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How I Became a Saab Guy

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author photo by Bill Leedy August 2017

My special connection to the Saab brand began when I was very young. My father is a mechanic who loves to bring home broken cars, give them life again and then set them free. You know -- like those people who pick up birds with broken wings and nurse them back to health. That means that, over the years, hundreds of cars have passed through our house. For the most part, when I was young, pretty much everything that came through was some sort of 1970s Mopar or some sweet iteration of the K-Car. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Things like a diesel-powered Volkswagen Rabbit, a 5-speed Ford Taurus, and a 1980s Celica come to mind -- among the sea of Dodge trucks and Aries cars. One of these unusual arrivals impacted my life more than any other: It was black on the outside, it was red faded to orange on the inside, it had a big hatchback, and it had a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It was an early 1980s Saab 900 Turbo 3-door.

The first time I sat in it, I couldn't have been older than 10 -- and I knew, in that moment, that I was a Saab guy. It was just the right amount of funky. The key was in the wrong place, the windshield was a weird shape -- and even back then I could reach most of the dashboard controls despite weighing about 60 pounds. It was cool, and different, and I knew I wanted one. On paper, it was a jack-of-all-trades car: It was quick, but economical. It could hold a bunch of stuff, but it was still fun to drive. There were plenty of cars that came through our household that were some of those things -- but this was the first one that was everything in one package!

I remember being at my grandmother's house, just an innocent young lad, shortly after my encounter with the 900. I was playing with my die-cast cars in the driveway, and I believe my grandmother was tending to her garden. I walked up to her, and with my best puppy-dog eyes I said to her, out of nowhere, "I've decided that a Saab is going to be my first car! When I'm old enough, will you help me get one?" She did her best to not laugh at me -- and in her best grandmotherly let-him-down-easy way said, "Sure, dear."

In the few years that followed at the Leedy Ranch, the Mopars seemed to give way to more and more Saabs, and there were a few more 900s -- and even a couple 9000s. In particular, a black 9000 Turbo stuck around for a while before it was sold to a friend of the family, where it was consequently beaten just about to death with poor maintenance habits (and four kids using it to learn how to drive a stick shift).

When I started driving on the road, I was getting used to driving my mom's 900S. Then, after what seemed like forever, I finally acquired my license. That same black 9000 Turbo had come back to us because it had broken again. And once we got it going, Dad -- knowing my Saab desires -- made me an offer to swap my snowmobile for it.

It didn't take me long to finish off this car after driving it past the 200,000-mile mark. When I was shopping for the next car, there was no question what I was getting. This time it would be a Rose Quartz-colored 1986 9000 Turbo with "only" 184,000 miles on it! I wasn't any nicer to this car, but it still passed the 200,000-mile mark, took its beating and was sold as it came time for me to leave and go to college.

Despite the long lives these cars had already led and the huge mileage they had when I got them, my Saabs never left me stranded, they were about the fastest cars in my high school parking lot, and they regularly dealt with me learning the ins and outs of what tires and transmissions can handle. It would seem then that the damage was done -- it was to be Saabs for me for the foreseeable future.

For 15 years, any time I was actually car shopping, there was only one manufacturer saved in my searches. And as of this writing, there have been 10 of them registered in my name. While I don't own one currently, they're still in my life: My father still finds them broken and resurrects them -- and the dealership I work for may only have Mazdas now, but we were also the largest Saab dealer in Vermont, and we still service them regularly. In the fall of 2012, I even got to sell some of the last new ones ever made. The last of the 2011 Saab models were auctioned off to help offset the bankruptcy, and my dealership bought 27 of them -- all of which were gone in about three months.

Rest in peace, Saab. You are missed by many.

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How I Became a Saab Guy - Autotrader