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.