804 Mile Oddity: 1962 Sabra Sport Roadster

When you sit down and contemplate the countries that were home to some of the sports car manufacturing powerhouses of the 1960s, Israel is a country that wouldn’t be high on many lists. Yet this country was the home of Autocars Co. Ltd. This was the country’s first vehicle manufacturer, and they produced the distinctive Sabra. The car promised a lot, but it never sold in anything like the volume that its creators hoped for. Between 1961 and 1968, it is believed that as few as 144 examples made their way to the US. This is one of those cars, and it has an interesting history behind it. The little Sabra also has a mere 804 genuine miles showing on its odometer, making it one of the lowest-mileage examples in existence today. It is a car that is set to go to a new home, so it has been listed for sale here on eBay. It is located in Saint Louis, Missouri, and the BIN has been set at $89,900. There is also the option available to make an offer. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Kyle K for spotting this rarity for us.

This little Red Sabra has an interesting history. It was owned by the original dealer for more than 40-years before eventually finding its way into its current owner’s hands. This owner is a Ferrari Dealer, and the Sabra has been a part of what is said to be an extensive collection of rare and desirable classics. He doesn’t use these cars often but has managed to add a few miles to this one’s tally since he purchased it. The Sabra has been meticulously maintained, and it presents beautifully. The paint shines exquisitely, while the chrome sparkles like new. One of the most distinctive styling features of the Sabra is the enormous front over-riders. You can’t miss them because they dominate the front of the car. They are something that potential buyers were said to love or hate in about equal numbers. The glass looks faultless, and the chrome wire wheels appear to be perfect. The fact that they wear the correct whitewall tires adds to the impression of a well preserved classic.

Looking deeper into the Sabra reveals a spotlessly clean underside. There are no signs of any gravel rash or damage, which further supports the mileage claim. The vehicle is fitted with a Black convertible top, and while this is wrinkled due to being folded for years, I think it should stretch back into shape quite nicely. The body is all fiberglass, so rust isn’t an issue. The body and chassis that Autocars utilized were produced under rights purchased from Ashley, a British company that specialized in the production of fiberglass-bodied cars. Autocars then contracted Reliant to assemble the cars for both domestic and for export markets. Approximately 55 were sold in the UK, while 81 found their way to Belgium. US numbers are hard to pin down exactly, and various sources quote numbers between 144 and 153 as the total. This one rolled out of the Reliant factory on January 11th, 1962, and was then shipped to the USA.

One of the distinctive features of this car is that it comes with an original hardtop. This is a rarity, and its condition looks to be faultless. A bit of investigation has allowed me to unearth some of the history of this particular vehicle. The original dealer had intended to give the car to his daughter as a present, but it appears that she didn’t like it as much as he did. It was placed into storage, and it remained hidden away until 2001. It was at that point that an enthusiast purchased it. The car had a mere 40 miles showing on its odometer, but it required restoration. The new owner originally intended to undertake a cosmetic refresh but eventually chose to complete a meticulous restoration. His eye for originality is admirable, as he chose to clean or refresh as many original parts as possible. He found this course to be preferable to the wholesale replacement of parts. When you look at the Sabra, the results speak for themselves. It appears that it then found its way to its current owner in 2018. At that point, the odometer was reading just under 700 miles. This current owner has accumulated around 100 miles behind the wheel since he purchased it.

Tipping the front forwards on the Sabra reveals a 4-cylinder engine with a capacity of 1,703cc. This started life as a Ford product and is capable of producing 61hp. The power finds its way to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission, while the standard fare for a Sabra included front disc brakes and 4-wheel independent suspension via coil springs. While its parent company might have been based in Israel, the Sabra is typical of its British roots of the period. That means that it is a sports car without a lot of power at its disposal. However, it also tips the scales at a minuscule 1,770lbs. That means that it isn’t enormously fast, but it can eventually find its way to a top speed of 99mph. Its real strength can be found in its combination of light overall weight and suspension configuration. Various road tests praise the ride and the tenacious grip of the Sabra. The seller says that this vehicle is in perfect mechanical health. He claims that it starts and idles easily from cold and that it drives like a new car.

The interior color combination of red, black, and houndstooth looks absolutely stunning. The presentation is impressive, but there is evidence of the previous owner’s desire to refurbish parts rather than replace them. The upholstery is free from rips and tears, although there is an obvious stain on the passenger seat. The dash looks fantastic, but I could spot some discoloring on a couple of the switches. The carpet is spotless, and the wood-rimmed Nardi wheel suits the vehicle’s character perfectly. If the next owner can live with the stain on the passenger seat, there isn’t much that this interior will need.

This 1962 Sabra Sport Roadster has led quite a life, and it looks like further adventures might be in its near future. Determining its actual value will be difficult because the Sabra’s rarity means that they don’t come onto the market very often. If we use Hagerty as a guide, they show that values have increased over the past 2-years and that the asking price is probably close to the mark. More telling for me is the sales history of this particular car. I found that it was offered at auction in January of 2018, and it is listed as sold for $40,700. However, it was also on consignment with a couple of organizations at the same time. Their listed prices seemed to align closely with the Hagerty value of the period. That means that if you are interested in this car, then it might be worth approaching the owner with an offer. Today could be your lucky day.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Wow, a tip of the hat to Adam on this one. Without going into detail, Israel is very dear to me and my family. I’ve known for a long time about the Sabra, meaning “born in Israel”, even though, most were made in England, but never actually saw’r one. There was a rumor of one in Milwaukee, but certainly nothing public. Unusual looks aside, it really was nothing special, and I thought had Triumph mechanicals, but British Ford about the same thing. Pretty much standard offering for British roadsters of the time. I think old Yitzhak( Shubinsky) was going for the Daimler SP thing, another British piece of wizardry that nobody wanted. Amazing find here, it should be in a museum, if there’s any left. It would certainly turn a head or 2 at any gathering.

    Like 17
    • Lurker

      Howard,

      You can find a Sabra at Motorama in Aniwa, Wisconsin… along with lots of other interesting vehicles.

      Like 2
    • Walter Member

      I have 3 sabras. 2 convertible and one coupe. The coupe is amazing. The 3 in concours conditions. An italian vintage car magazine that is considered one of the top made a 5 pages feature on my cars. I had to rebuilt various parts:
      Upholstery exactly as originsl
      Front bumpers biggest problem but reproduce them exact copy and other members were assisted by me. Even the owners manual reproduced. All logs including the steering wheel. I am a collector than dont sell but is a car that was not appreciated for long time. Even the owner tag originally in bronze with the vin I was able to findcan artisan in Ireland that was able to reproduce. If any owner needs suggestion let me know. I dedicate most of my time to my car collection. I am in Toronto

      Like 1
      • Ralph

        I am restoring a basket-case 1961 Sabra, and have been using this featured car as my ‘blueprint’ to try and figure out what goes where. Some of the photos from its previous locations have been very helpful. I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone who can help, with a few parts and encouragement, I am located in Vancouver BC, and can send photos of my progress! Regards, Ralph (zedeng@shaw.ca)

      • Ronald Schanfish

        Looking for a speedometer drive gear for one of these, if anyone has one or an idea where i can find one!

  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    That’s ironic that this shows up.I was just reading a post
    on another website from a guy in British Columbia who’s finishing
    up a restoration on one.
    A number of years ago I saw another one near Portland,Oregon
    that was also being restored.
    Another one of those cars that are so weird that they’re cool.

    Like 8
  3. Engident

    Absolutely gorgeous (in my engineer eyes) and refreshingly different. I am curious about the outlines around the headlights. Looks to be set up for headlight covers that are not present.

    Like 2
  4. H Rod Jim

    This would great to make it similar to a shelby Alpine tiger.

    A 351 Windsor tied to a nine bolt would really make this dog hunt .

    The front end looks great .

    Like 2
  5. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Now that’s a gorgeous car, I like it. Looks like a cruising car to me and that’s just fine. When I first saw the picture, I thought about the Saab Sonnet (think that’s the model) and the similarities between the two.
    I hope this one is saved so people can see it, I have not seen one before.

    Like 3
    • Redwagon

      Wow. Talk about dagmars! Huge.

      Like 1
  6. farmer rob

    we saved one of these from the crusher 30 yrs ago…not sure where it is now

    Like 2
  7. Mike Hawke

    One of these popped up for sale at a military base in Hampton VA around 1998. I had never heard of it and had to do research. Passed on it even at just a few thousand dollars as I didn’t know if I could ever sell it if I needed liquidity (this is before internet sales took off). Which reminds me of the Maserati Merak I didn’t take for about $6 or 7K a few years earlier.

    Like 2
  8. Martin Horrocks

    Never seen one of these described as “gorgeous” but it is interesting. Really, it is a Reliant project on behalf of Autocars. The first Ashley/Bellamy prototype was really just the spark which started the fire, and the car as shown is completely developed by Reliant.

    Reliant sold their own version (Sabre 4, Sabre 6 with Ford Zephyr engine) so maybe the high number of cars in Belgium are Reliant Sabres? Low-mileage and curiosity status apart, there´s nothing here to justify the asking price. A nicer and sorted Sabre 6 probably won´t cost $20000 in EU, if you can find one.

    Like 3
  9. ken tilly UK Member

    I think that the Ford 1700cc engine would have been from a Ford Consul. I fitted one into my 1962 Ford Cortina POS and it went like hell from that day forward.

    Like 3
  10. Gerard Frederick

    What on earth has this car to do with Israel? It´s a british design, british built, it´s very soul is english. Aside from that, I love it, beautiful in and out and no doubt reliable as well.

  11. farmer rob

    walter… the sabra my car bud and i rescued from golds salvage..chatham ont….was ruff looking with a gold nasty paint job…does that sound like one of yours??

  12. Bill McCoskey

    There was a yellow version in Maryland about 40 years ago, but the guy wanted way too much for it, so I walked away.

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