Make sure you go to the end of this review to receive your exclusive Trollhattan Saab 25% discount from Elkparts.
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 trollhattansaab.net voucher code and you will receive Mr Saab for just GBP 14.99! That’s a 25% discount, receivable only when you quote the trollhattansaab.net 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.
When you order, the checkout screen will have a space for a voucher code. In this space you should enter "trollhattansaab.net", 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.