Tag Archives: Erik Carlsson

Erik "On The Roof" Carlsson Turns 81 Years Old

Posted on 05. Mar, 2010 by .


Legendary Saab rally driver, Erik “On The Roof” Carlsson or “Mr. Saab” to others, turns 81 years old today. Erik “På taket” Carlsson, or in Swedish meaning “on the roof”, was born March 5, 1929 in Trollhättan, Sweden.

The nickname On the roof, apparently originated by from the children’s book, “Karlsson på taket” by Astrid Lindgren. In this book,the Karlsson character lived on the roof of an apartment building. This “on the roof” name was given to Erik Carlsson because he had the infrequent habit of rolling his Saab rally car on its roof.

Erik joined SAAB as a rally driver, just after the first SAAB 92 model was produced and participated in his first rally with it, the Rikspokalen in 1955. Carlsson, married to Pat Moss on March 3rd, 1963, began a relationship that expanded well beyond the homefront. Patt Moss (1934-2008), a younger sister of legendary rally driver, Stirling Moss eventually became Erik Carlsson’s co-pilot through most of his successful rally career.

The early SAABs that Erik Carlsson drove were significantly underutilized two-stroke vehicles that required the driver to keep the high revolutions up while moving, which meant high speeds at all times. When driving these “strokers” at high speeds at all times, Erik Carlsson developed what was called “left foot” braking where you use your left foot to brake while in the same instance, your right foot to maintain the speed at all times.

While Erik Carlsson maintained 1st place in most of his rally circuits, the most notable rally he participated in was the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally where he was victorious.

The year following this victory, both Erik Carlsson and Pat Moss wrote a book called “The Art & Technique of Driving”.

The most recent book on Erik Carlsson’s career was published in 1999, titled “Mr. Saab”. The Mr Saab title was given to Erik “On the Roof” Carlsson by Saab Automobile as he ended his rally career to continue a public relations career for the Swedish car company.

Today, Erik Carlsson has been known to make appearances at various Saab Festivals and Saab Conventions all over the world including the recent Save Saab event in the United Kingdom where he continues to hold the Saab torch. With any luck, maybe you will get a chance to meet this legendary Saab rally champion to thank him for all of the recognition, attention and history he has brought to the Saab Automobile brand ever since.

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The "Save Saab" Gathering In The United Kingdom

Posted on 17. Jan, 2010 by .


Photo Credits: UK Saab Club

It was quite impressive to see the U.K. Saab club put together an outstanding turnout, even with Erik “On The Roof” Carlsson in attendance!

Click here for more photographs, absolutely incredible!

Press statement Save Our Saab Support Convoy, 17th January 2010, the follow up

!7th January has been a remarkable day for Saab Supporters all over the world.
In a very short span of time many Convoys have been organised in the period wherein mixed messages from GM made clear that the future of Saab is hanging on a fine thread.
Just before Christmas we heard that GM had not received, from their point of view, realistic bids to ensure a satisfying sale of this beloved brand. Preparations were made to wind production activities and business down.

After that devastating news many loyal followers of Saab decided to organise efforts to have their voice heard and try to do all possible to gain international interest for the survival of this iconic brand that has contributed so much to modern road traffic regarding safety and reliability. Meanwhile several interested parties were reviewing their bids to adjust it and make it more attractive for GM to reconsider sale of Saab.

The strength of the brand has always been the enthusiasm and engineering excellence from engineers, with their technological knowledge based on the highly demanding aerospace industry, mixed with local experience about climatologically and environmentally harsh conditions. Only he who has been confronted with crossing Elks will come up with an Elk test….

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Saab History To Saab: Please Release All New Saab 9-5

Posted on 20. Dec, 2009 by .


A few years ago, Saab Automobile debuted “Laura Oh’s” hit single “Release Me” as an indicator of their interest in leaving GM at the 2007 60th Anniversary Saab Festival.

That release me song ended up being used in a television commercial with the facelifted Saab 9-5 sedan initially and became quite the hit.

While this song subtly indicated Saab’s road to independence, it was on February 20th this year at the press conference where Saab officially indicated that they were beginning their independence in what became a 6-month reconstruction process.

This year, the all new Saab 9-5 flagship model symbolizes this new road to independence for Saab Automobile and as we’ve learned about, it’s a hit and it too needs to be released upon Saab’s independence.

As we cannot consider the idea of Saab Automobile nor this vehicle not seeing the next era around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to make a video showcasing the all new Saab 9-5 since it’s global launch in September.

This video includes music from a rather new Swedish artist to the Saab community, Agnes Carlsson (not related to Erik Carlsson), who also has a song titled “Release Me”.

I hope you enjoy watching this video, perhaps it may help channel our energy while also sending a message that this vehicle needs to be released and thus, Saab Automobile ultimately needs to be rescued.

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Saab 9-3 Erik Carlsson Edition Launched In Germany

Posted on 17. Apr, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: Saab History

Saab Automobile Germany is offering a special “Erik Carlsson” Edition of the Saab 9-3. This model is a truly to the rally legend’s recent 80th birthday.

Here is the press release loosely translated by Google:

Saab 9-3 Erik Carlsson

* Special model for the 80th Birthday of the rally legend
* Modern technology and all-wheel turbo engine with 240 hp

Rüsselsheim. Two victories in the Saab 96 in the legendary Monte Carlo Rally and a hat trick in the RAC Rally in England, the Swede Erik Carlsson and rally legend made. Also known as “Carlsson on the Roof” the Saab ambassador celebrated his 80th Birthday in March. For the Swedish premium brand, it was reason enough with the special model Saab 9-3 Erik Carlsson rally as a tribute to remember their traditions and rally successes. The Saab 9-3 Erik Carlsson Saab presents itself as a typical combination of sportiness and safety – with a powerful 240 hp engine and the ultra-modern four-wheel drive XWD (Cross Wheel Drive) and electronic differential lock ELSD.

Sport-feeling – outside and inside

ecarlsson_version.jpgA doppelflutige exhaust system, a subtle, silver-colored front spoiler, a diffuser on the rear and standard 18-inch wheels give the Erik Carlsson Saab 9-3 a sporty appearance. Optional is a sports exhaust system, a sports suspension and 19-inch alloy wheels.

The interior consists of sporty-elegant impression continued: door, cockpit and center console in Carbon Fairings optics contribute to the sporty character of the tactile quality of leather dashboard, hand brake and shifting.

Saab Drive – Power with Responsibility

eclogo.jpgThe heart of the new Saab 9-3 Erik Carlsson is the partner with Saab Hirsch Performance engine and developed the modern four-wheel Saab XWD technology. The two-liter turbo engine makes 240 hp and a torque of 350 Newton meters. That makes a sprint from stand to 100 in just 7.3 seconds, top speed is 245 km / h. Despite the impressive performance of the fuel consumption is only 8.2 liters per 100 kilometers.

The modern Saab XWD all-wheel system distributes the torque of the motor depending on the needs continuously between the front and rear axle and ensures optimal grip and stability in all situations.

An important part of the system is an electronically controlled torque distribution (TTD – Torque Transfer Device), the force is distributed between the axles. A valve increases or decreases the hydraulic pressure on the Nasskupplung inside the TTD is activated or deactivated, and so gradually the rear axle. The degree of slip is, how much the rear wheels are driven. The force distribution between the two axes can, in extreme cases by almost 100 percent vary. The electronic locking differential (ELSD) – also standard part of the special model – works on the same principle: It distributes the engine driving the rear axle in practice, also with close to 100 percent of the wheel, which has more grip.

The Saab 9-3 is Erik Carlsson as a sports sedan from 42,350 euros, the Sport Combi will cost 43,950 euros.

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Saab History Interviews Manager, Saab Automobile USA Communications, Jan-Willem Vester (2004 – 2009)

Posted on 26. Mar, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: Saab Automobile USA

Jan-Willem Vester, the Communications Manager for Saab Automobile USA (2004-2009), has kindly offered his time to discuss his career as I have recapped below for our information.

A thank you to JWV for his time and reflection on his career which led to him eventually having the opportunity to work with a company he was impressed with, from the very beginning.

A month after writing this, on April 20th, 2009 to be exact, Jan-Willem was let go from General Motors and his position with GM Premium Brands, formerly Saab Automobile USA.

3/18/2009 10:00am

As we began our interview, Jan-Willem illustrated his beginnings as a young child growing up in the Netherlands with a family that worked in the automotive industry. His Father, worked as as a teacher at a local automotive school and owned a number of family vehicles such as the Peugeot 404 and 504. It was during this time, that Jan-Willem’s interest and curiousity continued in this industry where he began visiting a local auto museum in the area. It was after a number of visits to this museum, which ran numerous films that he first encountered a Saab 96 with legendary rally champion, Erik Carlsson at the Safari Rally.

As he got older, his interest and curiousity about the Saab continued even though his region was effectively split up into only two automotive enthusiasts’ camps, the BMW or the Alfa-Romeo. It made Jan-Willem wonder if there could be something like an even smarter go-between. In his travels around his neighborhood following that first taste of a Saab on film, he began noticing more Saabs in real life such as a bright white ’72 Saab 99 and an orange ’73 Combi Coupe, owned by a local architect. And so the fascination for Saab continued.

It was in the latest seventies when he really started paying attention to the Saab scene when the ’78 Cardinal red 99 Turbo was introduced, followed by the first Saab 900 5-door a year later. He indicated that these vehicles were “instant dreams”, and now wanted to figure out how he could obtain one of these.

In an effort to continue his interest in the automotive industry, he chose an academic path in the dutch language, journalism and graphic design. Following his studies, he bought his first Saab, now 5-years old, which was a ’79 Saab 900 GLs 5-Door, which later turned out to be the first milestone of almost 25 years of continuous Saab ownership.

In 1985, he accepted his first official job in the automotive industry as a journalist, with a bi-weekly publication called AutoVisie, founding magazine of the European Car of the Year election in the Netherlands. Two years later, he began receiving international travel assignments, the first big one being a trip to Detroit with General Motors. During this visit, he got to see everything from the corporate headquarters, all of the divisions including the technical design center in Warren. He was very impressed at this experience from his perspective coming from Europe as a Dutch automotive journalist.

The following year, he was invited to cover his first Saab event, the 1988 global launch of the Saab 9000 CD (Classic Design) in Nice, France. It was during this event where he first met up with a younger Bob Sinclair, then President & CEO of Saab-Scania of North America. His necktie that he showed me during last year’s 2008 Saab Owners Convention in Massachusetts is one of the pieces of memorabilia he still has from that milestone event for his Saab career.

His first exclusive Saab interview took place in early 1990, when he had an opportunity to speak with then-president of Saab Automobile AB David J. Herman shortly the formal announcement of the General Motors AG & Saab Automobile AB 50% acquisition. That was an experience he would never forget!

In April of 1991, Jan-Willem was invited to visit Trollhättan, Sweden, global headquartes for Saab Automobile AB, nearly a year and a half following the merger. During his visit, he did a feature on the Saab Car Museum while also having the opportunity to interview Bjorn Enväll, Sixten Sason’s successor and contributing designer to the Saab 99, 900, EV-1, 9000 and new generation Saab 900 models.

It was just two years later that he was hired by General Motors as PR Manager for Opel and GM U.S. Products in the Netherlands. One of the reasons he took the opportunity was that following his coverage and understanding of the merger some years earlier, he saw that there could be the opportunity to work with Saab sometime in the future, so he accepted the position. When he did make the switch from AutoVisie to General Motors, many of his friends questioned his decision, he continued his arguement that “maybe there’s a chance to work with Saab!” He worked in this capacity for approximately 4 years.

His next assignment was to transfer to the Renaissance Center in Detroit, a place he first visited 10 years earlier. He was chosen to head this position as the head of Cadillac at that point, John Smith, wanted someone from Europe on his PR team. At this point, Jan-Willem’s responsibilities included developing an international PR network prior to launching an all-new product portfolio for Cadillac while pushing for Cadillac to expand beyond the U.S. He felt like he was getting closer to his dreams now being able to be on the “inside”, and chose to get the ball rolling in buying a ’94 Saab C900 S Convertible, which he still owns and drives today. It was here during this new position, where he met Jay Spenchian, who he connected with about 7 years later as he became the Saab Automobile USA President from April, 2005 until April, 2007.

In 2001, Jan-Willem’s PR position changed internally where he took up a job as PR for product development for the GM technical development team in Warren, Michigan highlighting the work of the Vehicle Line Executive (VLE), a Canadian by the name Gene Stefanyshyn, who previously worked with Saab and Opel, 3 years respectively.

2002 was the year when Saab Cars USA, Inc. effectively began the full transition out from their headquarters in Norcross, Georgia to the Renaissance Center in Detroit. This process took two-years. In an effort to stay in the area, then Saab USA PR director Kevin Smith actually chose to take a new position at GM’s Southeastern regional office also located in nearby Atlanta doing PR for all of GM’s brands in August of 2004. This created an opening in this capacity within the newly created Saab Automobile USA brand team, now located in Detroit, Michigan at the Renaissance Center.

Jan-Willem began his new position as Manager, Communications for Saab Automobile USA in August of 2004, initially working with Debra Kelly-Ennis the then Saab Automobile USA President. Their first event together was the 2004 Saab Owners Convention that took place in Washington State. His first PR responsibilities that fall included working on the tail end of the 9-2x and new 9-3 Convertible media launches which had been introduced earlier that year.

In April of 2005, Jan-Willem reconnected with Jay Spenchian who replaced Debra Kelly-Ennis as Saab Automobile USA President. Together, they helped start the new “Born From Jets” campaign, along with Leslie Bublin, the former marketing director. Their first event involved the Saab 9-7X SUV with a ride and drive event for the media in June 6-14th in Quebec, an appropriate rugged location for the vehicle where Saab engineers Kjell-Ake Eriksson and Per Jonsson were present to discuss the Swedish engineering aspects in the 9-7X. In our discussion together Jan-Willem indicates that the 9-7x was a good “bridge product” to the 9-4x crossover that is around the corner. In June of the same year, I met Jan-Willem for the first time at the 2005 Saab Festival in Trollhättan, Sweden at Folkets Park during a very nice outdoor bar-b-que. Prior to this event Jan-Willem assisted with the media launch of the 9-3 SportCombi. A few months later we reconnected in Stratton, Vermont for the 2005 Saab Owners Convention!

2006 marked the 50th Anniversary of Saab in the United States (1956-2006), and with that, the first event of the year took place in New York, the same city where Saab’s first corporate office started, with a stand showing the Saab Sonett I at the New York Auto Show. That spring, Jan-Willem arranged to have the 2nd update of the Saab 9-5 press event in Atlanta, Georgia nearby the Delta Air museum, as a continued tribute the ongoing “Born From Jets” campaign. This year was also the 20th anniversary of the Saab Convertible, in which Jan-Willem worked with Bob Sinclair, the one who first launched the convertible twenty years earlier for a ride and drive media event in Santa Barbara, California akin to the hollywood film “sideways” as a thank you. A special limited edition anniversary edition convertible was produced, of which just 412 were manufactured for the United States . The Aero-X concept car, also debuted this year, and Jan-Willem was responsible for ensuring that it was present at the 2006 Saab Owners Convention in Lake George, New York.

In 2007, was another anniversary year, this time the 60th Anniversary of Saab Automobile (1947-2007). In January, I met with Jan-Willem in Washington, D.C. where I previously lived, to reconnect and discuss the possibility of launching a Saab event at the newly constructed House of Sweden. A month later, I was invited by Jan-Willem Vester to attend a special anniversary event in San Diego, California along with Seth Bengelsdorf of Nines Magazine, to test drive the anniversary edition Saab 9-3 and 9-5 models. Given the location, Bob Sinclair was also present which was very special, in fact, I had the privilege of having him drive with me as my passenger as we head to an air field to test drive the Saab USA Heritage Collection vehicles on a runway! Upon my arrival, I noticed that legendary Erik “On The Roof” Carlsson was also present to drive his proud SAAB 96 along with the rest of us, a great experience nonetheless! The press package for this year was incredible as Jan-Willem managed to get all of the heritage vehicles professionally photographed and presented in a press book complete with print and electronic photography! Following that event, Jan-Willem’s colleague Jay Spenchian was replaced with Steve Shannon, who continues as executive director for Saab Automobile USA as part of GM Premium brands. Later that summer, I managed to propose a Saab Television Channel to be had at the Saab Owners Convention which took place in Troy, Michigan, near Detroit, and it was accepted thanks to Jan-Willem Vester. As the Saab Owners Convention wrapped up, I managed to return to D.C. on the same flight with Jan-Willem Vester as well as John Libbos, to attend what I proposed in January that year, which was the 2008 Saab 9-3 media drive event beginning at the House of Sweden! The event was stunning, and was where I first experienced the 2008 Saab 9-3 sedan and sportcombi and cross-wheel drive, including getting the chance to meet with Knut Simonsson for the first time, again, thanks to Jan-Willem Vester.

In 2008, Jan-Willem helped organize and invite me to the Global Launch of the Saab 9-4X BioPower event at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. This was my first taste of Detroit and the GM Renaissance Center. Through his connections, I managed to interview a host of Saab management at the Saab stand which was quite helpful and informative to my visitors here on Saab History. In March of the same year, Jan-Willem invited me to the “Saab Reflective” event prior to the New York Auto Show, the following day. I attended this event with Carl Levine, and managed to film the event and also had the great time interviewing both Saab Automobile AB President, Jan-Ake Jonsson and Steve Shannon together! May of 2008 was the last event I have had the pleasure of participating with Jan-Willem on with regards to media events, which was the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X Media Drive event that took place just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Once again, Carl Levine was there to assist and cover the event here on Saab History. The last time I met up with Jan-Willem, was during the 2008 Saab Owners Convention where he showed me the tie he received 20 years earlier when he got his first taste of Saab during his first exclusive Saab event.

2009 signals a change for Saab Automobile within General Motors ownership over the past two decades since the announcement on February 17th. I have asked Jan-Willem what his roles and responsibilities will be between now and December 31st, 2009 when GM indicates that they will no longer be funding Saab Automobile AB, and thus, predictably will no longer have a Saab Automobile USA office within the renaissance Center in Detroit any longer.

In his own words he believes that he will continue to “maintain open communications with the target audiences, and believes it will help the ongoing presence in the United States”. He also said it is “too early to tell”, but is “optimistic for the future” and says that “given the importance of the United States for Saab, I cannot believe that it won’t be here in some shape or form”.

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Harriet Billing of Clyde Billing, Inc. Saab Dealership In Washington, Maine, Passes Away At 84

Posted on 23. Mar, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: Saab-Scania of America, Inc. / 60 Marsh Hill Road, Orange, Connecticut 1983
(L-to-R Bob Sinclair, Clyde Billing, Harriet Billing, Erik Carlsson)

Harriet Billings of Clyde Billing, Inc. that started a Saab dealership with her husband Clyde, in Washington, Maine that began back in 1958 and was sold in 2002, has passed away this weekend at 84.

Saab History has recently received a summary provided by her son, Bruce Billings this morning, more will be forthcoming.

I give my sincerest condolences to the Billing Family.

Harriett Billing passed away unexpectedly on Saturday March 21st at the age of 84.

She and her husband Clyde operated Clyde Billing Inc. , a SAAB dealership in Washington Maine and later Augusta Maine from 1958 until 2002.

She and Clyde were accomplished racers and ralliers during the 60’s. I’ve sent along a picture of them receiving an award from Bob Sinclair to mark their 25 years with SAAB taken in 1983.


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Erik “On The Roof” Carlsson Celebrates 80th Birthday

Posted on 17. Mar, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: TTELA

This past weekend, our friend Erik “On the Roof” Carlsson celebrated his 80th Birthday on Saturday, March 14th, 2009 at the Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden.

TTELA has provided an incredible report, of this joyous celebration for this legendary personality for Saab Automobile.

Carlsson ‘On the Roof “filled 80

TROLLHÄTTAN Mr. Saab – Erik Carlsson “On the Roof” – has gone and been 80 years. This was celebrated on Saturday with an open house at the Saab Car Museum where lots of friends, fans and Saab Enthusiasts came to pay tribute to rally legend.

I believe in the Saab. Do not worry, it will be all right, “ said a noticeably moved Erik.

One of many for Erik in the celebrations was to be invited to a delicious oysters from Grebbestad.

Lots of friends and admirers who came to celebrate Erik Carlsson “On the Roof”. One of these was the friend Gösta Karlsson. “We have known each other in 50 years, he is a good friend,” said Gösta.

Saab’s CEO Jan-Ã…ke Jonsson was in place to pay tribute to Mr. Saab.

– I can not understand why so many have taken the time to come and celebrate me. It is not wise! Erik said while he was busy with the hugging, cheek KISS and sign books.

Already a 11.00 in the celebration began, the ring a long queue to the table where Erik was to receive the tribute. It was old and young, acquaintances, admirers and friends.

Gösta Karlsson, known Erik for many years, presented with Bertil Stener a big beautiful orchid and shook hand with his friend.

– Here’s a little flower Erik. It is almost to the day 50 years ago that we met the first time. Do you remember where?
– Yes, said Erik.

Gösta began to tell and both log:

– We pulled a isbanetävling in Vilhelmina, Erik won and I finished third. After the race when I was about to wrap stuff in the car, Erik came up and said: “You can call me a week and I’ll arrange for you to buy a car at discount prices. Then we became friends. “

РI am old racing driver who drove for Saab 1960-1966 and was drivng with Eriks cars. Erik and I have also run the midnight sun races together Рhe is a very nice and good old friend, said G̦sta and smiled at Erik.

Then it was time for the birth of the child’s next surprise.

– Can Erik imagine a little light brunch? said Per Olofsson, site manager for Saab restaurants, and put up a big dish with delicious oysters.
– Oh, yes! Is the Irish or what?
– No they are from Grebbestad, said Per and opened oysters while Erik on a conveyor belt devoured itself.
– They were really fine you. Many thanks.

Per Olofsson told that Erik is a big oyster lover and that over the years talked a lot about this common interest.
– I took me five and Erik had easily consumed five to. I promised to take me ten, when he turns 85.

After that it was time for the anniversary that is canvassed by Saab’s Managing Director, Jan Ã…ke Jonsson, and the management team.
– Hey. Did you have time to go here? said Erik.
– Yeah, good to see that Erik had to eat oysters, “said Jan Ã…ke Jonsson and told a little anecdote:
– At a meeting in Ireland decided to Erik for the two of us would eat oysters. Erik ordered in 20 pieces. I had two – he is about 18!

Jan Ã…ke Jonsson was then a tribute speech in which he told me about Erik, and how he has been extremely significant for Saab through the years.
– The gift you get this picture and a general overhaul of the property you think so much about, “said Jan Ã…ke Jonsson, aimed at Eriks little red Saab 96 he was 50th birthday of Saab.

After century, it became so may he live, and a generally smooth in the room cheered.
– The most important thing is not that I live a hundred years without light that Saab continues to live long after that! Many thanks to all Saab Employees. I believe in the Saab, it will go. It probably makes most of those who are here, otherwise, you had not come here! said Erik and received applause and smiles said everything.

Congratulations Erik, how does it feel to be 80 years?
– I am 80? No, now you all kidding. Thank you it is incredibly nice to be canvassed in this way. I never thought so many would take the time to come here.

And there is certainly no doubt that you believe in a future for Saab?

– Not a second. We have good cars, good people and an incredibly talented director, Jan Ã…ke Jonsson. This will go.

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Swedens Amazing Auto Mobile Promo Film – 1979

Posted on 28. Jan, 2009 by .


In 1979, Saab-Scania had a film created featuring Erik Carlsson showcasing every vehicle from the SAAB 92 to the modern Saab 99.
This was one of the first videos donated to Saab History 3 years ago from John Moss, former Technical Training Manager from Saab Cars USA as part of the Saab History film project.

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Production Concept