Something to pass the time……
A story from earlier in the week prompted a few Saab purchase stories from the pre-internet days. Forgetting the internet for a moment, it’s always interesting to hear how people first get into Saabs.
I received one such story via email but I haven’t sought permission to share it here as yet. I’ll do that shortly. In the meantime, I thought I’d reminisce a little……
The archives of my first Saab website, Trollhattan Saab, are out of action at the moment. If they were operating, you’d be able to read about my first Saab experience in a mid-1980’s Saab 9000 at 200kph. I’ll re-write it one day.
That experience, in the very early 1990s, got me thinking about Saab. I was in no position to buy one, but rather than lampooning them as I did with many European cars during my misguided youth, I started to look for them.
I finished my university studies at the end of 1997 and got married (first time) the year after. Let’s just say that my first wife was not exactly a car person and it took a reasonable amount of arm twisting and good behaviour before we had a consensus that it would be reasonable to start looking for a ‘fun car’ for me. She had a Toyota Corolla at the time and I had a rotating garage door that saw several different Fords and Holdens from my employer of the day – hardly inspiring stuff.
This was the late 1990s and there were quite a few Saabs advertised back then. Tasmania actually had one of the best per-capita Saab dealerships in Australia during the 1980s and early 1990s, so the local stocks were pretty good. I can remember testing a magnificent blue Saab 900 Turbo, with a blue velour interior. It was a very early model, perhaps 1980 or 1981 and I was stunned by how much fun it was to drive (it had been around six years since my first experience in the 9000 – a long time between drinks).
I also tested a Saab 9000 Turbo in Rose Quartz metallic, with a dark red interior. It was like being in a mobile gentlemans club. I loved it, but it was well out of my very shallow price range.
That consensus opinion led to me having an allocation of only a few thousand dollars, but I wasn’t discouraged. I ended up perusing the newspapers on Saturday mornings, when the local rags had their classified listings. One particular Saturday, a dismantler had an ad for a Saab 99 in the paper – a complete running car that he wanted to sell rather than break up.
The car turned out to be a red Saab 99E from around 1972. It had the blue badge on the silver grille and given that it was being sold by what we call a “wrecker” here in Australia, you can imagine that it wasn’t presented in pristine condition. In fact, it was filthy.
The dismantler did some mechanical work on the side and the owner of the car was an elderly lady who was a client of his. He’d worked on the car for a few years and assured us that it was in sound condition. Time for a test drive, then….
A little bit more context is needed at this point. Please remember that I’m talking about Tasmania in the late 1990s. The closest thing to a computer in my possession at that time was a first generation Playstation. I had no point of reference for an early Saab and scant knowledge of the company’s history. To me, based on the Saab 900 and 9000 Turbos I’d driven, all Saab were wonderfully well equipped and quite fast.
As it turned out, a 1972 Saab 99E with a single-carb, 1.85L engine and an automatic transmission is nothing like a turbocharged Saab 900 or 9000. The car was as slow as a wet week and I refer you to my earlier comments about its presentation. There wasn’t a lot to get excited about, to be honest.
BUT….. it had oodles of character and despite the problems getting it started, it did get down the road OK (eventually). I wasn’t getting the Saab experience that I’d counted on, but I was definitely getting a Saab experience. And after so many months of wanting a car to play around with, a car with character, I decided to negotiate a price and we eventually took the car home.
My first wife and I didn’t get along that well in the end, but the demise of our marriage had nothing to do with sub-standard cleaning skills. We got the little 99E home and proceeded to pull apart the interior and she worked absolute wonders in stripping the insides and cleaning up every little nook and cranny. I felt a little bit ashamed at how much more thorough she was, compared to what I would have been. I took care of the exterior and I have to say, the car shone like some sort of miniature Swedish fire engine by the time we were done with it. The transformation was absolutely amazing.
As mentioned earlier, this was right at the beginning of my professional career, post university, and well before the digital age that we enjoy now. Thus, there are no wonderful digital images for me to post here. Somewhere there are a couple of blurry images from my old 35mm camera, but I couldn’t find them for this piece.
It looked quite a bit like the one to the right, except it was the first year of the black-bumper models and had square headlamps instead of the round ones shown here. The car had a red velour interior and the headrests shown in that image (the funkiest headrests EVER!). There was no center console under the dashboard, which was great for spreading your feet out over longer distances.
We had a pretty good, albeit short time with the little red 99. My now ex-wife took it to work one night and on the way home, she did some damage that seemed uneconomical to repair (this was not the reason for the separation and divorce, I might add).
In hindsight, I think we could have fixed it, but it would have meant pouring quite a bit of money that we didn’t have into a car that we didn’t really appreciate the true value of. If only I’d known then what I know now.
The demise of the Saab 99E saw my buy an Alfasud Sprint – another short-lived ownership story thanks to a terrible cooling system – and then my turbo journey began with my first Saab 99 Turbo.
But that’s a story for another time……
If you’ve got a first-Saab purchase story to tell, please do get in touch. It’d be great to share a few more of these.
And pictures would be wonderful if you’ve got them 🙂