Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Reliant Scimitar GTE isn't my perfect car, but it's close

EARLIER this week I thought about launching a Champion competition for our artier readers. Because, if not one of the world’s car companies could come up with my ideal motor, maybe they could.

No, really. There have been hundreds of different cars over the years and while some of them have got tantalisingly close, not one of them satisfies all the strict criteria the ultimate Life On Cars machine would have. 

The particular blend of poise, style and practicality I’m looking for brings me past the hot hatch, the coupe and the roadster to the three-door estate, a curious breed of car not made in any meaningful numbers since Ford and Vauxhall dropped theirs two decades ago. Shooting brakes, as they’re known, blend a sporty set up, a low profile, four genuinely useable seats and a room for a set of drawers in the same package – if you’re familiar with the Reliant Scimitar GTE (pictured above), you’ll know what I mean.

But the Reliant’s got classic car build quality and the ultimate Life On Cars classic – call it the Simister GT, perhaps, shouldn’t. It should be as cheap and easy to run as a Ford Focus, and as well screwed together. It should be roomy and comfy enough to take four mates and their bags to the wilds of Wales, and light and delicately-balanced enough to be a laugh when you get there. Crucially, it should be light, because then its tiny engine could give you plenty of full-throttle kicks when you’re up for a laugh, and upwards of 35mpg when you don’t.

It should also, because an MGB and an MX-5 have indoctrinated me in the virtues of al fresco driving, be equipped with some sort of opening roof system, perhaps a clever Targa system like the sort Porsche uses, or a canvas Webasto job like the one fitted to my MGB GT. It should also, even though it’s an estate, look good enough to eat. If Alfa Romeo can make a five-door estate look like the automotive equivalent of Heidi Klum, then a three-door should be even more of a visual treat.

Essentially, motoring’s equivalent of Jamie Oliver will have to take the basic concept of the Reliant Scimitar, throw in the best bits of a Mazda MX-5, Ford Focus, Porsche 911 Targa, and the Alfa 156 Sportwagon, and leave to simmer. Oh, and throw on the style of the original Range Rover, the feel and handling of the old Mini and the unruffled refinement of a Jag XJ6 for added flavour.

The closest anyone’s ever come to this mouthwatering bit of kit, I reckon, is the Lynx Eventer, an estate version of the Jaguar XJ-S (pictured below) which managed the almost impossible achievement of being better looking than the coupe it was based on. I would, if the Champion Euromillions syndicate ever comes good, love to have one in my dream garage, but I still reckon it’d be too big, too thirsty and too unreliable to make the perfect Life On Cars machine.

Maybe it’s just too tall an order...

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