Thursday, September 3, 2009

1963 Sabra Sport

Wow. I remember being a kid and seeing a picture of a Sabra in some car magazine or book. At that point in my life I remember thinking that it was one of the weirdest looking cars I had ever seen.

Many years and many weird cars later that opinion has not changed. It's not a weird body per se, it's those gigantic over riders on the front the make it look weird. I have no idea what they were thinking when they designed them. Most 1963 vintage sports cars came from the factory with little flimsy bumpers or bumperettes. The pieces on the Sabra look like the things the state police use to push disabled cars off the highway. Another odd styling touch was the almost square rear wheel openings.

Get past the pushbars and the Sabra is a pretty interesting car. The Sabra comes from an Israeli company, Autocars Ltd. Founded in the mid-1950s with assistance from Great Britain's Reliant, Autocars started out assembling Reliant three-wheelers at its Haifa factory and later produced a four-wheeled version of the Reliant Regent van. The company's first model of its own, the Sussita, was also designed by Reliant.

The Sabra was introduced by Autocars in 1961. It started out life as something called an Ashley GT. Autocars bought the rights to the Ashley and then had Reliant re-engineer it. The first 100 Sabras were actually built by Reliant in the UK, although the VIN plates read "Autocars Company Limited Haifa Israel". Many of those British built Sabras cars found there way to the US (one source says all 100 of them did).

The engine and transmission are from the Ford Cortina. Top speed was around 100 MPH and 0 - 60 took 16.5 seconds. The gauges are typical period Smiths. The tail lights are the same as those used on an Alfa.

According to the seller, this car is an Israeli built Sabra, which makes it pretty unique.

The car needs complete restoration. The body is fiberglass so rust isn't an issue. It appears that most of the trim unique to the car is still there. Restoring this car would not be a weekend job, but it wouldn't be impossible either. This car, if for no other reason than it's rarity and uniqueness, deserves to be restored.

Click here to see the eBay lsiting for this Sabra.

This car was also built and sold by Reliant as the Sabre. It had a more normal looking front end and was available as a coupe. It was also available with a 6 cylinder engine. The Sabra-website has some information on both the Israeli Sabra and English Sabre. Click here to find it.

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