You know how there’s some cars that you always conflate in your head, which is one of the top six places to conflate things? I know I do that sometimes, where there’s two cars, not really related to one another beyond generally being the same overall type of car, yet they nevertheless somehow feel really similar, like two expressions of the same basic idea. For me, the most pesky doppelgänger twins are likely two mostly-British roadsters, the Daimler Dart and the Reliant Sabre, or, as previously known, Autocar Sabra. Both of these cars are appealing little mid-century roadsters despite them both being somehow incredibly overdone and, well, kinda ugly. But in interesting ways. I mean, look at them.
The Daimler Dart, technically called the Diamler SP250 when in actual production, was built by Daimler in Coventry, on a chassis based on the Triumph TR3. The car had a 2.5-liter V8. which was impressive for the time, and a fiberglass body full of just the wrong curves and lines and proportions and shapes. Somehow, incredibly, all the forms and details of this car just seem somehow wrong and in person the effect is even worse. It’s said that at the 1959 New York Motor Show, it was voted the unofficial ugliest car, something Daimler neglected to use in their ads.
But, luckily, they were quick, so you hopefully didn’t have to look at it for too long. In fact, for a while, British cops used them as high-speed pursuit cars:
Still, ugly things. Kind of like this car:
Also fiberglass and also strangely ugly in a particular kind of overdone way is the Reliant Sabre, which actually started life being jointly developed by Autocars of Israel as the Sabra, which is a nickname for Israelis, after a particular desert fruit that’s prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside. It’s kind of amazing that only one letter needed changing for the right-hand-drive version for the UK market, changing a fruit to a sword with one vowel.
I think part of the strangeness – aside from a similar sort of uncomfortable proportion and line like the Dart – are the two giant chrome boomerangs that form the front bumper. The Sabra came with a four-cylinder engine, but the Sabre could be had with an inline-6.
You see how these cars can get conflated in my head? They’re definitely kindred spirits in the grand spectrum of homeliness, and in that they will always have a powerful bond.