Category Archives: SAAB

Feral treasure found in Tucson


SAABaritic sports car

SAABaritic sports car

A hot weekend visit to Tucson, gem of the Sonoran Desert, yielded a diverse array of feral finds, kissed (well, maybe “baked” is more like it) by the sun.  Cars that don’t have to endure humidity and snow, not not to mention body corroding road salt, last longer and we found some excellent and rare examples parked all over that spread-out ‘burg in southern Arizona.

Open the window, no trunk lid required!

Open the window, no trunk lid required!

A yellow SAAB Sonett III was truly an exciting “get” during our desert sojourn.   It’s powered by a German-built Ford V4 that seems to be trying to pop out of the hood.  The federally mandated protruding bumpers peg this one to be a late run ’73 or ’74 and just one of 8,368 made over a four year model run.   Haven’t seen one of these in the “wild” for quite a spell — maybe 40 years.

Springtime for.. (you know the song by now)

Springtime for.. (you know the song by now)

Less uncommon but still most noteworthy is this VW Thing, the civilian iteration of the World War II Wehrmacht Kübelwagen adaptation of the Beetle platform. The Thing was introduced more than 22 years after the “unpleasantness” concluded in 1945.   Those ribs in the body work are not for pleasure but, rather, to provide a modicum of structural rigidity.  Despite the off-road look, Things were not four wheel drive vehicles so being stuck in soft sand and/or mud is a distinct possibility if you insist on straying from the pavement. On the road or off, the look is as funky as you could possibly want it to be.  While safety regulations put an end to US sales in 1975, VW of Mexico continued to build these, under the model name Safari, until 1980.

Letting it all hang out back

Letting it all hang out back

Both more mainstream and more sun baked is this ’64 Ford Thunderbird.   The paint seems past the point of rubbing it out to restore the shine but we think it looks menacing in a Breaking Bad sort of way. We leave it to your imagination to guess what might be stored in the trunk, aside from the missing wheel covers.  Scary!

'Bird, man

Big, bad ‘bird, man

We were glad to happen upon this ecumenical tableau in an open car port.  Housed together were an upright sedan for formal occasions and a smart pick up for work, from GM and Ford, respectively.  The sedan is, of course, a 1989 Oldsmobile 98 Regency, a conservative conveyance, swathed in velour that is a reflection of the era when George Herbert Walker Bush lived in the White House, declared a war on drugs and the Exxon Valdez hemorraged 12 or so million barrels of crude oil that had just been extracted from Prudhoe Bay onto the shores — and far beyond — of Prince William Sound.  Ah, what a glorious time it was!  The truck is a ’66 Fairlane Ranchero, a melding of Ford’s mid-size car of the time and a pick-up, long a favorite of pool service guys over the ensuing fifty years.

Yes, actually it is your father's Oldsmobile (and your pool man's Ranchero)

Yes, actually it is your father’s Oldsmobile (and your pool man’s Ranchero)

We like the juxtaposition of this 1968 Pontiac Bonneville and late model Honda Civic.  Both were common family sedans in their respective time and dramatically underscore how the definition evolved over the decades.  That big ol’ “Pon-ton” tips the scales at more than 4100 pounds and measures just shy of 19 feet in length; the Honda is 14+ feet long and weighs under 3,000 pounds.  Not sure what the point of this exercise is except to state the obvious: times sure have changed.  The motors?  The Honda is powered by a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder unit driving the front wheels; the Bonneville is powered by a 6.5 liter V8 powering the rear wheels.  Apart from the fact that they’re both painted blue, there’s very little else in common.

..and they said Edsel looked funny?

..and they said Edsel looked funny?

Remember that ’66 Ranchero that is bunking with the Olds 98?  By the late ’70s, it had evolved into this strange thing that’s finished a tasteful shade of Halloween orange with matte black accents.  If the hood isn’t as long as the pickup bed, it’s damn close.  This “only in America” beast is powered by Ford’s “Boss 302” V8.  We know this because we can read.

"Orange" you glad you saw this?

“Orange” you glad you saw this?

Lastly, we encountered a very pristine Mazda RX7 rotary-powered sports car parked on a busy street.  This one is an early ’80s example wearing — how to put this?  — a see-through bra.  Yes, the RX7 of this era had pop-up headlights which necessitates the bra being roll up-able.  Sexy? Not really.  Ridiculous?  You be the judge.



We sincerely enjoyed the time spent in Tucson where the saguaro grow tall and the cars just seem to last forever.  It’s kind of a low humidity paradise in some way.

We found a really sharp 1974 SAAB Sonett for sale in nearby Tallahassee, Florida for a mere $12000 here.  It’s orange, too, like a certain Ranchero we recently encountered.

We thought you might like to check out this Olds 98 commercial from ’88.  It’s lack of any real content is stunning but it does take a moment to disparage the imports that ultimately seals Oldsmobile’s fate.  Well done, Olds!

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:  info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.




The last new SAAB sold in US was a 2011 model 9-5.  It was a fairly big and conventional car and shared many of its underpinnings with the Chevy Malibu, understandable in light of the fact that both were products of General Motors.

It was not always thus as SAAB (the use of all caps reflects the fact that the car maker’s name is an acronyn for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget or Swedish Airplane Company) was once a proud independent company.


Viggen is Swedish for thunderbolt. Now you know.

New England Feral Cars field scout Bosco “Pero” Dontonicus found this wonderfully preserved 1970 96 model parked on a Boston street corner.  First generation SAABs were powered by a 3 cylinder two stroke motor of under 1 liter displacement but SAAB went modern in 1967 with the introduction of a Ford of Germany-sourced V4 and that’s the case with this teardrop-shaped little beauty.   There’s a sticker on the trunk lid indicating the car was purchased from Lewis Auto Sales in Lisbon, ME.  While Lewis had been an authorized SAAB dealer since 1960, the firm now offers an inventory of no fewer than 21 used SAABs.

Raag top?

Raag top?

GM invested in SAAB in the late 1980s and took a 100% stake in 2000, only to walk away from its Swedish subsidiary in 2008 when it found itself facing bankruptcy and could no longer afford to keep things going in Trollhättan.  Long before this downward spiral SAAB introduced its wildly successful 900 convertible in the 1980s.  It was the brainstorm of Robert Sinclair, the company’s US President, who foresaw a market for a reasonably priced topless car of  Scandinavian origin.  We found a 900 Turbo on the street the other day and admired the fact that its owner seemed to be oblivious to atmospheric conditions, leaving the back window open to, literally, soak up environmental elements like rain and leaves.

Now with rubber baby buggy bumpers

Now with rubber baby buggy bumpers

That’s our SAAB story for today.  The last image here is of one of the very final SAAB cars  —  a 2011 9-5 sedan — to have been sold in the United States, already an uncommon site after just the three years.

Future feral

Future feral

Tony Scott, the late film director was “discovered” by producer Jerry Bruckheimer on the basis of this SAAB commercial, pitting a car against a jet fighter. Top Gun, anybody?

f you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.



Rattles + Squeaks: SAAB is back

Musings, ramblings and rants of FeralCars founder Bob Merlis

Saw an article today about the fact that the Chinese-Japanese company that owns the SAAB brand actually produced a car in the heretofore-shuttered Trollhättan factory; the first new SAAB to have been built in 30 months.

My initial impulse was to share the news with my friend Ante Wendel, a transplant from Sweden who worked for Volvo for many years, first in New Jersey where he met and married Gerry, a self-described “Jersey Girl,” and ultimately in Southern California where the couple relocated after Volvo became part of Ford’s ill-fated Premier Automotive Group.  Doubtless, he would have been up to speed on this heartening development back in his homeland as he was on most obscure automotive topics.

Ante – yes, you pronounce it as you would the diminutive version of your mom or dad’s sister — however, died suddenly a few weeks ago and I had to go without sharing this with him.  I miss him just about every day because there’s so much out there that makes me think of him.

You know when you just lock in with a fellow car geek because you can mention something offhandedly about the fact that Hans Ledwinka, designer of the (Czech-built, rear engine) Tatra successfully sued Volkswagen for stealing his ideas and won a substantial settlement in the early 60s, and have instant recognition. Ante would certainly know there is a car called Tatra – he often wore a Tatra t-shirt — and that Ledwinka engeered it.  He was well aware that many of Ledwinka’s revolutionary ideas such as the “backbone chassis,” swing axles, air-cooled “boxer” motor in the rear, etc. were claimed by Ferdinand Porsche, the man, apart from Adolph Hitler, usually credited as the father of the VW Beetle.  Ante was that kind of a guy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 6.28.37 PM

Of course Jay Leno has a Tatra!

I was at the San Diego airport earlier this summer when a ’64 Volvo 544 rolled up.  It had just  been driven from Tucson. The car is an everyday driver and it was a thrill to have that encounter which was, truly, an Ante kind of thing. It wasn’t really unexpected when he chimed in almost immediately after I posted a shot of it on Facebook, noting, “Great. Same as my 1st car + 1st offroad gravity defying experience in a car.”  Fun guy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 6.35.20 PM

Here’s that great old Volvo 544, the same kind that Ante may have mistaken for a Land Rover or Hovercraft back home in Sweden.

We both enjoyed talking about Soviet bloc cars – Skodas, Tatras, Ladas, Volgas, etc. and he actually owned a USSR-built Zaporozhets back in Sweden.  Over here, of course, he drove a Volvo but also harbored a huge mid-70s Cadillac Eldorado convertible in his garage – one of those “I’m going to get around to this” kind of projects.  Ante certainly ran the automotive gamut and was anything but snobbish; everybody who met him took a shine to him.

We were at a film festival at screening of the original Swedish language version of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and director Niels Arden Oplay was there and asked for a show of hands to determine which of us had actually read Stieg Larsson’s novel.  At least half of those in attendance raised their hands, Ante among them.  I whispered, “Yeah, but you read it in Swedish” to which he replied, “No, I read it in English.”  The point being he was at home wherever he went.

Earlier this year, I contributed a Collectible Classic piece to Automobile Magazine about Mark Rose’s beautiful ’89 Volvo 780 Bertone – a unique Volvo variant built in Italy.  I got to include a story Ante shared about a customer who credited his own 780’s sturdy construction with deflecting a shot from a .38 revolver fired from six feet away. The bullet went through the B-pillar and ricocheted off the seat frame, saving the driver’s life.  “We resisted the temptation to use that in advertising,” Ante commented, in his understated but mirthful way.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 6.31.56 PM

Mark Rose’s Volvo Bertone 780

Yes, they actually built a  new SAAB today but the news isn’t as good as it could have been if Ante were here to share it  with. Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 6.24.01 PM

Gerry and Ante: he would have been happy about today’s SAAB news.


If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                            Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted.