Bob Sinclair & The 25th Anniversary of His Convertible

Posted on 14. Mar, 2008 by in 2000-2009

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Photo Credits: Seth Bengelsdorf, Nines Magazine

I was just sent a nice article from the August 2006 issue of Nines, with permission to republish here on Saab History from the editor. This issue features the coverage of the “20th Anniversary” Saab convertible event in Santa Barbara, California that took place in 2006. This event involved Saab Automobile USA and the “Father of the Saab Convertible”, Bob Sinclair as a near “re-enactment” of the movie that debuted in 2004 called “Sideways”. In Sideways, there was a classic Saab 900 that drove through the wine country of California.

In the writeup below, the editor of Nines, Seth Bengelsdorf, does a good job covering his experience. Enjoy!

California Dreaming by Seth Bengelsdorf, Nines

c2.jpgThe press event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Saab convertible and the new convertible ”anniversary edition” took place in Santa Barbara, CA during the April rainy season. I cou1dn’t figure out why it would occur in Santa Barbara except for two reasons: Santa Barbara is the home of Bob Sinclair, the ‘father’ of the Saab convertible, and to fly into Santa Barbara I had to take a local flight from LA, where the c3.jpgairplane of choice is a Saab 340B turboprop. Rolling down the runway I was pressed back into my seat much like a turbo spooled up, and there was a bit of torque steer when we cleared the ground. Born from jets indeed! On the flight to LAX I sat next to Brett, the crew chief for the Newman Wachs racing team, who was flying out to run the Long Beach Grand Prix. Already, my right foot was itchy. Awaiting our arrival out front at the El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas in celebration of the convertible’s 20th anniversary was a 1986 900 Turbo Convertible belonging to the GM Historic Collection.

c4.jpgBeautifully turned out except for the mechanicals of the convertible top (wouldn’t retract, although the motor beneath the rear seat whirred helpfully), the car brought back memories of my 1987 900 Turbo Convertible in the same red and black color scheme. The theme of the event was taken from the movie ”Sideways,” where two men take a week long vineyard trip through the California countryside in a red Saab 900 Turbo Convertible. We were going to take a day long vineyard trip through the California countryside in a fleet of Saab Turbo Convertibles.
c7.jpgCompared to the movie, the pack of journalists would drive faster and visit fewer vineyards. After breakfast overlooking the ocean and an introduction by Saab’s PR men ]an-Willem Vester and Tom Beaman, Saab USA President jay Spenchian, Saab’s assistant project leader and technical development person Tommy Sundin, we were given a brief history of the creation of the original Saab convertible by Sinclair. We then headed out to the dozen or so convertibles. A number of them were the 20th anniversary models, instantly identifiable by their blue color, special alloy wheels and driver’s side rear window

c5.jpgThe first driving break was a major setting of the movie “Sideways” the town of Solvang, which we were told translates from its native tongue as “tourist trap.” It wasn’t quite that bad, and the hot chocolate at the bakery was delicious! Lunch took place at the Latetia vineyard, outside the owner’s home on the top of the hillside. The views were spectacular, from the rolling hills t0 the ocean. We got the tour of the wine making process, and learned that all the grapes are picked by hand. There were barrels and barrels of gallons and gallons of different types of wine. We were told that the actual plants that grow the grapes are “trained weeds” and that some of the vines were 23 years old, as opposed to others in the north that were more than 100 years old. On the last leg of the day we chauffeured Sinclair. He had attended a wine tasting at the vineyard while some of us were touring the facility. and was happy to be a passenger. Bob had also purchased a box of wines which we put in the trunk. The new convertible has a feature which allows for space normally used by the convertible top to be available when the top is up. We put Bob’s wine in the car, started off and decided to drop the top. The one-button sequence started, and almost immediately the warning ”boings” sounded off. c8.jpgSure enough, we had blocked the top’s storage space with Sinclair’s wines, and the single-button top control would allow the top to go no further. We moved the wine and dropped the top. But the weather was not at its best for our passenger. Cold and buffeted by the wind, at least he spoke up. We drove with the top up on the last leg and chatted in comfort. It was reported by another journalist that, at 100 mn.p.h., the speed warning is not loud enough to be heard in the car with the top down. I’m here to tell you that, with the top up and the speed warning set to 150 m.p.h., the car tracked a smooth 110 m.p.h. with not a quiver or a false step. When not winding out the car, the short twisties were raced through at an exuberant rate of speed. We were told that no journalists received speeding tickets, although it would not have surprised me to hear that most of us had court dates! I don’t believe a single car went ”sideways” and nobody got so much as a ticket. And yes, I did stall the car once, with Sinclair in the back seat. Either he did not notice or he was toomuch a gentleman to comment.

lf you’ve seen the movie “Side-ways,” you know this place!

Photographs and text by Seth D. Bengelsdorf, editor of Nines Magazine

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