Motor madness in the land of the Nordic fiends

I read the other day that the Chinese have made a bid for the Saab Motor Company, and entity that has been in dire straights for quite a while. That seems like an odd cultural juxtaposition to me, but what can you expect with a company that sticks two vowels in a row in its name.

Have they ever considered that might be part of the problem. How would Ford have done if it had called itself ‘Foord?’ OK, this is getting to be a waste of time.

I’m not going to belabor Saabs too much longer other than to say I have one lovely Saab memory. Way back in 1976 my then wife and I were making a little rural train trip in England, from Exeter to Barnstaple in North Devon Our destination was the tiny fishing village of Appledore whence we had booked a cottage for a week.

Sharing our compartment was a rivetingly beautiful young woman who looked like actress Julie Christie’s baby sis. I fell immediately in love with her and remain so to this day. No, that last part’s not true. Anyway, when we got to Barnstaple we needed to get a ride to continue on our way. I asked Miss (sigh) beauty if there was a bus service. She said her brother was to be picking her up and she was certain he’d be happy to give us a ride. Indeed he was. He drove a Saab. Nice car. All I have to say about Saabs.

My main topic here is that other Svenska car, the Volvo. Well, to give Saab credit, at least its silly name hasn’t been the subject of lewd jokes like Volvo’s has. But that’s beside the point.

I’ve noticed that Volvos have sexed themselves up of late. They’re pretty spiffy looking cars now. Nice to see them having their mojo back. They used to have it back when they looked like mini ’48 Fords. My brother had one. It was a great car. But then Volvo went boxy and clunky for decades. The Volvo stationwagon became the ultimate schoolteacher car. Sane and safe and hideously unimaginative. I won’t say those traits suit the personalities of a lot of teachers. I’ll leave that up to you. Why should I be the one pilloried?

Now, the much vaunted safety aspect of the Volvo is not hyperbole. They really are ridiculously safe. I once went and took a press photo of a Volvo that had been hit by a train. The front end was sheared off at the windshield. The elderly inhabitants of the car — perhaps retired school teachers, who knows? — were utterly unharmed. After we ran the photo the Volvo company contacted me to ask if they could use the pic in an advert.

On another occasion, when I was living in England in the early 1980s an accident on the highway right near our house involved a Volvo and a dump truck in a head-on. The trucker hit has brakes so hard to avoid the impending collision that the truck literally ripped up blacktop. The lady driving the Volvo was pinned under the dashboard and in a normal car she’d have been a goner. In the Volvo she escaped with some bad bruising. Commendable, to be sure.

But, they still weren’t very sexy cars in my esteem. Consequently, I never hankered after one. indeed, except for my brother’s ancient one, I’ve never driven one. I think I am too insecure about my presence in the world to drive a vehicle that is preternaturally unsexy.

But, as I said, the image has now changed. I assume Volvos are still safe, but they look pretty neat now that they’ve lost the boxiness.

According to what I’ve read, their place in the dorkmobile universe has now been taken by Subaru.

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6 responses to “Motor madness in the land of the Nordic fiends

  1. Do you remember the movie “Crazy People?” It had the memorable line “Volvo. Boxy but good.”
    My first car was a Saab. I was a young mother at the time. The car required oil every time it got gasoline.

    • Loved your Saab memory. I had a ’59 Ford that burned oil so badly that when I was on my honeymoon with my first wife I had to add a quart of oil a day on the road. Yet, the car saw us through an extensive road trip.

  2. If i want two vowels, I go for Audi…lovely cars.

  3. Christ Volvos were ugly. Now however I’d buy one. Not that I could ever afford one, but there you go.

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