Goodbye Saab! Thanks for the Memories…

Sad to read this week that we’re at the end of the line for Sweden’s Saab – as GM failed to find a suitable buyer and decided to shut the company down.

1968-saab-96-v4-brochure-cover.jpgMy first new car was a RED (!) 1968 Saab 96 V4 Deluxe – which my folks helped me buy new from Leif Lindzen Motors in Berkeley. I’ve still got one of the brochures for Summerflight (1969 edition) – which bundled in a trip to the factory in Sweden to actually pick up the car, drive it around that country and then leave it behind for shipment back to San Francisco. Cost (car + trip): $2,770.

Lots of fond memories of that trip – and, I suppose, I must have photos from it somewhere (!). I remember the flight over – it was mid-June, we took off in daylight, landed in daylight, the sun never set the whole way over. I went to sleep and woke up with the sun outside, didn’t know what time it was, look out the window at a clock tower across from the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, saw it was 3:45 and thought I’d missed a whole day of events. Turned out it was 3:45 AM, not PM!

Picking up MY car at the factory in Malmo was a treat – but having to leave it behind for shipment a week later in Copenhagen wasn’t! Picking it back up in San Francisco six weeks later though was very nice too!

The Saab’s little 73 hp V4 engine (made by Ford in Germany) had plenty of pep. 0-50 mph in 10 seconds! The hood opened backwards, titling forward over the front bumper. Another Saab design “feature”!

Saab’s in those days had a weird transmission that disengaged the engine when you were coasting – so no engine braking. Supposedly, this helped improve fuel economy. You could disable that (for mountain driving) – but to do so involved pulling a handle on the floor up under the dashboard.

My least favorite memory of the car was the muffler – which hung off two rubber mounts at the back of the car. Those rubber mounts were fatigue-prone and one or the other would regularly break, leaving the muffler flapping around.

Sold the Saab circa 1974 when we bought a bright orange VW bus used – at the time we were living in Poughkeepsie, NY. Unfortunately, the VW bus’s heater boxes were rusted through (didn’t take long for that in Poughkeepsie) – that was a very COLD car to drive until we did some patching of the heater boxes. Those were the days…

Alas, I was never to own a Saab again. Even though it was my first car, the quirkiness of that 96 turned me off a bit to the brand!

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