Collector Classics: The Sabra

Pedestrian-unfriendly overrider front bumpers just one of the oddities of this rare Israeli roadster

Spending a great deal of my time involved in the world of serious concours and preservation judging, it is sometimes fun to attend shows that are the complete opposite.

During a recent trip to Hershey, Penn., I attended a spectacular event called “The Elegance” in the manicured garden of the Hershey Hotel.

The day before the concours the inaugural Concorso Bizarro took place.

This is a tongue-in-cheek car show that, according to event chairman ‘Dyno’ Dan Stabilito, brings together some of the greatest mechanical misfits, automotive abhorrences
and just plain tacky cars.

I was pleasantly surprised for the second time in my life to see a Sabra.

“A what?” you might ask.

When you think of sports car of the early 1960s, Israel does not exactly come to mind as a manufacturer.

But these odd cars were built by Autocars Co. Ltd. of Haifa, founded in the ’50s by Yitzhak Shubinsky, Israel’s first car manufacturer.

Sabra has a bit of a double meaning: it means “born in Israel” and is also the name of a particular type of cactus which originates from Mexico and grows very well in Israel’s climate.

That plant is used in a stylized form in the Sabra emblem.

Shubinsky purchased the rights to use an Ashley body fitted to a Ballamy chassis and formed a partnership with the U.K.-based Reliant Motor Car Company to combine a body, chassis and engine package using the 1703-cc Ford engine.

The plant in Israel could not be completed on time so the first 100 cars, despite their VIN plate reading “Autocars Company Ltd. Haifa Israel,” were built in England by Reliant.

Only 41 of the made-in-Israel Sabras made their way to the U.S., as the majority of the 332 cars built in Israel, were sold in Belgium.

Today, worldwide, more than 100 Sabra cars are still traceable.

The one thing that stands out in my mind whenever I see one of these sports car is the somewhat pedestrian unfriendly front bumper overriders.

The car would probably look a lot cleaner if they had been left off.

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