One Of A Kind: 1963 Sabra S

Sabra 1

Sabra sports cars, manufactured for only a few years in Israel, have always been rare and unusual cars, manufactured in tiny numbers when new. Sabra was one of several nameplates manufactured by Autocars, Israel’s first home grown automobile company (Kaiser Frazer had an assembly plant in Israel in the early fifties). The name “Sabra” was chosen because it means “born in Israel” in Hebrew (it’s also a cactus). The company launched a small truck model in 1960, which was more or less a failure from the start.

Sabra 2

Then, when the company’s owner saw a small sports car at a car show in England, he bought the rights to use the Ashley body on a Leslie Ballamy chassis. Autocar convinced UK maker Reliant to build the Sabra. The engine was a Ford 1703 cc 4 cylinder.

Sabra 3

In 1961, at the New York Autoshow, the first Sabras were introduced. Reliant produced the first 100 cars. Their VIN-plates read “AUTOCARS COMPANY LIMITED HAIFA ISRAEL”, though of course they were manufactured in the United Kingdom. The rest of the cars were produced in Israel, but only 41 of those were exported to the USA. I could not find any sources that show the total number of Sabra sports cars produced.

Sabra 4

US sales ended in 1964 after only 144 British-made and 41 Israeli-made Sports had been imported. It seems likely Canada sales might have been counted in with USA sales, but maybe not. Since the Canadian car market was then probably 7-8% the size of the US market, the number of Sabras sold in Canada must have been very small.

Sabra 5

I remember in the very early sixties collecting a set of “cars of the world” bubble gum cards, similar to Topps’ baseball cards. And I did have a card for the Sabra. I don’t remember ever seeing one, even during the time we lived in Los Angeles, where you could, even then see some of the most exotic and unusual cars in the world driven daily on the street.

So this Sabra found by Barn Finds reader Michel L located in Montreal and advertised for sale here on Kijiji (in French – if you look at the ad on Google, it will translate for you) may be one of the rarest and most unusual barn finds ever. Now just because a car is rare does not make it desirable, and Sabra, with its poor reputation for quality and uninspired performance, may not be a car that will draw many potential buyers, especially one needing so much work to be restored.

The seller seems to have quite a few new or refurbed parts for this car, that look really good in the photos provided. This is another one of those projects that has stalled. There is no asking price in the ad. It’s impossible to even hazard a guess about what this car should be worth.

Sabra 7

But if you want to have the only Sabra in your town (state? province?) then maybe this is the car for you. Even with that unlovely front end, this car looks pretty attractive (anyone else see an early sixties Daimler look?) Does anyone else remember these cars or know more about them?

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Comments

  1. Jason Houston

    “unlovely front end” is an understatement.

  2. Robert Member

    I am one of the few that has some history riding in one. My father owned one for awhile along time ago. Unfortunately it is long gone. It would have been nice if he were able to keep it in the family.

  3. Casey

    Loose those snaggletooth bumperettes and looks a fair bit like a 365 GT. Cool find!

  4. RON

    not only never seen one but have never heard f one. as for me I like it. I see the influence of many mfg’s and world designers. Would like t know more about it and wish more pix and description of completeness

  5. Derek white

    I’ve seen two in a barn in Ontario and they are even uglier in real life!

  6. James

    This link to the Sabre site – Belgium – should provide you with the information and pictures requested:

    http://www.sabra.be/GB/GBindex.htm

  7. Rob

    Actually, the car is very easy to restore. Like most British cars, almost all parts are available if you dig far enough. The only two parts that are difficult, are the ZF transmission and the rear axle. A collection of Moss Motors catalogs will let you find most every piece part, as many were shared between British car makers. The Belgium Sabra site has the work shop manuals and lots of technical information.

    If you can find a car with the optional Alexander performance kit, the performance is equal to a MGB. Some minor changes to the front suspension, takes all the steering and handling complaints out of the picture. One of the best things is the 3.55 rear axle ratio, coupled with the 15″ wheels, means effortless cruising at 80 mph. Take the front bumperettes off and it changes the entire look of the car.

  8. Wayne

    Love the front end, just lose those huge overiders

  9. Howard A Member

    I heard many years ago, one of these was in the Milwaukee area. Certainly is rare. While the front end styling is a little over the top, I like the over riders. It adds to the unique styling and I’m sure you’d be glad to have them if you ever parked it on a street somewhere. ( I can’t tell you how many times someone backed into my MGB front end.) Since it has British mechanical’s, it shouldn’t be a problem fixing it up. I agree on “the most unusual find yet”. I was surprised to actually see one show up here. Pretty cool.

  10. Rancho Bella

    The ultra rare hard top version lives in San Diego and was restored to a level beyond belief.

  11. zero250 jeff steindler

    I owned one of these briefly in the mid-1990s in Charleston, WV……I do not remember if I bought it or if it was given to me……of course, it was in need of a complete restoration………..I do remember that some guy in the mid-west enthusiastically maintained a Sabra registry…..despite its exclusivity, I decided that since I already owned two Minis and a TR3 and had other, non-automobile-related hobbies, highest and best use of my time would to let it move-on…..I believe I gave it away to somebody who said they would put it back on the road…….right!…….

  12. Paul B

    I recall seeing these at the NY Auto Show in ’61 or ’63 or both. An exciting-looking car that never gained a market. I recall seeing one on the street around that time in Westchester County, NY. And that was all.

  13. Peter R

    They sold a few of these in Montreal and I remember riding in one but never drove it. Poor build quality and slow – not one Israel could be proud to have produced as evidenced by the sales numbers.

    • Werner Drechsel

      My Rosemont High School teacher gave me a ride in 1960 in one, my first ride in a “sports” car. Been hooked on sports cars since.

  14. Ivor Coster

    To see the Ashley company that supplied the Bodyshell design have a look at http://www.ashley1172.weebly.com this website is an archive of Ashley Laminates vehicles past and present.

  15. Ronald Schanfish

    I have one. Runs fine, a little hard to get in and out of with the top closed. One sold last year at Amelia for $93,000.00 ! Values shot up like crazy! Harder to find one now!

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