Drag racer with Saab front


John Fiorini runs an official Saab Service Center.

On the border of Massachusetts and three hours from Boston is Pittsfield, a small town in the middle of the forest. Having driven around the Boston area a lot and visited plenty of workshops, I thought it might be fun to take a day trip to meet John Fiorini and his company, Performance Automotive Inc., Pittsfield, an official Saab Service Center. John is a hugely passionate Saab expert. The outside of the workshop features a large mural paying tribute to Saab, a brand John has worked with for over 25 years.

Since the mid-1980s, John has also been busy racing, especially drag racing (read more at www.johnfioriniracing.com). He no longer competes with Saab but, during my visit, there was obviously a lot of discussion about the cars he has renovated, including a drag racer with a Saab front.

Swedes, Swedes, everywhere Swedes

David Svensson came to Los Angeles in 1986 and basically never left. In 1990 he became a partner in Santa Monica Volvo Saab. He has owned the company outright since 2005.

One pleasant surprise during my weeks in California was the opportunity to meet a lot of Swedes. During the 1980s and 1990s, lots of Saab mechanics moved to the USA – there was great demand for well-educated mechanics and they were tempted by generous paychecks. Many of them later set up in business, and their logos often feature the yellow and blue of Sweden.

Amazing coincidence on Venice Boulevard

Walter Wong’s workshop primarily works with Saab, but… “Saab may be our passion but we can work on any brand of car.”

Walter Wong’s workshop primarily works with Saab, but… “Saab may be our passion but we can work on any brand of car.”

At Saab specialists Right Solution Inc. on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, I quickly became aware of a cool Swedish connection. In reception was a framed personnel newsletter, Saab Idag (“Saab Today”) from 1994, with an article about the new training center in Trollhättan. It turned out that the owner, Walter Wong, who at that time was working for a Saab importer in Argentina, undertook specialist mechanic training in Trollhättan that year. This was fun, since I also underwent a lot of training at that same location.

After his time in Argentina, Walter Wong moved back to the USA to start work at a Saab workshop, before setting up his own company. Right Solution Inc. is not an official Saab Service Center, but I was there and provided advice and hints on buying spare parts.

In the Los Angeles area, I visited 17 workshops in a week – at high-speed, you could say. Of these, the majority were Saab specialists like Walter Wong.

South of Venice is another beautiful location: Newport Beach. Here I found a truly fantastic 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. Take a look!

Orange County

Bud Clark with his Sonett V4.

Bud Clark with his Sonett V4.

On North Batavia Street in Orange, south of Los Angeles, I met Bud Clark, who has worked with Saab since 1961. He runs a company called J & B Imports, which specializes in Saab. He truly has Saab in his blood, and if you look at various review sites for workshops in the USA, you’ll hear things like this about Bud’s company:

“The staff at J&B are authentic Saab mechanics. Bud the owner has a collection of limited edition retro Saabs. He used to race and truly knows the car inside out” and:“Hands down the best find of the decade. Bud and his staff are amazing, they know Saabs better than Sweden.”

Like many others in the US Saab community, I met Bud at a convention, specifically the 2015 Saab Owners Convention in Lexington, Kentucky. He drove there in his Saab 9000 – a trip of over 2,000 miles! Talk about having an interest.

Bud, who is a true gentleman, owns a very special Sonett V4 with an engine that now has a turbocharger and probably reaches 200+ horsepower. This extremely lightweight car is terrifyingly fast, and Bud drives it every week, including in races.

His collection also features a Saab Quantum III, one of only two that were ever made.

It’s an extremely rare car which he drives on special occasions. Read more about the Quantum cars in one of my earlier posts on the blog.

Here is a movie recording of Bud Clark and his Quantum III:

The video was made by Reba Mize.

Bay Area Saab and Highway 1

San Francisco is well known for its steep slopes, as portrayed in countless movies. One of the more famous ones is probably 1968’s ‘Bullitt’, starring Steve McQueen. Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsvD806qNM8

San Francisco is well known for its steep slopes, as portrayed in countless movies. One of the more famous ones is probably 1968’s ‘Bullitt’, starring Steve McQueen. Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsvD806qNM8

My last stop in San Francisco was to see Jeremy Morrissey, an old Saab enthusiast who once ran Park Avenue Saab in New Jersey but moved to the west coast a while ago to become CEO of Infinity Dealership in San Francisco. The company is located in the same building on Van Ness Avenue as his start-up, Bay Area Saab, which is an official Saab Service Center. Jeremy simply wanted to continue with Saab, and runs the company alongside his work for Infinity Dealership.

–Saab customers are really interesting; they’re so emotional about Saab and their loyalty surprises me, he says.

Obviously, Bay Area Saab also sells Saab cars, including 9-3 cabriolets. It’s no understatement to say that California and cabriolets are a really great combination… Jeremy Morrissey can sell a 2008 Saab 9-3 for USD 14,500 (VAT not included).

After my visit to Bay Area Saab, I took Pacific Highway 1 south toward Los Angeles. This is one of the classic American highways traveling the length of the Pacific Coast, and was built in the 1930s. If you like breathtaking views, particularly as you drive through Big Sur, this trip is highly recommended! There are lots of pretty towns along the route, including the surf mecca of Santa Cruz, about 75 miles south of San Francisco.

San Francisco and a little Saab Quantum history

Paul Perry still races his Saab 96.

Paul Perry still races his Saab 96.

—After Pennsylvania I traveled home to Sweden for a while; it gets really intense when you’re on the road like this with lots of daily visits to workshops and service centers. I don’t know exactly how many miles I clocked up, but it was a lot. When I flew over to the States again, the dial was pointing to the West Coast and California, so I landed at San Francisco International Airport. Then I put my foot on the gas!

San Francisco is an amazing, wonderful city with the Golden Gate Bridge, the hills and everything it has to offer. I also drove around parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, an area with over seven million inhabitants spread across nine counties (districts). You see a lot of Saabs on the streets here, and that probably fits with the idea that lots of Swedes have that Saab is popular among well-educated Americans. The Bay Area includes two of the country’s best universities, Stanford and Berkeley, and is also home to Silicon Valley.

Over the course of a week, I visited 13 workshops, mainly in and around San Francisco, including both independent operators and official service centers.

In Santa Clara, south of San Francisco, I encountered Saab veteran Paul Perry at the Swedish Auto Factory. He’s had to change the name of the company a few times over the years for legal reasons. Paul has worked with Saab his whole life, although he runs an independent business. His organization is entirely focused on repairing and selling second-hand Saab cars. His face is well-known in American Saab circles, particularly from the race tracks where he drives in various official sports car competitions, often in a Saab 96.

Like many other Saab enthusiasts, Paul has a great private collection, including his treasured Saab Quantum. Many people in Sweden will have no idea what this car is, so here’s a little history for you. Saab Quantum was a series of five cars built in the USA. The earliest examples used the two-stroke engine, transmission and suspension from the Saab 93, while the later versions used drivetrains and suspension parts from the Saab 96.

The Quantum I was built in 1959 with an aluminum chassis designed by IBM’s Walter Kern in his spare time. The car only had the most basic bodywork to start with, but after a few tests it was more or less complete.
The Quantum II was almost identical to its predecessor, and both were equipped with water-cooled, three-cylinder two-stroke engines. These cars were prototypes and were never intended for production.
The Quantum III was given a completely new design and was intended to be produced in greater numbers, but Saab Sweden was not satisfied with the quality so it was turned down.
The Quantum IV was built in 1964 to the same design. It was sold as a kit car and was intended for the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) Formula S series.
The Quantum V, built in 1965, had a Ginetta body. It was also equipped with a two-stroke engine.

Bought treasure from GM’s collection


Saab Sonett 1957, one out of five that still exists today.

Wilmington, Delaware, which is located along the Delaware River downstream of Philadelphia, is the home of Bill Jacobson Sports Car Service. Bill has worked with Saab his whole life and is a specialist in the proper sense (it should also be mentioned that he sells Subarus). His company has a showroom which is actually a real treasure. Here they have the very first Saab Sonett sold on the US market back in 1957, and the very first Saab car that was physically sold in the United States. The latter was completely disassembled, but I think it was a Saab 92.

Bill bought the Sonnet from GM’s collection after the bankruptcy. It was basically him and another guy who bought the whole collection, even though Bill’s biggest goal was to bring home the Sonett – the star of his private collection. When I visited Sports Car Service, we talked a lot about Orio. Americans find it incredible that we continue with Saab and still manufacture original parts. Bill’s business isn’t a service center. They buy all their stuff from a Saab authorized workshop.

Saab Original – Would you like to know more about Saab Original Parts? Please visit SaabParts.com.

Swedish cars – viable in the States

Saab 96, Spyder

Saab 96, Spyder

Swedish Motors Inc. is in Marietta, Pennsylvania. A company name that starts with either ‘Swedish’ or ‘Scandinavian’ isn’t a strange sight for someone like me who has a pretty good eye on the US market for Swedish cars. We at Orio have around ten service centers that are called something to do with Swedish. Anyway, at Swedish Motors they have sold Saab and Volvo for many years, although unfortunately they only sell new cars from the latter now. The firm was founded by Rich Kushner in 1981 and is one of many independent Saab specialists. Today it services a load of Saab cars.

They have built up what you could call a small Saab museum. They have a Saab 99 from 1978 completely in order. It was a first for the US market. Rich is very interested in competition and has rebuilt some of the cars, including a Saab 96 with V4 engine, and a roadster with only two seats and no roof.