1960 Saab film in Swedish film archive

The Swedish Film Archive has apparently recently digitised a number of archival films and released them for viewing online.

This film from 1960 is 17 minutes long and full of fantastic archival footage from the time. There are jets, cars, and even a Saab-built helicopter that I wasn’t aware of.

The voiceover is in Swedish but it shouldn’t matter. The 1960s imagery is fantastic and the factory footage is essential viewing.

You can view the film here.

Below, I’ve reproduced a few screenshots…..


Apparently this guy leaning over the hood is checking to make sure no water is splashing into the engine bay on the test drive. 1960’s technology!

The mysterious Saab helicopter. They show this being assembled in the factory but I don’t know anything of the background to it (I’m not a big aviation guy). Any more info from the video would be welcome.

Saab strokers on the assembly line….

And an awesome sign at the end. I’d love to know where this is now.

My thanks to Martin E for sending it through. Absolutely brilliant!

Video: Saab circa 1997

With only half a dozen views so far, this looks to be a recent addition to Youtube (indeed, added just over the weekend).

It’s a good look back through time to 1997 – a time when Saab were full of optimism with the release of the new Saab 9-5.

It’s 7 minutes long and highly enjoyable.


Thanks to Carl, in comments.

Saab Story – Saab 92003 prototype

Yet another great Saab story from the weekend……

Lars N is a Saab guy who, as I understand it, lives and works somewhere near to Trollhattan. His mother passed away a few years ago and he’s had some of her belongings stored at his home since that time. There were some boxes amongst them that he had never touched, until a few weekends ago.

Amongst some of the stuff in the box was an old photo, which included a very old Saab. Lars has sent me the photo, which he’s annotated, below:


Saab 92003

How old is this Saab?

Well, you’ll notice the covered in front wheel arches, for a start. You’ll also notice the name Sven Otterbeck there. He was one of the Directors at Saab who green-lighted the project to begin designing and building cars right back at the beginning.

You can see Lars’ grandmother walking behind the car, to the left. If you look close enough, you can also see Lars’ mother as a young child on the right of the car.

Lars made some enquiries at the Swedish National Archives and it turns out that plate number belonged to Saab chassis number 92003.

Sven Otterbeck, as it turns out, was Lars’ great-uncle (i.e. Lars’ grandfather was Sven’s brother). In the photo above, he was visiting his brother in the new prototype Saab. The photo, from 1948, was taken in Finspång, which is around 50 kilometers from where Sven worked in Linköping, but it’s a great piece of family history to see that they’d visit each other in prototype cars.

Note to Peter Backstrom – if I’m ever fortunate enough to be living in Sweden, you’re welcome to come visit me in the Aero-X at any time!

Actually, it’s not the first time I’ve heard about people driving Saab prototypes. Back in 2007, whilst in Trollhattan for the Saab Festival, I met a gentleman who was putting material together for a book about Saab’s earliest days. He himself had ridden around in UrSaab for many miles as a small boy when it was out for testing.

But I digress….

Lars managed to get copy of some original documentation for the car and has started a quest to try and track it down. You can see the registration number in the top right corner, which reconciles to the plate in the photo. Around the middle of the document, it appears the car changed registration plates at some stage.

Saab 92003 rego

It’s a great story, and I hope it’s one that we can follow to a conclusion at some point in the future.

New York Times allows you to look back at GM’s Saab Purchase

The New York Times has a rather massive archive of articles and Ezra Dyer has just pointed out one of them in his latest blog entry.
This article is of particular interest as it covers what was at the time GM’s recent purchase of 50% of Saab Automobile. It’s dated July 24, 1990.
It’s an interesting piece as it gives an idea of how much GM has missed the mark with Saab over the last 20 years, but also it shows a little of something we should be thankful to GM for – a massive reduction in the workforce there without any loss of capacity, making Saab’s Trollhattan factory one of the most efficient plants around.
Remember, as you read the article, that there are now around 3,400 working for Saab in Sweden.
Here’s a snippet:

Mr. Herman’s financial strategy is to slash Saab’s production costs, and his marketing strategy is to push Saab more firmly into the luxury car segment. There he hopes to compete against the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz by positioning Saabs as lower-priced alternatives.
Plans call for three models to be introduced by the mid-1990’s. A replacement for the 900 line, which will sell for $17,000 to $25,000, is scheduled for late 1993. Next will be a top-of-the-line model, priced at $35,000 to $55,000, which will be positioned as a less expensive alternative to BMW’s seven series. Then will come a replacement for the 9000, which will sell for $25,000 to $33,000, or just below the BMW five series.

My thanks to motnot for the link!

Thursday Snippets – F1 and around the web edition

What a morning!
BMW quits Formula 1 (ah, that’s where ctm’s quote came from) and Schumi makes a comeback for Ferrari due to Massa trying to plant a Liverpool kiss on a piece of debris during practice.
This is going to have the guys at Sniff Petrol going bananas, I’m sure.
Some have mentioned a possible tilt at F1 by Koenigsegg, but I don’t think there’s anywhere near enough money in the pot to have a crack at something so expensive at this point, if ever.
It’s probably best for them to concentrate on the fundamentals at the moment. You know, survival, building quality Saabs, etc.
And the big question is – do car companies get real value from their efforts in F1?
…..and still on motorsport, kind of…..
The next edition of the Forza Motorsport video game for the Xbox 360 will feature the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X.
It’ll also add Spain’s Catalunya circuit as well as bringing back the Nurburgring. Other cars added for this new edition will be the Alfa Brera, which may or may not lead to an R rating due to automotive pr0n.
…..and still on motorsport…..
I’m hoping to have a kinda big announcement to make about a Saab in a motorsport event, and a Saabs United tie-in. Soon.
Jalopnik have another edition of “You’re doing it wrong”
Very good.
Texting whilst driving?
I can’t believe it’s still legal.
Saab should use their eye-monitoring software to build an extendable punching fist into the dash for anyone who’s picked up by the software as texting whilst driving.
Call it an active safety feature.
Sent in by Seth H
A visual history of Saab’s logo development, which I’m quite sure is also the subject of a story somewhere on the web, too.
I guess they can now add the wordmark to this diagram as a mark of the new Koenigsegg era.

The best Saab reading you’ll do all weekend.

I’m elevating this to the top of the site again for the benefit of those that didn’t check in over the weekend.
This really is essential reading.

I first got an email from Sam Knight of the Financial Times back on May 8:

I write for the Financial Times weekend magazine, where we undertake longer pieces of reporting, profiles etc, and I’m starting to put together a story about Saab. …… I am not planning to write a blow by blow account of what is happening to Saab, more an exploration of the brand, its history, and the grip that it has on people.

After that we talked on the phone and got him hooked up with some people in Trollhattan, where he visited some few weeks later, getting an A-list of interviews and some great access to Saab.
The end result of all Sam’s research has been published today in the Financial Times – and it’s absolutely superb.
I won’t give a single word away. Just sit down with a good cuppa and enjoy one young man’s exploration of the brand we know and love.
Thanks to Ted and Derek for the heads up.

Former SaabUSA chief Joel Manby on GM/Saab culture

Joel Manby was one of the 8 guys who kicked off Saturn back in the 1980s, with a finely honed focus on the customer being more important than everything else – even the cars they were selling.
In the mid-late 1990s, he was slotted in as the head of SaabUSA, staying there for four years. He’s now working as the CEO of a company dealing with entertainment parks called Herschend Family Entertainment.
Manby did an interview recently with Georgia Public Broadcasting. The interview was mainly concerned with his current role at Herschend, but in discussing the corporate culture there, he also touched on his past experiences at GM in general, and Saturn and Saab in particular.
The full interview is available in PDF form here or you can watch it on video here.
I’ve reproduced the Saab and GM bits below:

“…what I saw at General Motors which was not very good. It was chaos. It wasn’t very well led. And at General Motors it was only about the bottom line. It was only about money and, you know, at the end of the day, I don’t think great people are really attracted to that…”
“…when I was in the GM culture, a lot of the discussion was about cutting costs and labor issues, union issues, and not enough about what’s going on with that customer.”
“…with Saab, we had a fantastic car, but we had no marketing strategy and no dealer network.”
“On Saab, the biggest thing I learned is how difficult it is to change a culture that is not customer focused and in Saab’s case, it was an engineering driven company. When you’d be in the meetings, it’d be all about having the absolute, best car, which actually, you can go too far, because you can put things into the car that customers aren’t willing to pay for. The engineers want it, but you’re not willing to pay for it as a customer,and that’s what I walked away with [from] Saab. You’ve got to only put in things that the customer is willing to reward you for…”
“At Saturn and Saab I saw a lot of mistakes there where, frankly, it became poor leadership. It really comes down to strong leadership and at Herschend, the owners just permeate the values.”

This guy is incredibly customer-focused and running a car company has to be about the product first and foremost, but some care and attention on the customer side is going to be crucial as Saab emerge from GM’s shadow.
Under Koenigsegg, Saab will have a chance to rebuild their identity under the flag of an exotic and very Swedish ownership identity. The customer experience will hopefully be developed to reflect this.
This has been an interesting insight from a guy was, at one time, right there at the coal face.
My thanks to Alan H for the tip and quotes!

Saab 99 SSE

I stumbled across this car on Flickr today, a Saab 99 model variant that I’d never heard of: the Saab 99 SSE.
There’s not much written about it anywhere. Do a Google search and all you get is a Wikipedia entry and a bunch of scraper sites that contain the same info:

SSE – Sold in the US to satisfy demand while the EMS was not yet available there. The SSE had a black vinyl roof cover and a BorgWarner automatic transmission.

Here the shot I saw this morning:
And another from the same account, though taken by someone else. It gives a much better view of the roof, which is something I hadn’t seen on a Saab before.
It seems the black vinyl might have been replaced by owners over the years.
Interestingly, this car spawned at least one Saab dealership in the US:

One winter in the early 1970’s, a district representative of Saab-Scania of America was looking for a new distributor. He came upon a small garage on Portsmouth Avenue in Exeter, New Hampshire where a young man was just closing up shop for the evening.
He asked the young mechanic if he was interested in buying a Saab franchise. Full of skepticism, the young man graciously declined the offer and went home for the evening. The next night, the representative showed up again and tossed the keys to a 1972 Saab 99 SSE to the young mechanic… “Take this to the mountains for the weekend, Gary… you’ll love it!” The young mechanic was used to the cumbersome rear-wheel drive configuration of Volkswagen Beetles, so the front-wheel drive Saab was simply amazing in comparison. It wasn’t long until a young Gary Blake opened what we know today as Gary Blake Saab.

Another Saab story. It’s amazing what one car can do, eh?
And by the way, check that Flickr link to see some Saab 9000 Aero seats crammed into a Saab Sonett II. Squeezy.

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