Unreliable SAAB has special place in couple’s hearts

Due to her age, 85, and subsequent lack of confidence behind the wheel, my wife has reluctantly decided to stop doing much driving.

But even if she hadn’t made this decision, I would advise her not to drive her gray 2001 SAAB, which despite its age is a beautiful rust-free vehicle in very good shape mechanically.

When I pause to look at the vehicle, which now stands virtually unused in our driveway, I am reminded of a vintage saying which goes something like this: “For want of nail a horseshoe was lost; for loss of the shoe, a horse was lost; for want of a horse the battle was lost.”

The “lost nail,” in this case is some sort of fickle electrical connection in the SAAB’s innards which causes it to lose starting power on very, very rare occasions.

However, this does make any trip from home that involves a stop somewhere a roll of the dice with very high odds in favor of an uneventful trip. But the possibility of remains of a driver being stranded in a dead car at the curb along some street in or in a distant crowded parking lot.

SAAB ceased making cars in 2011 at its plant in Trollhattan, which is not far from where my father and other relatives lived before the mass migration of Swedes to America in the later years of the 19th century.

I thus feel an ancestral tie to the SAAB.

The site of the SAAB plant led to the droll saying, “Made by trolls in Trollhattan.” (In Scandinavian folklore, trolls are a race of supernatural beings, either dwarfs or giants, who live underground or in caves.)

Although it no longer makes cars, SAAB (which stands for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget) retains a strong industrial presence in Sweden as an aerospace and defense contractor with 19,000 employees. It makes the Gripen, a renowned fighter jet which is one of the mainstays of the country’s air force.

It is 40 percent owned by the Wallenberg family.

Its griffen logo is the coat of arms of the Scanvia region of southern Sweden.

Of course, I have had our car out to our local SAAB dealer, Armando’s, where I purchased the car 10 years ago.

Employees there were able to start the car innumerable times without difficulty.

The service manager, Randy Spano, told me that it was impossible to spot the starting problem unless the car was in its “failure mode.”

There have been brief episodes in the past when the car would not start when on excursions without considerable difficulty, and this has contributed to our decision to sideline the vehicle, although l, taking a slight gamble, would use it once in a while.

The second last episode of a complete failure to start thankfully occurred in our own driveway one evening

I had been driving the car for so long without problems that I thought that it just needed a new battery, and called AAA. the next morning.

But the service attendant was able to start the car without problem, and also found that the charging system worked fine. This happened again a few days later, with the car again “curing itself” overnight.

I’m afraid that we now have a car that is almost worthless in its present condition, as we are reluctant to use it, and with a dealer unable to find its problem.

I could try to sell the car on the open market without mentioning its problem, but this would be unconscionable. (And I might even risk retribution from an irate buyer!)

The Armando’s service manager has offered to buy the car for parts … in essence, Junking it.

This would be a shame, as the car was low mileage for its age, only 140,000, and the body is virtually rust-free.

It also showcases fine European craftsmanship. The steering wheel is covered with stitched leather, and the dashboard is paneled with burled oak.

Small fans in the leather-covered front seats help dispel heat on hot days, and there are bladed wipers on the front headlights. It has special spoked aluminum wheels and I have snow tires on other fine wheels.

It has a potent turbo engine and a sliding moonroof. The rear seats fold down.

All this is negated by a very temperamental electric flaw buried deep somewhere inside the vehicle which choses to occur at its convenience.

Perhaps a malicious troll is involved.

Robert Stanger has lived seasonally for over 40 years along the Allegheny River and has the stories to tell about it.


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