It seemed to be too good to be true — an open house at Meyer Saab, one of the most storied U.S. dealers, within two-hours drive of the launch point of my new (to me) 1991 900 Turbo Convertible SE. When Greg Abbott mentioned it as an option, I immediately said I’d go.
Later, looking at the map, I doubted my decision. If I drove straight through from Minneapolis to Nashville, I could get home in one day. Barely. My arrival would have been about 1 or 2 AM, and I’d have to have some cooperation from the weather. Certainly feasible, but not comfortable. Naturally, since I’m writing this post, you know the end of the story — I elected to travel south behind Greg’s black 9-5 for two hours deep into the rural prairie. I’d simply have to drive back over the two-day weekend.
Meyer, Iowa is not an incorporated town. You won’t find it on many maps — indeed, Mapquest and Microsoft Streets and Trips are ignorant of it. Like many small towns that dot the North American landscape, the people here do just fine without much local government. I assume, perhaps wrongly, that the citizens of Meyer, Iowa hold the lack of government as one of the finer things about the place.
But, there’s one thing that they’re proud of: Meyer Saab. Meyer Saab is the oldest Saab dealership west of the Mississippi River, our country’s convenient east-west divide. In business since 1964, Meyer Saab has been selling and servicing Saabs for the local and extended community in this part of the world. In my mind, they’ve really nurtured the brand there.
According to the owning family, the dealership got its start when one of the Meyer residents left Iowa and found work as a mechanic at a newly-formed Saab dealer in Minneapolis-St. Paul. He excitedly brought back a two-stroke Saab 93 to his father, a local farm implement businessman, and left it, saying “I think that we can sell these cars here.” His reasoning was simple: the farm hands in the area were used to working on their own two-stroke farm machinery and the front-wheel-drive Saabs were perfect for the snowy winters and slippery, muddy spring conditions. The elder Meyer citizen inquired about the dealership requirements and purchased the required eight cars and US$5,000 in parts stock and they were in business.
Over time, the cars have changed, naturally. However, Saabs are still holding their own here in Northeastern Iowa. Today, Meyer Saab and Iowa City Saab are owned and operated by the same folks. People from the entire region have a genuine affection for this dealer and the brand. It’s a great feeling to witness your own enthusiasm reflected by folks whom you’ve never met and with whom you have no other obvious bond. There’s something self-affirming in that.
The actual open house had some great cars in attendance, and many fine enthusiasts on hand to celebrate.
See more about the cars and folks in attendance after the jump.
Greg Abbott, once again the consummate host, introduced me around to a few folks that he obviously knew very well. We met others together. He first introduced me to Tina, a woman who recently drove a newly purchased
1973 1974 Saab Sonett from Seattle to Minnesota on her own odyssey. She was a self-assured, articulate woman who left a little early to go biking along some of the scenic roads.
Greg’s 9-5, fresh from the audio shop:
Next was Phil, and I right away elected his car “best in show” — take a look at this spectacular Beryl Green 1991 Saab 900 Turbo SPG. Excellent.
After a somewhat tenuous first conversation (his wife was not well, and we were a bit concerned about her), this fit gent revealed that he was a forty-five-year customer of Meyer Saab! Talk about loyalty!
Looking at this pair of C900’s, you’d think that it would be easy to select my favorite. You may be wrong. After I spoke with Nate, the owner of the Rose Quartz turbo, I picked his. He’d driven all the way from Southeastern Iowa to join in. When he was given the car, it wasn’t in running condition — it hadn’t been in a couple of years. He and his father have resurrected it, first rebuilding the engine and then rebuilding the transmission when the pinion bearing failed a short time later. He’s accumulating parts to continue the restoration — he told me that he’d found a good set of seats from a 900S that were the next thing to install. That’s grit, my friends. It certainly gives me hope for the future of Saab to see younger people embracing the brand as enthusiastically as Nate obviously has.
Finally, I loved seeing families like these great people from Iowa joining in the fun. Nice folks, they helped me to sort out the options for the drive home — there were two basic routes that I could take. One would take me through length of Illinois, the other through Eastern Iowa and Northeastern Missouri. As locals, they gave me some of the inside scoop. Much appreciated!
Certainly, a worthwhile detour on my long trip home. Kudos to Meyer Saab for their good stewardship of the Saab brand in this community. I hope that it continues another forty-five years.