Designed With Imagination, Made by Hand.

Overdrive with Nick Lee-Frampton

From the Contact, June 1st 2000

Think sports cars and your mind may come up with Morgan, Ferrari, Porsche, Almac ... Almac?

Almac Cars is one of those small New Zealand companies that quietly works wonders, in this case producing sports cars. Not cars made by robots, designed by opinion polls and marketed by suits and with only the number plate distinguishing one example from another, but cars made by hand, designed with imagination, each destined for a specific customer and thus each example with its own characteristics.

Alex MacDonald's company makes things in fibreglass, items from railway carriage doors to special effects for Te Papa and the occasional speedboat hull,  and cars, including the TG roadster, which resembles a 1930s MG, the 427 SC, which resembles the classic steroid-laden AC Cobra and more recently, the Sabre, a two seater, with an exhaust note of exquisite melody, a shape that deftly combines muscle, with refined style and a driving experience that is, alas, uncommon nowadays.

You may order these cars already built and ready to drive, or you can buy them as a kit -  yes, there is a build manual - for assembly in your own space and time.  As with mass-produced cars, the Sabre's design is constantly being refined, with a rubber spoiler being introduced to the nose as the original design proved vulnerable to the often abrupt angles between kerbs and road and a new style of tail lights. 

The prototype, which I have driven, has a deliciously burbling V8 attached to a four speed gearbox, a five-speed unit is on the horizon.  It is very comfortable, there is remarkably little buffeting when topless and lots of people look at you. Undeniable proof of the car's dynamic abilities is steadily becoming apparent at Manfeild racing circuit where the Sabre race car is presently leading its class, yet this is its first season.

Buy a new Ford, Holden or Toyota and its conception birth and delivery is monitored on computer screen.  An Almac comes from down the road, or your own backyard Almac is Wellington's own car company and the Sabre is a damned good drive, even in prototype format with scuffs and a few rattles and instruments from a Cortina.

Alex plans future Sabres to be based around late-model Commodores, with 3.8 or 3.9-Iitre V8 motors giving at least 150kw. (Now a reality - Ed)

As a kit, the steel and- GRP body (with Kevlar stiffening) costs $10,800.  Finishing touches such as a soft top roof and a burr walnut dashboard and the motor, 'gear-box, tyres, and wheels, all to your choice and specification.

Complete with build manual, a Sabre in DIY format is around $25,000 to $28,000.  If you ask Alex to build it for you, expect to write a cheque for $45,000 or thereabouts. Mass produced rivals include a 1.8 Mazda MX5 with 106Kw at just under$40, 000, or Subaru’s Impreza WRX, with all wheel drive and 160Kw at just under $50,000.  Both are very entertaining cars, but I very much doubt they will turns heads like the Sabre did when I drove it recently.

My co-driver Anita May rode in the Sabre and at one stage I asked if she were comfortable.  "Yes, I am, but I would sit on a rock to be in this car," she replied.


Sabre S2 Test