Saab 60th – Erik Carlsson’s 96

Following are photos and comments by 1985 Gripen, who attended the Saab USA 60th Anniversary press event, which included not only a drive in the new 60th Anniversary Edition Saabs, but a drive of some pristine old school Saabs from GM’s own Heritage Collection.

Click photos to enlarge.

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The 1960 RAC rally winning 96. Doesn’t the front end look like a little face? No, I wasn’t drinking this day. I swear it!

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Jay Spenchian being driven by Erik Carlsson in the 96.

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My ride with Erik Carlsson in the 96 with which he won the RAC rally in 1960. He seemed to really enjoy taking both hands off the steering wheel. When he put his hands back on he drastically rolled the car from side to side. I looked for something to grab-on to but there were no “panic handles” as well as no seat belts. For a moment I put my hand out the window onto the roof but then realized that this man is nicknamed “On the Roof Carlsson”, so maybe that wasn’t the best idea. I kept all limbs inside the car for the duration of the ride. When I noticed that there are no seat belts I asked him if when he rolled the car over he ended up on the roof and he told me, “yes, sometimes”.

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The interior of the 96. Check out that linear speedometer! And the twine-accented wooden steering wheel! One thing I noticed is that when sitting in the driver’s seat the pedals are offset quite a bit to the right, almost centered in the footwell. Mr. Carlsson explained it was because the front wheels are so inset into the body that the wheel well takes up some of the space on the left side. You can see in the picture the big bump on the left is the wheel well. Also note the column-mounted gear shift.

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The Haldex SpeedPilot was a critical piece of instrumentation for the navigator. This device breaking down was the cause of many an early exit from rallies. I believe a SpeedPilot failure was the cause of the Erik Carlsson and Stirling Moss team getting lost and not finishing the Safari Rally in Africa.

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The chronograph in the 96

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I certainly hope there was a manual that came with this car because I would have no idea what some of these knobs do!

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Erik Carlsson told me that SAAB has had the most comfortable seats from the very start.

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Camilo Alfaro of Pioneer Press peering in the window of the 96. He was intimidated about riding with Mr. Carlsson in the car, but I talked him into it! After the drive he exited the car very excited. He told me he had quite a ride!

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3 Comments

  1. eggsngrits: it’s also a ton of fun to start conversations with, “the other day when I was driving a SAAB with Erik Carlsson…” šŸ˜‰

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