Sabra GT4810 (24.05.2008 )    Vorige pagina

John Cartwright



   I have been told to write this story by several members and was going to wait until the beast was re-built. Then I met Len Pennington at Tatton last week who suggested that I just tell the tale of collecting the car and then tell of the restoration at a later date. Of course, he was right and I have to say something because the tale is already spreading by “Chinese Whispers”.                                                                                       
   I suppose it all started at Curborough, where last year there was a Sabre 6 taking part in the Autotest. I got a good look around it, having never seen one close up before, and I loved it. This was all I wanted in a car - the smell of a hot engine, petrol and warm oil was superb, a thumping great lump of an engine, a real 60s sports car and a beast. That’s it. I want one!

   Never thinking for a second what would happen, in the next couple of months, never thinking for a second I could afford or even find one. Then one morning in October, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my truck, reading Practical Classics, and thought I had found a misprint. The one line add read; SABRA BONNET & CHASSIS and a strange phone number. I immediately rang the number.

   The phone, I was to find out later was answered by Marcus Tanner, a Swiss classic car restorer, who luckily speaks superb English, as my German is a little basic. The call went like this; “Morning, I believe you have a Sabre for sale?”  “NO, A SABRA”. “You mean a Sabre?” “NO, A SABRA, WELL PART OF ONE”. “What's a Sabra?” “IT’S A SABRE MADE IN ISRAEL ”. “How much of it is there?” “THERE’S A BONNET, A CHASSIS, STEERING, FRONT SUSPENSION, AND GLASS, LESS THE WINDSCREEN. THERE’S NO ENGINE, GEARBOX, AXLE, etc”.

   The basics of the deal were done and the details were hammered out by e-mail. Over the next month or so negotiations were quite difficult as I didn’t think I could justify the price or the trip, and Marcus didn’t think I was serious.
What do I tell the wife, "just popping to Switzerland to buy a car dear - [well half a car that I can’t get any bits for]". I work 90 hours a week and I don’t have a garage!"

   It all started to sound like a really stupid thing to do, then the pictures arrived from Switzerland . It’s superb, I want it! So then I talked to my long-suffering mate Keith, who volunteered to use his Scimitar for the trip. He's madder than me, I thought. 1500 miles in a 30 year old plastic car, one-way, and it’s now Christmas. Switzerland in January, with a Scimitar heater! OK, let’s do it!

   So the wife was told it’s definitely on, we’re going on Boxing Day. Bev’s reaction was understandably a little heated, but she soon came round as she knows there’s no stopping me when I am determined. The ferry was booked from Hull to Rotterdam on Boxing Day night and the return boat was booked for the night after, although a little ambitious, I thought.

   Marcus had also requested some spares for one of his 6a’s so we loaded these on to the trailer to get the price of the Sabra down a little.
   On arriving at Hull , we were immediately pounced on by customs. I don’t know why, but I was quite worried they were going to get the rubber gloves out! The customs officer woman had a dog with her, although it was difficult to tell which end of the lead the dog was on!

   So Scimmy parked on the vehicle deck and off to the bar. There’s no going back now, I thought as I sank the first of several pints of beer. Morning came with the view of Rotterdam through the dining room window. Over a full English breakfast we discussed the trip. P&O North Sea is a very civilised way to travel from the north to the continent, and if you deduct the price of petrol and the trip to Dover it is surprisingly cheap.

   So off we went, down through Holland , Belgium and Germany . It was a surprisingly uneventful trip, until we arrived at the Swiss border at about 8pm. The Swiss stopped us and wanted to know why we were taking a pile of plastic scrap into there beautiful little country? [Not the car the spare bumpers and bits and bobs on the trailer.] I tried for about 20mins to explain in my best German, but they did not understand. and let us go on because they were bored. "OK, OK, just go".

   On crossing the border, after about 20minutes, on the Swiss mountain roads, the lights went out, - no headlamps, the switch had burnt out due to the extra load of the trailer lights. I ended up twisting the wires together, whilst Keith drove, saying things like "I can’t bloody see, hold the wires tighter”. “I can’t, I’m burning a hole in my thumb”. “That’s better”. “Ah, that bloody hurts!” Soon we had the wires securely twisted together and all was well. [With hindsight I think we should have stopped]

   We arrived at Marcus' garage at about 9.30pm, where the yard was covered in a 1" thick sheet of ice. Marcus came out to meet us, and led us through a maze of buildings containing fifty or so British classics, from Triumph Roadsters, to Bentleys, to Minis, all left-and drive, proper export models and not the sort of thing you expect to find in a Swiss village. He then led us to my Sabra, GT4810. It was much better than I had expected. The car was loaded on the trailer and the man was paid. Then Marcus showed us his one remaining Sabra, which is still for sale. The very first GT off the Haifa production line. GT4805, a white GT with a walnut dash. I took the opportunity to take photos of everything to assist with the re-build of my car.
   Marcus then took us to the hotel he had kindly pre booked for us. We left the Sabra and the Scimitar there, and went off in Marcus' V8 LandRover, to the pub, where the conversation turned to cuckoo clocks, and fondue sets, and all things Reliant. He also took great delight in telling me where various bits of my car had gone and the prices he charged for them. It also seemed we had picked the right day to travel as Marcus said they were expecting 1.2m of snow the following afternoon, so we said our farewells promising to return in the Sabra when it was rebuilt.

    In the morning we had a very nice continental breakfast in the hotel, with all the other guests asking us; “What's that outside, both the one on the trailer and the one pulling it”. Keith wanted to know firstly where's the bacon and eggs and secondly why are we eating sandwiches at 8am?

   The trip back was a little more eventful than the one going, as every service station we went to, people asked us in various languages what the car was, and I think they were convinced that the Brits still drive Scimitars as their everyday car.

   We passed out of Germany at about 7pm that evening, but we were as I had predicted both knackered, so we decided to take another overnight break, and stopped in Luxembourg for the night, phoned the ferry company and moved our return date on a day. No problem. We had a superb meal in the Hotel Kinnen in Wasserbillig where the landlady insisted in serving the beer in extremely small glasses, and despite her bad hip getting up from her table hobbling behind the bar and pouring more small beers every 5 minutes or so!

   The next morning brought Luxembourg city , a very nice place to go sightseeing in, except when you are towing a car trailer with a Scimitar, and you decide to go look at the castle, then you discover what superb hairpin bends they have, and what a terrible lock the 6a has! The end result was the Scim and trailer jack-knifed around an acute bend on a 1-4 hill. With a very strong smell of burning friction lining, a 4 foot cloud of white smoke, and a very angry Keith Duff, who was not impressed by me telling him "I told you not to go that way", we started talking again in Belgium .

   Zeebrugge, thank god. Just let’s get on the boat and go home! It’s quite difficult to negotiate the ramps on a ferry with a trailer and no clutch, especially when the stupid deck hand refuses to move out of the way at the top of the ramp. It’s lucky that Scimitars are fibreglass and therefore quite soft. I bet he doesn't stand there again! Never mind, the car was not scratched, and the deckhand was from Indonesia or somewhere and didn't speak English.

   The next morning brought sunny Kingston upon Hull and home wonderful. Customs were confused by these strange people in a Scimitar and let us go without question. [I don’t think they fancied the paperwork.] SABRA GT4810 was back home in the UK after a 40 year world tour. Now the work starts for real that was the easy bit. See continuing progress reports in the Derbyshire Noggin pages of SLICE.

   Many thanks to Keith Duff.

John Cartwright ( Stockport ) (6320)


John's Sabra looked like this when it was found by Marcus Tanner.

so far.the bits came from; handbrake cables GRANADA
handbrake lever REGAL [slightly shorter] 
front shocks REGAL
radiator CAPRI 1600.70s.brake pipe kitSE5[walkers] 
front hosesSE5[walkers].

Quite some work done.

Looks ready?.

This is gonna be a juwel!

This pic just for a person using probably the same engine but not with a RS2000 gearbox.

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