Monday, December 21, 2009

Saab – A Eulogy

I'm not very good at this. Writing eulogies. It isn’t easy, saying goodbye to someone. Someone you grew up with. Someone who saw and heard and did so many things with you. It’s even harder because I don’t know whether you’re dead or just missing in action. Maybe you’ll come raging out of the jungle someday down the road, but until then, goodbye Saab.

I remember the first time we met. You didn’t have a transmission. I wasn’t old enough to drive. It was a match made in heaven. So $1000 later I was the proud owner of a Saab 9000 Turbo. 1989. I still don’t know how to define your color. Red? Bronze? Purple? Maroon? Pink? Burgundy? Brown? I think you might have just been the color awesome. You won’t find that color in the rainbow.

We went through a lot. We broke down in several different states. California, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming. Like the time we were pulled over for speeding in Wyoming by a State Trooper. We were heading back from Oregon after freshman year. You were filled with two dorm rooms’ worth of stuff. You didn’t start after he had given us the ticket and left us behind. It was late and Wyoming doesn’t even have enough people to rightfully deserve a representative in the US House of Representatives, we were kind of stuck.

Luckily, the friendly State Trooper turned back around. Is there a problem, he asked. Nope. Just hanging out on the interstate in the middle of the night. Yes there is a problem. First, you gave me a ticket. Now my car won’t start. It was the battery. I knew you well enough. State Trooper tried to argue with me. I respectfully disagreed and asked him if he had any jumper cables in his Wyoming issued State Trooper Dodge Durango. Nope. Of course not. Why would anyone need essential emergency equipment in an emergency vehicle?

I headed into the trunk. Digging through my recently packed memories trying to find jumper cables. The state of Wyoming may not be smart enough to equip people with jumper cables, but I sure as hell didn’t go anywhere without them. The State Trooper pulled around and we got started. Less than a minute later you were up and running. I gave the State Trooper a smug smile, an, "I told you so, never doubt me," smile. It didn’t make up for the ticket but it was all I had.

We had good times too though. Like the time in Nebraska when you decided your turbo would kick in. It was a straight shot between Colorado and Nebraska. Nowhere to turn. Nothing to see. Just openness. And nothingness. All of a sudden we were going 140. Miles per hour. That was a bit fast. You were shaking worse than I do after night terrors. So we slowed it down, but you proved something that day. You still had it.

It was tough giving you up, but it was time. I had grown up. You had grown old. My friends were tired of pushing you. At least I didn’t have to drive very often. No one trusted you. I probably owe people gas money. I saw you around town a few times after that, you always brought a smile to my face.

But I kept it in the family with my next car. You were a manual. And you were purchased sight unseen with the help of the old man. I didn’t even know how to drive a manual. Another match made in heaven. At least your color could be defined. Green. 1995. Saab 900.

I learned to drive you on the 1200 mile trek to Oregon. I killed your poor engine more times than I care to admit. Mamma was worried that I'd kill both the old man and myself stalling the engine somewhere on Laramie Pass. I didn't. We made it. Several curse words and strings of obscenities that even I didn't know I knew later, I could drive a manual transmission.

We had some good times too. Never 140 mph good times, but you were less prone to breaking down. Except for those few times. Like in north Portland on Killingsworth Street. An aptly named street for one of the roughest neighborhoods in Portland. Your clutch died. At that point I had learned how to drive you at least. The nice old man who stopped to tow us was dressed in camo pants and an Army ball cap. I thanked him after he got us to safety. No problem, I’m a soldier, I just keep soldiering on. And soldier on he did. So did we.

A few months later we ended up on the side of I-5 as a firetruck raced towards us. I was sitting in you reading the Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden. It seemed appropriate at the time. Turns out our gas tank had been punctured and we were pissing gasoline all over the road. The state of Oregon doesn’t appreciate that. They couldn’t really do much. Turns out firemen are trained to fight fires, not leaking gas tanks. So we waited for a tow truck. Not the first time, and not the last time either.

But we made it home, we always did. About a year later, we were spinning out on I-25 while driving home in a blizzard on Christmas Eve. This time we didn’t need a tow truck. You righted yourself nicely and we drove home. It took us several hours to drive from Boulder to Greeley that time, but it gave us a chance to bond over our near miss. That was the last real excitement we had together. I was moving to Sweden. Your home. But you couldn’t come along.

Instead, I found a replacement. A 1993 Saab 9000. Blue. You’ve given me more material for this blog than could have been hoped for. We’ve waited in the cold for a car to come by so I could use my ever present jumper cables. We’ve run out of gas in the Swedish Bible Belt, and now, you’ve had to put up with me sliding my way into the driver’s seat from the passenger’s side. The lock is frozen so your door won’t open. There’s moisture in the car so I need to scrape both the outside and the inside when I drive anywhere. But I wouldn’t want any other brand of car.

Now, that choice is dying. Of course, since I have yet to find a model younger than 1995, we might still have a good 15 years together, but it just won’t be the same. It won’t ever be the same. I’m still holding out hope, but I know. We all know.

Welcome to Sweden. And the slow, inevitable death of an icon.

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  1. We were coming back from running the South Nahanni River in my friend's Saab. About 2500 miles up, 2500 miles back down, some of it on the Alcan. In the hills along I80 near Laramie, the high whine of the turbo died away and the car got very sluggish. The end was in sight. It had provided many trips; with a shriek of brakes slid right up to and touched a range cow; cemented many friendships; outlasted one marriage and saw the beginning of another. When he put that unit to death, he wept.

  2. Ah, I have to scrape the inside and outside windows of my car as well. My half dead, but young at heart (with over 250,000 miles on him when I got him) cars name is Charlie. He leaks coolant and doesn't stop very well when there is any kind of snow on the ground, but in the summer he can race with the best of them. Live long Charlie, live long.


    Also, I love the color awesome. But it would be hard-pressed to find a soul who doesn't. Maybe non-awesome people. But they're just jealous.

  3. I found your eulogy to be painfully the owner of a vehicle with only two wheels I can only imagine your suffering. My deepest condolences, Hairy:)

  4. Hairy, my thoughts and prayers are with you at this most difficult time.


  5. I have to say, the news caught me by surprise. Saab's Aero seemed to be leading the next generation of car design. To think it got sold off to some company in China really grinds my gears.

    I'm sorry man.

    Eventually you might be able to sell him for a good price, as the parts will become quite rare. Then, you can get a worthy successor, and if you want to go Swedish again, there's always Volvo, which makes some awesome cars. :)

  6. And may the Gods bless you all...

  7. The best part is - how easy IS it to get a speeding ticket in Wyoming? ;) You found the cop. Good luck moving on past this trial of yours.

    -an american swede in america

  8. @TNT - Man I laughed till tears. Two wheels. So sad. Poor old guy.

    Hary - I am sorry you're buddy is passing. But listen, from your eulogy, I hate to tell you, but it hardly leads one to think this decision was a poor one. I'll prolly get my ass reamed for saying this, but I owned two 1980 Subarus which never ONCE broke down on me. Eva. Neva eva. Nonetheless, I feel your pain. And am slightly jelous of those roadtrips you mentioned.

  9. New England remembers the Saab, today on Where We Live, WNPR's public radio talk show:

  10. Oh dear. My friend's old Volvo just died on Killingsworth a few days ago (which really isn't that rough of a neighborhood, come on). Maybe there is something in the name.

  11. I know that color, it's called rusty :)

  12. As a former Saab owner (I've had 4 of them!), I loved your post. A friend (another former Saab owner) sent it to me.

    It brought back memories of my last Saab...the red convertible, "Lars", whose clutch was his demise. Lars was towed over 60 miles once to the nearest dealer. "It just needs an adjustment!", they always said. Until the last fateful trip...when he needed a new clutch, and I said goodbye. Rest in peace, Lars...and Saab.

    Thanks for a very nice eulogy, Hairy Swede!

  13. Some of my fondest college memories were had in my friend Elisha's khaki Saab (no idea the year...but it was old then and that was back in 1997-1999) It was a manual and we always drove her down to the river to sit on the beach and swing on the rope swing. That car is why I've always wanted a Saab. Seems like Saab owners are EXTREMELY loyal to the brand. Elisha has a nice, shiny, new, silver Saab now. RIP Hairy's Saab and my condolences Hairy.

  14. Your loyalty is more impressive than the dubious *performance* of your Saabs, I think. They sound like right pieces of crap. But they're your pieces of crap? Still it is sad. I've always thought I might buy a Volvo someday...almost did earlier this year even. Then I heard a rumor that Volvo might not be around "someday" -- hope that's not true. If I'd been holding out for a Saab, I'm sure I'd be devastated.

  15. @anonymous – may is present car (and wife) do the same.

    @Kane – maybe the ice on the inside of the car comes with the color awesome.

    @TNT – thank you. And may your two-wheeled vehicle live long.

    @An American Girl – I appreciate it.

    @Atlantean – now Im basically a classic car collector, without even knowing it.

    @Isle Dance – thank you.

    @Anonymous – well… it was dark. He snuck up on me. And I was going much faster than I got caught for because I did manage to see him and slow down. Lets not make fun.

    @m8 – blasphemy.

    @jd – I love it.

    @Katherine – later that year, killingsworth was roped off after a couple of murders. I remember because it forced me to reroute on my way to the grocery store. How rude of them to be murdered when I was hungry.

    @Smek – I think you misspelled rusty it’s actually a-w-e-s-o-m-e

    @anonymous – agreed.

    @anonymous – thanks for sharing your memories of Lars.

    @mama – thank you, and I hope Elishas Saab gives her plenty of years.

    @E – Well, lets just say I don’t exactly buy the cream of the Saab crop. But they are my Saabs, and they have given me plenty of memories along the way. And in the end, I always get where Im going. Eventually.