In a very real, literal way, I ended up with my dream job at Jalopnik because of a car, which seems fitting. I mean, I’m told that between articles pushing a heavy socialist agenda, we also write about cars. The car was one I absolutely loved, an interesting, rare car, and one I really found satisfying to drive and own. I just sold it. And, surprisingly, I don’t feel bad about giving up a car I really like. In fact, I feel great, and, for the first time in a while, I’m free from a lingering sense of guilt. I should probably explain.
Before I go into all that, though, let’s just talk about this car: it’s a 1973 Reliant Scimitar GTE (SE5a version), though I just realised that the title lists it as a 1974, though I’ve always thought the car was from ‘73. Huh.
I traded my old Volvo P1800S for this car, for reasons outlined in detail here:
I was able to make the trade because the guy I got the Scimitar from had a huge collection of cars, and the Scimitar was one his wife didn’t know he had, and the friend’s driveway he was stashing it in would soon no longer be available, so he had to get rid of it fast.
That does make it confusing as to why he’d accept another car in trade; all I can think of is that it’s a lot easier to sell a P1800 than a Scimitar, so maybe that was his plan? I’m really not sure.
What I was sure about was that I adored the Scimitar. It was a shooting brake design in the most archetypal of ways, a genuine sports car adapted into a two-door wagon, with a glass hatch and a fibreglass body and a big (by my standards, at least) 3.0-litre V6 set behind the front axle in a true front-mid configuration.
The Scimitar is how I first got Jalopnik’s attention, too. I’d been a dedicated reader for a while, even to the point of reaching out to someone who was featured on the site to talk to them and drive their amazing little microcars, and I bartered my driving opportunity with a chance to drive my own bit of automotive unobtanium, the Scimitar.
With the realisation that, yes, people were interested in this thing, I reached out to Jalopnik and they sent Jonny Liberman out to drive the Scimitar.
We made a day of it, hunting down interesting neighbourhood cars and enjoying the pleasing weirdness of the Reliant, and it was from this initial contact that I got to know some of the Jalopnik staff, and kept in touch with them for years — racing against them at the 24 Hours of Lemons, sending in ideas, seeing them at car events, and so on — so that when they needed more writers back in late 2011, they reached out to me.
So, as you can see, that Scimitar was crucial in sending me down the path that brought me here, and I’m wildly thankful for that.
I daily drove this car for years — it was orders of magnitude more powerful than my Beetle and significantly quicker than my P1800 — that Essex V6 with the heavy arse, Diesel-ready block made 140 or so horsepower (104 kW) and was torquey, and the whole car weighed under 1,134 kg, so it felt pretty quick.
There were all kinds of interesting details about the car — the spare was up front in the nose, it was the first car ever with split folding rear seats, there was an old five-pence coin left in the glove box, it had a brake pad wear sensor light, an oddly huge gas tank, and, of course, as everyone wanted to tell you, Princess Anne had one. Hell, she had eight. I think she got it because the horse she was dating at the time needed the extra room? I can’t remember.
Even though the SE5a was the most popular of the Scimitar line that Reliant ever built, that still just means about 5,000 cars, and there are only maybe ten or so in all of North America? It was fun driving around an incredibly rare car; while most people couldn’t really tell, being able to tell who real gearheads were by the whiplashiness of their double-takes was a treat.
Of course, that rarity cuts both ways; as exciting as it is, it makes getting parts an absolute nightmare, and even though that Ford Essex V6 was used in a number of other cars, none of them were cars that ever made it to America, at least in any quantity.
So, that meant repairs were expensive and slow; when I needed parts, I had to hunt them down in the UK and get them shipped here, and none of that was easy. And when we had the kid, that meant time and money suddenly became even more precious commodities, so the amount of time the Scimitar sat compared to it driving became longer and longer.
Still, I hadn’t given up hope; hell, I even shipped it all the way across the country when I moved, in hopes that I’d get it back to daily running once again:
— Jason Torchinsky (@JasonTorchinsky) August 5, 2014
But that didn’t really happen. Over time, the Scimitar became more of a monument dedicated to my own lack of so many things — time, resources, skills — that it stopped being a source of joy and became a nagging reminder of my own limitations.
It took me a while to admit it, but I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t really give this car what it needed, no matter how much I wanted to. My other cars, weird and old and goofy as they were, were all much easier to maintain and keep going. I knew the Scimitar deserved better.
I knew I really should sell the car, but I didn’t want to just sell to anyone. This car is important, in its own humble way, an unusual example of an under-appreciated British shooting brake, and I wanted it to go to someone who would respect it and want to bring it back to its old glory.
Thankfully, because I mentioned it by chance on The Smoking Tire’s podcast, that right person came along: Myron Vernis.
In case you don’t know about Myron or his amazing collection of cars, I’ll just show you something to give you a general idea. This is his current daily driver:
That’s an Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1, number 81 of 88 made, and it’s not even the most amazing thing in his collection (note the sans-permis Elcar in the background, too). Myron had been wanting a Scimitar for a while, already having a Reliant Robin three-wheeler, and wanting to see what Reliant could do with the decadent addition of a lavish fourth wheel.
Knowing the car was going to Myron meant that I knew the Scimitar would not just be taken care of better than I could, but would be taken care of far better than nearly anyone could, and would become part of a carefully-curated collection of amazing cars.
This was by far the best I could hope for a car so important to me, which made letting go not just easy, but actually joyful.
The guilt was gone, and it was replaced with the comfort of knowing the car would get properly fixed up, an eagerness to see that happen, and a happiness of knowing both that the car will make someone else who appreciates it happy, and that that someone will likely let me drive it again, if I stop by.
It’s by far the best outcome for the old Reliant. This is a car I owed a lot to, and I finally feel like the debt is being paid.
Enjoy that Scimitar, Myron!