Home Car Culture Lifestyle Princess’s favorite brand gets special treatment at Silverstone Classic

Princess’s favorite brand gets special treatment at Silverstone Classic


Britain’s Princess Anne has this thing for Scimitar sports cars. She was given her first, a 1970 GTE “shooting brake,” as a 20th birthday present. Since then, she has owned at least eight of the cars. Twice, she was caught speeding while driving a prototype version.

Each of her Scimitars has worn the “1420 H” registration plate honoring her position as “Colonel-in-Chief of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars,” a cavalry regiment of the British Army that dates to 1922.

Scimitar was a brand of Reliant Motor Co., which traces to Reliant Engineering, which was founded in 1952 and produced 3-wheel delivery vehicles. Reliant Motor launched in 1963. 

Two years later, Reliant was commissioned by Triplex Safety Glass to build a one-off station wagon (shooting brake) with a heat-absorbent Sundym glass. The Duke of Edinburgh was so taken with the car that he bought it, drove it for 18 months and then sold it back to the glass company.  

In 1970, he and Queen Elizabeth presented their daughter, Princess Anne, with her first Scimitar GTE, powered by a 3.0-liter Ford V6.

A trio of Scimitars took part in the recent Silverstone Classic vintage racing Preview Day

The princess’s royal fling with the cars is to be highlighted July 26-28 at the Silverstone Classic vintage racing weekend in England as part of a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the reborn Scimitar brand, which in the late 1980s was sold to Middlebridge Engineering, a company funded by Japanese car enthusiast Kohji Nakauchi. 

“Such is her affection for the model it was no surprise when she was quick to support an ambitious new company – Middlebridge Scimitar Ltd.,” the organizers of the Silverstone Classic races said in its announcement. 

“She officially opened the new factory in Beeston, Nottinghamshire in 1988 and the following year took delivery of the fifth Middlebridge Scimitar off the production line – a car still in her stable today.”

According to Silverstone, “while awaiting its delivery, Princess Anne was loaned the production prototype (MB1) in which she was twice caught speeding on the Aylesbury by-pass on consecutive days by the same policeman!”

Both MB1 and MB5 are scheduled to take part in the Silverstone Classic weekend, along with Nakauchi and Dennis Nursey, who was the company’s chief executive.

Middlebridge Reliant produced 78 such cars before entering receivership. Nearly 30 of them are expected at the Silverstone Classic.

“We are still hoping for what would be a very fitting 30 cars,” said Mick Gaughran of the Middlebridge Enthusiasts Scimitar Set car club. 

The Middlebridge Enthusiasts are one of a record 136 car clubs already registered to have gatherings at Silverstone in conjunction with the vintage racing weekend.

Also taking part in the Scimitar festivities will be the Cadbury-sponsored Middlebridge Racing 1989 Reynard 89D F3000

“Adding to the festivities,” adds Silverstone, is a special anniversary parade around the track led  by “a motor sport icon.”

“As well as acquiring the manufacturing rights to the Scimitar, Middlebridge’s ambitions also stretched into circuit racing culminating with its purchase of the Brabham Grand Prix team.

“Previous to its short-lived F1 foray, Middlebridge Racing had been competing in International F3000 and famously its 1989 Reynard 89D as raced by Mark Blundell was backed by chocolate giant Cadbury, boasting an eye-catching purple Dairy Milk livery.

“The standout single-seater was recently found in the (United) States and is currently being fully restored to its previous fettle in time to lead the parade at the Classic.”

The Middlebridge Enthusiasts are one of a record 136 car clubs already registered to have gatherings at Silverstone in conjunction with the vintage racing weekend which expects to have more than 1,000 vintage vehicles in competition on the famed Silverstone racing circuit.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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