Archive for 'New Haven, Connecticut'

Saab History Relocates to New England

Posted on 14. Apr, 2008 by .

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travels Saab History Relocates to New England

Photo Credit: Saab History on Interstate 95

It’s been quiet here lately on Saab History over the past week and for good reason. As a native New Englander, and founder of the New England Saab Association, I am pleased to tell you that Saab History has now relocated to New England.

There’s an old saying in New England that I have not and will never forget and it goes like this: “You can take a New Englander out of New England, but you can’t take New England out of a New Englander

Ever since 1956 when SAAB began importing their vehicles on the port of Hingham, Massachusetts, New England continues to be Saab Automobile USA’s stronghold.

95 Saab History Relocates to New EnglandThe trip took place today as I followed the helpful leader in the caravan, longtime colleague, Carl of the Saab Ipod device, while we briskly raced up the North East corridor of the United States on none other than Interstate “95” (Nine Five).

Throughout this trip from Washington, D.C. to New England., the Saab sightings were of course, numerous. As we entered New England, we payed homage to both of Saab Automobile USA’s former headquarters at both 100 Waterfront Street, New Haven as well as 60 Marsh Hill Road/35 Executive Boulevard, Orange both of which were within minutes of each other in Connecticut.

In summary, this highly anticipated relocation will be mutually beneficial to my family as well as my friends, and coincidentally, you the reader. Please expect to see more detailed material, more news, and more unique content like you’ve never seen before.

As of today, Saab History has made it safely and securely back to New England.

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Lennart Lonnegren – Former Saab Public Relations Manager

Posted on 29. Oct, 2007 by .

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Lennart Lonnegren, former Saab USA Public Relations Manager has kindly provided Saab History a nice narrative about his time working with Saab. Lennart Lonnegren worked as a newspaperman in both Sweden and the United States, before joining saab Motors as public relations manager in 1963. He remained in that position until his retirement in 1990, working at both 100 Waterfront Street, New Haven as well as Orange, Connnecticut locations. This biography was first presented as a speech at the New England Saab association Saab Gathering in 2004. The version you see below is an updated version, as of October 26th, 2007.

Enjoy his writeup below in his own words:

Since I left Saab, after almost 30 years, I have often thought of a couple of things that seem kind of particular to Saab people.

Such as the fact that Saab enthusiasts are pretty crazy, maybe even more crazy than other car enthusiasts, although it is really only a matter of degree.

But the thing that has really stuck with me more than anything else is the undying loyalty, in one way or another, that Saab people feel, and certainly express, for Saab. By Saab people I mean not just people like you, ardent enthusiasts and collectors. I am thinking of all people who at one time or another have been in touch with the Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget: car owners, car dealers, employees, just about everyone.

Yes, I am one of them, so let me begin by explaining who I am, and why I came to be here.

My very first exposure to something called Saab occurred as early as in 1947. Those of you have read the Saab books that we used to give out at meetings such as this – we tried very hard to sell them, but didn’t succeed very well – know that June 10, 1947, is a very important date in the history of Saab. On that date the first Saab car was shown publicly – actually at a pretty exclusive press conference and unveiling in Stockholm, Sweden.

I must have just received my Swedish driver’s license at that time, and since my father was a newspaper publisher in Stockholm and had been at the press showing, I took the opportunity to suggest that maybe that was the car that I should some time be given.
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100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT – Yesterday & Today

Posted on 04. Jul, 2007 by .

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Photo Credits: Saab History

This weekend I was passing through Connecticut and managed to stop by SAAB Motors, Inc.’s first official headquarters after moving out of 405 Park Avenue, New York City in late 1960. The 100 Waterfront Street, New Haven Connecticut facility operated between 1961 and 1971 before SAAB Motors, Inc. moved not too far South also off of Interstate-95 to 60 Marsh Hill Road in Orange, Connecticut.
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Robert J. Sinclair – The Early Years with SAAB

Posted on 09. May, 2007 by .

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Robert J. Sinclair was President of Saab-Scania of America from May, 1979 until he retired in Sept. 1991. Mr. Sinclair who has been quite active in the Saab community for a number of years since his retirement, attending Saab Owners Conventions, and other such events including the recent Saab 60th Anniversary launch in San Diego, has recently decided to kindly provide us a writeup in his own words about his early years with SAAB before he re-joined in 1979.

A thank you to Bob Sinclair for taking the time to provide this writeup in his own words, it is an honor to share this with the Saab community.

bob sinclair Robert J. Sinclair   The Early Years with SAABRegarding my first tenure with Saab (then known as Saab Motors, Inc., of course, and headquartered at 405 Park Avenue, NYC), I signed on as a Field Sales Representative in March of 1958. The management group at that time was as follows:

President – Ralph Millet, Exec. VP – J. Bruce McWilliams, Sales VP – John Potter, Service Manager – Bob Wehman

I don’t recall the name of the parts manager, who ran the parts depot at Hingham MA.

I was the second field sales rep hired. John Goff was the first. When I joined the company, John was assigned New England. I had all the rest. “All the rest” extended west to the Mississippi; south to the North Carolina border, as Saab was very much a regional operation in the early years. There was one service dealer at Culver City CA, Lindquist Motors run by Ingvar Lindqvist. For a year or so I covered the territory in a 93B stroker.

We then hired five more sales reps, and I was called into the home office with the title of Field Staff Supervisor. Soon after that, Harvey Janes was hired as PR Manager and Jim Dailey was hired as Advertising Manager. It turned out that he was a bit overly fond of liquid luncheons, and in due course he was released and I was asked to add responsibility for the company’s advertising. I knew literally nothing about advertising.

The first thing did was walk over to a bookstore on Park Avenue and buy a book: “The Fundamentals of Advertising.” Dissatisfied with the quality of the company’s press releases, I took up the self-appointed task of editing them before they were issued. The PR Manager wasn’t exactly thrilled by this, but I left him no choice. He eventually resigned, and I took on the PR job as well. During these times the Sales Manager, John Potter, had differences with Ralph Millet and was fired. My title was changed to Acting Sales Manager…and I continued handling advertising and PR as well. As I have often commented, “Life is a learning experience.” Those few years sure were a learning experience for me, still in my 20s.

After some time passed, the parent company sent Jonas C:son Kjellberg over to be Sales Manager; the same Jonas Kjellberg who returned to Sweden a few years later, but came back as President in 1972. Soon after that, Mr. Millet got approval to move headquarters from New York City to New Haven CT. Moving to New Haven wasn’t congruent with my personal career goals, so I resigned and joined Volvo’s eastern distributor with offices across the Hudson in Englewood Cliffs NJ. My title was Ad Manager, but I soon started handling the PR function, plus distribution and a few other activities. Basically, I because Marketing Manager of the distributorship, but my title remained Advertising Manager until 1967 when I was promoted to President of Volvo’s western distributorship headquarters at Torrance CA. In 1978 I moved back to Volvo North America headquarters, then at Rockleigh NJ, as VP Marketing. I resigned one year later to re-join Saab.

Click here to visit the interview of his later years (1979-1991)

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SAAB Motors, Inc. – 100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Posted on 08. May, 2007 by .

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SAAB Motors Inc. moved from 405 Park Avenue, New York City where their first headquarters were located to 100 Waterfront Street in New Haven, Connecticut in 1961.

The main reason behind the relocation & consolidation was that current President of SAAB Motors, Inc. Ralph T. Millet believed that “SAAB desired a good port of entrance to the East coast and wanted to stay in the North East which proved to be good sales region”. It was then decided to consolidate the headquarters in New York City as well as the distribution operations at Hingham, Massachusetts as well as Carteret, New Jersey. On September, 6th, 1961 SAAB Motors, Inc. franchise company SAAB Overseas, Inc. signed a contact to consolidate both of these import operations to this new location as well as a 10 year-year lease on the location with New Haven Terminal, Inc., the owners of the property.

This four-story building that is still standing today that was built at some time before World War I, includes the administrative offices on the top floor, parts & accessories on the second and third floors and final assembly and distribution on the main floor including the rear of the building.

It is important to note that the New Haven Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in securing the building and the 2-acres of land nearby for the storage of SAABs as an alternative to the year and a half search that included the Bridgeport, Connecticut area that was also considered, but turned town in comparison to what the 100 Waterfront Street location in New Haven could provide.

This location proved to be successful as a one-stop-shop housing the aforementioned administrative offices, technical school, parts supply, and warranty service

Saab Motors, Inc. operated at this location for 10 years before moving to their new headquarters to 60 Marsh Hill Road in Orange, Connecticut in 1971.

100 waterfront street new haven ct sept 9 1961 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: New Haven Register – September 9th, 1961 : Main Facade of 100 Waterfront Street

new haven register page 3 april 16 1962 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: New Haven Register – September 9th, 1961 : Rear Parking lot of 100 Waterfront Street

100 waterfront street new haven ct interiora sept 9 1961 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: New Haven Register – September 9th, 1961 : Fourth Floor Administrative Offices

100 waterfront street new haven ct interior1 sept 9 1961 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: New Haven Register – September 9th, 1961 : Main Floor Final Assembly Workshop

saab motors workshop new haven ct 1962 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: Saab Automobile USA – 1962 : Main Floor Final Assembly Workshop

It was on October 1st, 1961 when the first Saab models began arriving at this new location in New Haven, Connecticut by freighter. The first year there were approximately 11 shipments of roughly 450 Saab models that would be delivered that totalled 5,000 Saabs a year at this location. Another 1000 SAABs would be imported into the port at Jacksonville, Florida as well.

new haven register page full oct 3 1962 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: New Haven Register – October 3rd, 1962 : Freight Ships unloading SAAB cars by crane at facility

new haven register page 1 oct 14 1964 small SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit & Caption: New Haven Register – October 14th, 1964 : Freight Ships unloading SAAB cars by crane at facility

Here are some photographs of the facility today taken on 6.29.2007.

Where: 100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, Connecticut

When: 1961-1971

What: Occupied by SAAB Motors, Inc.

map SAAB Motors, Inc.   100 Waterfront Street, New Haven, CT

Photo Credit: Google Maps

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The Saab Presidents of the United States

Posted on 17. Apr, 2007 by .

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There have been a number of Presidents that have represented the Saab brand in the United States over the years, so I thought it would be a good time to provide such historical information for your reference beginning with Ralph T. Millet, the individual that was responsible for bringing the SAAB brand to the U.S. back in 1956.

This information has been verified, but there are still some additional pieces of information that need to be included and possibly corrected at this point. If you would like to submit your additions or corrections, please add your comment to this post.

Ralph T. Millet - Dec.1956-1971, Board of Directors 1979-1987
J. J. (Jerry) Upham – 1971 (15 months)
Jonas C:son Kjellberg – 1972 – May 1979
Bob Sinclair – May, 1979 – Sept. 1991
Sten Helling – Sept, 1991 – Oct, 1991
Bill Kelly – Oct. 1991 – Feb 1994
Jim Crumlish – Feb 1994 – June, 1996
Joel K. Manby – June 1996 – Apr. 2000
Dan Chasins – Apr. 2000 – Sept. 2002
Debra Kelly-Ennis – Sept. 16th, 2002 – Mar. 2005
Jay Spenchian – Apr. 1st, 2005 – April 13, 2007
Steve Shannon – April 16th, 2007 – (October 17th, 2008* No longer President, but reclassifies position while also splitting up responsibilities by a 1/3rd with Cadillac & Hummer as Executive Director, Marketing, Premium Channel North America)) – April 16th, 2009
Mike Colleran – Sept 3rd, 2009 – Present

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The First President of Saab USA – Ralph T. Millet

Posted on 05. Apr, 2007 by .

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ralph t millet 300 The First President of Saab USA   Ralph T. Millet Ralph T. Millet’s association with Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebologet (SAAB) began in 1946 during a business trip to Sweden. Mr. Millet was at the time working with a U.S. company that exported parts for SAAB Aircraft. During this visit, he was asked to purchase material and and machinery needed for production of a new car on the boards in Sweden. This offer was accepted by Mr. Millet by SAAB and shortly thereafter opened an office solely focused on the exporting of SAAB aircraft parts in New York City in 1947, the year SAAB automobile officially started.

Millet, a graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology founded SAAB Motors, Inc. in 1956 in New York City. Mr. Millet’s first import into the United States was the SAAB model 93 and it first debuted at the New York Auto Show with the Sonett “Super Sport” (94). A year after the 93 was introduced, it was showcased at the Great American Mountain Rallye in Northern New England in 1957.

The SAAB 93 hauled off ships from Gothenburg, Sweden into the port of Hingham, Massachusetts (near the old location of the Shaw Saab dealership). As a result of Mr. Millet’s work and diligence, SAAB Motors grew and eventually moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 1961. In the the 1970’s the heavy harbour traffic in New Haven’s ports rerouted automobile transport boats to full operating ports across the United States and as a result, SAAB Motors, Inc. moved to Orange, Connecticut in 1972. During this time, Ralph Millet retired SAAB Motor’s Inc. became SAAB-SCANIA of America, Inc. Following retirement, Mr. Millet served on the Board of Directors of Saab-Scania of America from 1979 until 1987. While serving on the Board, he also became an industry relations export on government related issues in Washington, D.C.

Ralph T. Millet continued his support of the Saab community by his participation in numerous Saab Owners Conventions and other events. Mr. Millet passed on December 20th, 2002 in Middletown, Connecticut and I have provided you his obit written by longtime friend and colleague, Lennart Lonnegren.

Ralph T. Millet, 85, of Old Saybrook, CT., the man who brought the Swedish Saab cars into the United States, and was president of the Saab importing company, and who became a highly respected spokesman for the imported car business in the United States, as President and Chairman of the Automobile Importers of America, a group representing most of the companies importing automobiles to the United States, died Friday, Dec. 20, 2002, at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, CT.

When the Saab automobile was first introduced into this country in 1956, it was a quite different automobile from those generally sold here. The car’s origin and the management of its importing company, were also somewhat different than what is common in the US auto business.

The first Saab cars were powered by an unorthodox two-cycle engine that required the addition of oil to the gasoline every time the fuel tank was filled; and in difference to most other cars the engine propelled the front wheels, instead of the rear wheels, As to its origin: it was manufactured by a company called Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (abbreviated Saab), that had previously been solely engaged in the manufacture of military aircraft.

Heading the US operation was not exactly your usual “car guy” but an aircraft expert. Ralph Turner Millet had had no previous experience in the automotive field, but would eventually become the representative for almost all of this country’s automobile importers, and steer his adopted company and its unorthodox product through more than 15 years of business ups and downs.

Ralph T. Millet, as a matter of fact, saw the little Saab car become something of a cult car, as well as one of the leaders in the field of automotive safety, before he relinquished his position as head of the importing company, to become a consultant to the company, and its spokesman in safety and environmental matters.

As Mr. Millet recalled it, the actual origin of the entry of the Saab into the US auto market, came at a dinner in Minneapolis, Minn., where the head of Saab, after a meeting with aircraft component suppliers, turned to Mr. Millet, at the time, a purchasing agent for Saab, and said that since Americans were buying Volkswagens, maybe they would also buy Saabs. Mr. Millet said that he seriously doubted the viability of selling a car with a two-cycle engine in the US, but the next day, back in New York, the Saab president persisted.

“He told me to reserve some space at the next New York Auto Show. He would send some cars over, and we would see what reaction they got. Then we would decide about selling the cars.”

A few months later four Saab 93 sedans and a prototype sports car arrived in New York, just in time for the 1956 New York International Auto Show. At the show itself, the reaction of both public and press was quite positive, and several auto dealers expressed their interest in representing the new Swedish make. One even bought a car for resale. Ralph T. Millet was about to change careers, from a specialist in procurement for the aircraft industry, to the job as head of the country’s newest imported car company.

That dinner meeting in Minneapolis was not really Ralph T. Millet’s first encounter with the Saab cars. Born in Boston on August 21,1917, Mr. Millet was educated at the Boston Latin School and received a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940, just in time to join the US Army Air Corps, where he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war he started a firm handling procurements for different corporations, one of them Swedish Saab. During his first visit to Sweden, in 1946, he heard of the company’s plans for a small car, and one of his earlier assignments for Saab involved the purchase of body presses for the new car. In 1948, he recalled, an early prototype car was sent to the US, and Mr. Millet had some discussions with the Willys Overland company about building the car. One early problem for Saab, however, was the shortage of suitable steel for the car bodies, It wasn’t until 1950 that the first Saab car was built sold, and not much was thought of exporting it until production reached adequate levels.

But after the 1956 New York Auto Show, Saab Motors Inc. was ready for business. The fist shipment of cars for sale to dealers arrived just before Christmas 1956 at the port of Hingham, Mass., where Saab had established a warehouse and make-ready facility. Fifteen dealers were signed the first year, and sales reached all of 2,200 units in 1958. “We made money in 1959,” recalled Mr. Millet, “but the next year the bottom fell out, when Detroit’s big three introduced their own small cars.”

In 1961 Saab Motors moved all of its operations to New Haven, Conn., leaving only a small aviation purchasing office – the operations Mr. Millet had originally started – in New York City.

The safety reputation of the Saab car has helped sell Saabs throughout the years, as the cars have gradually evolved, first by replacing the original two-stroke engine with a more acceptable four-stroke, and later with newer and larger model cars. Today the company, now Saab Cars USA Inc., and owned by General Motors, sells two distinct lines of cars, the 9-5 and the 9-3.

Safety has always been a major feature in Saab’s marketing efforts, and is something that has been the subject of Mr. Millet’s interest for many years. When the government stepped into the field of auto safety in the late 1960’s, Mr. Millet was one of the first representatives of the auto industry to be appointed to the new Highway Traffic Safety Advisory Council of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At about the same time, the first trade organization for the imported car industry was founded and Mr. Millet, after originally just representing Saab, eventually became president and chairman of the Automobile Importers of America. As spokesman for the imported auto industry, Mr. Millet was for many years a frequent testifier before congressional and other legislative bodies on matters relating to imported cars, remaining the Saab representative with the trade group, today called the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, until quite recently.

In 1982 Mr. Millet was named to the Board of Directors of the successor company to Saab Motors Inc., Saab-Scania of America, Inc., which by then was involved not just in Saab automobiles, but also built and marketed Scania trucks and buses. Mr. Millet was heavily involved in establishing the Scania business in the US, initially in assessing the market possibilities for the Scania products, and later in helping set up marketing and manufacturing operations in the US. During the 1980’s, Scania operated a complete assembly operation in Orange, Conn. making city busses for a number of different US municipalities.

Always interested in Saab doings even after his retirement, Mr. Millet has been a frequent visitor at Saab dealer functions, as well as at Saab owner conventions, both in this country and overseas. Most recently he and his wife, Gunlog, attended the dealer preview of the all-new Saab 9-3 cars in Sweden this past summer, and the August Saab owner convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.

An active churchman, Mr. Millet was a life-long Episcopalian, and was Senior Warden Emeritus, as well as treasurer of the Grace Memorial Church in Old Saybrook, CT.

Ralph T. Millet resided in Old Saybrook Connecticut. Besides his wife, he leaves four children, Francis N. Millet of Clinton, CT; Charles G. Millet, of Dedham, Mass.; Mrs. Ronald Bearse of Alexandria, VA; and Miss Kristine R. Millet, of Dedham, Mass. He was predeceased by another son, Ralph Millet, Jr., and by his first wife, Elsie Johnston, who died in 1959.

A Memorial Service will be held Thursday, December 26, 2002, at 11 a.m. at the Grace Episcopal Church, 338 Main Street., Old Saybrook, CT. Contributions in the memory of Ralph T. Millet may be given to the Grace Church Memorial Fund, care of Grace Episcopal Church, 338 Main Street., Old Saybrook, CT 06475.

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The SAAB Quantum IV – The Formula Race Car

Posted on 13. Mar, 2007 by .

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The SAAB Quantum IV was designed as a formula race car. I have provided you another detailed description along with a few photos from Wikipedia’s record of the Quantum IV that further define the unique history of this truly rare segment within the Saab brand.

The 4th generation was scaled down to a one-seat racer. In fact, Walter described his version of the Quantum IV as a go-kart he made for his son. But the Quantum IVs that were ultimately produced for public consumption were actual race car kits, to which buyers could transplant the 2-stroke powerplant out of their 93s, 95s and 96s. These cars were designed as Formula S racers, not unlike the Formula Junior, but with the motor mounted in back. This concept actually became a reality when Walter formed The Quantum Motor Car Company, and Ralph Millet bought the company as a subsidiary of Saab Motors. Walter retained his original company, The Quantum Corporation, and while the Saab executives in Sweden were not exactly pleased with Ralph’s new aquisition, and Saab was soon offering and selling numerous Quantum race cars. Numerous examples of the Quantum IV can still be found today – many of which continue to race.

Source: The Quantum Series

The SAAB Quantum IV at the Kinnekulle Race Track, Sweden taken in 2000.

saabquantum4front The SAAB Quantum IV   The Formula Race Car

saabquantum4side small The SAAB Quantum IV   The Formula Race Car

Photo Credits: Wikipedia

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Production Concept