IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Ursaab in Linköping to celebrate Saab AB's 75th anniversary

The first ever Saab, the Ursaab, is currently on a trip to Linköping to celebrate the 75 year anniversary of the defense and aerospace company Saab AB. The celebration will be held tomorrow Friday 30th March from 11.00-12.00 at the Air Force Museum (Flygvapenmuseet).

Readers of Life with Saab will know that Saab AB together with Trollhättan Municipality and the Wallenberg Foundation earlier this year saved the Saab Car Museum from being sold on pieces and shattered. As part of the deal, Saab AB is allowed to borrow cars from the museum for such events as the 75 year anniversary celebration.

Also present at the celebration will be Hans Osquar Gustavsson, who was one of the developers of the Ursaab. Gustavsson started to work at Saab in Linköping in 1940 and took part in designing the vehicle body of the Ursaab. He was also part of the development of the current Jas 39 Gripen figher jet.

Here's an interview with Hans Osquar Gustavsson from 2007, when Saab - the car company - celebrated 60 years.

Hans Osquar Gustavsson participated in designing the first Saab car and he was involved in developing the JAS 39 Gripen. The Ursaab was, however, a brief parenthesis in the airline manufacturer's 70-year history.

The Saab 92 was not really a highlight when it sixty years ago, on the 10th of June 1947, was unveiled at the Saab canteen in Linköping. The car was smoothed with putty and painted over to hide the worst flaws, and it was definitely not drivable.

"It took a lot of putty, but after the car was painted it was really nice," Hans Osquar Gustavsson recalls.

Together with some fifteen Saab employees, including Sigvard Lenngren who was head of the tool planning, Hans Osquar Gustavsson was assigned from the regular aircraft production in Linköping to produce the first test car.

"We had never built a car before. Most of the team did not even have a driving license. From the start it was clear that the work would be done like we did in aircraft construction. The car would be shaped as an airplane wing, aerodynamically correct, tested in a wind tunnel and everything," Hans Gustavsson Osquar said.

The first prototype was the Saab 92.001 and was completed in the summer of 1946. A 1:10 scale model was tested in a wind tunnel, which was very unusual in the automotive industry at the time but common for aircraft manufacturers. The 0.32 drag coefficient on the prototype was very low for a production car at that time.

"We pinched ideas from various sources. Some did not prove successful. For example, the engine compartment was too narrow. In order to lift the engine out through the hood, it had to be turned around 90 degrees and lifted out with gearbox end first."

The front was redesign on the second prototype, the Saab 92.002. The new front was of the "cascade" type, i.e. there was a chrome grille like on most post-war cars. The car was also modified so that the engine could be reached without to much trouble. This design, however, lead to a worse drag coefficient, which Saab was painfully aware of.

Another problem was that the doors were hinged at the rear. It was argued that it was the best solution. Otherwise, the doors could get damaged when the driver backed out of the garage. But when the doors were opened slightly during a drive, they became wind catcher and people could fly out of the car.

"We were a few who thought that this was dangerous at that time, but the doors weren't redesigned until the 50s," says Hans Gustavsson Osquar.

There were several Linköping based companies that participated on the Ursaab. ASJ made machine parts, Thorells radiator factory loaned their panel beaters and Nordarmatur was in charge of casting.

"We decided early on that the engine would be a two-cylinder two-stroke DKW type engine. But the engine was a little too weak, and we hired Malte Månsson in Linköping to tune up the effect."

The transverse two-stroke engine was of 764 cc and 25 horsepower. The engine and gearbox were one unit.

Saab 92 was the first standard car with a completely self-supporting steel body, which made it strong and stiff. Hans Osquar Gustavsson recall a test drive with the first prototype on the Norrköping road (Norrköpingsvägen).

"The car was a monster to vibrate and make noise. I remember I had to stop and vomit on the road to Norrköping."

Test runs were done in three shifts during the summer of 1946. Drivers from Philip's Bil AB, who participated in the project, drove night and day on the roads of Östergötland. The tests gave many tips on how the Saab could be improved and adapted to production.

"It is fantastic that it turned into a car. It seemed unbelievable back then."

When Saab began mass-produced of the car with the bottle green color in Trollhättan in January 1950, there were many who were interested in buying the car. But Hans Osquar Gustavsson did not want it.

"No, the car was not good enough. I waited until 1956 when the 93 came with a new suspension system and a three-cylinder two-stroke engine. This Saab car was much better than the 92. And the four-stroke engine, which came later, rescued Saab from certain demise."

Hans Osquar Gustavsson has always driven a Saab. He still has a Saab 900 from 1986, but driving is no longer an option at the age of 84.

"My eyesight is not good enough to drive," he said.