Haifa - History 01.08.2010 Back 

We mean to collect here ANY data to preserve historical facts about the Haifa-built-Sabra.

Yohay Shinar compiled: 
I would like to add more details on the history of the Sabra Sport production in Israel.
This could be generally divided into three pieces, as follows:

Phase one: As is now common knowledge with Sabra/Sabre enthusiasts, Reliant was commissioned to produce the first 100 units for the American market, due to Autocars' incapability of making the cars on time.

Indeed, production in Haifa got under way in July '61, and only eleven cars were produced till the end of that year. This is a particularly slow pace when considering Autocars overall 150 units/month production rate at the time.

It is also surprising to note that four very early production UK-made Sabras (see excel file) found their way into Haifa, possibly as demonstrators/production enablers.

The first contract for export, 25 units for the U.S., was accomplished in 1962. According to the data I have, exports only began in 1962, which means the first cars were stocked for some months. This could be due to Reliant's on-going production for the first 100 units.

Anyway, production rate in 1962 was increased.

Phase two The second phase arrived in summer 1963 (August probably), when facelifted Sabra ST started rolling off the production line. I believe (but cannot prove) that this was also the timing for the first GT's production.
Changes included (terminology is taken off the factory document):

  1. Panel (front nose) with rim
  2. Main body with rim
  3. Possibly also revised doors and instrument panel (the latter could be dated much later, given part number)

(Note: To get precise data we should be able to compare detailed pictures of several old 47xx and new 48xx-Sabras.) Also worth noting is that the hardtop part number may indicate a later introduction than the GT. 
As sales were moving along very slowly (U.S. orders diminished, and sales in Israel never surpassed 5-6 a year), production was probably slowed down in 1964. In September 1965, as the plant moved 5kms Southwards, to Tirat HaCarmel, Sabra Sport production stopped altogether. According to what I heard from one of the ex-workers, this was due to the Sabra stock of batteries being stolen during the plant re-location. This does not sound too convincing, and as I found out in this respect, there are many stories that are just that - stories.

Phase three:

Third and last sequel took place a year or so later, production re-started, with Belgium now becoming the No. 1 market. Figures tell us that Autocars invoice prices to its Belgian dealer were reduced by some 40% at this time. This probably enabled sales (and production rate) to reach its peak in 1967. Given the low exports in 1968, I assume production ended with the end of 1967MY, sometime in August 1967. Autocars still had quite some kits in stock, which explains why in 1980, when Autocars' successor (Rom Carmel Industries, founded in 1974) was to convert its production lines from cars, ZF gearboxes were auctioned (Don Pither's book). Sometime in the early 1970s, Autocars got rid of some excess bodyshells it had. At least two unpainted GT bodies found their way to a kindergarden!
Above Yohay's story we can add that the seat of the Belgian importer was in Antwerp, Jacob Jacobsstraat 40.  There must have been a strong connection with "garage Majestic", Chaussée d'Anvers 37 in Brussels, where costumers could choose their model and colour. Up there we get the information that production stopped in may 67 but that cars that had been ordered before were assembled and delivered until 1968.  At arrival of the cars, on the passengers' seat was always a box of oranges.


Autocars Haifa IL made Sabras

With regards to Yohay Shinar, who compiled these data (and more).









ST4701 ???... no

This bright red Sabra, with Itzhak Shubinski (Autocars' owner and CEO) at the wheel, is most probably NOT an Israeli-built one...As it now appears, first ever Sabra to have been registered in Israel did so as late as on January 1962.

This picture, taken in July 1961 at the latest, may actually show UK Sabra #4 (Chassis 200004), a red Sabra sold to Posseidon UK (a maritime company owned by Shubinski) and shipped ex-Two Gates on April 6, 1961. As it was not ever registered in Israel, it was probably re-exported to Europe, or the U.S., once its PR days were over.


ST47xx exported

This picture shows eight Sabras, prior to loading upon ZIM vessel "Gedera", just visible at the back. "Gedera" left Haifa to the U.S. on 16 Sept 1962, carrying the first shipment of 10 Israeli-made Sabra (Sport, more-earthily Autocars vehicles were shipped to the U.S. long before that date) to North America. Chassis numbers were in the 4703-4716 range. Do you have a better copy of this picture?


487x GT-ST

Picture was taken on March 7, 1967, at the Tira plant. Surely these four cars ended up in Belgium!
(If this would only have been a color-picture.)

Completing the Production Log

In order to complete this jigsaw, I would like to have your assistance in having every possible info on the original configuration of the cars:

* Engine No. and stage (carburation)

* Chassis plate etch font (note the differences when looking at the various plates on the website; These are closely related to other Autocars' products, and can therefore be dated)

* Original color

* Any label in Hebrew (should be found on the bodyshell itself, for instance under the ceiling trim and next to the sunvisors - on GTs). This could tell us exactly production date, and hopefully some more info. I have found two-three pieces in every Autocars vehicle I looked at, but this should be done with trim off.

* Date of first registration

* Roof color (original)  

You should read Yohay's original explanation with the above  picture:

Another assembly picture (1.jpg) It clearly shows the following cars -
Dark Blue Metallic GT, wire wheels
Silver GT, wires
Red ST (could also be an HT), no wires
Sabra chassis (enlarge the picture and spot three workers laboring on it)
The man opening the Silver GT right door is Ze'ev Weisshaus - the Sabra assembly manager.
Dating the picture - the white car's back side window frame (look through the Silver Sabra!) is a Carmel FW2, a model that was made till May 1964. The workers all wear long sleeves shirts, so it's March-April 1964 at the latest.
These cars should therefore be in the 4810-20 range. 

Interesting is John Cartwrights hypothesis that we see above the 4809, 4810, 4811 - could be.


This picture thanks Thomas Touw

Thanks Thomas Touw

This should be one of the first MKI in the (old)  factory.  According to Yohay the mules' name was "Alfred".

And this (below) should be one of the last: notice a GT with chromed wire wheels and lenscaps. Yohay says this should be GT489x.

On the background the headquarters at the Tirah-plant and lots of Carmels, probably for the army. Does it ever rain in IL?

About the body's in the  Kindergarten: that's not a story.
Jacob Shalit provided us with some pictures but he also wanted his "phoenix" to be shown on the same spot (not all are forlorn).
The cars are (were - are still ??) in the Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, about 25km south of Haifa, on the sea shore.


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