You gotta love hard core old-timer Saab fans.
Whilst I wrote a few days ago on the virtues of current Saab cars, anyone with a knowledge and appreciation of Saab’s history will tell you that most of the passionate Saab stories come from the owners – or former owners – of older Saabs.
One such guy runs the oldest Saab Museum in the Netherlands. He’s a former mechanic and dealer, and his story was recently told in Algemeen Dagblad, the Dutch national broadsheet newspaper.
Laurens W was kind enough to translate the article and send it through.
In love with the ‘bolneus’
Leo Borsboom cherishes the legacy of automobile manufacturer Saab.
Of course he was glad when the purchase of Saab by Dutch Spyker was sealed. But Leo Borsboom got really excited when he heard chief Victor Muller say that Saab should again become an exclusive make and distinguish itself through producing special cars.
“Because the newer models don’t appeal to me,” says the man who in the early nineties opened the first Saab museum in Holland. A modest museum, because Borsboom greets at most about thirty visitors per year. It doesn’t bother the Woerdenaar [inhabitant of the town of Woerden]. “I own the cars mainly because I like them myself”.
Leo Borsboom and Saab have been connected since the sixties. “I left military service and immediately started on my own as a car mechanic. That was in 1968. Even then I drove a Saab. Why? Because it was such a special car. My first Saab was a 96, a two-stroke. You know the characteristic noise.”
Shortly afterwards Borsboom became a Saab dealer. “There was only one of that make in Woerden at the time. The Dutch importer at the time wasn’t much bigger than my later dealership. Nevertheless I could earn a living with it. The margins were good and the competition small. In the area there were only dealers in Utrecht, Leiden and Mijdrecht. That first year I already sold ten cars.”
Borsboom started in an old warehouse. Later it was replaced with a new building with a showroom. That showroom has since been demolished and turned into a housing complex. Borsboom has a house there. He kept the old garage. On the ground floor he tinkers with his ‘fleet’ of cars and the first floor houses Saab Museum ‘D’Oude Bolneus’ [‘The Old Bulbous Nose’].
“That museum has existed since about 1992, but collecting started much earlier. I think in the eighties. One of the Saabs I drive myself I’ve owned since 1975. In the early eighties a customer entered the dealership with a Swedish friend. The friend saw an old Vespa scooter I had. It turned out he collected them. He asked if I wanted to swap it for a Saab 92 from the 50’s.” That Saab is now the jewel in the crown of the museum that houses nine cars. “There’s only one of those in Holland. That year only 700 were produced. This one has chassis number 391.” A few years ago Borsboom, with a friend, disassembled the car, restored it and put it all back together. “A multi-year project, let me tell you.”
New Saab models will not be displayed. “The name says it all, ‘D’Oude Bolneus’. It especially the shape. The older models all have the recognisable bulbous or round nose. That’s what I fell in love with. Take the 9000 series, they were built on a platform that also carried an Alfa and a Fiat! It’s a good thing that Muller wants to make Saab an exclusive make once more because that’s what it once was. My customers were all professionals. A lawyer, a dentist, an accountant, a doctor. Those were the type of people who bought a Saab in those days. The new models miss the cachet of the old Saab. It’s good that that will return.”
Borsboom’s Sonnet drove at the head of the Saab Support Convoy.
Saab Museum ‘D’Oude Bolneus’ is located on the ‘Gedempte Binnnegracht’ on the edge of the centre of Woerden. The collection consists of nine cars, of which six ‘bolneuzen’ and three Sonett II and Sonett III sports cars. “People that saw the Saab Support Convoy on TV may have noticed the Sonett that drove at the head of it. It just so happens that I sold that car just a few weeks ago. I had one surplus,” says museum owner Leo Borsboom.
Anyone who wants advise on the maintenance of an antique Saab can also call on Borsboom. “But myself, I don’t tinker anymore.” The Saab Museum is open all year around by appointment. Anyone who wants to visit the museum can send an email to [email protected]
Now whilst I don’t agree with the critique of later Saabs (and I know from recent writing that the 9000 has a lot of love around here), you can’t help but listen to the stories from someone who’s seen so much and smile as you do so.
The Spirit of Saab takes many forms.