Home » I Always Confuse These Two Delightfully Ugly Sports Cars: Cold Start

I Always Confuse These Two Delightfully Ugly Sports Cars: Cold Start

Cs Saber Dart1
ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Cs Dart

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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:

ADVERTISEMENT

Still, ugly things. Kind of like this car:

Cs Sabre1

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.

Cs Sabra1

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

 

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
30 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
7 months ago

I knew the Dart/SP250 immediately and would happily own the snot out of one of those catfish-faced gems with a tiny V8. I didn’t know about the Sabre/Sabra, though.

Jimmy7
Jimmy7
7 months ago
Last edited 7 months ago by Jimmy7
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
7 months ago

Reliant offered a sort of package deal to any business or government looking to enter the auto industry – they would design and engineer the cars, design and contract for production tooling, set up the supply chain, design the factory and supervise the hiring and training of workers, and supply whatever other parts were needed, and, boom, you had your new car company up and running with one deal.

Autocars launched Sabra as the first domestic Israeli car brand through that deal, mainly to sell economical small cars in Israel (like the Sabra Carmel, which was basically a Reliant Regal with an extra wheel, and the Sabra Sussita, which was a bit larger, but still had Reliant’s typical BOF fiberglass body construction), but they saw a market opportunity to export cars to the US, where, it was assumed, the American Jewish community would be amenable to patronizing Israeli products. They felt they needed a sports car to properly appeal to American consumers, hence the Sabra GT.

When the US sales failed to take off, the GT was discontinued, as Autocars had no need for a sports model within Israel. But, Reliant felt the design had potential and re-worked it slightly to produce for themselves as the Sabre, but found it not entirely satisfactory, and more throughly reworked the basic idea into the Scimitar.

Last edited 7 months ago by Ranwhenparked
Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
7 months ago

Neither are gorgeous cars, but the Daimler isn’t as bad. It’s the weird-looking hood scoop that takes the Sabra over the top.

Cerberus
Cerberus
7 months ago

When I was a kid and would go car spotting on my bike, one was a BRG Daimler SP250. I always thought of them as looking like a charming grouper. It was later for sale when I was looking to buy my first car, but was out of my price range ($6k) which wasn’t likely a bad thing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Sabra/Sabre. Anyway, I would never confuse them.

Fjord
Fjord
7 months ago

The Sabra wasn’t on my radar at all but strong family resemblance. Like catfish siblings – one with facial piercings and one with braces.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
7 months ago

Reminds me of period British dentition.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
7 months ago

So, it seems marketing wanks haven’t changed all that much: “…built by the makers of Britain’s top-selling three-wheeler, whose experience building vehicles having inherent qualities of stability, serviceability, and lightness combined with strength second to none.”
-and sentence stops. WTH?
It bothers me that this kind of crap bothers me

I’m going to be on a roof all day wondering what that experience was supposed to do for the car or buyer

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
7 months ago

The Daimler has some strong 1955 Studebaker Speedster vibes. Kinda like the Speedster’s younger, slimmer brother, without the chrome headgear.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
7 months ago

Brits are their most embarrassing when they’re trying to be cosmopolitan and up-to-date.
If I showed either one of these to a non-car person and told them that they were drawn by AI, everyone would agree that AI will never work.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
7 months ago
Reply to  Vetatur Fumare

There is definitely that “off” vibe of something AI-generated.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
7 months ago

I love the little 2.5 liter hemi V8 in the Daimler Dart / SP250. Watching the Jay Leno’s Garage episode on his proved to me that a V8 makes lovely V8 sounds, independent of displacement. I’d be a happy camper in some alternate timeline where engines downsized in displacement only instead of cylinder count, and midsize sedans came with a 2.5 liter V8 instead of a miserable 2.5 liter 4 cylinder.
Also, I thought they were only sold as the SP250 in the US to avoid copyright complications with the Dodge Dart – were they not sold as Darts elsewhere in the world?

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

The world needs more small displacement 8, 10 and 12 cylinder engines. Sure they may be less efficient, costlier, and have more parts to break but, ah, I don’t really know where to go from here….

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
7 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

LOL the heart wants what it wants! But yes, they would likely be less efficient.
There’s a lot of research claiming that 500 cc/cylinder displacement is the ‘ideal’ light duty gasoline engine size, but IMO that isn’t really true, it is more a self-fulfilling prophecy: 500 cc/cylinder sized engines were researched the most heavily in recent years, in large part because 2 liter 4 cylinders are the biggest you could own in China without massive disincentives (taxes, etc.) and that was going to be the market that laid golden eggs of profit forever…
Still, the inconvenient thermodynamic truth is that the smaller your cylinder, the worse the surface area to volume ratio, and thus the worse your combustion heat loss. This is counteracted at some point by the fact that larger cylinders will tend to knock at lower compression ratios, so there is a crossover at some point. Existence proof from successful engine designs seem to say bigger than ~800 cc/cyl is probably too big, and smaller than ~300 cc/cyl is probably too small. But that puts a 2.5 L V8 right at the lower end of viable, and a 4 liter V8 is right at the ‘ideal’ size.
I’ve always thought a slightly torquier 4 liter V8 putting out the same ~300 hp as the 3.7 liter V6 in my Mustang would have been an ideal choice – I’m happy with the power, the very low speed engine performance could use a little work, and I’d prefer the V8 burble to the V6 growl. I’m convinced with a little work you could make the overall fuel efficiency very similar.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

1974 Eldorado has entered the chat, with 1025cc per cylinder.

Cerberus
Cerberus
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

I’m pretty sure you’re right about the name as I that’s how I had been aware of it, as well.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
7 months ago

100mph with those hats sticking up over the windscreen? Good luck!

Those two cars are so horrible, they make the Renault Caravelle/Floride look like a masterpiece!

Last edited 7 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
Jonee Eisen
Jonee Eisen
7 months ago

The Floride/Caravelle is a really pretty car. And the Sabre/Sabra actually looks good in person. The Daimler is unfortunate. Fun car to drive, though. Moreso than the other two.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
7 months ago

I had an ex-police SP250 at one time. It had an interesting modification, a frame built into the boot (trunk) with two rectangular recesses. This was not for some exotic 1960’s police equipment but for two sacks of cement. It did actually improve the handling at the limit!

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
7 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Also, my landlord was one of the greasy rockers who drove a motorcycle like a hooligan. He was pulled over for speeding at 100 mph by a policeman driving one. The Policeman had a handlebar mustache and a set of Battle of Britain wing sewn into his uniform

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Back in the 1970s some of the Colorado State Patrol would dump weight into the trunks of those huge Plymouth Furys to help handling in the mountain canyons. One I knew went to the effort to engineer a device that transferred weight to the optimal side. It was an amazing example of ingenuity. It also allowed him to run down the idiots who thought they were equipped to outrun the cops.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
7 months ago

It’s like they both made them have an unmistakable fish mouth, but then concluded (incorrectly) that the best remedy was to add garish bumpers to detract from it.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
7 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Yes. These were butt ugly even then, worse now.

Chronometric
Chronometric
7 months ago

Reliant found a good angle for their brochure illustration. I doubt that there is one for the SP250. My neighbor had one of these Daimlers and it was quite an impressive car – from the driver’s seat.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
7 months ago

I think it’s the catfish face they share…the nose that keeps going way too far past the headlights, ending in a gaping, flattened oval mouth.

Luke
Luke
7 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

I came here to say that I’ve never seen a car that so strongly resembled a catfish, much less two of them

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
7 months ago
Reply to  Luke

I really sort of liked the Dart until you guys pointed that out. Cannot unsee.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
7 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

One could say that the old car everybody likes has a bit of the same 😉

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
7 months ago

True, but it’s all in the execution.

Cerberus
Cerberus
7 months ago

Yeah, it’s damn ugly for all the same reasons listed and I love the D-Type and XKSS.

30
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x