The 1949 SARA Percheron Builder
And the Quasi Diesel" engine Family
The last new model for the '49 lineup was yet another failed design, victim of excess money from the Marshall plans and the internal wars ruining the climate at the SARA.
The chief engine engineer, Eugène Delacroix, was a firm believer in Diesel engines. Sure, they were expensive to build, smelled awfully, and it sounded like… Well, like a diesel. But Delacroix was an eccentric (well, for an engineer, at least), who lived on a barge along the river Rhône, and he found the Barge large Diesel engine had its qualities.
It was nearly indestructible, it started in any weather (provided you waited for the preheating spark to do its job), it ran on bascially everything, from heating fuel to frying oil to… Diesel, offered loads of low-end torque, and was economic.
So, Delacroix started to work on a diesel engine, thinking there was a market for this in the utilitary and fleet vehicles, where large volumes would help mitigate the development costs.
SARA being Sarah, he was allowed a comfortable budget, and had the bases of a nice 2.7l diesel going when Chief Marketing engineer Corot heard about the project.
And Corot had a dream - he wanted to make the SARA a higher-end brand, and dreamt about inline sixes, classy advertising in luxury magazines, car reveals in exotic countries and palaces. Chief Marketing Corot wanted nothing to do with Diesel, and Chief Marketing Corot had an alumni in government.
Two months later, a new law was voted in parliament, banishing diesels. Sadly for Corot, all his maneuvers where for nothing, at least as far as getting upmarket was. The board simply decided to keep the diesel block, adapting it to gasoline while working on the lower end torque and robustness, and to spin it as the “Quasi Diesel” (almost diesel for the non-snail eaters).
Which made for a, well crappy engine family, with a crappy commercial stunt to go with.
The car is as good as the engine
So, now that we have a crappy, heavy, underpowered engine, let’s throw some steel panels around and call it a day, and be done with it, was the answer from chief design engineer Fragonard, who was already close to nervous breakdown from finishing, and having to put his name on the SARA Marshall.
And so the SARA did.
Using either the Quasi-Diesel or the smaller Marshall engine (in low comp and utility trims), the truck was truly awful, and missing entirely the market. While it had decent hauling and towing capacities, and came in various forms, plateau, van, minibus (with nine seats), and even in 4x4 offroad variants, it was underpowered while being too big for the European market.
The specialty versions (the Forester 4x4 Truck and the Carrier minibus, mainly) did manage, despite their shortcomings, some success in the administration, as they had least kept the rustic, rural qualities of the SARA vehicles.
But this was a failure and somewhat of an embarassment, especially considering the weird choices made by Chief Marketing engineer Corot regarding the branding of the truck
Yet another branding failure
Antoine Corot, the one who lobbied to forbid Diesel, didn’t really want to work on promoting a truck.
One day, at the hour of the apéritif, he was rehashing the failure of the SARA Marshall “banana” campaign with the accountant principal (who I will have to name since he seems to be a recurring character after all…)
“- Say, mister Poussin, do you have an idea how to sell that ugly workhorse those zoots Fragonard and Delacroix built ?”
“- Not as such, engineer Corot. I think playing again on the smile is a bit early, that at least I can tell you”
“- Now, that was mean, you know. You’ll have to pay the next round of anisette to apologize. But you’re right, though, this is a plowing machine, not a smiley thingumajig like the other, you ken, the one with a crappy US name, the guy who gave us money”
“- Now, hold my anisette for a second, I think you might have something there. Plowing, workhorse… Something rural, something strong. Why not call it the Percheron ?”
“- You mean, the Percheron, like those ugly big working horses we used to see in the country when we was young ? Isn’t that a bit of a silly name ?”
“- I don’t know, you’re the salesman there. But I know Rolls & Royce sell their limousines for an awful lot, and what is a limousine if it’s not some sort of cow ?”
“- You know, you’re brilliant. Hold my anisette while I write a memo”
Indeed, the Percheron is a breed of draft horse, while the Limousine is a cow breed (and a bodystyle, with some weird connections to the french region of Limousin)
And so we got the Percheron, which came in different trims, each one linked to a craftsmanship. The Forrester for the heaviest duty, 4x4 truck, the Builder for the intermediate, RWD truck, the “Delivery” for the van, the “Carrier” for the minibus…
Yep, undercoat grey FTW
Based on the SARA Quasi Diesel I4 engine line - 85.9 bore and 114.5 stroke for 2653 cc max capacity, all cast pushrod
Capacity : long-stroked, 78.1x114.5, 2194 cc
7.3 compression, twin single-barrel eco carb tuned for 92 RON regular gasoline, cast log header
46.1 hp@3300 (redline), 130 Nm@1400, 14.3% efficiency
178.9 kg, 869$
The obvious misconceptions, such as the choked exhaust, quality slider abuse, weird fuel system and noisy muffler are intentional. This has to be a heavy, noisy, expensive, lumbering engine with awful throttle response
7249$ build cost (0 markup)
2 door - 3 seats, 2.92m wheelbase, 5.10m total
Front Longitudinal RWD
Steel ladder chassis and panels
front/rear axle leafs, 3 gear manual
Weight : 1180 kg
Fuel Economy : 16.1 l/100 (14.6 MPG US)
Max Speed : 109 km/h
0-100 km/h : 48.5
1/4 mile : 24.91
Kilometer : 48.15
G : 0.67-0.64
Braking 0-100 : 97.7 m
Airfield time : 2:21.20
750 kg tow - 850 kg load capacity