An open letter to Damon Lavrinc at Autoblog

This should (hopefully) be the last mention of the Autoblog Reader’s Ride of the Year award on these pages. I think it was fantastic that the award saw the online Saab community band together to support what is a beautifully restored Classic 900 Convertible.

But as the week has gone on there’s been something about the award that’s been like a tic just hammering away at the back of my mind. So here’s an open letter to Autobog and Damon Lavrinc, the writer who posted the winner’s announcement.


Mr Lavrinc,

In your announcement of the RR of the Year award, you wrote the following:

When we started this poll last week, there was little doubt in our minds what vehicles would hold the top slots. We knew that Chuck’s Jag would be a reader favorite and as polling continued that assumption proved correct. Although the E-type was enjoying the top slot, the NSX, EVO MR and ’71 Celica were following close behind.

Then, over the weekend, a massive “get out the vote” campaign enacted by the online Saab community began building momentum. When we ended the poll on New Year’s Eve, a thoroughly unbelievable 28-percent of the vote was locked in for the Saab 900.

So, with that in mind, we’re prepared to announce that the Autoblog Reader Ride of the Year is the 1987 Saab 900 Turbo convertible owned by a gentleman by the name of Patrick. Congratulations Patrick, your community supported you well.

Now, it’s one thing to announce what was obviously an unexpected winner. But the manner in which you did so was almost a backhanded putdown. It’s that last bit that really gets under my skin.

Congratulations Patrick, your community supported you well.

In your writing, you put in a link to the original weekly Readers Ride poll that Patrick won to qualify for the yearly award. I don’t think you actually read what was at that link, though. You certainly didn’t write it. It was prepared by another Autoblog writer, Alex Nunez.

If you had read it, you would have seen the following:

Patrick’s 1987 Saab 900 Convertible was bought four years ago for a reasonable-sounding $1,800. At the time, he says, the car was junkyard material. Luckily for the ragtop Saab, Patrick (a.k.a. Flickr user smackdownsaab), was prepared to give it the TLC and financial support needed to bring it up to daily-driver standards. We’d say that things worked out quite well.

First off, he replaced the convertible top. Next, he set about giving the car a thorough makeover, adding the always appealing SPG skirts, bumper extensions, and wheel arches. The rear axles and front suspension were swapped for newer versions that allowed him to install the improved brake system found on later models. An added side benefit of the latter is that it also allowed him to install the 3-spoke aero-look Saab wheels to match the rest of the SPG appearance package. We also like the “Viggen” badging he added above the side markers. New springs drop the whole affair an inch and a half.

According to Patrick, the car’s paint (save for the bumpers, which he says were resprayed) is original and mostly devoid of rust. Looking at the photos, it’s hard to imagine that this Saab was ever junker material. Nice job, Patrick.

Now, it’s not a pull-apart restoration, but it’s clear that a fair bit of work has gone into this car and it’s been brought back from the precipice to be a fantastic example of a genuinely iconic Saab model.

My point is this:

Even though Patrick was an unexpected winner, he’s still a car enthusiast who’s poured his heart and soul into his car and produced a fantastic result. He was deserving of your respect for the efforts he made.

Your dismissive announcement of the award with credit given only to the vote campaign and no mention to the quality of the car did you, as a supposedly impartial poll-host, and your weblog a disservice.

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1 Comment

  1. Well, I agree with you. The congratulations has a ‘well, if I have to…’ feel to it, which certainly doesn’t do Patrick any favors.

    On the other hand, he’s right: we supported Patrick much more than the other car lovers supported their choice. Hey — that’s what a POLL is about! Why should he be surprised?

    Additionally, even though his ‘expected’ winner — the Jag — came in second, numbers three and four are the Acura NSX and the Mitsubishi Lancer? If anything stinks, it’s that.

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