The virus, it hit me out of the blue. I was just fourteen years old, and somewhere high up on a remote part of the Swabian Jura I came across a really strange automobile. What was that? I was immediately in love with the shock and had to find out what it was.
It was: a Saab.
Hunchback and with a panoramic window at the back, type 96. I had never seen anything so funny. But I couldn't get this thing out of my head. And suddenly it was at the top of my automotive wish list. However, my first car then became a red Renault 4, which only stayed by my side for three months until I sold it after a hailstorm. Sales revenue and the sum insured together gave 2000 Mark more than I had before - and that then became the basis for my first Saab. In Hof an der Saale stood an 96er, who had done it to me, pig beige with red seats, year of construction 1977.
I enchanted my friend's mother from the neighborhood to take the almost 400 kilometer journey with me and to get the car. The ink on the contract was barely dry when someone at the petrol station in Hof got me into a conversation and wanted to buy the car straight away. Of course I remained steadfast. It only became clear in the course of time that this 96er was not exactly a matter of reason. On the one hand, he asked for remarkable repairs, and on the other hand, the door hangings began to rust through after just five years. Russian sheets, as I found out later. After less than two years, I quickly parted from the vehicle.
That didn't stop my love for Saab, and I searched for a model that was even rarer because it was never officially sold to Germany: the Saab 95. With patience and spit I fished one out of the - at that time compulsory reading - ad section of "auto motor und sport". In order to top the rarity a bit, it had the steering wheel on the right side and was for sale near Ludwigsburg. The car was older than its piggy beige predecessor, olive green (euphemistically referred to by Saab as veronagroen) and had more miles on the clock. However, its condition was better by classes and its price was very cheap - its owners could not get rid of it because people thought a Saab 95 was a sewing machine. And nobody wanted a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side - apart from me, of course!
This vehicle was loyal to me for ages and accompanied me through half of Europe, from Rome to Scotland and Ireland. A great car that I could spend the night in and that accompanied me throughout my studies and far beyond. When the veronagroene color turned into a rather unsightly matte at some point, I decided to have it repainted in two colors. My individualistic and in no way true to the original color choice fell on a petrol tone from Lancia and a Volvo white for the roof. The model for the division of the paintwork was the VW Samba bus, whose snout ran down so wonderfully pointedly, which I had always liked.
An elaborate upholstery project that was supposed to give the car two-tone leather seats in petrol and light gray unfortunately got stuck halfway when the great upholsterer died unexpectedly and prematurely. I still have the leather today, the front seats and the third bench were still finished, as were the door panels with hand-punched holes for the loudspeakers. It is a shame that I could not get the vehicle as I would have liked, because the restorer I had chosen for it also died recently before he could do his job.
I then became unfaithful to Saab for my freelance work in my design, advertising and communication office and bought three Volvo 480s in succession, followed by a Renault Avantime. For a long time, what the Swedish company brought to the market under the aegis of General Motors did not meet my taste, and I never really established an emotional connection to these cars.
That only changed again when 2009 presented a breathtaking automobile at the IAA in Frankfurt: the Saab 9-5 NG. What a design! Pot modern and timeless at the same time, drawn with a sure line, an icon for eternity, designed by Simon Padian.
Kombifreak, who I am, I flirted with the announced SportCombi and kept loitering around the dealer near me to find out when he would finally come. On the occasion of an art exhibition of my photographic works in Salzburg, the organizer quartered me in a hotel that was just opposite the Saab dealer there. And what happened there the day after my vernissage? The road show with the introduction of the 9-5 NG SportCombi and the 94-X! I literally stuck to the SportCombi and was completely thrilled, running around like a little boy. We all know what eventually came out of this vehicle: nothing. He just didn't go on the market anymore and Saab went bankrupt instead.
But stop! There were a few, pre-series models and prototypes, some crashed for test purposes, others still alive. My hunting fever was aroused. I missed the big auction because of a hospital stay and was heartbroken. Saab freak Marcus Bergfeldt from Sweden finally attracted me to the festival in Trollhättan the following year. I wisely left my own car, now a Volvo C70 with the steering wheel on the right, at home, and I took the ferry to Gothenburg as a pedestrian. At the festival I met many crazy people who share the same passion as I do: Saab. And of course 9-5 NG owners and some of the lucky ones who got hold of one of these super rare sports combos.
In the meantime, they were even legal to drive on the road, except in Sweden. In the country where he came from, it was crazily longer before the car was allowed to hit the road. Among other things, I had entrusted the matter to a Member of the European Parliament until the time had come and the Swedish authorities had come to an understanding at some point. However, my own search for one of the SportCombis was unsuccessful. So at some point I decided to look for one of the beautiful limousines.
Condition: The car would have to have all my favorite equipment if I should do without a SportCombi. The search took at least two years, a seductive offer in Riga had proven to be a rust arbor. Finally I got a call from Kiel: "Jochen, we may have exactly what you are looking for!" A black 9-5 NG with automatic, head-up display and panoramic roof as a two-liter petrol engine with all-wheel drive, extremely rare in this combination , Then I struck. And I haven't looked back since. The car is fantastic, lies with its electronic chassis on the street like the proverbial board and drives, now deigned, like Hulle. He shares the kilometers fraternally with my now renovated Volvo, so hopefully both will drive for a long, long time and always give me sparkling eyes.
What has developed in recent years and what I hadn't expected at all: that my artistic work as a photographer and my car-softness complement each other so well. In the meantime, I photograph cars with my very special, individual look. Works of art are created that warm the hearts of many. Also for fans and owners of other rare brands such as glass or Maserati.
What has also developed over the past few years: very wonderful friendships around Saab. I like the unpretentious, genuine and warm nature of the Saabisti. Whether at the IntSaab, at the festivals in Trollhättan or at the very famous fondue meeting in French-speaking Switzerland. This year in June, after the festival, I went on holiday to Sweden with Saab friends and we had a great time. Life is Beautiful. And Saab lives in our hearts.
Text and images: Jochen Gewecke