This is an article that was originally published back in 2007 on my old website, Trollhattan Saab. The archives to this site were lost for some time and I’ve only recently got access to a backup. This is one of the most popular articles written on TS and I’ve always wanted to share it again with a new audience here at Inside Saab.
The author is Lance Cole. Lance is an automotive and aviation writer based in the UK and would be known by Saab enthusiasts in particular for his book, Saab 99 and 900: The Complete Story. The book is an essential read for the 99 and 900 enthusiast and that link will take you to Amazon, where it is still available for sale and available on upload for Kindle.
Lance is also working on a new book, which will be called “Saab Cars – The Complete Story” with 300 colour photos and previously unpublished design notes from the history of Saab. The book is due out in 2012 from Crowood Press.
My enduring thanks to Lance for his OK to re-publish this here at Inside Saab. Enjoy.
Old aeroplanes smell, every classic aviation enthusiast knows that. Sit in a Spitfire or a Messerchmitt 109 and the patina of leather, aluminium, bakelite plastic, oil, grease, and canvas, lends a tangible reek, an actual smell.
The same whiff pervades the interiors of Catalina flying boats, Lancasters, Douglas DC 3s and just about any old aeroplane. Even old, first generation jetliners have a smell – think Boeing 707 or Comet or Caravelle or VC10.
When it comes to cars however, the smell thing seems less defined.
Yes, classic 1930s race cars reek, so too do 1960s Alfas, Lancias and Morris Minors. But some cars have no smell at all – not even old ones; when did you last scratch and sniff a 1980s Honda or a plastic lined Ford hatchback – you didn’t because they don’t pong.
All of which begs the questions – why do old Saabs have that unique, special, Saab-only smell – and what is it? And is it something to do with aviation?
To answer the questions, I took my mind way back to days of yore, When Saabs were Saabs and Abba were gold.
My first car was bought in 1981 and was a 1968 early model steel bumpered, Saab 99 two door (well it would be for 1968). It had that lovely cockpit style fascia with a top roll coaming that arced back into the door side panels. The clock was off a 96 and there was chrome detailing on the seatbelt buckles and some very fungal vinyl in the cabin.
Above all, there was the smell: The car had this really strong pong – and it smelt just like my grandad’s Auster light aircraft – a sort of vintage eau d’ armpit mixed with stale canvas, cigar, oak, horsehair, alloy and an air of classic French polished woodwork.
The Saab smelled.