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SARA - Société Automobile de Rhône Alpes


Thanks for the typo on the weight.

The SARA is looking forward to cooperating with PMI Polezny. Development plans for SARA engines for the late fifties include a whole new I3 family, up to 1.0 liter…
The planned V4 and flat 2 had to be canceled, sadly, and the status on our I4 engines is still uncertain. The Marshall will have to be redesigned by then, and could be available to PMI at a very low cost, even factoring in the tooling (there is not a lot), and workers’ training. But we might have a whole new design, less undersquare, and factored for economy, by then.
Low Comp engines will be a continued feature of the SARA and, due to massive overproduction of beets in France, we might start a study on ethanol engines.

We also are studying a lower-cost version of our Presque Diesel family, though that would be somewhat of a challenge - that new mechanical injection stuff seems perfect, but we don’t see how we could make it cheap ; the bakelite injectors we experimented with were economic, but sadly they had a mtbf of about 10 hours, which is not satisfying.

The opportunity to work with a PMI consultant for fixtures is also an interesting perspective, since it appears that people appreciate the decadent, american aesthetic of putting chromes everywhere. We like our cars sober, and we think France needs not imitating USA, but then we also have a mission to sell cars, so we might have to compromise there


The cooperation would be with the design team of PMI Puma SARL and/or PMI Minerva NV/SA. So, French / Belgian styling.


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

Picture Summary

Engine Details

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

Car Details

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


Next step in 1955, which the long overdue firing of chief marketing engineer Corot, and a somewhat decent car to replace the Marshall. With the profits returning, we should then be able to try to expand, using PMI to improve on our styling


The turmoil years

Despite the Armistice still selling strongly and the Fourgonnette being a hit, the SARA went into deep financial troubles, with their two major products, the one where SARA invested a lot, being complete failures. The margins on the small vehicles were low, but soon they had to start selling the Percheron and the Marshall at cost, sometimes even at loss, only to move inventory a bit and sell them before they reached terminal rust decay (which came quite fast, to be honest).

Had the SARA been privately owned, it would have gone bankrupt, but as a State-funded company, it survived, if only to avoid an unemployment crisis in the production sites.

Yet, in 1953, a new government came to office, and whistled the end of recess.

Chief Marketing Engineer Corot, being the most inept of the senior staff and closely tied to the former government, was the first to go, but basically the whole executive directory was changed.

And, surprisingly, the change was made in favor of able managers, not tied to political reasons.

François Jeanneret became the new CEO, with a six-years contract, and, behold, he actually came with a strategic vision for those years !

A relative of famous architect Le Corbusier, Jeanneret was a firm believer in the motto that “the functions dictates the form”, and that the cars built by SARA should be designed in accordance with the clients needs.

That might sound obvious, but that was actually a kind of cultural shock to the firm.

An alumni of the Higher School for Commerce, he had also made postgraduate studies in the USA, with a MBA from Stanford, where he had learned about qualitative marketing research and focus group. He quickly set up a task force to develop what would become the “Automation Marketing standard”, upon which he urged the design teams to rely heavily

Early draft of an “Automation Marketing standard”. Had the design team been using this kind of tool to design the Marshall, they would have known no one would buy it before it hit the market

Apart from implementing this consumer-focus culture, Jeanneret also set up the strategy for his mandate.

  • Due to financial difficulties, there wouldn’t be major new developments during these six years.
  • The Marshall, costing huge losses, would have to be replaced as quickly as possible, though, even though it was stated from the draft sheet that the car would be a stop-gap measure.
  • The only other new car would be a redesign of the Armistice, trying to capitalize on its success while erasing the worst edges and going (slightly) upmarket, to increase margins and restore some financial health
  • Also, he implemented some new production techniques and management, somewhat of a batardized lean management culture. Though obviously, given the company’s culture, this was limited in scope, it helped nonetheless by improving quality and social relations within the company, for a significant gain in productivity.

Work would then start on the new “Modulor” engine family. A tip of the hat to Corbusier’s work, the Modulor relied on the strong belief in standardization that characterized Jeanneret.

First draft of Jeanneret “Modulor Engine Brief”

On this basis, progressive introduction of a new car lineup could start. Jeanneret was impressed by the leaks about the CItroën DS, and requested cost/benefits analysis on new technologies - hydropneumatic suspensions, independant suspensions, front wheel drive, transversal engines, overhead cams…

Rhône-Alpes being a major actor in France aluminium production, it was also a political request to study the uses of aluminium

The target was to have at least one really new product - and a financially healthy company - by the end of his term.
Then he would seek a new mandate and start international expansion.

Jeanneret was an able manager, but he wasn’t without ego !


The 1955 SARA 3 - smart engineering applied to facelift

Under the dynamic management of Jeanneret, a whole new batch of smart, young, and eager engineer joined the staff, at prominent positions.

Antoine Watteau, the chief platform engineer, now had a deputy, Georges Seurat, more specifically in charge of the suspension.
Seurat was a punctilious person (*), and in a few months time, he was able to provide detailed studies on the advantages of independant suspensions and radial tires, proving how quickly the initial tech investment would pay off, and, using the Marketing Standardized Automation, that the cost/benefit advantages would offset any slight increase in price to the customer.

(*) A special delivery of Saint-Joseph wine to anyone who notices the awful pun hidden there

Thus, as early as late '53, the decision to work on independant suspensions platform for the SARA 3 and 4 was frozen. Which gave enough time to brush up a bit on the engines and trims, and to work on SARA 4, the real new car scheduled for '55, and the Modulor 500 engine

SARA 3, SARA 4 ? What are those names, who miss the stupid poetry of earlier SARA cars ?

Well, Marketing engineer Corot got fired, for one, and Jeanneret believed in “form follow function”, remember.

He explained this to accountant principal Poussin on a luncheon he had set up initially to try to dissuade the accountant principal to write in various colors in the accounting books.

“- But, François (Jeanneret), an accounting book is boring. When you go from red, to green, to some blue, sometimes a dash of purple if you feel daring, it is much better than this bland red-black scheme most accountant uses, don’t you think”

“- Jean (Poussin), accounting has rules. Form must follow function. Just look at this Saint-Marcellin cheese. It is not round to please the eye, but because this is the most efficient form when casting the cheese with the laddle”

"- You say that, and we sell the Armistice and the Marshall - well, not the Marshall, no one buys it actually. Where is the rationnality in this ? They should be called “small backbreaking car” and “midsized crappy car”, according to your reasoning

"- You have something there. The smaller one has a I3, the bigger one a I4, SARA 3 and 4 sound good. With numerals for displacement, since those bourgeois from Pleugeot preempted using a zero in the middle…

  • Hang on my Chateauneuf du Pape while I draft a note. NO, Don’t drink my wine !"

Enough french antics - can we see the car now ?

The 1955 SARA 38S in Turini Trim

So, basically, the SARA 3, while branded as a completely new car, was an Armistice, with an Armistice engine, but with a few chromes to look nicer (actually, they are patended SARA Chromalite, an alloy of tin, plastics, and some shiny paint), the patended Fragonard grille, and fully independant suspension, front and rear.

Fernand Léger; the knew Chief Marketing Engineer, did what he could to try to spin the car to the market - though pretending the SARA 3 was a “Princess” was a bit of an exageration, the car was improved enough that it sold well, and the dated design was still having some success in rural areas.

Can we talk about the car now, granpa ?

The 38S Turini is the “sport” trim of the SARA 3, with a bigger, more agressively tuned engine (forget about fuel economy), and a slightly improved interior - for greatly improved margins for SARA !
It still offered 4 doors, but, as it used the race-tuned Turini 800S (also available in 1100S, 4 cylinder) and a chassis that put way more than 0.8g on the skidpad, that made a close connection to the SARA Turinis used in promotion and amateur racing - just strip it bare, put a helmet on and you’re good to go !

The building cost was around 687$, with allowed for a MSRP in the 750$ - but SARA (and independant garages) made also tons of money on the maintenance, which was expensive (over 55$ yearly) for such a small car.

Obviously, only available in Bleu de France, but nobody would have wanted it in another color

I said some chromes, not “lots of chromes”

Picture Summary


Engine Details

Based on the SARA Armistice I3 engine line - 64.9 bore and 86.6 stroke for 861 cc max capacity, all cast pushrod

Capacity : 62.6x86.6, 800 cc
8.2 compression, DCOE (!) carburetor tuned for french 89 RON regular, short cast header
47hp@5600, 62.7Nm@4900, 7.8% efficiency (ouch !)
85.5 kg, 381.2$ ('18) cost

Car Details

6376$ build cost (0 markup)

4 door - 4 seats, 2.06m wheelbase, 3.33m total
Front Longitudinal RWD
Steel monocoque chassis and panels
Mc Pherson (F), Semi Traling Arm ®, 3 gear manual

Weight : kg
Fuel Economy : 16.8 l/100 (14. MPG US)

Max Speed : 128 km/h
0-100 km/h : 29.4
1/4 mile : 28.95
Kilometer : 48.01
G : 0.866-0.821
Braking 0-100 : 46.1m

Airfield time : 2:06.34


Coming Soon : The SARA 3 Turini 1100 S “Compétition Client” - The birth of a legend

Made in Modane

no, that’s not a typo


Modulor engines designs frozen !

Lyon - 1955

The SARA is proud to inform the press and public that a whole new engine family will power the SARA cars in the near futures, with the Modulor 500 coming as soon as 1957 along with a whole new, large family SARA.

The smaller, Modulor 331 and 331-3 engines, who will supersede the current Marshall and Armistice family, will be able to the general public in 1960.

These new engines favor state of the art design, the Modulor 500 and 331 using overhead cam technology.

With our partnership with the Rhône-Alpes Region aluminium founders now evolving into a merger with the Compagnie d’Aluminium du Grésivaudan, we are proud to announce that the Modulor 500 will use lighter, stronger aluminium alloy heads (*), while the Modulor 331 promises to be the lightest engines ever, being fully cast in aluminium !

(*) No guarantee for the strength of the head gaskets will be provided, though

We are currently opening discussions with @Private_Miros, CEO from PMI Polezny, to provide them with engines and technologies, under license. We look forward to that gesture of opening and peace in these troublesome years of tensions between the USA and USSR.
France, and the SARA, know no enemy, and is always willing to help and share the talent of french engineering worldwide !