It has been a year now since I was introduced to “Sven” our 1967 Saab model 96.
“Keep Austin Weird” is the motto in these parts, and I feel I am making my contribution by driving this quirky vehicle, a car that has quickly become my hands-down personal driving favorite.
“Weird” is perhaps too kind a descriptive term for “Sven”.
Everything about this car stands out in stark contrast to any other “conventional” vehicle of mention. Its bullet proof 3 cylinder, 2 stroke, 848 cc engine is decidedly unlike anything that has ever made it to America’s shores, before or after.
But, with a sturdy unit-construction body weighing just slightly over 1,900 lbs, the Model 96 engine of just 46 horsepower proves itself more than adequate to keep up with freeway traffic.
Rack-and-pinion steering, diagonal dual circuit braking, and full shoulder harness are just a few of the standard features that were literally unheard of in contemporary American cars of the time.
In spite of the Saab’s diminutive size and weight, it can easily carry 4 passengers in comfort. Handling is a dream.
Yes, it’s true, the little 2 stroke engine requires oil to be mixed in the gas at every fill up (later versions incorporated a different sort of total loss oiling that injected right into the crankcase and bearings). It is not as cumbersome as it might seem.. I keep a gallon container of 2 stroke oil in the trunk (good for about 60 gallons of gas, or 8 fill ups), along with a graduated measuring bottle. It adds about 45 seconds to my fill up times.
It is hard to believe that Saab built over a half million Saab model 96 vehicles (and the wagon version.. Model 95) . Many of these cars wound up the Northeast, where brutal winters were no match for the then-rare front wheel drive and robust heater system. But sadly, few remain today.. their relative low cost relegated many of them to parking spaces behind the barn.
Try to find one to purchase these days, and you will definitely be in for a serious treasure hunt. I was lucky to find mine just a couple of hours north of Austin, and deem it to be rarer than a classic Ferrari in these parts.
To experience what it is like to drive this great vehicle, just click on the video below: