I think the most favorite of all the vehicles I have owned
was the bull-nosed Saab Model 96
. The interior was plush and roomy, and the frame - built in the same Saab plants that
manufactured airplanes - was sturdy and all but crash proof. The front wheel drive and, probably, the fact that it rode relatively close to the ground, meant that I never had to keep two sets of tires for the year. That was important considering I lived in the St Lawrence River
Valley at the time, east of Lake Ontario and just north of the Adirondack Mountains
, where snowfall amounts were often heavy and winters could be quite severe. Only once when I had the Saab, during a severe ice storm, was I unable to make it home because of road conditions.
It had in it a two-stroke engine. In order to overcome the problems of oil starvation on overrun (engine braking) for the two-stroke engine, a freewheel device was fitted. By popping into neutral while driving this allowed for really great fuel efficiency. This feature allowed me to coast for miles and I recall getting over 50 miles to the gallon at at time when most cars [even the well tuned ones] typically got 12 to 18 mpg. Once, I was getting what I thought was poor mileage, complained aloud in front of others. When I told them I was getting only 30 miles to the gallon I got no sympathy from anyone.
The Saab 96 was a very popular vehicle in the area at the time. People got acquainted with one another just because they were Saab owners. It was like a cult; the fanatical owners only needed to spot one another getting out of their cars, or driving along the road, and things would soon lead to coffee and scones at one another's' houses. On such occasions, the conversation would eventually get around to the revered topic "So... who's your mechanic?
" There were so many Saab 96 owners in the huge yet sparsely populated region, that two separate
independent garages specializing in repair and maintenance of Saabs could be kept working full time. Mine was Willie Louie, who also repaired tractors and trucks.
But having the mechanic/shaman wasn't always necessary. The model 96 was very easy to maintain, but you had to know the engine. More than once I would be doing routine work under the ample hood only to have some handsome grease monkey swagger up from behind, call out "you need any help fixing that thing
?", only to peer inside, gawk in wonder while whisting out "Jeezum crow! What they hell you got in that thing?
" and instead of getting any assistance, I'd end up showing the guy how a two-stroke engine operated and got maintained.
The car's undercarriage eventually succumbed to rusting and developed a hole in the floor under the front seat. With close to 200,000 miles on the original transmission and engine I sold it to a college kid from Potsdam who had a new plate welded beneath it, which worked fine. That is, until he forgot to mix the oil in with the gas. You see, running a two-stroke car engine is much like running an old manual push power mower or a chain saw. When he forgot, the engine seized. His solution was to go back to Willie Louie, who fitted the baby with a new four cylinder fuel injected engine. For all I know the car still runs like a charm.
Play this You Tube clip and you know what it sounded like on the road.
THANKS TO: No Milk Today, who took the time to respond to my virtually empty half post of this entry, begun in February, and reminded me to get back on the program and write.
Labels: fuel efficiency, Saabs, transportation