy to maintain and have excellent durability.  Ritchie Spencer approached Italian designer "Giovanni Michelotti" in Turin to come up with a sketch for the new design.  Michelotti drew a sketch for Reliant and a full scale model was built and delivered to Reliant.  The car was code named the SS1, which stood for "Small Sports 1". 

Reliant's engineering director "Ed Osmond" commenced with the design studies on the SS1.

The engineering team decided they needed to develop their own  chassis and suspension setup.  Once Reliant had come up with the design for the chassis a contract was given to Thyssen Industrie AG  in West Germany to produce the chassis.

Although Reliant had many years experience in glass reinforced plastics they made a decision to move away from labour intensive manufacturing and use more modern techniques.  The idea was to use small bolt on panels, which were easy to assemble, impact resistant  and light.  A contract was given to Dunlop GRG's Engineered Plastics Division based in Wrexham to produce and supply major body shell components.  

Four different techniques were used to produce the SS1ís body.  Hand layed reinforced polyester, reinforced reaction injection moulding (RRIM), Vacuum-assisted resin injection (VARI) and cold-pressed reinforced polyester.

The first prototype SS1 was built and registered in July 1983 as UOX 146S.  It was powered by a Ford 1600cc CVH engine.  As the SS1 was aimed at the younger generation they gave the option of a 1300cc engine or a 1600cc engine.  Engineers did try and fit a Ford V6 unit as seen in the photos on the left, but it never went into production.

The SS1 prototype was tested thoroughly at the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA).  Reliant also carried out comparison tests on a Triumph TR7 and a Fiat X/19.  Interestingly there is a transfer on the boot lid with the word "Tora".  I don't know whether this was just a trial for the transfer style or a name used to confuse the public/media?

The first prototype SS1 was destroyed in a fire at Reliant, but luckily they had built a second car prototype SS1 which was untouched by the fire.  The second SS1 prototype was registered as FOH 274V in January 1984.

FOH 274V was spotted being driven around Tamworth.  A journalist from "Car" magazine took some sneaky photographs of the SS1 with an extra bonnet fitment in an attempt to disguise the car.  The prototype was featured briefly in the June 1984 edition of "Car" magazine, who called it Reliant's new MGB. 

The SS1 finally made its debut at the Motor Show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham 20th to 28th October 1984.

It seems that the second prototype survived until October 1986.  During the Sporting Cars International road-going sports car championship at Lydden Hill it was rolled by class leader Mike Whatley.  I have found a brief article and picture in Sporting Cars International from October 1986.

According to the DVLA vehicle enquiry website the date of liability was 01 09 1987, which suggests to me that the car possibly written off?

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Above: Prototype written off in 1986?


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Ogle Design drawing

Ogle Design drawing by Tom Karen of what an updated Scimitar GTE would have looked like.




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Middlebridge Scimitar:

Pre-production Prototype.

This car started life as a SE6b with the 2.8 litre engine then was totally stripped and rebuilt by Middlebridge Engineering as the pre-production prototype.

Over 400 improvements were made over the SE6B.  These included revised front and rear suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers/springs and incorporation of an anti roll bar at the rear following work by Harvey Bailey Ltd.  Installation of the 2.9 EFI engine and gearbox with a larger radiator to cope with cooling, a revised fuel tank for the EFI fuel system, angled exhaust pipes to reduce noise resonance off the rear glass and reduce rear screen dirt, an aluminium plate for the parking position of the rear wiper, two high performance blower motors to improve heating and ventilation, extra sound deadening, 15 X 6J Performance alloy wheels with 195x65x15VR tyres, pearlescent paint, a stainless steel exhaust system, larger tail lights and a high performance sound system.

All the improvements were then incorporated in the production cars

Thanks to Dan Mitchell for the photos and info.


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Above: News Clipping of  Princess Anne with the car


Middlebridge Scimitar:

Production Prototype.

Once Middlebridge had carried out all the conversions and trials on the pre-production prototype, they built their first production Middlebridge Scimitar, dubbed as "Prototype 1".

This car has had an interesting history. It was originally loaned to HRH Princess Anne for  a week, while she was awaiting to have her very own Middlebridge Scimitar built.  Due to a delay in the production, the loan of the car was extended to another 6 weeks.  In that period Princess Anne was famous caught speeding in it, which was great publicity for the Middlebridge Scimitar Company!

The car had pride of plce on the  "Cars of the Royals" stand at the NEC car show in 1992 NEC.

The current owner has owned the Middlebridge since 1995, but is thinking of selling it.  

For more information on Middlebridge Scimitars visit Mick Gaughran's wonderful website:



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Above: Press photo of the SS2


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Above: SS2 out on road test


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Above: William Towns 'Target'




Scimitar SS2 Concept Car  

Based on the 1800ti, the car was designed by William Towns.  Reliant wanted to market this car in USA with a V8 engine (note: its left hand drive).  General Motors commissioned the prototype, but the car was dropped when the USA decided not to help fund any further developments.  Doh!!

William Towns went on to design a car called the 'Target', which was developed from the SS2 concept car.

His press release read:

"Exciting new frontal styling features contoured headlamps with integral fog lamps.  The muscular body form, as received positively on the SS2, is further refined.  

To reach your 'Target' you will first need a Reliant SS1.  The body panels are removed and the new Target moldings, hand made in glass reinforced polyester, are crafted on to the SS1 chassis then painted in a colour of your choice.  Wider wheels (now 15") are shod with 195/50 low profile tyres.  

Although the existing interior can be retained, most owners will choose the optional trim package offering new sports seats, a 13" steering wheel and matching leather trimmed gearshift knob.

The overall result, carrying the signature of the special 'Target' logo, is a fresh and strikingly modern sports car worthy of its startling performance.

All this for only £5500 (£6462.50 inc VAT) plus £850 (£999 inc VAT) for the interior package."



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Reliant 'PR2' Prototype/MGF Concept car
* revised 27.12.09 *

Reliant were one of three initial companies asked to produce a prototype for the Austin Rover Group to evaluate.  Each company was given a design brief with drivetrain layout and a GRP bodyshell from moulds taken from Gerry McGovern's  earlier concept car called the F-16

Phoenix Route 1 - 3

PR1 - Motor Panels of Nuneaton came up with their model for a front engined, front wheel drive prototype with an M16 engine.

PR2 - Peter Slater at Reliant was given the brief to produce a front engined rear wheel drive car.  As Reliant had already designed and built the excellent chassis of their own SS1/SST chassis they adapted to fit by making the wheelbase longer, the track wider and fitting Maestro front suspension and brakes.  Reliant had to modify the bulkhead considerably to fit the Rover 3.9 litre fuel injected V8 engine!  As per the brief, the body was made from glass reinforced plastic (fibreglass). 

Reliant actually produced two body moulds and a completed prototype which was delivered to Gaydon.  In fact, they were the only company to deliver a fully working prototype within the 27 week deadline given by Austin Rover.  The car was tested and evaluated by Austin Rover but sadly they chose not to use the Reliant design mainly because it was rear wheel drive, which meant that Rover (primarily a front wheel drive manufacturer) would possibly have had to spend extra money on a new separate chassis.

PR3 - Prototype built by ADC of Luton.  They came up with a mid engined (1.4 litre K-series engine), rear wheel drive steel bodied prototype called the PR3, which later became the basis for the new MGF.

PR4 - This car was to be the same concept as the Reliant PR2, but built in steel rather than GRP.  This car was not built.

PR5/DR2 - Roy Axe's previous design called the DR2 was also used as a design exercise and was converted to front wheel drive using a TVR donor car.  


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Project R931

Reliant used the October Motorshow in 1992 to gather opinions on their proposed new 'baby' sports car.  Visitors who visited Reliant's stand could ask questions about the specifications, which would help Reliant decide whether to proceed with the design.

Code name Project R931 was designed to cut the cost of sports car ownership.  It was going to be a rear wheel drive,  two seater and would have a choice of being a convertible or a coupe, with removable roof panels.

It was going to have a multi-point, fuel injection, catalysed 848cc all alloy 4 cylinder engine, with a semi-monocoque steel chassis, featuring non-stressed thermoplastic panels.

With a price tag of under £10,000 and a low insurance rating, it was to provide a fun affordable entry into sports car motoring.

As far as I know the car was never produced?


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Above:  1994 Restyled Scimitar Sabre

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Above:  Click on picture above to see more pictures of the car being built at Reliant!




Restyled Scimitar Sabre

This development Scimitar Sabre with updated front lights and rear lights, front and rear spoilers and was fitted with 1800Ti twin spark engine.

There were quite a few questions about this car, many said that it had been modified by a private owner, but thanks to the current owner I now have a series of superb photographs taken at the Reliant Motor Company of the car being built.

I would still be interested to hear from anyone who knows more about the cars history and why it was restyled.     

Do you have any more information on this car?



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Alex Girdler was a design student at the  University of Huddersfield came up with this drawing to give the Scimitar GTE a facelift for the future. 



Do you have any more details/photographs of any of the above vehicles?



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