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  1. #1
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    1961 Saab 96 - Two-stroke tribute to rally driver Erik Carlsson - magazine article

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  2. #2
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    Before I found the above article in my archived files, I actually took some pictures of the car at the Saab Owners Convention in Aurora, Ohio - 2010. I didn't know anything about this Saab 96 but was wondering about the story behind it. Now we know.

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    I found these pictures on saabhistory.com about an Ice Racing event in Lake George, New York in 2007.

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    Bruce Turk, the owner of this Saab 96 is president of the Vintage Saab Cub of America.

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    1961 Saab 96 2-stroke @Rally New York 2007

    This is some hand held in car footage taken using a Cannon S3IS at rally New York. The car was the triple "0" car or "000" which is a course opening vehicle which pre-runs the rally road prior to competitors. Top speeds of 75 mph were reached which is impressive considering the car has only a 750cc 2 stroke 3 cylinder engine with 30 or 40 hp. The car Belongs to Bruce Turk.

  3. #3
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    Text from the article above from the Hemmings website


    A two-stroke tribute to rally driver Erik Carlsson

    Some folks can never leave well enough alone. They'll have something perfectly nice-say, a car-and they'll think of ways to make it faster, more unique or generally better. Thank goodness for those folks. While we here at Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car focus our editorial energy primarily on original and correctly restored vehicles, sometimes a customized special interest car catches our eye-this 1961 Saab 96 rally car, belonging to Bruce Turk of Walden, New York, is one of those cars.

    "This car was originally owned by Gertrude Lockwood, who was a teacher at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie," Bruce relates. "It had spent its entire life in the Hudson Valley. When I first found it at the Especially Swedish repair shop in Saugerties in 1990, it was in excellent condition, with 58,000 original miles and shiny paint. The owner of the shop told me he was going to restore it, although it didn't need anything; I offered to buy it then for $1,000. I stopped by every year for ten years, asking the owner if he would sell, and the answer was always the same.... No! The car was parked by the road, and it was constantly hit with road salt and gravel from snowplows. He finally gave in in March of 2000 because it was obvious that the car was literally rotting into the ground. When I went to pay him $250 and tow the car home, it had a half-inch of gravel covering it, and it was so rusty that I couldn't get a jack under it without punching holes into the body."

    He continues, "My friend Lewis Eig came over to help me give it a tune-up. Thirty minutes later, the car was running, and we were beating the snot out of it in our neighbor's cornfield. We only got it stuck in the mud once," he laughs. The men had replaced the car's plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, fuel pump, transmission fluid, gas and brake lines, brake light switch, exhaust and all the fuses. "The car ran incredibly well, and the brakes actually worked; I ran to the DMV the next day and registered the beast. I began driving it every day back and forth to work in Ellenville. It looked horrible, with rusted metal flapping in the breeze. One day the splash pan fell off and I drove over it-I threw it in the trunk and never did re-attach it. I drove it all summer, and nothing went wrong."

    The standard model 96 that would soon be humorously named "Puttyus Maximus" (for its ample amount of body filler) was one of 33,040 Saabs built by Svenska Aeroplan AB in 1961. The front-wheel-drive 96 had been introduced in February of 1960, and was a comprehensive update from its model 93 predecessor; the upgraded inline-three engine displaced 841cc (previously 748cc) via a 2.76- x 2.87-inch bore and stroke, 7.3-compression and a Solex 40 downdraft carburetor, and it made 42hp at 5,000 rpm and 59-lbs.ft. of torque at 3,000 rpm. As with all Saab engines to date, the 96's tiny three-cylinder used a cast-nickel alloy-steel block and aluminum head, had four main bearings and was a two-stroke, meaning that lubricating oil had to be added to the gasoline with each fill of the tank.

    The "big-bore" engine wasn't the only change Saab made when the 93 begat the 96; the new car featured a redesigned rear end with a large wraparound rear window, reverse-curved C-pillars (originating the trademark Saab side window line), new taillamps, a larger trunk and a 10.5-gallon (versus 9.5) fuel tank. Inside, a wider rear seat, new instrument panel and flow-through ventilation were upgrades. As with the other Swedish auto manufacturer, safety was key for Saab, and the 96 had roll-bar reinforcements in the roof, front and rear crumple zones and a dual diagonal-split braking system for the four-wheel drums. A key-operated starter motor replaced the starter cord and under-dash toggle as a running change for the 1961 model year.

    Bruce continued to drive his rusty, trusty 96. "I went on the www.vsaab.com message board and told everyone in Vsaabdom about the car, saying I would like to run a contest-and so 'The Contest' was born," he smiles. "The rules were simple: I would drive the car the 50 miles round-trip for work until it left me stranded. I wasn't allowed to perform any mechanical work on the car at all. Everyone on the message board predicted the date of the car's inevitable demise, and also predicted what would cause the car to break down. To make a long story short, we had a lot of fun with 'The Contest,' but that little 96 never left me stranded after 11,000 miles of driving. This, on a car that sat untouched outdoors for 10 years! It was such a junker, people would point and laugh as I drove by. Once I did the bodywork, folks would ask, 'Is that the same car?' They just couldn't believe it."

    Although he enjoyed driving the battered blue 96, Bruce couldn't resist temptation, and announced to the message board that he'd "slipped." He began making improvements to the car; he covered holes in the passenger floor with new sheetmetal, MIG-welded a brace support on the rear axle swing arm, and rigged a new driver's side front top shock mount where the original had rusted away. He also patched the rusted rocker panel ends, replaced the shock absorbers and added a used Saab 95 wagon heater core next to the water pump and generator to prevent the car from running hot.

    Because he owns five vintage two-stroke and V-4-engined Saabs, Bruce had amassed an impressive collection of used and NOS parts. "I have a 1958 brochure that lists Saab dealerships by state, and according to that, Hyde Park Motors in Hyde Park, New York, used to sell Saabs-today, they're a Chrysler dealership. I took a chance and stopped in to ask if they might have anything left from those days. They led me to a barn behind the dealership, and up in the attic were a bunch of new-old-stock Saab parts, including a front fender, two doors and the inner wheel well from a 1957 93. This was identical to that of a 1961 96, and that's what convinced me to really restore the car."

    At the time, Bruce's father-in-law owned a body shop. "He gave me a cheese slicer and other tools to shape body putty, along with hammers and dollies to remove dents. I worked on the car in my garage all winter." The 96's trunk floor had rotted around the corners, so Bruce sourced a replacement from a California donor car; rust had perforated the front inner wheel arches around the shock towers and front frame members. Using a reciprocal saw, he cut away the front-passenger inner fender before welding in the NOS replacement. The driver's side inner fender required five patches and a new lower shock mount; Bruce butt-welded the patches flush inside their holes, then welded reinforcing pieces inside the wheel well. He replaced all four of the car's fenders before smoothing out the dimpled hood and preparing two used doors with body filler; the chassis and inner fenders were painted with rust inhibitor, puttied and smoothed, and then given a heavy coat of brushed-on Rust-Oleum primer before be-ing painted with two coats of black Rust-Oleum enamel.

    "I brought the primed car to about four body shops before I found someone willing to paint it," Bruce chuckles. "Chris's Auto Body in Walden took on the task. They didn't like the primer I had sprayed on, so they sanded it off and re-sprayed their own urethane primer. They painted the car using PPG DCC/Concept two-part acrylic epoxy in Mount Fuji Blue, which matched the original shade."

    With the car home, he installed a red-painted GT750 engine that he purchased from two-stroke performance expert Chris Custer of Frederick, Maryland, who was Saab USA's technical service representative from 1957 through 1960. This special engine had been drastically modified for greater compression and power and used a 3mm skimmed cylinder head and a ported and enamel-coated exhaust manifold; the three cavities in the engine's lower crankcase were partially filled with a two-part metallic epoxy resin ("Devcon") to fill as much space (thereby raising compression) as possible, and custom sodium salt crystal-filled pistons were crafted and installed for better heat dissolution.

    This GT750 engine was mated to a factory "Super Tuning Kit," which adds a special exhaust system with a unique front expansion chamber and a two-inch straight pipe. "It's very loud," Bruce smiles. "If I wasn't middle aged, the police would pull me over all the time." Carburetion is handled by a rebuilt dual-throat Solex 40 PII unit with 135 main jets atop a special intake manifold. "I'm probably the only person in the country using this setup who drives his car regularly-it adds tremendous power, and the sucking sound is almost as loud as the exhaust!"

    Bruce had grown tired of a whine from the original three-speed manual transmission's third gear, and replaced the entire unit with an NOS three-speed. The transmission was connected to a lightened flywheel, a heavy-duty pressure plate and a new clutch disc. He replaced the hubcaps, door glass rubber, fender chrome trim, taillamp lenses, bumper wing splash guards and front turn signals with new or NOS parts from his collection. The 96's chrome bumpers were replaced with NOS units, and the aluminum bars that flank the grille were polished by sanding with 2000 grit paper and polishing to like-new.

    "NOS vintage Saab interiors are on the 'unobtanium' list," Bruce says. "The fabric and vinyl that I used are not a perfect match to the original, but are very close. I went through every swatch book at R Dee's Auto Top & Trim upholstery shop in Newburgh, New York to find the best materials, and the seam configurations of the seats and door panels are exactly as original. To save money, I stripped the upholstery off the door panels myself; I then made new door panels from 1/8-inch water-resistant panel board using the old ones as a template. The upholstery shop made the door panel coverings, and I applied them to the panel board with spray glue and staples. As for the carpets, I picked them out of a swatch book-they aren't factory originals, as the car left the factory with heavy gray rubber mats; carpeting was a dealer accessory. When it arrived at the shop, I brought it home and cut it to fit the car. Then I brought it back to the upholstery shop to have the edges bound. Again, saved time is saved money."

    "The finished car was straight and beautiful, but it was a standard model 96. But I already had a 1958 93B and a 1963 95 wagon, so with this I had three totally stock Saabs," Bruce recalls, with a glint in his eye. "I loved famous Swedish Saab rally driver Erik Carlsson. This car already had fenders from four different cars, and doors from two cars-it was not a Bugatti in value." He made the decision to turn his newly restored stock 96 into a proper facsimile of a vintage rally car.

    Swede Erik Carlsson, who was later known as Mr. Saab because of his public relations work for the auto manufacturer, became the world's premier rally driver in 1962 when he drove a Saab 96 to his third consecutive British Royal Automobile Club (RAC) rally win. Carlsson, along with winning drivers Rolf Mellde and Aka Andersson, made Saab cars major players in world rallying in the 1950s and '60s.

    "It's not a replica of a specific rally car," Bruce admits; "It's a combination of all the things I like most about Saab rally cars. I wanted to create what my car would look like if I were the driver back then. I took artistic license with the graphics on the car, so everyone knows this is my car and not someone else's." It took him more than 30 hours to create the BP racing logo on the rear fender, and the doors' "96"s were drawn up in 1:1 scale. "I found a company that makes graphics for trucks in central New Jersey, and they scanned my pencil drawings, touched them up in Photoshop and cut them from pressure-sensitive latex. I made up the 1961 Monte Carlo rally stickers on the trunk and hood, because Erik Carlsson didn't drive a 96 in that race until 1962."

    After studying a number of vintage Saab rally photos for inspiration, he located a period Marchal roof spotlamp that only required re-chroming, period foglamps that he almost didn't get because their owner wanted them to go on a Volkswagen, and a Hella reversing lamp. A key ingredient in any vintage rally 96 is the Halda Speed Pilot, which is a mechanical rally trip meter that originally cost $60. "They now usually cost between $600 and $800, but I got this one for $220-it was a real score. They normally have to be recalibrated, but this one worked to within 1/10 of a mile after 20 miles and only a cleaning." The car's accessory tachometer is a genuine Saab two-stroke unit from the period, and the unusual wind-up clock is from a Russian MIG 29 fighter plane. "This was the same clock Erik Carlsson used," says Bruce, "and it could withstand a lot of shock." Along with an English Butler navigator's map lamp that is screwed to the ashtray, the six extra spark plugs and period flashlight attached to the driver's side wheel well complete the Carlsson-inspired package.

    "I painted a section of the hood in non-reflective flat black and secured it with a leather belt, because even though the hood opened to the rear, a strap was a rally requirement," he continues. "The 15-inch steel wheels the car runs on have steel gussets welded around the lug nuts, because the stock wheels weren't strong enough and tended to crack. Aforementioned engine builder Chris Custer was preparing Saab's U.S. race cars in 1958, and he welded up this set of wheels for the Le Mans race at Lime Rock. The car did finish the eight-hour race, and these wheels have history."

    While Bruce's personalized 96 rally car may not be the purist's cup of tea, it suits his desire to honor the storied history of the Saab marque and allows him to participate in vintage rallies like the September 30-October 1, 2005, International Rally New York, which took place on the roads and trails of Sullivan County. "It was probably luck that I ended up with a car that is equally comfortable competing in a rally or being driven to work. I do both every chance I get."

    Owner's story
    "I never made a conscious decision to restore the car," relates Bruce Turk, who is general manager of S.B.I. Enterprises, a pogo stick company. "Working a couple of hours a night proved to be very therapeutic, and resulted in a bizarre Swedish children's toy that requires a driver's license to operate. It's incredible how fast 900 hours and several thousand dollars can slip by when you're in the midst of a mid-life crisis," he laughs. Any time that Bruce isn't devoting to his job, he's spending with his Saabs, including this 96. He describes the experience:
    "Throttle blips will find the rpm "sweet spot" you need to pull away without stalling or spinning the tires. KYB sport/rally air shocks give a very stiff ride but virtually eliminate roll.

    "The engine is only comfortable running at full bore, pulling to 6,500 rpm, with no sign of breaking up. It's hard to imagine that a 750cc engine, barely larger than two loaves of bread, can make your butt feel like it's strapped to a chainsaw on steroids. The car's unique sound, smell and feel, combined with the turbine smoothness of its two-stroke engine, provide a driving experience that few have experienced but anyone would appreciate. It's a wild ride."

    This article originally appeared in the DECEMBER 1, 2005 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.



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