« Previous  
 Next »

Jaspersohn: A Saab Story

01/27/10 7:55AM By Bill Jaspersohn
 MP3   Download MP3 

(HOST) Commentator Bill Jaspersohn is relieved to hear that the Swedish car company Saab may be rescued. He's been sad to think that it might disappear.

(JASPERSOHN) Over the past thirty-eight years my wife and I have owned about a dozen Saabs, most of them used, with high mileage when we bought them, but perfect Vermont cars - tough, nimble, great in snow, and fun to drive, with good heaters, ample cargo space, and decent gas mileage.

We bought our first Saab, a little blue wagon, new, in 1972 for the whopping sum of twenty-nine hundred dollars. Smooth and snubnosed, it resembled in profile a soon-to-be-notorious vice president. So we named the car Spiro.

Spiro had a four-stroke, V-4 engine and an overrunning clutch called a freewheel for better gas mileage. Engage the freewheel, take your foot off the gas, and you could coast downhill with no engine resistance. On the hills of I-89 the freewheeling Spiro was a veritable rollercoaster.

But that's not why we loved him.

One fall night in 1973 Spiro and I were on a dark, two-lane road when out of nowhere another car swerved into our lane and hit us head-on. I remember the muffled thump and being whipped forward and slamming my chest against the wheel. Luckily, I was wearing my seatbelt.

Next, I was hobbling to a farmhouse where a woman took me in and phoned the police. I rode on my back in an ambulance with the other driver next to me and three paramedics working to save him. He hadn't been wearing a seatbelt. I overnighted in the county hospital and learned from the surgeon who stitched my cut chin that the other driver hadn't made it.

A few days later, I visited the wrecked Spiro in the junkyard and saw how he'd saved my life. On impact, Spiro's driveshaft snapped the way his smart engineers designed it to snap, causing the engine to drop downward and not into my lap. The steering column collapsed when my chest hit the wheel. And the hood buckled beautifully, like a concertina.

By contrast, the other car, also a compact-sized import, was crushed beyond recognition.

I've never understood why Saab's marketers didn't make more of their car's safety. But for safety's sake we kept buying them - Orange Boy, Little Red, Snowflake, Boston Blackie - all the way up to our current wagon and sedan.

Now, I know global warming's an issue, and vehicularly speaking, I should be doing my part. But I'm leery for now of hybrids, plug-ins, and biofueled cars, which have their own issues, both economic and environmental. And I'm not about to pay forty thousand dollars for an electric model that can't get me from here to Burlington on a single charge.

So, call me a late adopter, but I'm sticking with Saabs. My garage guy has a stash of junkers for cannibalizing. He says we?re good for another ten years. I'll keep Saabs alive in memory of Spiro. It?s the least I can do for a friend.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter