FUNKY SWEDISH FISH GASPING ON THE PAVEMENT
NYC is truly huge. 6 months ago I was driving out on the Kings Highway around the Flatlands neighborhood when I spotted this little frumper. It was facing the opposite direction across 5 lanes of rowdy traffic so I yelled out to myself but kept on my merry way. Recently I was in the same neck of the woods with my eyes peeled and there she was!
This is a 1973 Saab 96 in Burnt Orange (with a Silbermink or Silver Mink fascia around the grill). Most people don't realize that older Saabs looked like a cross between a spaceship and a VW Beetle.
Look into the grubby mouth of this well worn little punk! It looks like the "before" picture on a subway dental advertisement. The replacement fascia and bit of Bondo tell me that someone cares at least a little for this ride. That poor diminutive bumper is the veteran of many a parallel parking mishap.
The 96 was introduced in 1960 and remained in production through the 1980 model year (though they stopped coming into the States after '73). My guess is that the tiny front bumper was the reason the '74 never made it to our shores because that year ushered in the federal crash safety regulations.
The line running along the lower body was where a piece of chrome trim once lived. I'm not certain but I think it denotes the trim level; the high end DeLuxe had 2 chrome strips, this had one, and some had none at all. In the DeLuxe the rear quarter windows were hinged and would pop open but these are probably fixed.
Saab was originally an aeronautical company and aircraft design elements made it into their cars. The very first Saab automobiles were straight-up bizarre! The engines were 2 stroke meaning that oil had to be added to the gas. The radiators in those first models were behind the engine just under the windshield. The door glass didn't roll down conventionally, just the rear edge would go down so that the front edge would remain above the sill. There are foreign cars and there are truly foreign cars!
By the time this ride was built the 2 stroke motor was replaced with a Ford V4. It was a great little engine in a tiny car and as a result the Saab 96 had a major presence in the rally world. All 96s were front wheel drive as well.
I love the slippery lines on this ride.
This old sticker confirms that the paint is original. It's hard to read in this pic but I believe this particular Swedish Motors was in Pennsylvania. The overall condition is great for a 44 year old car.
No plates? No problem on King's Highway!
These awesome wheels are more commonly seen on the Saab Sonett; a very low to the ground fiberglass sports car built around the same time. They're referred to as Soccerball wheels.
Even beat down and tired this thing looks amazing!
This steering wheel was introduced in '73 which helps to confirm that this is a final year U.S. spec 96. The interior is straightforward and functional with toggle switches and knobs as opposed to flashy electronics.
The replacement for this ride was the Saab 99 which debuted in 1968. Instead of replacing the 96 they were both produced alongside each other until the last 96 left the factory in 1980. The 99 was remarkably modern in '68 when it hit the scene. It looked very much like the 900 that was built through the '80s and into the '90s. I've owned 3 different 900s including the only car I've ever had stolen from me! Oakland represent!
This little punk isn't going anywhere any time soon.
These round headlights were only on the U.S. models at this point. From 1969 onward the rest of the world had rectangular headlights on the 96.
Well there we have it; an odd little import from the era when nobody in the States knew what a Saab was. There can't have been many of these sold back in '73 and very few remain on the streets today. Back in college a motorhead acquaintance bought a pair of these pretty cheap. He drove one around school and I think the other one was meant for parts even though they both ran. His plan was to set one up for rally racing. To this day I've never even sat in one of these. Hopefully someday I'll get the opportunity to drive one a bit just to see what it's like.