Unabashed Gearhead Gnarlyness

The Saab 96

I’ve always wanted one.  Growing up in Boulder as a lad in the Ford + Carter years, I saw them everywhere.  An ubiquitous presence on the aesthetic landscape.  I just assumed that a third of America drove a Saab 96 or 95.  Along with bobbing Citroen DS21’s, snorty BMW 2002tii’s, prim and proper Volvo Amazons, and some wickedly Mothra-like ur-Subaru’s, the Saab 96 was the car of choice for all the forward thinking 1970’s pseudo intellectual and non-pseudo intellectual hippies who inhabited (and still inhabit) my hometown.  Each day on my trudge to and from elementary school I’d stop and goggle an off-white 95 wagon, marveling at its bulldog proportions and vestigial tailfins.  "Why?," I wondered.  "Why not?" I now realize, was the answer.

It’s a design classic.  Penned by Sixten Sason, it built the Saab brand by winning rallies the world over, its little two-stroke heart beating away pop-pop-poppoppopopop-pop in freewheeling gravel drifts through dark forests.  Of course the brand lost its way, as most great brands do when they become exercises in linear, rational corporate thinking.  Too bad Subaru is the new Saab, but thank goodness Subaru is the new Saab, too.

Long live the 96!

3 thoughts on “Unabashed Gearhead Gnarlyness

  1. My dad let me drive his corn-popping Saab 95 when I was just 16. What a howl! The folks at Arlington (Texas) High School just did not get it. It was nowhere as cool as ‘stang or a ‘cuda. However, on more than one occasion, I was able to whup a ‘stang because of the remarkable handling characteristics on gravel and dirt roads.
    And WOW when Dad bought a nice new Saab 96 with that “powerful” V-4 – WHOOO – DOGGIE!
    I rallied that car in Ontario and had a GREAT TIME with it…
    Ah… for a quirky car that was a ball to drive, a snap to work on, and has freewheeling!
    Thanks for reminding me of them.

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