“Saabandan” – what does it mean to you?

Under this section we try to illustrate what th famous “Saab spirit” is all about for different people. Do you have a story to tell about your relation to Saab and the Saab Spirit, please e-mail us your contribution. First out is Ulf Andersson, tresaurer at the Saab Car Museum Support Organization, a man dispite never actually working at the Saab factory has a long relationship with the brand.

Is the Saab Spirit still there?

A happy driver, and writer, after winning the second place trophy in our class – -after the race driving on the old formula 1 track at Andertorp Raceway.

In my latest reflection on the Saab Spirit, I reported about the build of the historic Saab race car. Here comes a follow up.

In 2022 the car was ready for inspection. First the car must have a Historic technical passport issued by the Swedish automobile sport federation, a document of 25 pages with 17 pictures, that states that the car is historically correct and has the required modern safety gear. After that, an approval, issued by the Swedish Transport Agency, permitting a rebuilt car to be tested and driven on the open road. And finally, getting insurance approval for a vintage car.

One initial issue was to get the adjustments right for synchronising the three Solex carburettors. Tests were made on the dyno without us getting a satisfactory mid-range calibration. We were forced therefore to use the standard carburettors with much bigger main jets.

During the first year I attended two race weekends and reached the finishing line in two of four races. Once, the cars gear-lever became disconnected and on another occasion the ignition “went crazy” because I hadn´t got the hang of the special construction of the Sport engine.

Despite these problems, I was satisfied with the first year. The car was easy to drive and the roadholding quite neutral. The old Dunlop racing tyres that we were using provided good grip in the rain.

In 2023 I ran all the 1000 cc Cup races over five weekends, a total of 10 races where I came to the finishing line in all except one when the battery “went dead”. All season I used a home tuned engine, which was a little stronger and very “sensitive”. A two-stroke race engine is always extremely hard to start. During races it ran well but on several occasions in the pits the sparkplugs got wet and fresh plugs were needed to get the engine started. On another occasion I needed some help to take the engine out in the pits and exchange the clutch, see enclosed photos.

The biggest problem unfortunately for a more than 70 years old driver is lack of courage. After some races I was really dissatisfied and thought that I ought to get another driver and become just a car `owner´. But in July racing at Ring Knutstorp in Skåne it all went better. It is a track where I have raced my Mx 5 cup car several times before and I was able to attack a little more with the Saab and could pass some cars.

Upon the end of the season, I had managed to take second place in my class in the 1000 cc Cup, this is not because I was extremely fast but more consistent in reaching the finishing line in many races. A race weekend with the historic cars is very much a social event. It is a friendly environment. You spend a lot of time drinking coffee, chatting with your competitors, and looking on when the others race.

I´m glad that the 60 years old engine that revs up to 6800 rpm didn´t “fall apart”. My primary goal is not to win races but to come home with an unbroken car. I don´t look at myself as a race car driver but as someone who is keeping Saab racing history alive.
Quite often Saab enthusiast come and chat in the pits and I have really got credit for a well-engineered race car.

Many people made positive comments on the unusual colour of the car.

So yes, the Saab Spirit is still there, and it helps when you are in the workshop on cold winter days doing some improvements to the car and preparations for the next season.

February 2024

Ulf G Andersson
Treasurer Saab Car Museum Support Organisation

The Saab Spirit and Saab Car Museum
Many things in life I have learnt the hard way. That applies also to managing the enthusiast cars. Here I will give you examples of what the old SAAB advertising slogan has meant to me in my Saab car life.

Saab sprit – never give up
My first contact with Saab was when I, 18 years old, bought my first car in 1968. The Saab 96 was a car with good roadholding and aerodynamics. Soon I also realized that it was a simple car to work on. With a workshop manual and good advice, you could begin to repair the car and even shift an engine. I had a profound motorsport interest and lived in Trollhättan so the natural step was to modify the car for some rallying with the local car club. A tuned engine and a 4-speed gearbox were vital. In those days everybody used their cars both on the road and for competitions. The dream car was however a bullnose Sport, but it was far too expensive for a student.  In1975 the dream came true. For 80 Euro, a renovating object, complete but with broken engine was bought.

About year 2000, after many years of collecting spare parts and keeping the Saabs for daily driving in running condition it was time for the Sport renovation.  In 2004 the car was on the road again; it was built as a private rally car of the sixties.

My dream car of the 60-s a bullnose rally Sport. Next year it will probably go on sales

Saab spirit – hard work pays off
The next project was a Saab Sport racing car, but there was basically no information to find. Since I live nearby Trollhättan, I got to know some SAAB 2-stroke drivers and many of the mechanics from the Saab Competition department, who could tell many stories of that time and they also lent me pictures from those years. This resulted in articles for the Swedish Saab Club magazine.

In 2016 I was asked to join the board of the Saab Car Museum Support Organization. I had retired from work and since many years had a great interest in the Saab history and the Museum, but had never been a Saab employee so I couldn’t become a member of the Saab Veterans who are volunteers in the Museum and could look a bit “behand the curtains”.

It is a meaningful job to be able to do the best of the membership fees and donations. During the board meetings many inside stories are told and you come in contact with nice members and enthusiast. The Support Organization has been able to do projects such as the Talladega exhibition, two book projects, new display stands to the museum, hearing aid in the movie hall. But the most exiting experience was the group 3 project. From the late fifties to mid-sixties the Saab factory team had great success on the tarmac and iced tracks and won multiple Championships. Sadly, this wasn´t reflected in the Saab Car Museum, but I managed to convince the curator Peter Bäckström and the board of the Support Organization, that we should create a copy of a successful Saab racecar from 1962. The group 3 cars had few tuning limitations and I had come to know Gösta Karlsson, the driver of the original car before he passed away so thanks to him we had got technical specs of the group 3 cars and some photos. We put together a group of skilled competition mechanics. My old friend Åke Zachrisson did all the rust repair and basic painting in his workshop. The car was then painted in the right red colour by NEVS in the old Saab plant. After this the car was rebuilt again in the Museum workshop. The most rewarding moment was when the car was handed over to the Saab Car Museum at the Festival 2019, and when the family of the original driver (Gösta Karlsson) saw the result of our work.

Me in Gösta Karlssons old racing suit at the Festival with the group 3 race car

Saab Spirit – you must have high ambitions and goals
When the Corona pandemic hit us and the work with the Support Organization was on a low intensity I resumed my own Saab race car project, a Sport-65. During the group 3 project I had learned a lot from my friend Åke. Because of this the ambition increased considerably from th beginning of my project. The goal is to be able to drive the car in the Swedish historic racing series “1000 cc cup” next year.

My third Saab dream, get a historic race car running

How can we keep the Saab Spirit?
What the Saab enthusiasts round the world can do to keep the Saab spirit alive is first of all – to keep the Saab cars running – i.e. never give up and when you renovate a car – hard work pays off. Then you can help the Museum via the Support Organization to preserve the heritage.

Ulf G Andersson
Treasurer Saab Car Museum Support Organization