Masters of the Wheel - a 1989 Saab rally film

To understand Saab, you have to know the brand's motorsport history. It was the year 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 the Svenska Rallyt.

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

And they decided to make a rally film.

About the brand's glorious past and its roots. Because, and you should know that, motorsport is just as anchored in the brand's DNA as its roots in aircraft construction. In the 50s and 60s, a man or woman bought a Saab. Drove him everyday and on the weekend on the race or rally track. Not unusual at the time.

Saabs were popular in motorsport, dominating in some classes. The sound of the two-stroke engines was legendary - in the forests of Scandinavia 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 motor prince who loved 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 is a motorsport fan, just like his uncle was.

1951 is not enough for victory, everything is there. In 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 cm³.

Erik Carlsson takes the stage in 1955.

A new name and a young face. Erik Carlsson drives for Saab in the Rikspokalen 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, fights bravely 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 stay that way for a lifetime, because after the end of his career as a works driver, he still likes to grab the steering wheel and become a brand ambassador for Saab. The years go by and new names come. A new generation started in the 60s.

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

The time of the 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 then turns a sequel two years later. It will follow here soon.

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

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

  • So much concentrated (retro) charm ...

    This is probably my favorite film among those I've seen so far. And it makes me wonder. Until just now, I was absolutely convinced that if you are looking for a Swedish from the 1950s and 60s, you should buy a Volvo.

    But this film and the elegant, front-wheel drive drifts around tight corners turn my convictions on its head.

    It is 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). Power? Gauge? All negative, but the package was still right. Brilliant.

  • Great! A class document of the times. It's amazing which cars you can see in the film. Eg Renault Dauphine, DKW Junior, Citroen ID 19 etc. Unbelievable what was going on at that time!

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