Fandango’s Flashback Friday — January 14th

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.

How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.

If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 14th) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.

This was originally posted on January 14, 2012 on my old blog.

Saab Story

As a former Saab owner, I was disappointed to learn that the Swedish automobile maker was forced to declare bankruptcy and to call it quits. While the Saab was never quite “mainstream,” it was, if nothing else, unique.

It’s hard to believe that it was just over 30 years ago when my wife and I purchased a 1981 Saab 900 Turbo. On paper the Saab was a great car. We were living in New Jersey at the time and needed a car that could maneuver us effectively through the winter snows and the hilly terrain of West Orange.

As the parents of two young children, we found the four door model to be roomy and comfortable for the whole family. And with its powerful turbocharged engine that kicked in at relative low RPMs, it was fast and handled spectacularly.

Despite all of these plusses, there were some serious minuses. We experienced a series of unexplained and nearly unfixable electrical system problems with the Saab. The car would periodically just stop running.

I recall one time having it towed to a nearby gas station. I asked the attendant if he could figure out how to get it going again. Yes, this was back in the day when gas stations, often referred to back then as “service stations,” actually had a mechanic available to work on cars. A gas station was more than just a convenience store that also happened to have a few gas pumps.

The attendant called over the on-duty mechanic, who popped the hood and gazed down at the turbocharged engine. After a few moments he scratched his head and uttered, in a manner that can only be described as a backwater West Virginia-like twang, “What the hell is that?”

“It’s turbocharged,” I replied, trying to sound as if I really knew what that meant.

The mechanic moved his hand to his chin and took on a contemplative look. Then he shook his head from side to side and shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn’t know where to begin,” he said, clearly unschooled on turbocharged engines, which, I admit, were rarities back in the early 80s.

I learned, after that episode, to have the Saab towed directly to the nearest dealership in the event of future breakdowns. Unfortunately, Saab dealerships were as much of a rarity as were turbocharged engines.

Naturally, another such episode occurred not long after my encounter with the befuddled mechanic. But this time I was on one of my frequent out-of-town business trips. My wife had both of our young kids secured in their car seats and was driving them to or from somewhere when the Saab, once again, simply stopped.

Fortunately, the car was still under warranty and Saab provided roadside assistance service. A tow truck arrived, picked them all up, and drove the three of them, Saab in tow, to the dealership a few towns over from where we lived. It was sort of an adventure for my kids, but my wife was not a happy camper.

Although we loved almost everything about our Saab, it was, at the time, our only car. We needed something that wouldn’t periodically and unpredictably stop running. This last incident with my wife and kids was the final straw, and we made the difficult and sad decision to trade in the Saab for something a little less esoteric and a lot less finicky.

We opted for one of the most boring and ordinary cars on the road at the time, a 1984 Datsun Stanza, the forerunner to the Nissan Altima.

It wasn’t nearly as unique or interesting as the Saab, which has always been a rather quirky vehicle with a small but enthusiastic following. The Stanza lacked style. It was smaller, slower, and didn’t handle nearly as well as the Saab. But if nothing more than ordinary, it was reliable and it never just simply stopped.

Still, I was sorry to learn about Saab’s demise. Despite its obvious quirkiness and some reliability issues, it still holds a soft spot our motoring past. Finding out that Saab is no more was like hearing that a somewhat strange and a bit offbeat acquaintance from your youth, someone you haven’t spoken with or even thought about for years, had passed on.

It’s truly a sob story.