Wow, how time flies when there are things to worry about! It’s been quite some time since I’ve contributed to the collective knowledge base about things Saab and automotive; I’ve not been holding up my end of the bargain, I’m afraid.
As announced several months ago on this site, I finally made good on my intentions and made a pilgrimage to the Lane Motor Museum, a local collection of unusual automobiles and military vehicles that have been restored to or maintained in working order.
Before I launch into my description, I must say that I found the visit uplifting and curiously thought-provoking for one primary reason: engineers and designers, given time and resources, show immense passion, creativity and ingenuity when they are working in their chosen medium. Every automobile in the Lane Motor Museum collection is evidence of that. Everywhere you look there are examples of resourcefulness and engineering know-how that exceed expectations.
I expect that the engineers and designers at Saab will show the same level of inventiveness once they are challenged with a fresh set of circumstances and a new-found liberties. Those creative and talented Swedes are full of great ideas and when those ideas come forth I expect the unexpected.
Of course, there are a couple of Saabs in the mix for you, too. Read on!
A little background on this little gem of a local resource: Mr. Jeff Lane started this museum in the empty Sunbeam Bread bakery in Nashville with a donation of 70 automobiles from a donor in 2002. I’ve never spoken to him or his staff about this, but I believe that both Mr. Lane and his donor were long-time fellow Tatra enthusiasts, and the museum has stayed true to that legacy. It has one of the largest (if not the largest) collection of Czechoslovakian vehicles in North America with several Tatras under roof. Many of the cars in the museum are prototypes or one-off concept cars that push some of the limits of what we think of as “normal” automobiles — three-wheeled vehicles, tiny “city” cars, cars propelled by propellers, and at least one car that runs on coal!
This summer, unfortunately for we Saabisti, the Lane Motor Museum is hosting a months-long “50 years of Mini” exhibit sponsored by the local Mini dealership. In fact, the day that I visited the local Mini club held a Mini drive day. I saw a few of the cars that participated — well done, I must say. However, those Minis, even though they are small, take up space in the exhibit hall. Space normally occupied by Czech and Swedish cars. The Lane collection numbers about 330 cars and on a typical day they can exhibit about 140. Fewer when the space is occupied by cars from other collections as is happening this summer. I’ll have to go back in the fall to see a few more of what I went for. That’s fine with me; I may go back a few times! (It’s worth it to see the Tatraplan, the gleaming Hewson Rocket, and the beautiful Voisin.)
I was surprised at the number of very notable concepts from aircraft manufacturers-turned-automakers: Viosin, Martin, Matra, and, of course, Messerschmitt and Saab. Maybe there’s something to this “Born from Jets” stuff.
One more note: The lighting in this old building isn’t exactly optimal, and I happened to visit on a few overcast, rainy day. Apologies in advance for the resulting pictures. I’ve got to study up on the art of photography someday. Someday.
I’ll start with the Saabs.
First, this beautifully restored and maintained Saab 95. A perfect example of the breed, and it’s even posed in a typical style, ready to head for the river for a day of outdoor enjoyment.
Up next: A Saab 93 rally car that last ran in a vintage rally only two years ago! This isn’t a “museum piece”, it’s a real, drivable car!
The airplane-like 1957 Messerschmitt KR200
The beautiful, flowing 1948 Tatra T-87 with its air-cooled V-8 in the rear of the car.
A stately Citroën that burns coal! That’s right, alternative fuels were big during the second World War since there was no gasoline to be found outside the military establishment. This 1938 Citroën Berline has two bulbous tanks on either side of the engine compartment that contain coal which gives off methane gas when sufficiently heated. The combustible gases are then fed into a special carburetor that controls the gas flow.
1950 Citroën 2CV Coglin. A car modified by an emergency response authority to allow the a driver to navigate narrow passages in either direction without turning around or reversing.
Finally, the oddly bulbous McQuay-Norris, a car built to highlight the capabilities of an aftermarket parts supplier, McQuay.
There are many more pictures on my Flickr site, and on the collections tab at the Lane Motor Museum site. I will be returning to the museum and will post additions.