On our journeys throughout Europe we recently got lost in the Swedish town of Trollhättan. Cradle of the late Saab factory. Enjoy our report from the Saab Bil Museum.
Sweden, land of endless forests and mirror like lakes. Where they drive sumptuous American motors and even build cars of their own. Cars so safe even Woody Allen would drive them without needing any therapy. Or well, they did, until the economy went bankrupt. Volvo survived thanks to the Chinese and Saab, oh Saab, the demise of the willful company from Trollhättan left a gaping gap in the automotive world. For the general tourist the little industrial town north east of Göteborg isn’t all that attractive, for the genuine petrolhead a visit to the Saab museum is a must.
Down at the ‘Slussar’, the locks leveling the height difference in the Göta Alv, there is a museum park dedicated to Swedish ingenuity. The Innovatum and the Saab Bil Museum are housed in a rather anonymous brick factory building. A few seemingly random parked Saab cars lead to the right entrance, that of the car museum. The modern and light entrance immediately tries to seduce with a a little gift shop. The view of a mat black streamlined automobile attracts even more attention. ‘UrSaab’ it reads on the typical white and black Swedish number plate. This is it, this is the prototype of the very first Saab in all its glory.
A first round through the museum gives an idea of Saab’s evolution. Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget starts building aeroplanes in 1937, ten years later they present the prototype of a small, streamlined motorcar, the UrSaab. Besides the striking design, the car has a transversely mounted two cilinder two stroke engine, front wheel drive and a monocoque body. It will lead to the company’s very first production car, the Saab 92. Here in the museum it has a mossy green colour, that 92. It is first in line, next to the 93, 96 and 95, for a long time Saab’s only station wagon. Then we find the 99 and the 99 Combi Coupé. These are the Saabs that made the company. That everyone recognises as a Saab.
The ultimate evolution, the 900, in which Saab implemented all the rigid USA safety standards, is to be found on the other side of the building, where the evolution of the Saab Turbo is lined up chronologically. From 900 to the very last 9-5, the turbo engineering that characterises Saab sinds the late seventies is displayed comprehensively. Still it is not the turbo range that is on the upper hand in the line with Saab’s sporty successes. Here we find the rally exploits of the early two stroke models, the 96 and the broad shouldered 99. This is where you instantly recognise the ever present contradiction between the sporty aspirations of the company and the everlasting search for safety.
Safety has always been an issue at Saab. Full size cut out models show how leading Saab always has been on this subject. Ever since that first little black Saab. Time to get out the camera, to create an image of all the beauty on show here. A second round through the museum, looking for details, for a way to depict what the reader is missing out on. What the automotive world is missing out on since the bankruptcy of Saab Automobile AB in 2011. Only when I’m on my way out it strikes me. It is gone. That little black gem, the UrSaab. Franticly I look through my pictures. Nothing there. Still I’m sure I’ve seen it. Disappeared, but not forgotten. Glömska is the Swedish word for oblivion, something Saab, through this museum, doesn’t have to fear.
Marc GF Zaan