Today’s Readers Story is an amazing one from a tiny city called Chardon, Ohio. Ted Yurkon was caught by the SAAB virus nearly fifty years ago when he bought his first two-stroke in 1967. The way Ted describes his experiences with his new car is so engaging that it almost reads like a thriller…
“1. My Drive Home
Having yearned for one of the famous Swedish Saabs for years, I finally purchased a used, red, 1966 Saab with only 20,000 miles on it in the winter of 1967-68. My journey home from Flick Motors in Canfield, Ohio was on a winding 2 lane country road to Salem, Ohio. It was cold, and the roads were mostly covered with white ice (cold packed snow), with bare wet spots here and there. I was amazed and euphoric to be driving my first Saab, amazed at how quiet it was, amazed at the feeling of control at speed, and spending more time looking at the car than at the road.
As I approached a 90 degree right turn, followed shortly by a 90 degree left turn, I eased off the throttle to slow for the turns. Being unaccustomed to the free-wheel feature, I thought I had slowed considerably due to the quiet idling engine and lack of feeling of speed in the car. I glanced in the rear view mirror and was puzzled at the site of a man driving a Chevrolet Corvair (that rear-engined thing of the 60’s). He had a wild gleam on his face, and a 2-fisted grip on the steering wheel, as if he was in a big race. I wondered why, and just before the turn, I glanced at the speedometer to see that I was still traveling 60 mph (96 km/hr). I was panicked. It was too late to brake, and I was sure no car could make that turn at that speed, in those conditions. But I had no choice but to turn, and I was in despair thinking that I would crash my new Saab on my first ride. I felt my body pushing hard on the door due to G forces, but that little Saab held tight to the road with its Goodyear G8 tires. Amazed, I looked in the rear view mirror to see the Corvair sliding ass-end-first out of the turn toward the ditch on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately for him, the Corvair stopped just shy of the ditch, but that was the last I ever saw of that Corvair. 🙂
2. My Big Jump (Yump)
I hesitate to repeat this story because nobody believes it, but it is true, and here it is.
It was 1968, and I was still young and I enjoyed driving that Saab flat-out on the narrow 2-lane roads of the country area where we rented a farm house. I was southbound on a road that I knew well but did not travel often. I could keep the speedometer at 85 mph at full throttle, but the speedometer was a little optimistic and it was probably only 80 mph (129 km/hr). It was a summer day in a wooded area, and as I rounded a right-hand curve at said speed, I was surprised to see dirt road and potholes. I thought to myself that I could easily dodge the potholes, but then I looked up and saw something that I could not dodge. The road was in a low, swampy area, and the small bridge there flooded occasionally. They had apparently decided to raise the bridge about 6 feet. What I saw in front of me was a temporary, very steep ramp to the new bridge. The ramp was much higher than my windshield. I was panicked at what was about to happen, but I had no time to brake, and barely enough time to brace myself for impact with both arms braced against the steering wheel. I remember being crushed down into my seat, feeling like an invisible elephant was sitting on me, wishing that I did not have to feel like that. Only the 3-point seat belt kept my face from smashing into the steering wheel which seemed to be higher than my head at this point. I soon got my wish as I rebounded up out of the seat with my head whipping backwards so that I was looking up at the roof lining. The seat belt saved me again. It took much effort to get my bobbing head under control, and when I could finally look around I was confused. There was a strange silence, the dash lights were lit, but the headlights were not illuminating anything, not trees or anything even though I scanned left to right.
I immediately thought I must have already crashed, with the headlights smashed, and perhaps I had been unconscious and just woke up. Then I thought “Am I in a tree or on the ground?” If I was in a tree, I worried that I could not climb down safely. So, I put my head out the driver’s window and looked down to see if I could see the ground, or a tree. I was astounded to see a bridge far below me, passing into the distance behind me. I turned and looked through the windshield again and realized why the headlights had not illuminated anything. The Saab had been rising, nose up, nothing but empty sky ahead. Now, it had turned nosed down, and I saw a road far below me. I remember thinking “I do not want to be here. I want to hit the brakes and take a time-out.” But I knew time-outs are not allowed by the laws of physics, and I watched the road accelerate up toward me very rapidly. Just before impact, I thought to myself “So this is how I’ll die, in an airplane crash.” It was just like the old movies where a plane is about to crash, and the ground is coming up very fast. I was again crushed into the seat, my head again bobbed over backwards, but just after getting my head under control, there was another thump causing my head to bob again. I was mad because I could not control my head. But as soon as I got my head under control, I was delighted to see that I was still on the road, but now going only about 40 mph (64 km/hr). However, the car was steering strangely, wandering left and right. I continued the journey home very slowly, sure the wheels would fall off any moment. I was never so glad to see that old farm house.
Upon inspecting the next day, I found the front shock absorber mounting studs were all bent about 30 degrees. The muffler was half crushed, and undercoating had been scraped off the floor for the whole length of the car; it had completely bottomed out! Looking in the engine compartment, I found the camber/caster alignment shims were all laying on the engine floor. I had apparently stretched the upper wish-bone mounting bolts, allowing the shims to fall out. I just slipped the shims back where they looked like they had come from, and re-tightened the bolts. The alignment was fine, and the car steered great again! Awesome!
I dearly wish I had gone back to the site of the jump so I could have photographic proof of where the Saab crash landed, but I was so unnerved by the experience that I never drove that road again. And, I never pushed the dear Saab that had saved my life so hard after that experience. I was afraid something might break.
3. Reviving my Old Saab Love
I have driven many Saabs, mostly the Saab 99, and one 2004 9-4 ARC, but none were as much fun as that old red 66 2-cycle. And none could have made that jump without being destroyed. I am old (72), tired, and we have a farm with 22 alpacas, 20 or so chickens. But I am trying hard to restore a 1966 Saab Monte Carlo 850 so I can relive some of that fun, but without the big jump. It will take me a long time, but I will drive that MC850 one day, restored to its original condition (well, almost). I keep a blog of the restoration going to motivate me. If you are interested, it’s at www.gtyurkon.com/MC850
I have attached a few photos, the 1966 MC850 before disassembly, and my last 9-3 with an alpaca.
I am hoping for the day when new Saabs are being shipped from Trollhättan once again!”
Author: Ted Yurkon, Chardon, Ohio, USA.
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