Masters of the Wheel - a 1989 Saab rally film

If you want to understand Saab, you have to know the motorsport history of the brand. It was 1989. In Trollhättan they thought back to the glorious rally years. To Rolf Mellde and Greta Molander. At the Rikspokalen and the Midnattssolsrallyt, which was once called Svenska Rallyt.

And they decided to make a rally movie.

About the glorious past of the brand and its roots. Because, and you should know that, at that time, motorsport was just as anchored in the brand's DNA as its roots in aircraft construction.

Master of the wheel - a Saab rally film
Master of the wheel - a Saab rally film

A rally film for the DNA of the brand

In the 50's and 60's, men or women bought a Saab. Drove it to work and to go shopping every day – and on the race track or rally track at the weekend. That was not unusual at the time.

Saabs were popular in motorsport, even dominating in some classes. The sound of the two-stroke engines was legendary - in the forests of Scandinavia as well as on American racetracks. The film, almost 20 minutes long, begins in 1951. The brand is still very young, a start-up, as one would say today. But she is successful and popular. And she dares to approach the Monte Carlo Rally.

It starts in Stockholm in 1951.

Rolf Mellde and Greta Molander start in a Saab. Prince Bertil of Sweden, the engine prince who was devoted to Saab all his life, says goodbye to Rolf Mellde and wishes him luck. His nephew, Crown Prince Carl Gustav, is waiting in the car. Today's King (Link) is just as big a motorsport fan as his uncle was.

In 1951 it's not enough to win, it's all about being there. The following year, however, Greta Molander won the trophy in the women's class, and Rolf Mellde took second place in the class up to 1.100 cc.

In 1955 Erik Carlsson entered the stage.

A new name and a young face. Erik Carlsson drives for Saab in the Rikspokal and wins. The start of a long career in which Carlsson will win many awards for the Götaland Kanal brand. Carlsson is everywhere. He wins in Monte Carlo, does well in Kenya, wins the RAC and drives brilliantly in the Hessian Taunus.

His name is closely linked to Saab and the two-stroke era. He will remain so for life, because after the end of his career as a works driver, he still likes to take the wheel and becomes a brand ambassador for Saab. The years go by and new names come. A new generation started in the 60s.

The Finn Simo Lampinen now drives for Saab, and Erik always ends up on the roof. A circumstance that gave him the nickname Carlsson på taket, Carlsson on the roof. The Saab dominance continues. Until then something fundamentally changed.

The era of two-stroke engines is coming to an end. Also the career of Erik Carlsson, who announced his retirement from the international stage in 1969 after the Baja 1000. This ends the first part of Masters of the Wheel. Saab only shoots a sequel two years later (Link).

3 thoughts on "Masters of the Wheel - a 1989 Saab rally film"

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    Great contemporary document! I look forward to see the continuation!

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    So much concentrated (retro) charm...

    This is probably my favorite movie seen here so far. And he makes me ponder. Until recently, I was adamant that if you were looking for a Swede from the 1950s and 60s, you should buy a Volvo.

    But this film and the graceful, front-wheel drive drifts around tight corners turn my beliefs on their head.

    It's unbelievable what potential the old Saabs had if you knew how to drive them properly. The entire data sheet seemed to speak against it (apart from the relatively low weight). Perfomance? gauge? Nothing, but the package was still right. Brilliant.

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    Great! A class contemporary document. It's amazing which cars you recognize in the film. E.g. Renault Dauphine, DKW Junior, Citroen ID 19, etc. Unbelievable what was going on back then!

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