Saab 96 & V4

Published: July 28th, 2019     
Product Image
Book Cover
Author: Graham Robson
Reviewed by: Frank Landrus - IPMS# 35035
ISBN #: 1845842561
Other Publication Information: Paperback • 19.5x21cm • 128 pages • 135 colour and b&w pictures
Price: $22.00
Product provided by: Veloce Publishing

This is a reprint of the original edition first published in 2010, and now is available in Veloce's Classic Reprint Series. The author's biography is available on the Veloce website above and is as follows:

"Graham Robson possesses a worldwide reputation as a motoring historian, and has been close to the sport of rallying for many years, as a competitor, team manager, organizer, reporter, commentator, and observer; in more than forty years he has never lost touch with the sport. Not only has Graham competed in many British and European events, but he's also reported on marathons in South America, and acted as a traveling controller in the legendary London-Mexico World Cup Rally. As a recognized authority on many aspects of classic cars and motoring of that period, he is the most prolific of all authors, with more than 130 published books to his credit. Over the years Graham has owned, driven, described and competed in many of the cars featured in the Rally Giants Series, and his insight to their merits is unmatched."

Graham Robson covers yet another historic rally car in the Saab 96 & V4's surprisingly successful career. As can be seen, by the table of contents that follow, Graham provides a very detailed look at the unique design elements involved in the Saab 96 and their evolution. The inclusion of rival rally cars of the era and the colorful personalities involved in rallying is just icing on this cake. Keep in mind, that Saab didn't design the 96 specifically as a rally car, yet the 96 won anyway despite being underpowered in straight-line performance. Nevertheless, Saab grabbed headlines when Erik Carlsson grabbed successive victories in 1962 and 1963 in the Monte Carlo.

The front cover features a color photograph of. Erik Carlsson and Gunnar Palm waving at the camera early in the 1964 Spa-Sofia-Liege rally where the 80bhp Saab 96 took second to a 210bhp Austin-Healey 3000. The rear cover features a color action photograph of Simo Lampinen and his English co-driver, John Davenport, flying through the gravel in their V4 to win the 1968 RAC rally outright. I counted 113 black and white photographs along with 21 color photos. There was one black and white drawing, 2 color drawings, and 5 tables. The Table of Contents focuses on the following sections:

  • Foreword - Rally Giants: The Most Important in the Sport
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • The Car and the Team
  • Inspiration
  • The Importance of the Saab 96 in Rallying
  • Front-Wheel-Drive
  • Facing Up to Rival Cars
    • Mini-Cooper and Mini-Cooper S
    • Volvo PV544 and 120 'Amazon' Series
    • Ford Cortina GT and Lotus -Cortina
    • Ford Escort Twin-Cam, RS1600, and Rs1800
    • Porsche 911
    • Alpine-Renault A110
    • Lancia Fulvia HF
  • Homologation - Meeting the Rules [Page 13]
  • Svenska Aeroplan AB - The Parent Company
  • Engineering Features
  • 93 - The 'Father' of the 96
  • Enter the 96
  • Two-Stroke Engines
  • V4 Replaces the Straight Three
  • V4 Engine Sizes - 'Works' Rally Cars
  • Motorsport Development and Improvements [Page 29]
  • Saab 96 - Why 96?
  • Ford-Germany V4 Engine
  • Power Outputs - Road Cars
  • Were the Saab 96 (and V4) Unique?
  • Building and Running the 'Works' Cars
  • Personalities and Star Drivers
    • Bosse Hel
    • lberg
    • Bo Swaner
    • Per Eklund
    • Stig Blomqvist
    • Simo Lampinen
    • Carl-Magnus Skogh
    • Pat Moss
    • Erik Carlsson [Page 46]
  • Competition Story
  • The 'Works' Saab's Career
    • 1960
    • 1961
    • 1962 [Page 64]
    • 1963
    • 1964 [Page 74]
    • 1965
    • 1966
    • 1967
    • 1968
    • 1969 [Page 96]
    • 1970
    • 1971
  • The Long Goodbye
    • 1972
    • 1973
    • 1974
    • 1975
    • 1976
    • Driving the Winner
  • Past Its Best? What Rivals Took Over? [Page 119]
  • How Could Saab Replace the V4?
  • World / Major European Rally Wins [Table]

I still remember when my dad replaced his 1958 MGA with a 1963 MGB. He kept only for 3 months before trading it in on a red 1963 Saab 96 after his best friend was killed rolling an MGB. I still remember that you could always hear him coming home from work with the high-pitched yammering of the 2-stroke engine. I basically grew up going to SCCA events and local road rallies and became a navigator as soon as I mastered the circular slide rule. Dad ran the 1963 Saab quite hard and was thrilled to replace it with a red 1967 Monte Carlo V4. A few years later, she was my first car to learn to drive on. That is, after I learned how to repair and replace the front disc brake pads and the rear drum pads; pull the engine to replace the clutch, and took a ice and snow driving course (cool note: the 96 Monte Carlo could spin on its front wheel by pulling the parking brake and flipping the steering to either side). I ended up driving the 96 Monte Carlo until I shipped off to college.

Graham Robson brought back plenty of memories with this book. I found this book eminently readable with the first-person stories and great selection of photographs. Seeing the photograph of the bottom of Saab 96 on Page 29 (see attached) reminds me of how the only item that hung below the car was the exhaust and muffler making the 96 an excellent off-road vehicle (you just have to retrieve the exhaust pipe and weld it back on...). I found the multitude of photographs documenting the many modifications that teams made quite interesting. My dad ran essentially a stock car, fine-tuning the carbs, fuel, and upgrading the brake pads; whereas the rally teams featured in this book did a bit more. Looking back, going with wider tires would have been a nice addition as shown on page 104. I included the black and white photograph of a Saab 96 with all four wheels above the ground (page 119) and I would point out that it wasn't that hard to do, although I don't think I ever managed to get as high as shown in the picture. The Saab 96 didn't have a high top speed, but it wasn't very heavy either...

If you are looking for an injected plastic or resin kit of the Saab 96, be ready to fork over some serious cash. Griffin Models makes a 1/43 Saab 96SS resin kit. Nmodell has a 1/87 multi-media kit and a 1/160 six-part resin kit. A Finnish company (Air-Trax) had released a resin 61-64 Saab 96 Sport, a 69 Saab V4, and a 79 Saab V4 back around 2009. There are pre-painted die-cast models of the Saab 96 available in 1/18, 1/24, /43, and 1/87 if you are interested. This is a great reference for anyone interested in historic rally cars. All the way through, this is an excellent book. My thanks to Veloce Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

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