Book Review – Mr Saab

Make sure you go to the end of this review to receive your exclusive Trollhattan Saab 25% discount from Elkparts.

Mr Saab 

Mr Saab is a book that you’ll read at least twice, or once – depending on how you look at it.  It’s two books in one, or five books in one – again, it depends on how you look at it.

Mr Saab is the story of Erik Carlsson and if there’s anyone that can claim a title as all-encompassing as ‘Mr Saab’, then it’s him.  A big man in both stature and achievement, this book is a worthwhile chronicle of his life both inside and outside of a rally car.

If you’re like me, a Saab enthusiast, then it’s likely that you would have heard of Erik Carlsson.  You might have even heard of some of his victories, like the Monte Carlo rally (rallies actually), some time in the early sixties.  The image you’ll have of him might be more like the elderly gentleman that now faithfully attends Saab owner’s conventions.  But the story of Mr Saab is a lot more than that, and this book tells it well.  Erik Carlsson became a superstar in rally driving, the order of which I could never appreciate as a young man here in Australia without reading his story as told by those close to the action, those that saw his star rise first-hand.

Two books in one?  Mr Saab is a well written account in full text, chronicling his early years, rally successes and his continued role with Saab.  The second story is in the margins to the text, where Erik Carlsson himself has written footnotes to all the photos in the book.  You’ll either read all the text first and then come back for the photo tour, or read them all as you go.  I did a bit of both.  

Five books in one?  Well, each of the four chapters is penned by a different author.  In the first, Goran Zachrisson gives a personal account based on his interviews with Mr Saab.  Chapter two is an account of Erik’s rally success as written by Anders Tunberg (who is a notable author of other Saab books as well).  Chapter three is an interview with Gunnar Palm, navigator for Carlsson in many races, but most notably in the victorious 1963 Monte Carlo rally.  Chapter Four, written by Peter Salzer (a former PR head at Saab) recounts Erik’s life with Saab, post-rally.  Each chapter is like a short book in itself.  The fifth book?  Again, the many fantastic images with Carlsson’s words to tell the story.

The book chronicles some of Erik’s early years as well as his marraige to Pat Moss, herself an accomplished driver and the sister of Sterling Moss.  But most of all, this book is about a rally driver that accomplished great things with a car that few thought would achieve such lofty heights.

There’s a bunch of fantastic anecdotes included.  Imagine a fourteen year old kid dropped off in the forest at a refuelling point and having to wait 12 hours for the actual refuelling to occur.  Imagine further, this 14 year old kid having to wait another 18 hours before he was picked up again to go home!  30 hours with just a vacuum flask and a pack of sandwiches.  That kid was Bernt ‘Malin’ Malen, and he grew up to be one of Carlsson’s best and most trusted mechanics.

There’s also the tale of the Safari rally in Africa, in 1964.  Erik and Gunnar got stuck in some mud on the rain-soaked track.  Unable to move they employed a tactic they’d pondered, but never countenanced having to actually employ.  Bogged on the track, they got out of the car, bent down and grabbed it from underneath and proceeded to roll it on its roof, out of the bog and then over again to land it’s wheels on firmer ground, from which they drove away.  The story went ahead of them to the finish line, but when people saw the undamaged car they didn’t believe it.  Outraged at the assertion that he was lying, Erik promptly got Gunnar out of the car and they rolled it again, right in front of everyone.

There are many more tales such as these, including the manner in which Erik was given the nickname Carlsson "on the roof" (which is not what you may be assuming).

Of course, the major rally wins are all covered in this book.  Both the triumphant Monte Carlo campaigns are covered in detail, as well as mention being made of the earlier campaign in a 95, where Carlsson came fourth and claims he would have won if the French hadn’t changed the rules.  Could that have been the first and last rally win by a wagon?  I guess it could have been done before or since, but not to my limited knowledge.

Carlsson’s career with Saab didn’t conclude when his racing career did.  The final chapter of this book details Carlsson’s work as Saab’s unofficial ambassador through the 1970’s, 80’s and into the 1990’s – including the launch of the 9-5, where he drove the car out of an open air freighter, sitting in the car with the freight doors open as the plane landed.

Mr Saab is a fantastic read, filled with over a hundred photos, some of which are from Erik’s personal stock.  They give a wonderful illustration of Carlsson’s career and professionalism.  I’ve no doubt that you’ll be left with a marked appreciation for Carlsson’s achievements and his dedication to the Saab company.  His attention to detail, professional presentation and success helped to define Saab for many years after he left racing and it’s only after reading a detailed account such as this that you can gain a full appreciation for how much he deserves the title, ‘Mr Saab’.

I’d highly recommend Mr Saab as an addition to any Saab enthusiast’s library.  As this book is no longer in print, I’d also recommend you obtain your copy while they’re available.



I’m very pleased to announce that Elkparts has extended a special offer to people that order Mr Saab through reading this review. 

The regular price for Mr Saab is GBP 23.99. 

Elkparts’ regular dicount price for this book is GBP 19.99.

Quote the voucher code and you will receive Mr Saab for just GBP 14.99!  That’s a 25% discount, receivable only when you quote the voucher code.

I’d like to thank John at Elkparts for making this offer available and looking after visitors to Trollhattan.  It’s a wonderful gesture that I appreciate and I’m sure you will too if you add this book to your Saab library.

Click here to order your copy of Mr Saab from Elkparts

When you order, the checkout screen will have a space for a voucher code.  In this space you should enter "", but without the quotation marks.  Spelling is important, so please make sure your ABC’s are accurate.  The checkout should automatically deduct GBP 5.00 from the price.


My thanks to Elkparts for providing me with a copy of Mr Saab to review here at Trollhattan.

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  1. Swade,
    I’m so glad I bought this from Elkparts. No matter where you buy it, this is a must-buy for any vintage Saab fan! I especially love the photo sequence of Erik beating a 1.5L Porsche Carrera after getting Ingemar Johansson to delay the start by being slow to come to the starting line so Erik could change plugs before the start. A very cooperative fellow Swede. Is this the same Ingemar Johansson that defeated Floyd Patterson in 1959 for the world heavyweight championship?

    While I’m airing questions, does anyone know more about the Saab 9-3 at the links below? I say those who complain that high horspower in a front-wheel-drive car is useless should have a look at this. I mean, 350kw (470hp) is a LOT, and the car won (see below). I can’t wait to see how the January 21 event turns out. If it wins, I think it should get some PR play by Saab because it’s a real Saab, not some tube-frame look-alike with fiberglass shell and awd, but a true Saab with fwd, more like the old race-tuned strokers that Carlsson drove.
    Ted Yurkon
    “Michele Lupini and Dave McGregor’s awesome Silverstone Tyres Saab 9-3R”

    Same link as above but change “tarchallenge/786964” to “tarmacchallenge/393299”
    “Michele Lupini and Dave McGregor in the Bosal Cars in Action Saab 9-3R — a monstrous machine that remains an unknown entity having been off the radar since it appeared out of the blue to score a shock Tarmac victory last year”

    Same link as above but change “tarchallenge/786964” to “tarmacchallenge/392868”
    “staggering 350kW and still drives the front wheels through a 5-speed gearbox with the assistance of a limited-slip differential”

  2. just a comment on the 470 hp, there’s a guy here in Trollhattan that ran a 754 hp (race fuel) engine in a og 9-3 street car… torque steer anyone? That engine will move on to live in a 4wd 9-3ss from what I’ve heard…

  3. I think I read an article in a magazine about that 754 hp. Was it in the 9-3 hatch? I remember the 754 hp rating being around 6,000 rpm, but redline was stated to be at 8,000?

    It was the quickiest car out of all the BMWs, Audis, Mercedeseses, and Porsches in the magazine.

  4. Yes, it was a 9-3 hatch, same engine specs as Per Eklund is using in his rallycross car. I have a photo of the engine bay if Swade wants to host it…

  5. “$18 S&H to America. Ouch.”

    Complain to Royal Mail. They are the ones that charge that to ship the book from the UK to the US.

    The total saving on the book for you works out around US$14-15, so that covers most of the carriage.

    Hope that clarifies the carriage cost.

  6. How many customers have returned for a third 9-5 Purchase? Well, my latest is a 2005 Arc version and the original excitement is replaced with much regret. I love my past two 9-5’s the last being a 2002 Linear with Premium Pkg. This time I simply told my dealer I’d like a new Arc with the premium Pkg. I foolishly assumed I’d be getting a better appointed car having moved up in the model range. Instead I continue to find features that have been removed in this newer version. Upon delivery, I was very dissapointed to discover there was NO On-Star and no Weather Band which I loved in my previoius car. I still took the car. In subsiquent weeks I find: Gone are the convienent storage nets in the B Pillar and notice a LOT less leather surfaces. Gone are leather covered Center, door and rear seat Arm Rests as well as leather surface on the head rests. No wonder the pleasant aroma is gone now. Gone is the Rear Seat Heater. Then the most annoying of all happened when driving in snow. I find that the Head Lights weren’t being cleaned. I almost stop at the dealer to check out why but then realize…. There ARE NO Head light Cleaning Nozzles anymore! At this point, I’d happily return the new 9-5 with Saddness that my beloved 9-5’s have been watered down to expensive cars with very few features than many cars costing much less. I miss my 2002 9-5. This is probably my fourth and LAST Saab.
    How dissapointing

  7. I sympathize with you Drew and regrettably have also seen that some of the nice/unique features that came standard on the 9-5 across the board are being removed and passed on to the more expensive models. If you can afford an Aero, well of course it is fitted with all these bits that are no longer part of the other 9-5 models options. Luckily I am a very proud owner of a 9-5 Aero late 01 model as well as a 9-3 Aero sedan 01-02 model. I absolutely love both of them but if I am to replace these it would have to be for another set of Aeros and even then some features will be either gone or as optional extras. I’m not sure if this is symptomatic to Saab or across some other leading Europeans. I hope I will be able to afford the replacements I want !!!

  8. I am a loyal Saab owner of 13 Saabs over a period of more than thirty years. I just purchased a 2006 9-5 with the sport package and GPS. I waited 6 months to take delivery because of production delays. Upon receiving my car I programmed the GPS, happily drove out of the dealership, and the cheerful voice proceeded to direct me to a highway going the wrong direction. since I knew how to get to my home , I continued on my route and was told by the voice to ” make a legal U-turn” My passenger tried to reprogram the unit but was unable to. I called the dealer the nexd day and was told they would look into it. I brought my car in the next week and an engineer from Saab examined the unit and I was told that , in fact, it can not be programmed while the car is in motion. { He also said the unit was functioning to spec. I strongly disagree with his assessment } I checked numerous information and blog sites and found that many others had similar issues. The unit was described as a “Dinosaur” with 3 year old technology. I formally complained to Saab America and asked that the GPS be removed. I was given a complaint case file, and was called back a few days later and told that they could not nor WOULD NOT do anything assist me and that THE DECISION WAS FINAL. It seems that if you order the GPS, the car is wired at the factory as a “GPS CAR” and cannot be removed and replaced with the standard XM radio and 6 CD changer . My dealer has tried to be as helpful as possiblle but is stuck in the middle I am extreemly saddened and displeased with Saab America and what I feel is the future of Saab / GM

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