So my first car was a used Saab. A 99 GL in Indian Yellow. With a few kilometers under his belt, but on the whole in good shape. And with front-wheel drive, which was important to me as a cross-country skier with competitive ambitions.
Who wants to have to give up on the first snowy slope on the way to a race before the start, just because the rear end is lurching and spinning? Exactly, and therefore my first big car love was Saab.
And old and first love does not rust, as the saying goes. In contrast to the mufflers, which because of the many short journeys and the annoying habit of salting the streets in winter, made themselves felt quite loudly crackling in a very short time before they finally crumbled and had to be replaced.
But can you actually love a car that has no flaws? Maybe, but there will probably never be a real, lifelong, deep bond. The quirks of the 99 GL were on the one hand the exhaust system and far more serious the thermostat. Unfortunately, the darn thing either didn't open or stayed open all the time. (I hope this is technically correct?) The result was either the engine was too hot or the heating did not work.
This was also the case with the second and third thermostats. Nevertheless, driving Saab was (and still is!) A lot of fun. And always gladly to Sweden and Norway. Back in the early 80s, flights to Scandinavia cost between CHF 800 (charter) and CHF 1200. From today's perspective, huge sums.
So you went there by car.
Once the 99GL covered the Bellinzona - Copenhagen route over the Gotthard Pass in one go with me as the sole driver. The engine got very, very hot, but the current thermostat worked as an exception and even the cover of the ignition distributor was reasonably tight, so that the brisk drive on the German autobahn was not stopped abruptly in the fast lane due to a thunderstorm. What happened to me already.
In short, the years and kilometers added up, and one fine day the thermostat went crazy again and the engine got too hot in seconds, or rather minutes, on a Swiss autobahn with a top speed of 130 km / h and the cylinder head gaskets did not seal more and the Saab turned into a Deux Chevaux, or a lame duck.
An expensive repair was due, or another car was needed. To do something? Buy a new Saab, of course. There was nothing else to do. And the Saab dealer made a good offer for a demonstration car that was in the yard. A 900 GL in carmine red metallic. Bought! Despite the metallic paint. After all, there were offspring in the meantime and they wanted a functioning heating or air conditioning system.
And the car had to be absolutely winter-proof, because in the meantime I lived on the Lenzerheide, a ski station at an altitude of 1500 meters. With snow at least back then, a lot of snow in winter. For example, in February 1984 more than four meters. Incidentally, that was the last time I fitted snow chains, and since then I only drive the snow chains in the trunk in winter. Because, in addition to front-wheel drive, 1A winter tires are the most important thing in winter.
And what about four-wheel drive some might ask?
Well, at the beginning of the 80s, the first 4 × 4 vehicles came with Subaru and a little later the first Audi Quattro made the streets of Graubünden unsafe. Up on the snow they were really impressive, but shortly after the top of the pass you could see the Quattros lying on the left and right of the road in the snow.
The physics could not be outwitted at the latest when braking. And the Subarus? Well then, in order to avoid the “chains compulsory” on the main road from Chur to Lenzerheide, I was often off Tiefencastel drove home on the back. And often it came as it had to. At the steepest, snow-covered places there were various makes from all over the world and went crazy with the driver.
Respectively slipped back and forth mostly across the direction of gravity, that means towards me and worse, I had to stop too. And toast the non-Saabs on foot. And start again yourself, at the steepest points that have meanwhile become veritable ice rinks due to sliding around!
But I drove a Saab with Fulda Kristall tires and front-wheel drive with a motor on the front axle and I knew that I had to start in 2nd gear, if not in 3rd gear. In any case, I will never forget the face of the Subaru driver that I had just bumped into when he noticed that I could pull away with practically no problems!
My own expression will probably have been radiant like a cockchafer, in any case bump into others and be able to start again myself, is a royal feeling, a feeling that the rear-wheel drive will have to do without forever! The Saab 900 GL was definitely a great car that did many, many years of good service and even survived a crash without scratches.
One winter day, in the middle of Lenzerheide, a Japanese driver slipped into my back with quite a bump. Fortunately, with his snout exactly on the characteristic bumpers of the Saabs at the time. Conclusion, the Honda was corrugated iron and cannot be recognized as a Honda from the front and mine has nothing. Nothing at all, which the Saab garage also confirmed.
In the meantime I had ended up in advertising and worked in Zurich as a copywriter for the Swiss Federal Railways and therefore traveled very often by train and the question arose as to whether public transport would not be much more sensible in the future?
But after two years of public transport I finally had enough.
Enough of the fellow travelers who first take off their shoes, put their feet on the cushion opposite, unpack their liver sausage sandwiches and then peel an orange with relish. I can only hope that the self-driving cars will work out in 10 or 15 years, otherwise - I already dread it, before the time when, for reasons of age, I can no longer drive a car myself.
And by then there will probably still be drivable Saabs, we hope.
What about Volvo? The advertising agency I worked for pitched to Volvo's Swiss advertising budget. The enthusiasm was great, if it was car advertising, then it was Volvo, they said. But the pitch was lost! Despite some of my ideas. To do something? Sure, change the advertising agency and a short time later I was no longer writing for SBB, but for Volvo!
And that as still a Saab driver!
Missed the first part? Read here: Volvo, Saab or Alfa Romeo.
Text and image: Gigi