Cold Start: My Old Scimitar’s Music Career Is Still Going

Cs Dando Scimitar

Recently, I was made aware of something kind of fascinating: a car I used to own and which was in many ways responsible for my current career of being a professional Car Doofus seems to be enjoying a continuing modeling career, all stemming from one day, around 2006 when I got paid $100 to let a ’90s indie rock star sit in and on my car. The star is Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, and the car was my old 1973 Reliant Scimitar GTE SE5a.

I found out that my car is still out there, earning money for Juliana Hatfield’s old friend via this tweet:

I was surprised when I saw this because I had no idea that this picture was still being actively used, but damn, it sure as hell is. Look, it’s even the cover on his Spotify page! That’s especially notable when you take into account that the photo was shot at a time when Kazaa was still a thing.

I remember how this all happened very well. I was driving my Scimitar somewhere around Hollywood, I think, which wasn’t unusual. At that time, I was living in LA, and while I had my Beetle, from around 2005 to 2009 or so the Scimitar was my daily driver; I loved driving that thing. It was the highest horsepower car I’ve ever owned as a go-to daily, with a hilariously low by almost anyone else’s standards output of 140 or so.

It was front-mid engined with a light fiberglass body, had a satisfying shifter that had overdrive on third and fourth, and was even kind of practical. It was a blast to drive, looked incredible, and, as I recall, smelled great, too. Anyway, I was driving, and a woman in the car next to me called out to me, and told me she liked the car or something, and was a photographer, and, somehow – I don’t really remember – contact info was exchanged.

That person was the very talented photographer Piper Ferguson, who I’d like to mention by name because I don’t think I’ve seen that photo tagged with a credit to her anywhere and she deserves it.

Anyway, when I talked to Piper, she told me that she’d like to use the car for a photo shoot that weekend and there’d be a crisp $100 bill in it for me. Hot damn! I could use that money to exchange for goods or services of my choosing! It’s a deal!

I remember that they told me to meet them at some place in Griffith Park, but exactly where was kind of vague, and I spent a while trying to find them, to the point where some cranky assistant called me and told me not to bother, they were all too fed up or whatever. LA is densely populated with assistants in perpetual states of crankiness.

But, I found them right afterwards, and the cranky assistant seemed to have calmed down and all was right in the world, and we did the shoot.

I don’t think I knew it was for Evan Dando until I got there; I knew the Lemonheads well, so it was fun seeing that it would be for him. I remember they took a lot of shots, including a few where Dando was all folded into the rear cargo area with his guitar, and peering through the all-glass hatch, like my car was a terrarium for musicians.

I’m just pleased that after 16 years, my car is still getting the sort of star treatment I always knew it deserved. I sold it in 2020 to the wonderful collector Myron Vernis, who is getting it back to its former glory in a way I’d never have the time or resources to do, so that’s exciting. When it’s all ready I hope to see if Myron will let me drive it again, for old times’ sake.

And, Evan, you got footprints all over my upholstery. Don’t think I didn’t notice.

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25 Responses

  1. Great, now you have me searching the world for an attainable Scimitar. And listening to my old Lemonhead and Juliana Hatfield tracks while perusing Piper Ferguson images. That is 4 rabbit holes from one post!

    My productivity is inversely proportional to Autopian obscure weirdness.

  2. Myron! Happy to hear he’s the new owner, I must have missed that news on the Other Site when it happened. Hearing his name brings back memories of Bring a Trailer when it was written by normal people for normal people.

  3. Did you check Mr. Dando’s dungarees for rivets before allowing him to sprawl all over that handsome yellow? (Rivets are a definite no-no if one wants to try out an instrument at the guitar shop!)

    1. I can understand the concern.
      When I was a young boy way back in high school, you could be sent home for riveted back pockets.
      The problem being the rivets would scratch the fiberglass shell classroom chairs.

      1. Yeah, that’s why Levi’s deleted their back pocket rivets at some point in the 1950s, too many complaints from schools about scratched up desk seats (though they were mostly wood at the time, as opposed to fiberglass)

  4. This was a decently quick car and its performance still holds up well today compared to modern cars.

    It had a 3L V6 making 138 horsepower, and the car only weighed 2,600 lbs. This allowed it to do 0-60 mph acceleration runs of 8.5 seconds and top out at 121 mph. It also had a 4 speed manual, making it engaging to drive.

    If any of the cars that Jason has had should have remained in his fleet, it is this one.

      1. Nearly two years ago, I got rid of my 1966 Plymouth Sport Fury because I was moving and I realized the car deserved better than continuing to sit in a garage incomplete. I found it a good home and last year I saw it again out on the road. The family that bought it was using it in a photo shoot for their son’s HS graduation pictures. I was happy for them and the car.

    1. My grandmother in the UK had one from the late 70s into the early 80s. She was a very keen driver (and proud member of the Advanced Drivers’ Association) and frequently took it well over 100mph on the motorway where she said it “purred like a kitten”.

      She replaced it in 1984 with a BMW E30 325i with the Baur TC soft-top. 5MT, soft tan leather interior. A very good car by 1980s standards but she always used the Scimitar as her reference for a good drivers’ car.

    2. It’s the Ford UK (as it was at the time) ‘Essex’ V6, also used in Capris and Mk1 Granadas. I would imagine the gearbox is the Ford unit as well, and those four speeders were excellent, with a really snappy and direct change (much better than the later MTX75 5 speed units).

      I’ve not driven one but those old Essex V6s were pretty torquey if thirsty.

      1. Supposedly it still returned 25 MPG U.S. For the time period, that is excellent. Maybe not so great when you consider the mass and drag of the car, as the relative inefficiency of the engine shows itself in that regard.

        I think an inline-4 Cosworth YBT engine and a matching gearbox would be a worthy swap. Efficiency AND power would go up tremendously.

          1. The car had the mass and CdA to potentially approach that 50 mpg at some speed(maybe in the range of 30-55 mph) with proper selection of engine and transmission. Just like most of the other Reliants. Advancements that were made decades later would be all that was needed to make it fast by today’s standards to go with the massive thermal efficiency increase that later technologies enabled. As a platform, it could also make an EV conversion that needed only 250 Wh/mile to cruise 65 mph, or comparable to a modern Nissan Leaf in efficiency.

            Lots of sports/sporty LBCs make good donors for powertrain and drivetrain upgrades because of the inherent efficiency of their platforms relative to anything you can readily buy today. A modern 2022 Miata has a similar overall CdA when compared to a number of smaller LBCs that predated the Miata’s existence by 2-4 decades(Triumph Spitfires are an excellent choice regarding this parameter, but the others are okay).

            Since that Scimitar is being looked after, good that it is in original shape. Well-sorted ones are scarce. But restomods could save them too if their original engine gives issues, and there are a lot of good choices for that platform.

            It’s a testament to how much aero matters when you consider that the 5,000 lb-ish Tesla Model S would still be a more efficient platform than a much lighter Scimitar on the highway, but the Scimitar’s overall CdA holds up okay compared to most modern midsized cars or hatchbacks that were made within the last 10 years, except that the Scimitar is also lighter than these modern cars by far. If today’s 4-cylinder midsized cars and hatchbacks can get 40 mpg, imagine a 1,000+ lbs lighter Scimitar with similar CdA and an engine that is similarly efficient to these modern cars(at least closer to the efficiency of today’s vehicles than the engine it had stock) what it would get regarding economy, while having enough scoot to mess with a modern Camry.

            As restomods, these LBCs can be made reasonably reliable, at least reliable enough to daily wherever there’s no road salt. Their original engines and associated systems and wiring were most of the trouble. Swapping in more modern components fixes most of the problems that will frequently be found in most of these cars. And you get a massive efficiency increase to a car that was already fairly efficient, even bordering on competitive with today’s norm.

  5. If I could talk, I’d tell you how cool this story is!

    It is really cool the confluence of different scenes and hobbies and histories all converge around cars. That is what brings me to the Autopian daily.

    1. Burnt my popcorn, so tried to find the article Jason wrote defining hatch/shooting brake/wagon. Wiki calls it a sports estate in main body of article (at top), but lists shooting brake as a body style in the quick-view box to the right.

      Time to write the article again teasing out the difference between sports estate & shooting brake?

  6. Son of a ….
    Jason, you are now officially the coolest person ever. Evan Dando sat on your car! If you tell me that Iggy Pop sat in your car, then I guess that makes you worthy of, well, just worthy.

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