Blast from the past for Cambridge Saab

Local UK car dealership, Cambridge Saab, recently played host to the national Annual General Meeting of the Saab Owners Club of Great Britain and unearthed a great heritage story in the process.

The meeting, which took place on Saturday 29th October at the Buckingham & Stanley site on High Street in Harston, Cambridge, was attended by upwards of 50 members of the Saab Owners Club from all over the UK.

A great surprise for Dealer Principal, James Howarth, and his team at the event was to meet a member who had bought his first Saab from the dealership (formerly known as Wightman’s Garage) in 1968, just a few months after the site opened for business.

Paying around £900 for his Saab 96 V4 over 43 years ago, rally driver Alan Lawley from Linton, Cambridgeshire, was one of the earliest exponents of rallying in a Saab in the UK and went on to put the iconic car through its paces in many prestigious races in the region, including the ‘Grasshopper Rally’, the ‘Tour of Lincs’ and the roughest and toughest ‘Britvic Rally’.

Alan explains: “My ‘love affair’ with Saab goes back to the 1960s; an affair that has lasted almost 50 years.

“In the 1960s, everyone was using road cars for rallying, then Erik Carlsson came along and brought the brand to the forefront by winning the RAC Rally in 1960, 1961 and 1962 in a Saab; I then realised that Saabs were pretty good! The turning point for me came in 1968 when the V4 was unveiled with a new shell – I saw it in Wightman’s, gave it a test drive and the rest, as they say, is history!

“It was an unbelievably strong car, so much so that I rallied it until the mid to late ‘70s. It certainly stood the test of time and led me to many a victory throughout the years in which I raced it.”

James Howarth from Cambridge Saab adds: “Alan’s our very own Cambridge-based Erik Carlsson! It was fantastic to meet him at the AGM and learn of his rallying past in one of the earliest models sold here. It’s a great piece of history.”

Throughout Alan’s ownership of the Saab 96 V4, Cambridge Saab (as it has been known since the year 2000) serviced the car and undertook repairs to the rallying icon, one of which included a virtual engine strip to rebuild the cylinder heads in 1971 that had cost just £15.96!

“Being a rally car, it often needed the odd repair and a few modifications to make it competitive, but considering what I put the car through, it never needed that much work!”, Alan adds.

Keith Long, historian at the Saab Owners Club of Great Britain, who also attended the AGM last week, comments: “Alan’s story is very much a part of Saab’s heritage, not only here in Cambridgeshire but on a national level too.

“It’s the brand’s dedication to strong performance and innovation that generates a loyal following and keeps owners coming back to Saab after Saab.”

Last week’s AGM saw upwards of 50 members of the Saab Owners Club of Great Britain take to the road in a series of test drives in Cambridge Saab’s current range of vehicles.

1. The Saab 96 V4 in action on the Tour of Lincs

2. The invoice for Alan Lawley’s engine strip to rebuild the cylinder heads in 1971, costing £15.96

10 thoughts on “Blast from the past for Cambridge Saab”

  1. “2. The invoice for Alan Lawley’s engine strip to rebuild the cylinder heads in 1971, costing £15.96”

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah, I just asked what a tear down would cost for a 9-5 —-> $3000 to $4000!

  2. Boy does this bring back memories. I rode past Cambridge SAAB while returning from the Air Force Museum at nearby Duxford (a must see) on the bus.

    Ironically I still possess my first log book of expenses from my 1966 96. Those were the days I paid ₤15 pounds for a complete clutch job. Although it may not seem like a lot, back then that was 3 weeks wages.

  3. i have been going to Cambridge a lot on business recently and popped into Cambridge SAAB when I had some time to spare.

    Really good dealership. Very knowledgeable and helpful even though they knew I was not in the market for a new car.

    £15.96 for an engine strip! Mind you, that was probably a lot of money back in 1971. Can’t think what £15 would get you at a dealership today!

    Griffin Up! Cuore Sportivo!

    • With clients at Bourn and Addenbrookes, I’ve passed by the Dealership several times (always, dammit, late in the evening so haven’t been able to Hello). It is Stunning. They obviously have a sense/ nurture of history too. And no ‘adulteration’ by other brands [Saturn, Hummer…blah, blah] — last time I saw anyways.

      If there be a ‘Platinum Circle’ of Dealers, world-wide (something others should aspire to, where ever they be) this one must sit at that table.

      Credit, where and when it’s due.

  4. I have found cambridge saab an excellent source for parts . Keith and Andy in the parts department have always provided good advice when I needed it.

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