A Saab in the 1000Miglia, Swedish certitude versus Italian flair. There is only one catchphrase that covers it all: Opposites attract!
In 1957 two Swedish gentlemen arrive at the starting line in Brescia in a brand new Saab 93. The small two stroke vehicle is a bit of an outsider in this grid filled to the brim with Italian sports cars and internationally renowned car brands. Still, surprisingly enough, Charlie Lohmander and Harald Kronegård manage to win the rally in their class. Even more surprising, since Saab doesn’t even know they are taking part in the rally at all, in Sweden everyone thinks Lohmander is on his honeymoon. The 1000Miglia itself sure wasn’t on the factory’s agenda, the confrontation with the Italian specialists remains a bridge to far for the Swedish aspirations in motor sports. Another characterising fact, the car that wins the 1000Miglia is a bog standard showroom model. That might just be the reason Saab’s victory isn’t all that well known. That even the Swedes have no idea what happened to the car in question. Shoved back into the showroom as a second hand car, ‘one lady owner, sir, she only used it to go to church in’. No-one even remembers what colour the car had, the only tangible proof being some black and white pictures.
This is the anecdote that brings together Dutch car magazine Autovisie’s journalist Werner Budding and Saab-enthousiast Dirk Koppen, when the first takes part in the 2017 1000Miglia exactly 60 years later than the year in which Lohmander and Kronegård won in Brescia, in a Saab 93 just like it. The red car, owned by Michiel Bakker has entered before, but Werner is a novice to the game. Of course the entire adventure is reported on behalf of his employer, including the daily live-vlog from Italy. These vlogs are what reunites these three gentlemen on this January Monday night. They are the lead for an animated night organised by the Dutch Saab Club. In the showroom at Saabpartners, the company of Dirk and his businesspartner Bas Smit, no less than 170 enthousiasts have gathered around the small red Saab. Curious, enthousiastic and even a little worried.
The programme is stacked, Kees de Regt, representative of the Royal Dutch Automobile Club, explains how to cover the risks of participating in an event like this, on behalf of tire manufacturer Vredestein Bernie Wierenga is showing just how much effort is being put into developing the right tires for our classics, but the bouncy smartphone images of Werner Budding’s vlog are what gives that extra dimension to this story. A story of Italian mayhem, a love for motor sports that is hard to grasp for us northerners. Everything and everyone has to make way for the circus called 1000Miglia. It’s a fascinating story, which, supplemented with the enormous knowledge of the Saab-man aside of the journalist, perfectly displays how big a contrast there is between the world of the straight thinking Saab-enthousiast and the passion of the tifosi.
It is a guarantee for an intriguing night. A night that Budding, Bakker and Koppen put together with a lot of flair. That is being uplifted by the guests in the room. For where a writer and a storyteller come together, that’s where the most exciting stories arise.
On leaving the showroom a green Saab 93 is the center point of the front square. The aspirations of the little car are clear, this is one of the cars Dirk Koppen and his Saab-friends aim to drive the 2018 1000Miglia in themselves. The Saab for one is ready for it.
Marc GF Zaan