A Saab Enthusiast’s 1962 Saab 96 Barn Find

Posted on 23. Jun, 2010 by in 2010-2019, 96

Photo Credit: Charles Gould

Saab enthusiast, Charles Gould has recently written a rather detailed account of his “barn find” acquisition of a 1962 Saab 96.

Below is the first chapter of this incredible story.

Another Saab Story- Barn Find 1962 Saab Model 96!

Written by Charles Gould
Photos by Gabriele Isenbrand
Chapter One

I received the Craigslist ad from a friend on Friday night, even before I saw it on the Vintage Saab list, where it had also been posted. The ad said that the 1962 Saab, had been parked in this garage by a little old lady in 1978, and that it had sat there ever since. The ad confessed that the engine was stuck, and that the rest of the car’s condition was unknown, but the photos made it look fairly derelict, with all of the dust and debris which had collected on it for those thirty-three years.

Everyone on the Vintage Saab list had speculated that thirty-three years in a dark, damp New Jersey garage could not have done it well, and that between the salt air, and the obvious mice infestation, it was probably a fairly rusty candidate for restoration.

The ad stated that the little car would be sold to the highest bidder at an estate sale, which was to be held the following afternoon at 4:00 PM. There was only one problem. The estate was over 200 miles away! Although I wanted to go to see the car in person, I was not prepared to get there in time for the Saturday 4:00 pm deadline. So, I made arrangements to place a bid over the telephone, sight unseen.

I had lost three other “bullnose” “stroker” Saabs, and I did not want to lose another. One was from an estate sale in Texas, and the executor had promised to sell it to me for $4,500, and then decided to increase it to $5,500, and then decided to get it running first, and then demanded $6,500, which I was still prepared to pay, as it had a factory rebuilt engine, and a GT hood, even though it was not a true GT. He then decided to place it on EBay, where it drew close to 12K from a European buyer. Oh well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be!

So, I was very excited about this New Jersey barn find car, as I really love original cars with years of patina, and I also truly love barn find stories. I was “willing” this to be a nice original car, and although the posts on the Saab list were getting pretty discouraging, I did not give up hope.

At 10:00 am on Saturday, I decided that I really needed to see this Saab in person, and that I had to be there to bid live, and to be sure that my telephone bid did not fall through for a bad reception problem, or some other glitch. So, I called several friends and nobody was available to take the 200-mile road trip. As I was getting ready to set out alone, my friends Carter & Gabrielle called to say that they were in town and wanted to visit. I asked if they were up for a road trip, and they set out to my house, while I went to the bank to get some cash!

I debated whether to drag the trailer along, because it always seems that when I bring the trailer, the car is always a disappointment, and when I leave the trailer home, the car turns out to be great, and I have to frantically hunt down a U-Haul in the vicinity of the purchase.

I finally decided to grab the trailer from my shop on the way out, and we bolted down to New Jersey. We arrived at 3:20, and were greeted by four other very knowledgeable Saab enthusiasts, the three estate sale ladies, and some assorted customers buying other estate trinkets from inside of the home.

We were sent out to the garage behind the house, at the end of a long and very narrow driveway, which had long since been overgrown with trees and shrubs which had made the narrow access even narrower. It was obvious that this narrow driveway, and the overgrown trees and shrubs would preclude getting the trailer anywhere near the little Saab which had been tucked away thirty-two years prior.

When we finally got a chance to check it out, I was so excited to climb through the sad and lonely looking little teardrop. As someone on the list had posted, all four tires were flat, and all four wheels were stuck, so we were wondering how we were going to get it out of there if we were successful. Anyway, our investigation in that dark garage made it obvious that this was a remarkable example, even though it was covered in thirty-three years of dust and crud, and looked like hell on the surface. This was clearly a remarkably well preserved, time capsule, owned by a woman who was the original purchaser late in 1961. She had parked it here in this garage in 1978 when she fell ill, and there it sat until being unveiled again in the last thirty days!

There was almost no rust whatsoever, and what little was there, was limited to surface deterioration on the bulkhead, where the mice had nested and urinated on the metal, which contrary to an earlier post, did not penetrate through the metal, but did remove the paint and caused some pretty deep surface rust in the corner on the driver’s side.

Contrary to the earlier post, although a previous owner had bent the steel up above the battery tray to accept a larger battery, they did not cut the metal, and I figured that it could be bent back close to original. The plywood panels in the trunk were near perfect, and under the rear seat looked like brand new.

Yes, the engine was stuck, but we are always saying that mechanical stuff is easy to fix, but rust is such a headache. The upholstery and headliner were simply amazing, and even the dash pad was not cracked. The oil change stickers confirmed the mileage and dates, and contrary to an earlier post, the paint on the door seals was transfer from the door, after being closed for thirty years. There was no overspray on the door seals, although I was surprised to see both door striker mechanisms on the jamb were painted. Does anyone know if these were painted at the factory?

There appeared to be some minor repair work on one rear fender, but it was done quite well. Otherwise it was remarkably unmolested, and well preserved, and even had the optional white face Blaupunkt radio, speaker, antenna and even the grounding straps for the radio installation kit.

I decided that I really wanted this car, and when I learned that it would be a sealed bid auction, I got very concerned, as there were about three or four other knowledgeable Saab enthusiasts at the site, and three more bidding by telephone. There was also another guy who arrived carrying a 6 amp battery charger, and who had intended to plug that into the garage outlet, in the hopes that he could get the stuck engine to spin on the 6 amps of available power!

It was nerve racking to try to decide what to bid, as I really had no idea what the others would bid. Well, we all must have had a pretty good idea as to value, as four of the six bids were within $200.00 of each other, and my bid was $99.00 higher than the next lower bid! Fortunately, we were the high bidder, except for one telephone bid that had a contingency that the seller provide a title at that price, which the seller could not do.

So, now we had to decide how we were going to drag it out of that narrow driveway, and figured that we would have to call a local wrecker with a long, long winch cable. I decided to unhook the trailer and back my MDX down the narrow driveway to see if it was possible to drag it out to the street for loading. Unfortunately, I had cleaned out my MDX last week to go in for a new transmission, and I had forgotten to put my tools, air compressor or tow cable back into the truck before we left, so we had no way to pump up the tires before trying to see if any of the wheels would roll, before calling the wrecker.

Now, I have pulled literally hundreds of old cars out of barns, and I am a consummate optimist, so I was “willing” the wheels to free up, as we tied up two ratchet straps to the rear control arms, and hooked them to my trailer hitch, half expecting them to break. As we tugged gently, two wheels rolled, and two dragged for about one foot before the third freed up, and another two feet before the fourth wheel freed up and started to roll. The brakes were still dragging a little, but the wheels were rolling!

We were able to slowly drag the little Saab all the way out to the street without any real problems except that occasionally the wheels would dig in, as though the little car was holding on tight, and afraid to be dragged away. I suspect that when he went to sleep in this garage over thirty years ago, nobody collected old Saabs, and now he probably feared being dragged to a junk-yard after hiding successfully here in this garage for thirty-three years.

The trailer battery, which runs the winch, died before we could drag the little car all the way onto the trailer, but we kept letting it rest and pulling six more inches, until we got the whole car safely up on the trailer. So, within thirty minutes of having won the bid, we had the little 96 loaded on the trailer and we were ready to head off for home in Massachusetts!

One of the ladies handed us the baggie, which contained the original owners manual, service coupon booklet, and brochures for the Blaupunkt radio, as well as several period road maps of New Jersey and New York. The three ladies who were running the estate sale were really sweet, and I had a lot of respect for how honest and fair they were in handling the sealed bid situation. It was really a pleasure to deal with them.

So, we were now on the road again, and headed back to Massachusetts. We had almost 100 miles under our belt, with most of those miles spent with me sneaking peeks at the cheeky front of this barn find through the rear view mirror, when we hit a huge pothole on the road. This pothole was so big that I was just waiting to feel a tire collapse! Well, nothing seemed to be wrong, so we proceeded up to Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT, about 85 miles from home, for dinner. Reins is a traditional stop for us whenever we return from a car retrieval in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or anywhere else southwest of us here in Massachusetts!

Dinner was great as usual, but apparently we had developed a slow leak in one of the trailer tires from the pothole, and although we didn’t realize it until we left Rein’s, the tire completely blew apart three miles later on Route 84! We pulled into a small 24-hour gas and convenience store to have some light to work under, as it was now almost 9 pm.

As I had forgotten to put my tools back in my truck before we had left Massachusetts, we were stuck with no tools and no spare trailer tire. We could not get the tire off, and with the self leveling equalizer link on the leaf springs between the two right side trailer tires, there did not appear to be any way to get the dead tire off of the roadway. So, it looked like our newest acquisition would have to sit out at a rest stop overnight, until we could come back with a replacement tire and tools.

We decided to jack up the trailer suspension to bias the rear trailer tire down and the front one up, using the MDX jack. Once we had achieved the desired position, we went into the store, and carefully selected a pack of firewood, with one log just the right size and shape to jamb into the shackle mount, to hold the proper orientation for the trailer suspension to lift the front destroyed tire off of the roadway. With our custom-made hardwood suspension adjustment device now in place, we limped home the final 82 miles at a reasonably slow speed, and made it home before 11:00 pm, safe and sound!

Now with my back thrown out, and exhausted from the tension of driving that last 82 miles, while waiting for the second trailer tire to blow, we went right to bed leaving the little Saab on the trailer in the driveway overnight. Our plan was to have a closer look in the light of day, and try cleaning it up in the morning.

The following photos, which Gabrielle Isenbrand shot to document this barn find retrieval, really reveal how sad this little neglected teardrop Saab had become from being entombed in that New Jersey garage for so many years:


All I will say at this point is that I am delighted to have acquired this little time capsule, and I can’t wait to start on this project. Thanks to Carter Willey, for being such an amazing reference source on this car, and to Gabriel Isenbrand for documenting this barn find retrieval on her digital camera! Finally, thanks to both Carter and Gabrielle for all of their hard work, help, moral support and encouragement in chasing down this barn find dream! Please let me know your thoughts and comments after viewing the photos and whether you want me to write the next chapter of this story, and thanks for all of the support on saving this little 96!

Charles Gould
(617) 965-4848

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31 Responses to “A Saab Enthusiast’s 1962 Saab 96 Barn Find”

  1. Joost

    24. Jun, 2010

    Great story and a beautiful car. I’m really curious about the bid.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Kurt W. Krauss

    24. Jun, 2010

    Ryan – I was the high contingency bidder on the telephone. It was a great machine and while I lost out on it, I am happy it went to the very good home that Charles has provided it.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Benjamin

    26. Jun, 2010

    A beautiful car, great story.
    The pictures take me back some 30 years+ when a friend of mine from the Air Force had a second hand (or may I say 5th / 6th or 7th hand) one passed on to him.
    If I remember right, in Israel this car had a choice of the Swedish engine and one by Ford, that was the better choice being bigger and better. Memories are foggy.

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  4. Charles

    29. Jun, 2010

    Hi Benjamin,
    All early Saab model 92’s originally had a two stroke, two. Later they evolved to a two stroke, three cylinder engine in the model 93, which continued on into the model 96, until 1967, when the two stroke was replaced by the Ford industrial V4, four stroke, four cylinder engine. So, Israel was not unique, and you did not have a choice until 1967.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Kurt Hoffmann

    14. Jul, 2010

    Wow. What a find. after all the buildup, I’m dying to know what the winning bid was too!

    Beautiful car. Thanks for all the great photos. Some great details in there. I love the ‘Music/Voice’ buttons on the radio.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Alberto Domingo

    01. Sep, 2010

    Congratulations Charles for the great purchase. I also love the Saab and I felt your story as their own. The Saab is in incredible condition of conservation, restoration will be very good because it has all original parts. I hope to read further on the process of restoration. I have 5 Saab 96: 2 Saab 96 Sport 1964, 2 Saab 961964, 1 Saab 96 1965, restored it in 2006 and 1964 Sport I finished restoring last June, and had bought in 2003. Their photos are on Facebook or in my website http://www.albertodomingo.com

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  7. charly walmsley

    01. Sep, 2010

    Charles, I am glad you also belive cars can feel and be talked to. I talk to my 92 and 96, please, this is not a joke. Glad you saved the car, also, please save the original patina, there are to many 100 point cars and few originals, keep that way.

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  8. Charles

    25. Sep, 2010

    Thanks for all of the encouraging comments. The car is progressig along nicely, and even though it is far from finished, some of you got a chance to see it at Swedish Car Day in Brookline, Massachusetts, where it had its maiden outing. I have absolutely no intention of restoring this Saab, as it is an amazing time capsule, which has been remarkably well preserved. I will go through the entire brake system to replace those parts which are not capable of being saved, and I should probably replace the tires, but will try to assess how viable the originals are. I may also replace the broken cat whisker on the front, and the rusted bumper end, and two rusted hubcaps, all with similarly patined used parts.
    I am hoping that Saab History may print the next chapter in this saga soon.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Pierre Stievenart

    28. Sep, 2010

    I love the story. Good luck with the car. Living in France, I’m the owner of a 1975 “96” (of course with the V4 engine). I’m also having the same kind of excitement with a “barned” Chevrolet Corvair of 1960 close to home! Having a Saab 96 in France is very special since it was never sold here and people don’t know what it is. One even guessed it was a Porsche!

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  10. Tony Clancy

    13. Oct, 2010

    Nostalgia erupted about a few cars I have found not SaaBs but of interest to me way back then including Radio announcer/big game fisherman Jack Davies 48 Buick Century convertible. It’s such a lovey looking car this 96 and so original and wth hell, only 19000 miles up!! Incredible! How lucky the estate didn’t just send it to the local wrecker. I’d be elated for weeks!…obviously you are resisting saying price which is a pity as it leaves a little hole in total excitement!!…because that is irrelevant to what you’d get for it..but of course its your business and not ours. It’s just so all there and so great they gave you the papers with it.

    Ihope you can retro the number plates through your transport office and keep the original oes….(maybe say you don’t have them just want to get the same numbers then use the originals.)

    The brakes were no doubt light rust sealed to the drums with some other minor affliction such as a weak stping or handbrake not properly released or a warped drum. I have to say that if I could I’d have ensured my tools and jack were on board and that if possible orrow 4 good wheels/tyres from a SaaB club. The downside is maybe th nuts are frozen but at least you’d have a chance. it’s really important not to try to turn the engine towing the car in gear.but approaching the freeing of the engine with careful scientific patience and preferably just pulling it out and stripping it as must eventuate anyway. Aradio collector’s club will no doubt advise you on restoring the radio knobs and the radio, betetr not to try to make it work before restoration. All the european “tubes ” will be available as will all the capacitors trhoug the numerous real radio enthusiasts..and I ahve a very good european contact if you need it…. Hopefully no fungus has eaten into the coils but looking at the car conditon it seems unlikely.

    I am envious as eeryone else and now having gloated as we eat our hearts out let me advise you on pain of death that a painstaking step by step restoration to concourse condiiton but without some criminal “respray”. Keep us al informed wil you…please…please..pretty please with chassis photos as you strip it so we can QA you (heheheheh) ..sorry that just slipped out…ahhhh so we can enjoy the operation with you. Let’s hope the tank is still good so the original can stay and by the way fuel blockages sometimes occurs when little pellets of material from the older fuel sits in the lines and then rolls forward under pump pressure…make sure the fule lines are thoroughly cleansed ….Cheers Tony

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  11. Tony Clancy

    13. Oct, 2010

    I forgot to say that though Europe advanced far ahead of USA in car production road safett, seating and steering wheel position were apalling, seemingly unthought about other than colour until the later SaaB series. Even the most expensive cars had unscientific seats. My 9000 Carlsson 2.3 on the other hand is the most comfortable drivers car I have experienced with the steering wheel posiiton able to be adjusted to perfection. The great thing about SaaB and Bristol and a few others…a FEW others is that you can stand them along almost any other car and see ageless beauty. Even my not perfectly kept but very straight SaaB (well coupla little dents) and with its back bumper off for the tow bar has people look at it and say how beautiful its lines-are. Your 96 reminds me in one way a little of the Hudson Coupe side on but notwithstanding it will look gorgeous in any company especially if original.

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  12. Tony Clancy

    13. Oct, 2010

    I seem to have azhiemers and finally I’ll bet there are plenty of skilled SaaB enthusiasts there busting to help you…don’t be afraid to ask for their numbers Cheers Tony

    Reply to this comment
    • Stormy

      28. Apr, 2016

      The clouds explode out of the tree in an amazing way. One very minor point – I spotted a house just peeping out the Rt side of the tree, so small you almost miss it. I wonder whether you had the capacity to take two steps to the right – it might just have allowed that house to be detached from the tree fractionally. That aside – it’s a lovely bucolic shosaLentSc.per recently posted..

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      14. Oct, 2016

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  13. Tony Clancy

    21. Nov, 2010

    Babelfish translation is:The SAAB was a prestige brand that produced car to the vanguard, but unfortunately approximately 20 years of obtuse management of General Motors it has produced devastating effects! It was not for they (but for Ford not to manage Jaguar and Volvo) to manage a high brand of range like Saab! Nevertheless space for the marks of luxury always has been and in future there will be more and more, enough to see smash hit of Audios, Bmw and Mercedes, besides the last ones arrived Lexus and Infinites, that they have been able from the nothing to create succeeding image of. Unfortunately to the same painful we are assisting it decline with Alfa Romeo and above all with Nozzle, with more and more generalista Fiat and distant and incapable to propose luxury car! Now the future of Saab is still uncertain, but I hope as well as that it survives and returns above all to make beautiful automobiles as it knew to make them before dell’ it was G.M.!

    Reply to this comment
  14. Charles

    13. Jan, 2011

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for the encouragement, but I have no intention of restoring this remarkable car. Although it is not perfect, there are plenty of restored cars, but very few original unmolested examples. And, you can always restore a car later, but you can’t make it original again. Although I appreciate restored cars, cars are the only type of antique that we tend to completely erase, in order to make it perfect again. Most collectors would never even consider doing that to an antique painting or to an antique piece of furniture, but with cars, we completely erase all of its history in order to make it perfect. For me, every nick, dent and scratch tells a chapter in the story of its fifty year survival, and I just love original cars with that sort of patina, especially when the condition is as nice as this one is. So, sorry to disappoint you, but there will be no restoration for this car, as it will retain its original patina for as long as I can preserve it. Restoration can be done on other examples that are not this well preserved.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Charles

    13. Jan, 2011

    Another Saab Story- Barn Find 1962 Saab Model 96!
    Written by Charles Gould
    Photos by Gabriele Isenbrand
    Chapter Two

    Okay, here is chapter two in the Saab 96 barn find story!
    We woke up on Saturday morning all rested from a good night’s sleep and excited to see what the cat had drug home in the light of day! 

    Normally, I would have stayed up all night working on the new acquisition, but I had really destroyed my back loading the car on the trailer, and after taking some painkillers, I really had to get some sleep. 
    So, even though my back was still sore in the morning, I was excited to get going on the little 96. I had to work fast, as I was committed to attend my nephew’s engagement party at 11:00. Don’t you just hate it when life and family interferes with your car projects!

    So, after breakfast, I could not wait for Carter and Gabrielle to wake up. I went out to the driveway where the Saab still sat on my trailer, and found that Carter and Gabrielle were already awake, and crawling all though the little car, even before I got out there. They approved it as an amazingly original example, and we were all delighted to learn that it was even nicer than any of us had hoped. We all agreed to dig right in carefully in order to assess what we had, and where to begin.

    We decided to leave it on the trailer as it would have to go to my shop later anyway, and this would allow us to crawl underneath it easier, and to work on it without bending over quite as much, which my back really appreciated. First order of business was to loosen the ratchet straps, to allow for some slack, and to pump up the tires. I engaged my optimism, and sure enough, all four (possibly original) Continentals pumped right up and held air!

    We then removed all three spark plugs and installed a generous amount of Marvel Mystery Oil, including two flies in the ointment who had gotten into my open can of Marvel, and who slipped down the funnel before we could react quick enough to prevent it. We also tried to fog the crankcase with an oil mist as much as possible through the ports, but I don’t know how effective this really was. We figured that we would allow the Marvel to start working on the ring bond, in the hopes that we might get lucky, and that the engine might break loose. Fat chance!

    Then we dragged out an old weak pressure washer, as my good one is at the shop, and started to hose off the thirty-two years of dust and grime. I am such a stickler for patina and originality, that I actually debated whether or not to wash this car off! I really considered leaving this thirty-two year accumulation of dust and crud on the Saab, to show the history of the car. I know, I know, I am still in therapy for this issue! 

    In any event, Gabrielle had certainly properly documented the “as found” condition, by taking (coincidentally) 96 photographs! So, I felt okay about erasing this barn accumulation of crud. Well, the first pass was just water, and second pass was with suds and water. It really still needs to be buffed out, but what was revealed as we uncovered this hidden treasure, only served to increase my excitement about having acquired this little teardrop.

    After we scrubbed away most of the layers of dirt, Gabrielle came out to document the next phase of the little Saab shedding its skin of dust and grime, and those photos are really interesting as well. You can view them here:

    1962 Saab – After

    The photos really show how nicely this little car cleaned up, and how remarkably well preserved it is underneath all that dirt. There is absolutely no rust whatsoever, except that one area on the bulkhead, and even the exhaust system is completely intact. The front bumper is badly pitted, as are the hubcaps and the rear bumper, which is not quite as bad, but the metal surfaces are just incredible, and the interior, including the headliner, is amazing.

    I will try to send the next installment of this story before the day is out. I hope that you enjoy the photos in the meantime, and please send me your comments and thoughts on our progress!

    Copyright 2010
    Charles Gould
    (617) 965-4848

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  16. Micah Trampe

    27. Apr, 2011

    Great find! I just recently picked up my first Saab, a 1970 96 that had been stored for around 20 years and look forward to bringing it back to life also! The best part was it was all original and everything still works and shouldn’t take much to make it as good as new!

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  17. chas

    14. Jul, 2011

    Who wants to read chapter three? If so, I will post it here.

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  18. chas

    14. Jul, 2011

    Chapter three was submitted in April, but for some reason, never got posted. Please let me know if you would like me to repost it here now.

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  19. Jan

    17. Dec, 2011

    I would be pleased to read chapter 3, especially I’m interested how you approached to start the engine. I have a 1964 shortnose, running great and I’m always happy to drive the car.

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  20. Justin

    14. Aug, 2012

    Hey I found a 1962 Saab 96 out in the woods. It is in really bad shape and only salvage parts would be little pieces. It doesnt have an engine. I thought it was a ghia from a distance and thought I could salvage the bumpers for a lit bit of money. Here is the vin # 96722003692 saab 96. If you would like any parts just let me know. I live in the St. Louis area and can ship anything…

    Reply to this comment
  21. John Kudrow

    20. Aug, 2012

    We find a lot of car donation stories begin with a “barn find”. We’re trying to spread the word that at http://www.cardonationwizard.com, we can see the value in a barn find. That means earning you a bigger tax deduction and earning your charity more for their cause and good work.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Marissa1979

    21. Jul, 2017

    Hello admin, do you monetize your saabhistory.com ?

    There is easy method to earn decent money every day, just search on youtube : How to earn $25/hour selling articles

    Reply to this comment


  1. A Saab Fanatic’s 1962 Saab ninety six Barn Discover | Posts - November 2, 2014

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