Reliant Scimitar


That happened recently. I can put up with the heavy clutch, and I can suffer the diff whine. I can tolerate the erratic electrics and the heavy steering, too, but when I suddenly found that I had about 30º of play at the wheel before anything happened at the business end, something had to be done. I could also pull the steering wheel towards me by about 20mm, which wasn’t right, and the indicator switch decided at the same time that telling others of my intention to turn right wasn’t a necessity.

Upon inspection, I realised that there was some play in the top steering-column joint, so ordered a replacement from Graham Walker. It took a lunchtime to fit with a hand from Elliott, but all remained the same. A call to Adrian Godwin at Scimitar specialist Woodlawn Garage resulted in him digging out a replacement indicator switch and, while I was there, he kindly looked at the steering – reckoning that the lower column joint was at fault.

Another GW order, another lunch hour and all was fitted. The drive home immediately proved the suspicion correct: the play had gone, I could no longer pull on the steering wheel, plus all of the knocks and rattles had been eliminated.

Unfortunately, there was now a worrying ‘tight’ spot when turning a corner, which was so bad that I really had to wrestle the wheel to get past it and continue in my intended direction. I had taken great care to make sure that the new UJs were in the correct plane and I couldn’t see a problem with the steering rack because it was fine before. It took a lot of looking, head-scratching and discussion before we realised that the new bottom UJ was catching on itself – something that was evident by the wear pattern on the old part.


TAKING A TURN FOR THE WORSE

Reliant Scimitar

Run by Martin Port

Owned since Sept 2011

Total mileage 70,858

Miles since July report 3738

Latest costs £104


Loosening everything, pulling the wheel into the cabin by 15mm and positioning the UJs to minimize the angle at which the column comes up from the rack virtually got rid of the tight spot, but once it has bedded in I may have to file a couple of milimetres off of the edge of the joint so that it clears properly.

Fitting the replacement indicator switch sorted the erratic flasher, but immediately provided another issue: the horn push didn’t work. I consulting Godwin once again, and removing the end of the stalk to clean the contacts soon reactivated the car’s honking capability.

Anyone who lives in the UK and reads this may struggle to recall, but we had several hot, sunny days back at the end of May. With that unusual turn of events came a return to my paranoia of overheating

Scimitars and, just as I began to think that I was being foolish, the inevitable happened. I had been monitoring the temperature gauge down the M3 and noticing that it was running a bit hot, but it was 30ºC outside, so I didn’t think much of it. Until I pulled on to a sliproad just outside of Basingstoke, only to watch the needle make a dash for the red and hear the bloke in the next lane tell me that my car had wet itself quite badly.

Oddly, the fan hadn’t come on until the needle was trying to escape out of the top of the gauge, so my first thought was that the ‘otter switch’ was at fault. I called the breakdown chaps anyway, and set about bypassing the switch so that the fans were permanently on.

When the lorry arrived, he at least proved useful by taking me to get enough water to fill up the system before testing. I was clearly barking up the wrong tree, because it immediately boiled again and the car ended up on the truck. Water pump at fault? Blocked radiator?

Air lock in the system? All possible, but it turned out to be a simple thermostat failure – proven by taking one of our best saucepans and cooking up a ’stat stew.

On a positive note, the longrunning back axle/diff issue looks as if it may be nearing some sort of solution. A call from a long-term Drive-my reader, known only as ‘Andy from Wales’, brought with it the kind offer to take my SE5a axle and spare SE6 unit and swap the internals.

“I’m retired, but I still have all the gear to set it up,” he said. “And anyway, my wife loves C&SC more than I do: she isn’t interested in cars, but when the new issue comes through each month she doesn’t hear a peep out of me for days!”

I then promptly lost his number in an office move, but as it turned out I found an allegedly quiet SE5a item for sale. I figured that another axle would enable me to overhaul one, while keeping the car running on the old unit until the time was ready to carry out the swap. I snapped it up, popping the SE6 axle on eBay to help recoup the cost. More on that next time.

‘I pulled over, watched the needle make a dash for the itself quite badly’ red and heard the bloke in the next lane tell me that my car had wet itself quite badly

 

Not quite a picture postcard: Port’s SE5a at the entrance to Robin Close – as near as you can get today to the building where the car was originally made in Tamworth

Adrian at Woodlawn confirms worn column joints. Replacements above and inset

New indicator switch fixed erratic blinking Boiling in Basingstoke. Scimitar stranded… …because of failed thermostat. Easy fix!

THANKS TO

Woodlawn Garage: 020 8894 1951

NEXT UP

The axle swap!


 

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