This ’66 Saab tows a tiny teardrop camper

Antony Ingram

Some cars just delight you as soon as they come into view. At the 2023 Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional, which celebrates mundane motoring, Andy Boorman’s Saab 96 spread delight far and wide.

All 96s are a treat for the eyes; the Swedish car’s unusual teardrop shape is impossible to mistake for any other car. And they’re arguably at their best as early V-4s like Boorman’s example. In fact, as we’ll get onto, his is one of the earliest V-4s around.

Saab 96 with camper side
Antony Ingram

But one reason for the delight was that trailing behind this 1966 Saab was The Pod—a compact camper whose roofline features surprisingly similar contours to that of its tow car. And despite originating from the mid-twenty-teens, it has enough of a classic look to seem right at home behind the Swedish classic. It has us wondering what other car/camper combinations might look perfect together …

Let’s start with the car, though, as Boorman explains its status as a V-4-engined model from 1966.

“People think the V-4s started in 1967, but Saab made 200 of them in 1966, and this is the only one in the UK. In the summer of 1966, Saab took 200 two-stroke [models], removed their engines, and replaced them with V-4s—and these are the cars that were launched to the press.”

Saab 96 with camper badge
Antony Ingram

The car does have the longer front that denotes the V-4 models, as well as the grille design that arrived at the same time, but Boorman notes how there are clues under the bonnet as to the car’s halfway-house status—such as the hammer-assisted recess to provide clearance for the alternator.

The in-period switch from the 96’s original two-stroke to the Ford-sourced 1.5-liter V-4 four-stroke brought with it all the improvements you’d expect, such as more power and torque, cleaner and quieter running, and easier maintenance for the average driver. However, as Boorman admits, “Nothing really beats the handling of the two-stroke, as it’s so much lighter. But I’d have the V-4 all day long; it’s more reliable and you can go where you want with it.

Saab 96 with camper owner
Antony Ingram

Boorman has owned the V-4 for around 27 years. He restored it, including three attempts to get the car painted—finally opting to do it himself—and uses it as often as possible. As the attached camper suggests, it’s not simply babied over local journeys, either. “We did the Isle of Wight last year… albeit not with the caravan attached… and we’ve just done the North Coast 500.”

That’s all the more impressive when you consider there are seven other Saabs vying for Boorman’s driving attention, too, including second- and third-generation Sonnets and a Saab 9000 Aero. “The 9000 Aero is the car that does everything. You can use it as a wedding car, it’s a racing car, you can go down to the tip in it… mine is making about 350 bhp [345 hp].”

The 96 isn’t making quite that, though apparently even with The Pod attached it gets along quite nicely with its 64 horses. With the caravan weighing in at only 300 kilos [661 pounds] or thereabouts, there’s not really a lot to drag. “But without the caravan attached,” he says, “it really whips along.” And 96s are practical, too, though Boorman probably wouldn’t fill his car with nine people, as happened once with his dad’s car back in the late 1960s …

Even without the caravan, and even without the unique aspect of being such an early V-4 car, this Saab 96 was what you might call one of the more exceptional stand-outs at the Festival of the Unexceptional. But we’ll forgive it that many times over, because in a show where almost every car raises a smile, the 96 created bigger grins than most.




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Via Hagerty UK

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    Another Saab story.

    Sorry I had to say it. I always had a fascination with these cars having gone to school with a dedicated two cycle Saab fan. These were odd in every way but they always ran and ran well. This trailer just finishes off the styling here.

    Please note that Sonett is the correct spelling. It’s not Shakespearean! I owned a ’69 V4, from ’72 until ’75. Sold it when I moved to Houston because the dealer there had never seen one, and I was afraid of problems locating parts in those pre-internet days…

    What’s not to Love. What a perfect match. I remember seeing the old 2 cycles ice racing back when I was a kid. I’m jealous.

    The most interesting thing about Saab is that Kurt Vonnegut used to sell them. Incredible man and author who survived WWII fire bombings

    The long nose appeared with the movement of the radiator from behind the 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine to in front of it, not because of the V4. I have a long nose ’66 two-stroke SAAB (not Saab) 95, the station wagon version of the 96. I also have a Sonett (Swedish for “So neat”) V4.

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