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.
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.