|Homepage.||This page: A unique SAAB 95 van (bullnose 2 stroke)|
How I found this unusual SAAB vanI'd known of this curious little SAAB van alongside Andersons, the local Saab dealer, from when I was a spotty youth, more often than not to be seen hanging around Ringway (Manchester) Airport in the hope of spotting a rare airline or 'plane. Painted a lurid yellow, a popular shade for their 1970's models, this little commercial vehicle could hardly be missed. Even way back then it was looking pretty tired, and obviously not long for this world.
Anyway, zip forward many years, and quite by chance I found myself chatting to the Service Manager of Andersons' other dealership in Hazel Grove. Conversation came around to the odd little van, and, to my surprise, I was told that she was dumped around the back of this very dealership!! Never one to let practicalities like storage problems, or parental-disapproval get in the way of a new 'find', I hot footed it round the back to weigh up the sorry remains of one Danish spec, righthand drive, 95 two stroke van. The 2 stroke 95 estate in any form is a RARE beast - the van must surely be virtually extinct by now. My source informed me that only 3 had been imported by SAAB GB from Sweden in the 1960s ('62 to be exact) for dealers to use, which is how Andersons had got hold of this one. Its original colour scheme had been a very 60s mid grey, but had been freshened up with a 99 model shade of yellow at some point during the 1970s.
I've since spotted one or two V4 engined (therefore later) versions, but never have I come across another old stroker version. So one thing led to another, and, after some subtle negotiations, a deal was reached late on in 1991 and my fleet increased by 1. When viewing this old vehicle as a rebuild project, there were both pluses and minuses. Much of the outer panelwork had been removed, and placed inside the back of the van, preserving such rarities as the stubby bull-nose wings and rare chromework. However this had had the negative effect of exposing the old girl's underpinnings to the unforgiving British climate, leaving such important areas as the inner wings and floorpans in 'delicate' condition. Plus the general lack of SAAB 2-stroke spares in circulation meant that this could be no easy restoration. But my main priority was to get her back in the dry once more, and make some moves on locating spares for Trollhattan's finest. It suddenly looked like 280YBH had a chance of a future, after many years sat in the shadows.
A few weeks later we returned with a hefty trailer, and Uncle's sturdy old Volvo 240, to tow the old Swede to a barn I'd arranged storage in, over Holmes Chapel way (near the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in Cheshire).
So thats how YBH finally made its first steps towards preservation - I think another winter outside would have probably killed it off, so fragile was the superstructure in places. With the SAAB now in relative safety, I was now in the position to start drawing up a list of required spares for its eventual restoration. Much time was spent chasing up leads, in the hope of finding old parts. I found a former SAAB/Volvo dealership over in Birkenhead that was closing down, so spent a very happy afternoon sifting through the mountains of early Swedish spares, uncovering all sorts of rare gems, both for my 95 van and the Volvo Amazon I was using at the time as daily wheels.
Another sortie over to North Wales found me on a desolate farm in the middle of nowhere, standing back in awe at a barn laid out with all manner of rare SAAB 95 & 96 bits and pieces. Two trips (with trailer) were made to bring back all the rare parts I managed to find, including a mint bull-nose bonnet, to replace the rusty example on YBH at the time. These many trips soon provided me with an excellent starting point for a rebuild. However as often happens, other jalopies, not least the Volvo, Ford truck, A40 Farina etc got in the way somewhat, so I never really got my teeth into this one.
After a little while, I got wind that one of the guys who used to work on this very 2 stroke many moons ago, was keen to have it to rebuild for himself. Complex negotiations (!) ensued, with the end result being that I swapped the SAAB with spares for a rare 1934 Vauxhall 12hp that he had stored in his parent's garage. This Vauxhall ASY was more or less complete and, as I'd always fancied having a '30s vehicle to tinker with (a 6 cylinder one at that!) the swap was done.
I lost touch with the bullnose van for a good few years, knowing that it had changed hands a few times in the meanwhile. So imagine my surprise when flicking through a classic car magazine in 2000 and there she was, 280 YBH, fully restored, and taking centre stage on a SAAB club stand!! Fully restored she really looked a treat. In another magazine there was even a roadtest of the lovely old dame, being compared with other light commercials of the day. The owner asked if anyone knew of her early history, and gave a contact phone number. It was nice to catch up with the old van and find out from the new owner how the rebuild had taken place .. it turned out that the spares I'd amassed those years before had paid dividends when finally the resurrection took place. I still have an original tax disc from 1983 for the van, and one of the original numberplates hanging up in the garage.
Knowing just how rusty this old SAAB was, meant I knew just how big a task it must have been to resurrect this lovely old van. Thanks to Mr Lainton for sending over some photographs a few years ago, showing the restored van.
I read that the van changed hands again, at an auction held late in 2008. Someone at RM Auctions, who handled the sale, kindly emailed me the photos from their catalogue, one of which is shown below.
More of my old car finds can be seen here.
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