Monday, January 24, 2011

Saab campervan

Saab made some pretty offbeat and interesting cars in the past ( Saab 92-96 series, Saab Sonnet), they are also among the pioneers that popularised the idea that a turbo charged 4 cylinders FWD car can be serious performance car. As far as I am concerned, what made Saab unique among car makers is it's association with campervan and caravan both in a direct and in-direct manners.

Saab produced the SaabO  caravan during 1960s. Unlike other caravans, the SaabO caravan was designed to be very lightweight ( no more than 80Kg! ) so that even small family cars can tow it. The consideration for towing by small family cars extended to the height of the  front and rear windows placement so that the driver of the towing car had backward vision right through the caravan. It compact size belies that fact that its interior fittings included two sofas, a dining table, a sink and a wardrobe! In night time configuration, the caravan could sleep four (five with an optional bunk!). Such light weight campervan would be well within the capability of the average family cars in Malaysia.

The SaabO shown here with Saab 96 station wagon. Note the height of the window that allow see through rear-vision for the towing driver.

Interior of the SaaBO

The schematic diagram of the SaaBO, showing day configuration and night configuration.

The most interesting is the Saab 92H campervan. It was a personal project of Torsten Johansson, the owner of AB car service during the 60's in Ramsele, Sweden. In 1963 he has the idea of combining a caravan with the running gears of a car to become Sweden's first campervan. Assisted by his second son, Anders Johansson, Torsten plunged into the project. The doner car was the Saab 92, chosen for its front-wheel drive with good mechanical accessibility and the absence of space-consuming drive shaft and rear axle. The engine and drive train, chassis, control, instrumentation and more were taken directly from the Saab 92 unmodified. However, the Saab 92 in its original form with its 28 hp 2 stroke engine was not the most powerful of cars, coupled with handling instability due to having too much weight over the front axle means that the campervan was unable to pass inspection for road use registration, if you think you have it tough with JPJ and Puspakom, this may make you feel better. In the end the vehicle ended up in a forest as a hunting cabin. Undeterred, Torsten use the experience gained from the first prototype and went on to create a second prototype, the 95HK. This time he choose the Saab 95 with two-stroke engine of 40 hp as doner, which would later be converted to a more powerful V4 engine with  65hp. By now Saab factory was taking notice and showing interest. Unfortuntely, due to a short sighted concern that the campervan may be a competitor to it's own SaabO caravan, Saab soon disassociated itself from the project. Dissappointed, Torsten Johansson sold off the second prototype and gave up. This second prototype, the 95HK was bought by a collector, it was subsequently refurbished and repainted from its original green/white scheme to red/white scheme. During one of it's test run, it hit 90km/h on the open road. Soon the local police started to receive reports that there is a rabid run-away caravan on the loose! This prompted group of enthusiasts to search for the first prototype, the 92H, it was finally found rotting away in a forest, with half of it body has already collasped. It was rescued  and restored to its former glory, they even managed to do what Torsten Johansson has failed, they got the 92H to pass inspection!

The 92H and the 95HK in their original colour. The 92H has it running gear back into working condition but the body restoration has yet to begin.

Both the 92H and 95HK restored to their former glory.

The driving position of the 92H. Note the vertical steering column.

The 92H passing inspection.

The interior of the 95HK

Toppola is not made by Saab, but it was designed and made by a company call SCANDO specifically for Saab 99, later Saab 900, 9000 and 9-3 models. It is designed to be mounted to the car boot tray by removing the hatch. When not in use, the camper can removed and the hatch can be reattached for day-to-day motoring. Although it looks small from the outside, it can accommodate standing height for people up to 2.0 m in height and a 170 by 200 cm bed. It has option for a complete kitchen and even a heater for use during winter. The total weight addition is about 115 kg, about the weight of a large adult, so the weight is very manageable. Unfortunately, production has ceased in 2006 due to the uncertainly of the future of Saab itself and SCANDO was looking for someone to take over production of the Toppola.

Can our own national car maker Proton go into something like these? In my mind the Proton already an excellent base vehicle in the Wira based Arena. Now that wouldn't that be a tantalising thought!

The schematic diagrams of the Toppola

The Toppola sits snugly in the boot tray of a Saab 900

The interior include a double bed, cook top and a sink!

Another picture of the interior of Toppola


reforma said...

I am so much impressed by your article about 92H&95HK! Can I translate this to Japanese?

TJ Chang said...

Hi reforma, Yes, you are welcome to do so!

reforma said...

Thank you,Chang!