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The Last Factory Rally Saab: 1974 Saab 99 EMS

It’s been over a decade since Saab died, and the world’s been a little darker ever since. But there are still keepers of the flame—like Mark Skinner and his 1974 Saab 99 EMS, the last factory rally special from Trollhattan.

[CARISMA is The Drive's new series exploring the connection between enthusiasts and their cars.]

“The reason I believe Saab represents me as an individual is their being a contrarian,” says Mark. “Being a contrarian in the right way, to aspire to something different, to reach for what is possible, that’s always interested me. I’ve always said why, why, why?”

You can think of the 99 as the link between Saab’s early days messing around in postwar Sweden and its global success with the iconic 900, which was built off the same chassis. Produced from 1968 to 1984, the Saab 99 was a big swing with a ton of firsts for the company—heated seats, headlight wipers, a turbo, collapsable bumpers, four-wheel disc brakes, and its first home-built four-cylinder engine

“They had something to prove to themselves. It was a small country and a small town, and they were proud,” says Mark. “One of their ads was, ‘We build cars as if we were buying them, not selling them.’ Lot of integrity and love and affection for the end user and themselves.”

The 99 EMS was the three-door sport model, with a stiffer suspension, sharper steering, upgraded engine making 108 hp. Being completely overbuilt, it made a splash on the rally scene even before the turbocharged model was introduced in 1978. This particular model was lightly modified and autocrossed regularly by its first owner, picking up 12 SCCA victories and a Pennsylvania state championship.

It found its way to Mark—who got his driver’s license behind the wheel of a 99—in 2014 and pitched him headfirst into collecting Saabs. Since then, he converted a carriage house used for parking his construction vehicles into the “Sanctuary of Saab” and started a side business called Zurich Classic Motors to broker sales of Saabs and other European ‘80s and ‘90s classics.

“Building this kind of space and living with these beautiful objects takes quite a lot of effort, so a lot of times I’m out hustling, doing the New York thing, being pulled out of myself,” says Mark. “But when I have those moments when I can sit and be quiet and realize what I’ve been able to accomplish and the joy it brings me, it’s been very gratifying. I do feel blessed, truly blessed, by what Saab has brought me.”

Follow Mark on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zurichclassicmotors/

Produced, shot, and edited by: https://www.instagram.com/tomgorelik/

Previous episode: https://youtu.be/1XkrP4wtbHc?si=44Ura8XSa1kFzzMl

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added on 29 Mar. 2024

Make: Saab


 
 

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