Contemporary witnesses tell a story. Saab - WE did it!

After the first book on the Gunnar Ljungström era at Saab was quickly sold out, the authors ventured into another work. Under the title “SAAB - WE dit it”, Gunnar Larsson and Gunnar Johansson shed a second light on the Ljungström period.

Saab - we did it. New Saab book
Saab - we did it. New Saab book

This time, the focus is on the people who started together with Gunnar Ljungström Saab as an automaker on the way. The new book is not so much a narrative with little episodes about the brand. It's a documentary against forgetting because the first generation of Saab engineers is no longer living among us.

Witnesses tell how it all began

But there are still eyewitnesses who worked as young people with Ljungström and his crew. Her impressions, personal memories and what we would today call insider knowledge make the book strong. There are also images from Swedish private archives that have never before been accessible to the general public.

What does the book want to tell? The main character is Gunnar Ljungström. His life, his background and his family background take up a large part of the book. Over the years, the person Ljungström loses a bit, but other actors are more in the limelight. Svante Holm, Ragnar Wahrgren, Sven Otterbeck, Hugo Möller, Tryvge Holm or Karl Erik Sixten Andersson, whom everyone knows as Sixten Sason. You, and many other personalities, find their appreciation in more or less detailed chapters.

In addition to the people whose achievements are being recognized, the history of Saab's origins and the influence of powerful Swedish families also play a role. The transition from aircraft manufacturer to car manufacturer, the boundaries that were always fluid. Engineers who are still developing an airplane today found an offer the next day to work on a project for the Auto Division. And vice versa.

The seeds of failure

As a critical reader, one also notices that already in the Ljungström era, the seed for failure was laid. Too small, too little expansion, too much sobriety in the background. This runs through the early Saab story and finds its first climax with the 99. The first really new vehicle since the 92, and already an excessive demand for the small manufacturer.

The 99 story goes almost wrong, the car is not really mature when it hits the market, and the engine is seriously causing trouble. But Saab solves all the problems, just so, and it goes on to the fabulous 900, which is a derivative of the 99. Then the problems start over, are solved with the magnificent 9000, and finally end at GM. But that's a different story.

After reading it, think about the person Ljungström - who led Saab well and carefully. But who, according to his own statement, had no passion for cars. Perhaps then, one thinks, things would have been different with a little more passion in the background. What if there had been more? Like other big brands?

A monument to the pioneers

Should you buy the book? As written, it is not a short story story. But a biography for Ljungström and his men, to whom Gunnar Larsson and Gunnar Johansson have erected a memorial. The early history of the brand, the development of Trollhättan, tidying up with some myths and the questioning of very old eyewitnesses, all this makes the work very special.

If you measure it with the usual standards, you will complain about a lot. Much better could have been staged and better equipped. The topic alone deserves it. But, it's not a normal book. It was written and financed by people who went to the factory with a great deal of automotive expertise and affection for the brand. There is no publisher behind the work because the Saab Car Museum and the support organization have realized it. That alone deserves respect, but above all the fact that it has been published in English and is therefore accessible to an international readership.

Therefore, thumbs up, the book must be in every Saab bookshelf. It can over the Museum shop ordered or picked up when visiting Trollhättan.

7 thoughts on "Contemporary witnesses tell a story. Saab - WE did it!"

  • blank

    I think I'll ask a friend to get me the book when he's at the Saab Festival

  • blank

    Really worth reading. Tom is right: it has to be on the shelf with every Saab fan. I also know that there have been contacts between the families Walenberg and Volvo but unfortunately it has become nothing. But the Saab would be sold to GM everybody knows; that was the biggest mistake and actually the harbinger of the end of Saab. Unfortunately, nothing is said about the talks between Saab and Volvo in the book.

  • blank

    Already something. One only has to think about the eternal clinging to the two-stroke. That would have cost SAAB almost the head then. Nevertheless, they could build brilliant cars. Was it the constant scarcity of resources that spurred SAAB engineers to ingenious solutions? You could believe it.

    • blank

      There is definitely something to it ...

      Both above the book and its commentary. But it also applies that one is always smarter afterwards. And SAAB wasn't the last of all 2T Mohicans ...

      At that time, especially in D, many relied on 2-stroke engines and SAAB on those from D. Manufacturers claimed that their 3-cylinder would replace a 6-cylinder. But even and of all people, the “class enemy” built 2-stroke engines for a long time and far beyond SAAB / Scania. Namely, huge diesel engines for impressive trucks with lots of chrome and exhaust pipes the size of factory chimneys.

      Against the given historical background, I am lenient and my aversion to these engines largely dissolves in understanding and pleasure. Back then, these were probably principles of belief. I have no idea which one I would have fallen for ...

    • blank


      It's impossible to talk about the 2- and 4-stroke principle without mentioning Husqvarna ...
      They invented a kind of hybrid. An 4-Takter, which has used the overflow channels of an 2-clock (however closed to the combustion chamber) for the lubrication. So you could save an oil pump, several moving parts, friction losses and weight. The bike was very successful at least in competitions. Husqvarna is more likely to share SAAB's history, but is living under the umbrella of a foreign and foreign corporation
      as a brand that still exists, it is still a shadowy existence. After all …

      I could not leave unmentioned here. Sorry. To my defense:
      After WW II I see a kind of pattern in what Swedish designers and engineers have produced over several decades. There was improvised and worked out what was going on. The results have often set standards in all possible areas for many years. In photography, on the street, in the field, on construction sites, on foot and on water ...
      For me, SAAB is “only” a building block in the overarching model. But one that still moves me every day.

  • blank

    Thanks for the book tip. Fortunately, the museum and shop are on the program this year ...


    As far as the development of the brand, its models and derivatives are concerned, neither the protagonists nor the chroniclers should go too far with themselves or the brand. Above all, they can not and must not be measured by today's standards of the current model flood and current production and development cycles. Two examples:

    Before Mercedes introduced the 190 (later the C-Class), MB had essentially only two model lines. At Volvo, the derivative of the Amazon introduced in 1956 in the shape of the 240 lived almost 40 years until the 1990s. At least the chassis with its unchanged track width and the same or slightly longer wheelbase can be interpreted as a derivative. If you don't want to go that far, take the 1966, which was introduced in 140. It lived on with virtually identical doors and windshields in the 240 until 1993 for almost 30 years (essentially still on the “platform” of the Amazon, which is 10 years older) ...

    Certainly many more examples could be found. But my point is already becoming clear, I think and hope. SAAB was in good company with its development cycles and advances. The fact that the small and fine Nordic brand has always succeeded in setting impulses and signals, even slipping into the role of a pioneer, cannot be credited enough to the protagonists and engineers ...

    That SAAB also caused anecdotes in the early years - for example, streamlined wheel arches on the front wheels, which iced up on long uncleared straights in the far north and no longer allowed a curve, or racing drivers who had to keep accelerating when braking and sometimes landed on the roof , but sometimes actually winning - makes the brand all the more appealing to me ...

    They were fantastic and advanced cars. Or “only” but still contemporary. All good. I don't know of any SAAB for which an engineer would have to be ashamed of the first hour or a later hour.


Comments are closed.