Anniversary edition Saab brings celebration across the pond
While some may find Saabs peculiar, Marc Vernon considers them perfect. "They always marched to the beat of their own drums," the Naperville resident says. "I've always been a bit of an independent thinker myself and enjoyed what they had to offer."
He got his first quirky-cool example at the end of his college freshman year, paying $800 for a Tyrol Green 1972 96 model. From there, he has gone on to own ten more Saabs over the years.
His ownership has included Sonnets, 99s and 900s but, by far, his favorite model is the 96. It first launched in 1960 and ended production in 1980.
In the summer of 2014, Marc was prowling for another Saab to add to his possession when he found a 1980 96 Jubileum Edition. He was aware of the special model, having seen pictures years ago, and he had always lusted after the special model.
"Jubileum" is Swedish for "anniversary" and this limited run celebrated 20 years of the iconic car's production.
"The 96 was the car that put Saab on the map," Marc explains. "It won major (road) rallies in Europe, which helped it form its loyal customer base in the U.S."
Jubileum production was capped at just 300 vehicles and all came coated in light blue metallic paint. They also received blue velour interiors and ten-spoke alloy wheels. They lacked any kind of special badging or call-outs and were never sold in the states. North American sales of the 96 stopped in 1973.
An online search led Marc to his dream car, with the biggest problem being its location. He had found one in a most fitting locale: northern Sweden. When Marc connected with the seller, he got even more bad news. "The car I had seen was already sold but he told me not to worry, he had another Jubileum," Marc says, "and this one was the 'nicest in all of Sweden.' "
The enthusiast worked with a Swedish broker, who inspected the car and arranged transport of the new purchase across the Atlantic. The vehicle finally arrived to Marc's house in June of 2015. Marc went through and updated some mechanicals, including replacing the fuel pump and cooling hoses.
The car isn't lacking in that distinct Saab charm. Under the hood is a four-stroke, 1.5 liter, German Ford-built V-4 engine. It showed up in other European cars but could also be found in industrial equipment.
"It's built like a tank and is rock solid," Marc laughs. Because the engine is placed ahead of the front axle, he's found, even with skinny tires, it makes for a great road feel.
Another oddity is the four-speed manual shifter on the column. It features a "freewheeling" setting, which allows drivers to shift gears without using the clutch. Other unique touches include headlight wipers, flow-through window pillar ventilation and seat belts that secure with a center console jaw clasp.
All this and so much more keeps Marc swooning for his Saabs.
"The 96 is the quintessential example," Marc gushes. "It's a classic."
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