The Saab Enthusiasm – The Beginning

Posted on 08. Nov, 2007 by in 2000-2009


Photo Credit: Ryan E / New Salem, Massachusetts

So who, when, what, where, why and how did my Saab Enthusiasm start?

I thought it would be a good idea to write about the strong points as to my beginnings in being a Saab Enthusiast. I plan on writing a sequel to this writeup on why I continue to do what I do in the near future.

This piece would be a good addition to my about page.

In the meantime, please enjoy this writeup below.


My name is Ryan and I grew up in the small town of New Salem, located in Western Massachusetts, USA which had a population of roughly 800 people, which is the 4th largest landwise in the state and combined with the largest reservoir known as the Quabbin Reservoir, which supplies water to the folks in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

My Mother and Father both owned SAABs before such as the SAAB 96 mentioned previously to the SAAB 99, but my connection was not an immediate continuation of ownership and enthusiasm, but more of a restart to the family’s Saab affliction.


Summer of 1996

It was while living in this town when I received my driver’s license at the age of 16 and a half, when I was acquainted with the only independent mechanic in the town, a fellow by the name of Bengt Johansson.

Bengt Johannson was a trained independent Saab mechanic that lived in the center of my town and only worked on two Swedish makes, the Saab of course as well as the other brand.

In this town, there were virtually no employers so as a young kid the best work one could obtain if not already saturated, were lawn mowing jobs. After saving while working too numerous positions as the keeper of the green grass all over the town, I was able to start seeing a car come into the picture. This would be my ticket to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the United States.


1987 Saab 900 S

At this point, after saving a modest amount, I decided I needed to start shopping for cars. The first thing I did after recently being acquainted with Bengt was to ask for some advice in car shopping. To my initial surprise, he suggested that he take a look for me in the local papers, want advertiser, etc. in which I kindly agreed would be the best idea since I had no idea what I was really looking for. Bengt knew what to look for and believed he really knew what I was looking for, and in to confirm his beliefs, he asked me “would these be Saabs or the other Swedish cars”? When he asked me, I recall seeing the sleek looking Scandinavian cars in his yard while he worked on them some weeks before and said, “Saabs of course!”


Charlestown, Massachusetts

I recall that no more than a week went by, until I received a phonecall from Bengt to find out that he had located which was what he believed was a good car at a good price in Charlestown, Massachusetts. We had to act fast, as the seller indicated that there were other buyers that were interested and may even be there that Saturday morning as well. That weekend we all headed out there together, me, my Mother, my Brother and Bengt to see and inspect this car. Upon our arrival we noticed that there was an individual walking down the same sidewalk we were as though they were headed to the same building to meet the seller, so I decided to start sprinting (thankfully I did track last season in High School), and was first to knock on the front door. I immediately realized that my decision was a smart decision as I now had first dibs on the Saab and the individual I suspected was was now second in line. This secured our opportunity to purchase, so the meet and greet began.


Strong Recommendation by my Saab Mechanic

This Saab was being sold by a friend of a friend who was moving back to the Netherlands which is the reason why it was being sold and nothing else. This car was a Gaston-Andrey car, which is now known as Charles River Saab and had an extremely meticulous list of receipts and records since it was originally purchased. This second owned car had 112,000 miles on the odometer I recall and had no rust for the age and the interior and exterior was in mint condition. The price was right at $2,500 which for me was quite expensive considering the humble background I came from and the modest pay I received mowing lawns. This non-turbo automatic 1987 Saab 900 S was what we ended up purchasing.

I had a very big smile on my face following the purchase, during the drive home from the Boston area to Western, Massachusetts that late afternoon.


Having a Saab Mechanic as a Mentor, fixing it myself, being resourceful, access to new Saab parts at cost and knowing where the best Saab Junkyards are for used parts.

I have always asked myself, how did I manage to do all of this, buy a Saab, and keep it maintained and repaired?

I did not come from money nor had a trust fund or anything, so how was this possible especially in an extremely rural area far from goods and services?

For starters, it was my mechanic that also helped me maintain this Saab from the time we purchased it. Bengt acting as a mentor and fatherly figure, first introduced me to the idea of “do it yourself” or D.I.Y. work. I recall the first task I was asked to do was to A) Locate B) Acquire C) Test and D) Install a new or pre-owned motorized Saab antenna, ultimately replaced the non-original equipment antenna that came on the car.

I think that the second project I had was to replace the brake rotors and pads while inspecting the calipers as well. The same process continued for me as how I would go about locating “proper” parts, how I would acquire them, how I would test them to make sure they arrived in good shape and to finally install them the correct way using the right tools.

The Do-It-Yourself projects started to become second nature for me under Bengts close supervision and watchful eyes. These projects furthered my thinking and ultimate appreciation for Saab engineering, servicing and knowledge base. It was over time that as I continued to do projects both with Bengt as well as on my own in my own small garage (pictured above), that I began to place Saab on a pedestal touting them as an intelligent company that put great thought into their products.

I can remember doing work on my Saab by myself some years after working with Bengt when I started using the phrase “I’m going to do it the Saab way, the right way” and from then on I respected the “process” and gained significant confidence in not only my ability to maintain the car, but the mechanical, electrical and structural integrity of the car.

Not only did Bengt provide me good mentorship in helping me to help myself when it came to maintaining my Saab, but he also helped me get an account at the same company where he was able to purchase less than cost, brand new Saab original equipment parts. This resource was economically critical for the work that I continued to do myself, given that I was never in a financial state to pay full retail prices for Saab parts. The combination of knowledge of how to do-it-yourself, immediate access to parts combined with the priceless mentorship I was provided by Bengt, early-on, enabled me to continue my ownership which ultimately led to me developing a true passion for Saab.

For these resources, knowledge, patience, guidance and assistance, I am forever grateful for Bengt helping me to firmly plant the seed that blossomed into a strong appreciation and level of enthusiasm for Saab.

– Ryan

November, 2007

Please stay tuned for more of how the Saab Enthusiasm Continued, from the initiation of the New England Saab Association, convincing and influencing friends and neighbors to buy Saabs, to working as a professional Saab mechanic, to other various activities and events.

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2 Responses to “The Saab Enthusiasm – The Beginning”

  1. Carl

    08. Nov, 2007

    I’m a steal your thunder and throw my Saab story up the next week.

    Reply to this comment


  1. Saab History » Saab History Enjoys A “State Of Independence” - June 7, 2008

    […] Since the first year of Saab ownership, I have sincerely felt, especially by living in New England, that this ownership was much more than just the material possession of a machine, but more of a lifestyle itself. Over the years, I can recall meeting other Saab owners and enthusiasts, especially from the more Northern regions of New England, such as Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine that really seemed to have that independent spirit and mindset who were totally against the conventional. From the trips to the beaches, to the weekends at the ski areas and all of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and LL’Bean visits one can encounter, I can recall a distinct ideal that has forever resinated in my mind. This ideal seemed to be omnipresent whenever surrounded by these Saab owners as being some of the most unique, intelligent and independently minded people in my life. This is one of the key reasons behind my founding of the New England Saab Association back in 1997, the 50th Anniversary year for Saab Automobile which held their Saab Owners Convention in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. […]

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