Marc Vernon, 57, of Naperville, Ill., creator and host of the Car Guys Report podcast, on his 1980 Saab 96 Jubileum, as told to A.J. Baime.
I got into Saabs when I was in high school. I just loved the shape of the Saab 96. Some people say that the 96 is the car that put Saab on the map internationally. It debuted in 1960, and was the first Saab imported into the U.S. in any numbers. It also built Saab a reputation for rally racing victories. Built in Sweden, the 96 first caught on in the U.S. because it was great in the snow—front-wheel drive, good heater. Saab was small and never had any huge budget, so the company kept building the 96 for 20 years.
I bought my first 96 after my freshman year in college, and up to about 2014 I had owned 10 Saabs. Still, I had not owned a 96 since the 1980s. I was building my car collection, so I decided to hunt for a 96. But not just any 96. At the end of the 20-year production run, Saab built the last 300 96s all in the same color scheme—light blue with a light blue interior, and these 10-spoke wheels. The company named these 96 ‘Jubileum,’ which means jubilee in Swedish.
Not a lot of 96s still existed in 2014. It was never a high-priced car or a collector car. People who owned them drove the heck out of them, then got rid of them. So trying to find a 96 was going to be hard. Trying to find one of the last 300 built was going to be harder. Trying to find one of the last 300 built that was in good condition and was for sale? It was like finding a needle in a haystack.