Getting a Saab back off the road.


I can't really think of a good way to introduce this project or myself, so I guess I'll jump right in with this:

Recently I had an opportunity to save a couple of old Saabs from a farm where they had been parked for over a decade. They were mine to take, provided I got them off the property in an extremely short window of time, otherwise the property owner was going to call the scrapper and have them hauled off (and they did, and all the other cars on the property went to the crusher). I rescued the c.1965 Saab 95 wagon, with the infamous 3 cylinder, 2-stroke Saab engine that every car enthusiast over a certain age can tell tall tales about - and a 1968 Saab 96 with the Ford V4.


I sold the rarer, older wagon to a collector, but have plans for the '68. It's little remembered today, but for several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Saab was a major contender in the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races. In fact, Saabs won the 2-wheel drive class four years in a row. Saabs first ran the race in 1967, the cars entered were stock, save for some auxiliary lights and some truck tires. They came in last place. You'll find a short write up of the event below, scanned from the winter '67 Saab dealer newsletter (which is in the public domain, having been printed without a copyright notice).

In 1968, the team returned with a lightly modified car - and won their class. And kept winning it, for several years in a row. The suspension was reinforced, the car extensively lightened, and the engine lightly tuned. In 1969 Saab officially became involved and the cars became more highly tuned and modified.

Saab Prints by trollpowersaab, on Flickr

A distinctive feature of these cars was the routing of the exhaust over the roof to gain ground clearance. Unfortunately, this is one aspect I won't be replicating because I want to keep my car street legal. I also probably won't build a roll cage, or at least not one which would meet modern requirements, as I have no real need to actually race the car. I've decided that rather than build an all-out replica of the '68 entry, to go with a slightly softer version that would still be street legal and tractable. The suspension and body will be reinforced, some lightening will be undertaken (there's honestly not much that can be taken out of this car, it's pretty basic as is), and appropriate lighting, rack, skid plate, wheels and tires fitted. I also have plans for an original bed conversion kit which allows the seats to be transformed into a bed by using some extra brackets and mounting points. So it will be a sort of lightweight camper, potentially.


Don't hold your breath watching this thread for updates though, as it will take some searching to round up all the necessary parts for this build. 50 year old Saab stuff isn't always easy to find (then again, you'd also be surprised by what you can still get through any normal car parts store). Also living in Texas, I have no plans to wrench on anything until summer is over.

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Jason McDaniel
Were these the cars posted in dire need to be rescued on the Vintage Saab Facebook group?

FWIW, we just sold our two-stroke rally car. I already miss it.


Two of them. There were a dozen or so out there. Most of them pretty rusty, these two looked the most solid (also the '68 still had a title, so it was an obvious choice) I had been wanting to build a Baja Saab for a while, but finding the right car for it (niether too good, nor too bad for such a project) had been difficult. Then these cars popped up and I had to go for it.
Not my first old saab either, have had this 95 for a couple of years and have already driven it all across the southwest:
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New member
If your 96 was white with an orangeish interior it would match the car I bought new in 1968. I put some Hella lights and good tires on it and ran it all over the National Forests in PA, VA, and WV. for 4 years. Replaced the exhaust several times since it was the low point on the car.


Yeah I already bashed the exhaust on my 95 on a rock while crossing a river, but it's on stock sized tires. I should be able to gain between .5 and 1 inch of clearance just using bigger tires (have had trouble finding tires that are skinny but tall though).

Interestingly, while I was going through the car I found the original dealer maintenance log, so found out the original owner and dealer. Car was bought in October 1968, from a dealer in Billings, MT, that is still in business. The owner lived in a small town out in the middle of nowhere and made a 500 mile round trip every time the car needed servicing. Thankfully a town also small enough that they obviously didn't salt the roads, so the car is still pretty solid underneath. I found out from the previous, previous owner, that she bought the car from the original family, and that it had been parked in the late 1980s, and had been off the road for a bit over a decade when she got it. And to think it almost went to get made into paperclips!



I had been considering some 195/80R15 Federals, but everywhere I looked they were on backorder. They might not ever be restocked. In the meantime I found some 175/80R15 Nankangs that are not as big as what the Baja cars used, but cheap and still in production, apparently the OEM size for the Pajero in its native market (also impossible to find in the U.S. but I have a friend who can ship some over, and they're DOT approved).


Things I can do while it's still summer: assemble this roof rack. Made to fit a VW beetle, but with a little bending should fit the Saab just fine.


Checking the width on the 95:




Acquired: radiator.

This one is actually for a 2-stroke Saab, but the only difference between the 4-stroke and 2-stroke radiator is the positioning of the out-pipe. I should be able to make it work with a 90 degree radiator hose and a short bit of pipe (in fact I've seen it done before).

Also have acquired fog lamps and spot (pencil beam) lamps, pics later.



Some Lumax DF-1 fog lamps. A little bit antiquated by 1968, using British Prefocus bulbs instead of halogen, but Lumax apparently kept these in production into the 1970s. I proved difficult to find a pair of matching halogen Lumax fogs, this older design was much easier to find examples of. It's not an ideal fog lamp, and the beam is very narrow - but hey they look pretty cool.


And some halogen Lumax spot lamps of 1970's vintage. These will go up on the roof rack once I figure out how to mount them there.


Acquired: vintage plates.

Normally wouldn't go through the hassle of finding and registering vintage plates, but 1968 Texas plates commemorate the San Antonio World's Fair, Hemisfair, which I thought was cool enough to make them worth having.

Otherwise not much to update. I gave gave the wood on the rack a proper staining, and have got some less exciting parts collected now (new axle boots). Found a source for rally springs and instructions for reinforcing the front sheet metal. Can't wait to get the car in the garage and start pulling the front end apart to replace the bushings, ball joints, get new springs in, and weld in the reinforcements.

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