Written by Charles Gould, photos by Gabriele Isenbrand
Copyright 2010 Charles Gould / SaabWorld
Originally posted on SaabWorld 10 January 2011
Introduction by Dave T, originally posted on saabworld.net 10 January 2011
Barn find: 1962 Saab 96 found in a virtual time capsule
Charles Gould is a vintage Saab collector from the Boston area who discovered a 1962 Saab 96 in surprisingly good condition stored in a garage since 1978. The story is not much different from discovering treasure in a time capsule.
Although the details of the Saab 96 are well known to Saab experts, the car is a refreshing look at a nice Saab from a different era. The Saab 96 discovered was a 1962 model of car first introduced in 1960. The car’s length is approximately the same length as a modern day MINI Cooper.
The engine is a 38 hp 841 cc (as in 0.8 liters) two stroke 3 cylinder engine where motor oil is not changed periodically but added to the gas tank regularly. While some think this is primitive, it also makes oil changes a thing of the past (or present)! There is even a reminder on the dash to add oil to the gasoline akin to the warning on today’s cars to use unleaded fuel only.
Instrumentation consists of a linear speedometer, which was popular in that era. One of the four gauges under the speedometer is an ammeter. Towards the left of the dashboard is the manual choke knob, adjusted if the weather is particularly cold or hot. Unlike current cars that have heater controls in the center, they are located to the left of the steering wheel, allowing the driver complete and absolute authority over the interior’s temperature! The car has a manual transmission with the shifter on the steering column as well as floor mounted pedals like those found on the Porsche 911 instead of pedals anchored from above as in modern Saabs.
The car also has a key and starter, not a starter cord found only on 1960 models of the Saab 96. Just as the front grille for the current Saab 9-3 was refreshed in 2008, the Saab 96 grille was modernized in 1963 making this car the last model year to have the original design grille. Like many cars of that era, there is much metal in the car. Even the inside door handles are metal, not plastic. Saab was an early pioneer in making seat belts standard as early as 1958 but for the GT750 model, not this particular 1962 model.
Charles kindly provided SaabWorld with his story about finding a 1962 Saab 96 which was stored in a garage and not driven since 1978. I have been asked to present a summary but nothing other the original words can do Charles’ story justice. His quest for this Saab is detailed here but what follows is merely a feeble summary.
A friend sent Charles a Craigslist ad about a Saab 96 at an estate sale the following afternoon about 200 miles away which would be sold by sealed bid. He arranged his schedule and happened to have two friends come with him, one of whom photographed the event. He found four other prospective buyers with at least two telephone buyers.
As described, the car was in a garage and looked like it hadn’t been driven since 1978. All four tires were flat and the car was covered with dust. The woman who owned the car bought it new in late 1961 and drove it until 1978 when she became ill. There, it sat until the summer of 2010 when she presumably passed away.
Charles noted that there was almost no rust on the car. What little rust was mostly surface rust on the bulkhead caused by some mice nesting in the area. The car was very much stock. Modifications included just bending the metal battery tray to accommodate a larger aftermarket battery but, even then, it was not cut. Even the plywood trunk panels and rear seat were almost in mint condition. The dashboard did not have any cracks. There was some minor repair work on a rear fender but it was thought to have been repaired very nicely.
The saga of bringing the car out of the garage and home was quite remarkable and detailed in the original report written by Charles.
I received the Craigslist ad from a friend on Friday night, even before I saw it on the Vintage Saab list, where it had also been posted. The ad said that the 1962 Saab, had been parked in this garage by a little old lady in 1978, and that it had sat there ever since. The ad confessed that the engine was stuck, and that the rest of the car’s condition was unknown, but the photos made it look fairly derelict, with all of the dust and debris which had collected on it for those thirty-three years.
Everyone on the Vintage Saab list had speculated that thirty-three years in a dark, damp New Jersey garage could not have done it well, and that between the salt air, and the obvious mice infestation, it was probably a fairly rusty candidate for restoration.
The ad stated that the little car would be sold to the highest bidder at an estate sale, which was to be held the following afternoon at 4:00 PM. There was only one problem. The estate was over 200 miles away! Although I wanted to go to see the car in person, I was not prepared to get there in time for the Saturday 4:00 pm deadline. So, I made arrangements to place a bid over the telephone, sight unseen.
I had lost three other “bullnose” “stroker” Saabs, and I did not want to lose another. One was from an estate sale in Texas, and the executor had promised to sell it to me for $4,500, and then decided to increase it to $5,500, and then decided to get it running first, and then demanded $6,500, which I was still prepared to pay, as it had a factory rebuilt engine, and a GT hood, even though it was not a true GT. He then decided to place it on EBay, where it drew close to 12K from a European buyer. Oh well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be!
So, I was very excited about this New Jersey barn find car, as I really love original cars with years of patina, and I also truly love barn find stories. I was “willing” this to be a nice original car, and although the posts on the Saab list were getting pretty discouraging, I did not give up hope.
At 10:00 am on Saturday, I decided that I really needed to see this Saab in person, and that I had to be there to bid live, and to be sure that my telephone bid did not fall through for a bad reception problem, or some other glitch. So, I called several friends and nobody was available to take the 200-mile road trip. As I was getting ready to set out alone, my friends Carter & Gabrielle called to say that they were in town and wanted to visit. I asked if they were up for a road trip, and they set out to my house, while I went to the bank to get some cash!
I debated whether to drag the trailer along, because it always seems that when I bring the trailer, the car is always a disappointment, and when I leave the trailer home, the car turns out to be great, and I have to frantically hunt down a U-Haul in the vicinity of the purchase.
I finally decided to grab the trailer from my shop on the way out, and we bolted down to New Jersey. We arrived at 3:20, and were greeted by four other very knowledgeable Saab enthusiasts, the three estate sale ladies, and some assorted customers buying other estate trinkets from inside of the home.
We were sent out to the garage behind the house, at the end of a long and very narrow driveway, which had long since been overgrown with trees and shrubs which had made the narrow access even narrower. It was obvious that this narrow driveway, and the overgrown trees and shrubs would preclude getting the trailer anywhere near the little Saab which had been tucked away thirty-two years prior.
When we finally got a chance to check it out, I was so excited to climb through the sad and lonely looking little teardrop. As someone on the list had posted, all four tires were flat, and all four wheels were stuck, so we were wondering how we were going to get it out of there if we were successful. Anyway, our investigation in that dark garage made it obvious that this was a remarkable example, even though it was covered in thirty-three years of dust and crud, and looked like hell on the surface. This was clearly a remarkably well preserved, time capsule, owned by a woman who was the original purchaser late in 1961. She had parked it here in this garage in 1978 when she fell ill, and there it sat until being unveiled again in the last thirty days!
There was almost no rust whatsoever, and what little was there, was limited to surface deterioration on the bulkhead, where the mice had nested and urinated on the metal, which contrary to an earlier post, did not penetrate through the metal, but did remove the paint and caused some pretty deep surface rust in the corner on the driver’s side.
Contrary to the earlier post, although a previous owner had bent the steel up above the battery tray to accept a larger battery, they did not cut the metal, and I figured that it could be bent back close to original. The plywood panels in the trunk were near perfect, and under the rear seat looked like brand new.
Yes, the engine was stuck, but we are always saying that mechanical stuff is easy to fix, but rust is such a headache. The upholstery and headliner were simply amazing, and even the dash pad was not cracked. The oil change stickers confirmed the mileage and dates, and contrary to an earlier post, the paint on the door seals was transfer from the door, after being closed for thirty years. There was no overspray on the door seals, although I was surprised to see both door striker mechanisms on the jamb were painted. Does anyone know if these were painted at the factory?
There appeared to be some minor repair work on one rear fender, but it was done quite well. Otherwise it was remarkably unmolested, and well preserved, and even had the optional white face Blaupunkt radio, speaker, antenna and even the grounding straps for the radio installation kit.
I decided that I really wanted this car, and when I learned that it would be a sealed bid auction, I got very concerned, as there were about three or four other knowledgeable Saab enthusiasts at the site, and three more bidding by telephone. There was also another guy who arrived carrying a 6 amp battery charger, and who had intended to plug that into the garage outlet, in the hopes that he could get the stuck engine to spin on the 6 amps of available power!
It was nerve racking to try to decide what to bid, as I really had no idea what the others would bid. Well, we all must have had a pretty good idea as to value, as four of the six bids were within $200.00 of each other, and my bid was $99.00 higher than the next lower bid! Fortunately, we were the high bidder, except for one telephone bid that had a contingency that the seller provide a title at that price, which the seller could not do.
So, now we had to decide how we were going to drag it out of that narrow driveway, and figured that we would have to call a local wrecker with a long, long winch cable. I decided to unhook the trailer and back my MDX down the narrow driveway to see if it was possible to drag it out to the street for loading. Unfortunately, I had cleaned out my MDX last week to go in for a new transmission, and I had forgotten to put my tools, air compressor or tow cable back into the truck before we left, so we had no way to pump up the tires before trying to see if any of the wheels would roll, before calling the wrecker.
Now, I have pulled literally hundreds of old cars out of barns, and I am a consummate optimist, so I was “willing” the wheels to free up, as we tied up two ratchet straps to the rear control arms, and hooked them to my trailer hitch, half expecting them to break. As we tugged gently, two wheels rolled, and two dragged for about one foot before the third freed up, and another two feet before the fourth wheel freed up and started to roll. The brakes were still dragging a little, but the wheels were rolling!
We were able to slowly drag the little Saab all the way out to the street without any real problems except that occasionally the wheels would dig in, as though the little car was holding on tight, and afraid to be dragged away. I suspect that when he went to sleep in this garage over thirty years ago, nobody collected old Saabs, and now he probably feared being dragged to a junk-yard after hiding successfully here in this garage for thirty-three years.
The trailer battery, which runs the winch, died before we could drag the little car all the way onto the trailer, but we kept letting it rest and pulling six more inches, until we got the whole car safely up on the trailer. So, within thirty minutes of having won the bid, we had the little 96 loaded on the trailer and we were ready to head off for home in Massachusetts!
One of the ladies handed us the baggie, which contained the original owners manual, service coupon booklet, and brochures for the Blaupunkt radio, as well as several period road maps of New Jersey and New York. The three ladies who were running the estate sale were really sweet, and I had a lot of respect for how honest and fair they were in handling the sealed bid situation. It was really a pleasure to deal with them.
So, we were now on the road again, and headed back to Massachusetts. We had almost 100 miles under our belt, with most of those miles spent with me sneaking peeks at the cheeky front of this barn find through the rear view mirror, when we hit a huge pothole on the road. This pothole was so big that I was just waiting to feel a tire collapse! Well, nothing seemed to be wrong, so we proceeded up to Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT, about 85 miles from home, for dinner. Reins is a traditional stop for us whenever we return from a car retrieval in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or anywhere else southwest of us here in Massachusetts!
Dinner was great as usual, but apparently we had developed a slow leak in one of the trailer tires from the pothole, and although we didn’t realize it until we left Rein’s, the tire completely blew apart three miles later on Route 84! We pulled into a small 24-hour gas and convenience store to have some light to work under, as it was now almost 9 pm.
As I had forgotten to put my tools back in my truck before we had left Massachusetts, we were stuck with no tools and no spare trailer tire. We could not get the tire off, and with the self leveling equalizer link on the leaf springs between the two right side trailer tires, there did not appear to be any way to get the dead tire off of the roadway. So, it looked like our newest acquisition would have to sit out at a rest stop overnight, until we could come back with a replacement tire and tools.
We decided to jack up the trailer suspension to bias the rear trailer tire down and the front one up, using the MDX jack. Once we had achieved the desired position, we went into the store, and carefully selected a pack of firewood, with one log just the right size and shape to jamb into the shackle mount, to hold the proper orientation for the trailer suspension to lift the front destroyed tire off of the roadway. With our custom-made hardwood suspension adjustment device now in place, we limped home the final 82 miles at a reasonably slow speed, and made it home before 11:00 pm, safe and sound!
Now with my back thrown out, and exhausted from the tension of driving that last 82 miles, while waiting for the second trailer tire to blow, we went right to bed leaving the little Saab on the trailer in the driveway overnight. Our plan was to have a closer look in the light of day, and try cleaning it up in the morning.
The following photos, which Gabrielle Isenbrand shot to document this barn find retrieval, really reveal how sad this little neglected teardrop Saab had become from being entombed in that New Jersey garage for so many years.
All I will say at this point is that I am delighted to have acquired this little time capsule, and I can’t wait to start on this project. Thanks to Carter Willey, for being such an amazing reference source on this car, and to Gabriel Isenbrand for documenting this barn find retrieval on her digital camera! Finally, thanks to both Carter and Gabrielle for all of their hard work, help, moral support and encouragement in chasing down this barn find dream! Please let me know your thoughts and comments after viewing the photos and whether you want me to write the next chapter of this story, and thanks for all of the support on saving this little 96!
More pictures on Photobucket: link
We woke up on Saturday morning all rested from a good night’s sleep and excited to see what the cat had drug home in the light of day!
Normally, I would have stayed up all night working on the new acquisition, but I had really destroyed my back loading the car on the trailer, and after taking some painkillers, I really had to get some sleep.
So, even though my back was still sore in the morning, I was excited to get going on the little 96. I had to work fast, as I was committed to attend my nephew’s engagement party at 11:00. Don’t you just hate it when life and family interferes with your car projects!
So, after breakfast, I could not wait for Carter and Gabrielle to wake up. I went out to the driveway where the Saab still sat on my trailer, and found that Carter and Gabrielle were already awake, and crawling all though the little car, even before I got out there. They approved it as an amazingly original example, and we were all delighted to learn that it was even nicer than any of us had hoped. We all agreed to dig right in carefully in order to assess what we had, and where to begin.
We decided to leave it on the trailer as it would have to go to my shop later anyway, and this would allow us to crawl underneath it easier, and to work on it without bending over quite as much, which my back really appreciated. First order of business was to loosen the ratchet straps, to allow for some slack, and to pump up the tires. I engaged my optimism, and sure enough, all four (possibly original) Continentals pumped right up and held air!
We then removed all three spark plugs and installed a generous amount of Marvel Mystery Oil, including two flies in the ointment who had gotten into my open can of Marvel, and who slipped down the funnel before we could react quick enough to prevent it. We also tried to fog the crankcase with an oil mist as much as possible through the ports, but I don’t know how effective this really was. We figured that we would allow the Marvel to start working on the ring bond, in the hopes that we might get lucky, and that the engine might break loose. Fat chance.
Then we dragged out an old weak pressure washer, as my good one is at the shop, and started to hose off the thirty-two years of dust and grime. I am such a stickler for patina and originality, that I actually debated whether or not to wash this car off! I really considered leaving this thirty-two year accumulation of dust and crud on the Saab, to show the history of the car. I know, I know, I am still in therapy for this issue!
In any event, Gabrielle had certainly properly documented the “as found” condition, by taking (coincidentally) 96 photographs! So, I felt okay about erasing this barn accumulation of crud. Well, the first pass was just water, and second pass was with suds and water. It really still needs to be buffed out, but what was revealed as we uncovered this hidden treasure, only served to increase my excitement about having acquired this little teardrop.
After we scrubbed away most of the layers of dirt, Gabrielle came out to document the next phase of the little Saab shedding its skin of dust and grime, and those photos are really interesting as well. You can view them here: link
The photos really show how nicely this little car cleaned up, and how remarkably well preserved it is underneath all that dirt. There is absolutely no rust whatsoever, except that one area on the bulkhead, and even the exhaust system is completely intact. The front bumper is badly pitted, as are the hubcaps and the rear bumper, which is not quite as bad, but the metal surfaces are just incredible, and the interior, including the headliner, is amazing.
More pictures on Photobucket: link
Okay, so when we last left you, we had cleaned up the car, and washed it, and it looked really great. So we moved on to the next step, which was to inspect the wire harness and all electrical connections to be sure that the mice had not dined on some crucial insulation. There was plenty of evidence of mice taking up residency, including a flurry of broken seeds and shells in the tailpipe, and that nest on the bulkhead.
We had even found a petrified mouse on the engine pan under the exhaust manifold, and Gabrielle graciously included that photo in the series, so you can all decide whether anyone recognizes this particular mouse as one that might be missing from any of your own projects or barn finds. Fortunately, these little guys had not invaded the interior at all!
We then decided to hook up a booster pack, and check for fire, smoke, heat, short circuits or other evidence of electricity escaping from the wire harness, and when all seemed well except for the brake light switch sticking to keep the brake lights illuminated, we decided to check all accessories. Interior lights, check. Parking lights, check. Headlights check. High beams and dash indicator, check. Wipers, check. Blaupunkt, lights up and seems to power up, but no sound. Make mental note to check wiring to speaker later. This was even more good news on the electrical and accessory front.
By now, it was clear to this little Saab, that we were intending to give it careful and proper, care and feeding, and it was responding accordingly. Each new thing that we tried, told him that he had found a new home, with a kind, appreciative owner, and that gave him the confidence to awaken from his long slumber, and start to come back to life!
Now that the tires were inflated, we wanted to see how well it would roll, so we loosened the ratchet straps and rolled it forward and back on the trailer. It now rolled much easier. Still dragging a bit, and consequently heavy to push, but at least the wheels should come off relatively easily.
I was running out of time to leave for the engagement party for my nephew, when Carter and Gabrielle offered to stay and fiddle with it while I was at the party, an offer which I gladly accepted. But even though I was late for the party by now, I told Carter that I wanted to “will” one more test before I left.
So, I removed the spark plugs again, and put the little Saab in third gear (did I mention that it is an early cast iron three speed gearbox model?), and disengaged the freewheel device. Then, using the strap on the trailer winch, I very gently tugged at the car, using the leverage of the transmission to gently torque up the wheels against the stuck engine. I clicked the winch switch just a bit, and then a bit more and then a bit more, and then we gently rocked the car back and forth with no success. I took one more, tiny click on the winch switch, and Carter yelled, “That’s it!” The engine pulley and fan had turned! The engine was now free to turn!
We re-engaged the free wheel device and put the car back in neutral. We then released the winch strap, and actually turned the engine pulley by hand. That little “stroker” engine was no longer stuck!!! We lubricated the cylinders again, and carefully rotated it thorough its entire revolution feeling for any restrictions, noise or indications of debris, and all seemed very well indeed.
We lubricated the cylinders again, and decided to see if it would rotate on the starter motor after inspecting the generator/water pump, and fan pulley for any restrictions as well. We hooked up the booster pack, and hit the key, and all dash lights illuminated. We touched the starter and that tiny little engine spun around beautifully, with no objectionable sounds whatsoever.
So, now our little barn find estate sale Saab was no longer a “pig in a poke,” with a seized engine and extensive rust as suspected by many who had posted on the list. I had sent Nancy & the kids to my brother’s house for the engagement party, promising to follow within minutes. I am very fortunate, in that Nancy loves these old cars as much as I do, so I don’t have to take any flack from her about this obsession, and how it distracts me from life’s other obligations. I did end up going to the party, and snuck out one hour later to return to the project, having sent Carter and Gabrielle out to lunch to feed them, and to keep them from making too much progress without me there to observe!
When I returned, I could smell stale fuel from almost a block away, and when I came down the driveway, I saw that Carter was draining the old fuel from the tank, to prepare the tank for removal. He already had the distributor apart, and had restored the spark to the plugs, and he had removed the air filter, and the top of the carburetor and cleaned out the bowl. He had successfully cleared the fuel lines all the way back to the tank, but was unable to clear the notorious debris plug that resided in the pick up tube within the tank.
By this time, another friend, Jon Chomitz had arrived to help with the resurrection. Jon has helped on so many of these interventions that this has become a sort of tradition with each new acquisition. We all worked together and jury-rigged a vinyl tube from a five gallon can of premixed “Petroil” to the fuel line, and Carter got the old electrical fuel pump to spit that fuel into a glass jar to clear the lines. When he hooked the fuel line up to the carburetor, the float was stuck, and the carburetor leaked. We dismantled it, and freed up the stuck float. We put it back together and the fuel pump stopped clicking when the float bowl filled, indicating that the float was doing its job.
We then decided to attempt to start the engine, by pulling out the choke and actuating the starter. The little three cylinder engine cranked around four or five times, and sputtered trying to start, without success, until Carter rolled the throttle on a bit, and the tiny little thing came to life, and settled into a beautiful idle! I shouted: “IT’S ALIVE!” You can see what happened here:
So, here we are, after less than six hours of work, and less than 24 hours since we first set sight on this sad little teardrop, and it is now a running 1962 Saab Model 96! My birthday is on March 9, and this was a fabulous birthday present to myself!
I was explaining to several Saab enthusiasts, how I am very careful to awaken these barn finds from their long slumbers, with lots of lubrication, and careful hand turning of the engines, rather than shocking them into submission by trying to start a dry and brittle engine. I was also explaining how I often talk to the car to assure it that it has a great new home with a caring new owner, and that we will return it to its former glory. While one owner thought that this probably had no effect whatsoever, another paid me the complement of labeling me the “Saab Whisperer”.
My daughters want to name this particular barn find “Totoro”, after one of the characters in the Japanese anime children’s films by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a microcar enthusiast, and often includes animated microcars in many of his films. I have seen Messerschmitts, Isettas, Daihatsu Midgets, and Volkswagens. I can’t remember for certain, but I think that I may have even seen a Saab 96 as well.
I will try to keep you updated on our progress, as this little “Totoro” progresses, but we are on hold for now until we source some brake rebuild parts for the next phase of this resurrection. Thanks for all of the comments, support and encouragement.
Picture from Swedish Car Day 2010, posted by CycM17
Interview with Charkes Gould by Dave T.
Car collector who found a 1962 Saab 96 stored for 32 years speaks with SaabWorld
Charles Gould is a Boston area car collector whose barn find of a 1962 Saab 96, stored in a garage undriven since 1978, was featured in SaabWorld. Part 1 and 2 of a 3 part saga has been published. Part 3 follows. Charles was kind enough to be interviewed by SaabWorld.
Charles first car was purchased at the young age of 9 when he bought 1937 Buick Straight Eight and later sold at working on it to get it running properly. About three to four years later, Charles tells us,
Charles Gould: I got hold of an old army surplus magazine, and placed 12 bids on Navy Seabee 24 volt M38A1 Jeeps, which were being sold out of Rhode Island. Although my bids were very low, I was surprised to learn that I had won 9 of the Jeeps. I had not told my parents that I had even bid, so it was a little scary to tell my Dad, and although I had enough money to buy one or two, I had never even contemplated that I would win more than one. To his credit, my Dad taught me a lesson about keeping one’s word in business, and he marched me down to introduce me to his banker, and he cosigned a loan for me to borrow the $1,800 that I needed in addition to my own money to buy all nine Jeeps…and after months of working hard to get them all running, I sold enough to pay for them and keep four for profit and my own pleasure. After that, my dad supported all of my car adventures, and I have been passionately involved ever since.
SaabWorld: Later in college, Charles got his first Saab, a Saab 99. However, his first Saab dear to his heart was later when he regularly saw an old Saab 96 stored next to an old house that he drove by. One day, he knocked on the door and, after hearing that the owner did not have the heart to scrap it, promised to give it a good home and promptly bought it, practically sight unseen, aside from seeing it at a distance. He dragged it near 18 miles with a tow rope, using the horn to warn his girlfriend in the towing car to drive faster if the Saab was getting too close to the tow vehicle.
Charles Gould: I got it running, and fixed the brakes, and drove it for a bit, but I got afraid of the rust and eventually sold it. Curiously, the current owner found me at an event last year, and showed me my old car, with a fresh paint job, and it looks and runs fantastic. I am glad that it has such a good home now.
SaabWorld: Do you tend to work on Saabs or do you have a trusted mechanic?
Charles Gould: I do all of my own mechanical work on all of my cars.
SaabWorld: What Saabs do you have now?
Charles Gould: I currently own four Saabs, a 1962 19,000 original mile barn find bullnose (Saab 96), a 1967 model 96 stroker long nose version, a 1969 Model 96 V4, and a 1971 Model 96 V4 (currently for sale). I love Saabs, but I love so many other cars as well, and can’t stop adding to the collection. I have been collecting cars for almost forty years now, and we have a sizable private eclectic collection of extremely unusual microcars and minicars from all over Europe and Asia.
SaabWorld: Why collect Saab 96s instead of other Saabs, like the 99, for example?
Charles Gould: The teardrop Saabs really stole my heart, and I have always loved them. I have so much admiration for an automotive manufacturer who can squeeze power, handling, speed and enjoyment out of a small car. It is easy to go fast in a 200 horsepower rocket with amazing brakes and suspension components, but it takes real skill to squeeze any real speed and handling out of an undernourished economy car with mediocre handling and brakes. This distinction really separates the men from the boys. That is why Erik Carlsson was such a genius.
For me, the passion has been gone for almost four decades. I would love it if Saab or Spyker really does produce the retro model 92!
SaabWorld: Some feel that the Saabs of the 1960’s appeal to a different market than the current Saabs. In those days, Saabs were more barebones cars, albeit with a sporty appeal.
Charles Gould: Unfortunately, all car manufacturers have to chase the wallets of the affluent masses and produce a car that will appeal to the widest possible range of buyers, while satisfying federal regulations, pollution constraints and still coming in at a price point. It is a sad state of affairs which results in the unavoidable homogenization of car designs, That is why they all look so much alike nowadays. Think back to how unusual a Saab 93 was in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. That took a lot of courage, and could only be accomplished by a smaller cottage type industry that did not have to deal with the enormous overhead and legacy costs of the manufacturers today.
Charles is a lawyer by profession. After being disenchanted with how inefficient law and litigation had become, and how you could win, and still go home with nothing because the lawyers fees would exhaust all of the recovery proceeds he discovered his particular style of mediation. It involves aggressive negotiation to solve problems as an alternative to lengthy and costly litigation. Charles said “I developed a style where I could resolve most disputes in 4 to 6 months, that had previously taken 3 to 6 years in litigation, and consequently, the fees were much less, and I didn’t get burned out on the cases. It was very gratifying to get results for my clients in such an efficient manner.” Charles adds, “although my profession was law, my passion was always related to cars…Curiously, the analytical skills which I developed in working on cars helped me to analyze legal problems of all sorts. So, my vocation, and my avocation complemented each other nicely, and helped me to develop in both areas.”
As far as new cars and new Saabs, Charles feels that “there are very few current cars that get my adrenaline up, and I fear that we have traded fuel economy, and sterile sophistication for any real character or design. I long for the time when automotive designers actually cared about stimulating the senses with the visual and visceral appearance of the car.”
Charles Gould: Reliability is also a huge concern for me. Saab owners are fiercely loyal…almost to a fault, and sadly, they do not demand the reliability that should be inherent in any car produced in this time in history. Character does not have to mean unreliability.
(Editor’s note: This editor’s Saab 9-3 is 21 months past the four year warranty with not a single repair bill yet. Of course, we’ll see if a tow truck has to be called the day after this article is published!)
SaabWorld: Anything you think the SaabWorld readers would like to know?
Charles Gould: Just a few thoughts, but please remember that these are only my own thoughts, and will not apply to everyone! All cars were meant to be driven. Enthusiast should stop talking about cars, and having virtual driving experiences, and get out there and actually drive the car, whether restored or old and tattered. If you are dragging a restored trailer queen to meets and events, you are missing three quarters of the pleasure of owning an old car!
There are fun cars available for 1.4 million dollars, and fun cars available at $1,500.00! Some of my favorite cars are the least expensive cars in my collection. Find something interesting and fun in your price range, and buy it and then drive it!
Try to drive every single car that you have the chance to drive. It gives you a perspective on why you love a particular car, and you may surprise yourself.
I love the patina of an original car and truly original cars are getting so hard to find…Automobiles are the only category of antique that we completely erase in order to make perfect. We would never do this with an antique painting or a piece of furniture.
Besides Saab 96’s, Charles is interested in other cars. “I have always been interested in unusual foreign cars. My passion for all types of cars is pretty deep and I have been playing with old cars since I was nine years old…” “I have owned almost everything including Imperials, Lincoln’s, and old Caddys. I was never really a Ford guy, but really loved all other old marques.”
Charles Gould: There was a junk yard not far from where I grew up, and the owner was a client of my Dad, who let me crawl around all of the cars. At that time, there were not too many foreign cars around our town, so when I found the foreign car section of this boneyard, I was absolutely smitten with these weird, unusual cars. I was mesmerized by Humbers, Austins, English Fords, Saabs, Volvos, Isettas, Citroens, Anglias, Panhards, Renaults, Simcas, and Hillmans. I could not believe my eyes when I first learned about these tiny, strange, and wonderful little travel pods, and I was probably changed forever. From that day forward, I was fascinated by the most unusual foreign cars that I could find, and bought almost any that I could afford, from Citroens to Auto Unions, to Panhards to Fiats. My friends though that I was nuts, but I was fascinated by the unusual engineering and design elements. While I really appreciated the front wheel drive Saabs, I did not buy my first one until many years later.
To this day, a properly tuned 500cc Fiat Cinquecento is still one of my favorite cars to drive hard!