[Words and photos by friend of Hooniverse, Christian R]
There’s a saying here in Finland: ”Saabismi on sairaus”. Or in English: ”Saabism is a sickness”. I can’t say I consider myself a proper fan of the brand, but I do enjoy cars of all shapes and sizes.
When a friend and life-long fanatic of the quirky car maker told me that the annual Finnish Saab club summer meet was going to be held in my town, I couldn’t come up with an excuse not to drop by.
I guess that most Hooniverse readers see Saab as a small foreign car maker, famous for providing a non-german alternative for dentists and architects. This is not quite the case up here in Scandinavia. Much like Volvo, Saab was (and still is) a popular choice for everything from families to enthusiasts. 96’s and 900’s were absolutely everywhere when I grew up. The first family car I remember was our gray 5-door 900 GLS.
But I digress.
The attendees gathered last Friday at a campsite here in Vaasa, Finland. Fat was chewed and tires were kicked. The weekend that followed would bring, among other things, a scenic drive and a swap meet. I dropped by on friday evening and spent an hour hour or two roaming the place, snapping pictures and talking to a few owners. I personally feel that paraphrasing Jeremy Clarkson is overdone, but when I got into my air conditioned Euro-box and left the campsite I said to myself, again, that I need to get myself some kind of hobby car. Maybe a 96, an OG 900 Turbo 16, or…
I left the last picture in mostly because of the SAAB tape. Wonder where they got it.
One of the Saabisti that arranged the meet. We can call him Olof, because that’s his name. His wife is behind the wheel of his 1979 900 GLE automatic. To most people this looks just like any other Saab, but this was the first year of the 900. With the range-topping GLE spec, unobtainium Inca wheels and a mileage (kilometerage?) barely into six figures, it’s not something you see every day.
A Sonett II and III, respectively. The orange one is missing its front plate and driving lights, for some reason. Both of these are powered by the Ford V4.
A Toppola camper on a 3-door 900 from Skåne, Sweden. The Toppola was sold through Saab dealers and was the priciest optional extra you could get. And yes, that ring sticker is real. 16 minutes, apparently.
Yes, these do still exist! I actually don’t have a shot of the entire car, but it looks like any other NG 900. For those of you that haven’t heard about Sensonic before, it was Saabs attempt at making a clutchless manual. It’s a normal 5-speed stick, but the clutch is actuated automatically. Not many survive these days.
The Saabo caravan, actually produced by Saab themselves in the sixties. It was designed to be light enough to be towed by their two-stroke models, some of which made as little as 25 hp. It’s also narrow enough that you don’t need towing mirrors, and the low front and rear windows mean you can see straight through it through your inside mirror. The tow car is a 95, the 3-door estate version of the 96.
I’m not sure how I haven’t seen this around before, because it lives pretty close to me. It’s an Aero which in a 9-5NG means it’s powered by either a 304 hp turbocharged 2.8-liter V6, or if you’re a senior sales rep, a twin-turbo 4-cylinder “TTiD” diesel making 190hp. It’s a damn shame they only managed to sell a handful before the company folded.
I know this is an exceptionally bad picture, but I decided to keep it because of the words that were exchanged when I walked by it. It was parked with the other camping visitors and looked like it didn’t quite belong.
“Do you think this guy has come for the meet?” “Well the caravan is wearing OG 900 hubcaps…” “Oh, okay then.”
It was an Aero, too. There are probably worse cars for towing caravans.
I have to admit, I really like the shape of these things. This is a North American import too, judging by the orange side markers.
I sort of wish I would’ve been able to taste the atmosphere at one of those meets.
I refuse to photoshop this plate.
Early OG 900 with US spec headlights. One of the more well-executed federalizations, I think.
The 96 had been in production for 18 years at this point and it must have been challenging to come up with new ad copy. Some of the keywords in this Swedish sales brochure from 1978 are “reliable”, “built for our climate” and “value for money”.
The campsite also offers cabins for rent. Every single one of them had at least one Saab parked outside. No other cars.