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My cars

My Saab 96

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I CAN only think that I became quickly bored with my cars because I never kept them for long – although in all probability I moved them on because their unreliability took too great a toll on my limited finances.

I sold the Triumph, however, because I had become obsessed with the famous two-stroke, front-wheel-drove Saabs that were winning rallies and making a name for themselves; they were über-cool for a while and, unlike the Herald convertible, didn’t leak when it rained.

My 1962 model set me back around £220, as I recall. I bought it in April 1968 and its registration number was 52XPP. It had a spotlight mounted centrally on the front grille.

The Saab had a small 841cc two-stroke engine and it sang with a curious note like a sewing machine. It was not fast, although it could be ‘wound up’ to be quite lively, but its roadholding and manoeuvrability were legendary.

It had a three-speed gear box with column change, front-wheel-drive so a flat floor, and a curious floor-mounted lever that you could push in order to disengage the gear and free-wheel down hills – not advisable for safe handling but a cunning Saab idea for saving petrol.

When I bought it, it was dark green and white but a friend convinced me it would look better if the green was changed to black so I allowed him to paint it for me. It never looked as good.

I liked the car very much because it was so different but on one occasion a petrol station attendant in Portsmouth filled it with fuel and failed to shoot the two-stroke oil in, resulting in a wrecked engine and an horrific repair bill.

The car was never the same and, like its predecessors, it lasted little more than a year with me before I moved it on. in July 1969.

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