Restoration of a Saab 93A Mille Miglia racer

There will be three Saab 93A’s running in this year’s Mille Miglia. One of the cars has been restored in Belgium and will be driven by senior staff from Saab’s Belgian importer, Behermans.

The other two belong to Saab. The first one is the yellow car that was driven by Spyker Cars Chairman, Victor Muller, and his son in last year’s Mille Miglia (at left, below).

This article covers the recent restoration of Saab’s second car; a green car acquired by Saab late in 2010, which will be driven in the 2011 Mille Miglia by Saab’s engineering chief, Mats Fagerhag and co-driven by Saab Museum director, Peter Backstrom.

The car is 1956 Saab 93A. It’s only the ‘A’ model that is eligible for Mille Miglia, where regulations dictate that only models that participated in the original Mille Miglia of yesteryear can participate in the historical event today. There was only one Saab that competed in the original Mille Miglia, a Saab 93A driven by Charlie Lohmander and Harald Kronegard. They won their class in the 1957 Mille, which was the last Mille Miglia held before the race was cancelled as a competitive event (today’s Mille Miglia involves friendly competition and is a historic event only).

Buckle up. This is a long one, with 45 photos of the rebuild process.

The car was acquired by Saab in August 2010 from an owner in Sweden. The same owner lent a car to Saab for last year’s Mille Miglia, which was driven by Managing Director Jan-Ake Jonsson and his son. He had this car around as a restorer but the job was never done, so Saab were able to acquire it and begin the restoration for the 2011 Mille Miglia.

The car was bought complete, but was partially dismantled in the barn when these photos were taken…..

Back in the workshop, the car was fully dismantled. Fenders and doors had to be sourced for the car, even though it came with them on the complete car. They weren’t quite up to the standard desired for refinishing and restoration.

The rust repairs begin, with the car on a jig out the back of the Saab Museum. In the photo are Ture Stam, Rolf Ebefors, Gösta Jakfors. All three are retired Saab guys who worked extensively on the restoration. Ture is a handy mechanic in general terms, but a specialist bodywork guy. Rolf is a former tuner for Saab’s competition department, and Gösta is a former field technician with Saab.

Further along in the body jig, newer fenders are fitted that will be retrofinished with fittings true to the original 93A.

Gösta removing some of the old underseal, which was replaced with new underseal for better noise insulation.

Ture doing rust repairs on the floor of the car. 60% of the floor section of the car had to be changed due to concerns over structural rust. You can see here where new floor panels were welded in.

This is the car prior to delivery to the paint shop. The car has undergone rust repairs and you can see the primer covering the spots that have been repaired. The car is now on its way to the Saab Technical Development Center, specifically the prototype workshop, where it will be painted.

Ture Stam (center) talks paint with Karl Lindström (left) and Leif Bäckström (right) at the prototype workshop (known around Saab as KMX)

The primer is applied…..

And then the first layers of topcoat…..

The first layer of topcoat is complete and looking absolutely sensational.

The parts are painted as well. Note the rims, which were painted the same color as the rest of the car.

The paintwork was finished just before Christmas 2010. Back in the workshop, the installation of electrical system and gearbox begin. Knut Höglund (left) is a retired transmission specialist. Roger Lönnberg is a retired wiring specialist.

A mockup engine is positioned in the car (the actual engine was still being rebuilt, see below) in order to enable the correct installation of the wiring loom.

The interior is being prepared at KMX. The material is not and exact reproduction as original materials are no longer available. It is, however, a wonderful compromise that looks authentic to the period.

KMX made the new carpet set as well….

Linda Landén did all the hard work sewing the interior together at KMX. The results were outstanding.

Jan Lundqvist at KMX refurbishes the co-driver’s seat, which is an original Saab 93A seat.

A bucket seat was chosen for the drivers’ seat to stop the driver from sliding around as they might have done on the flatter, standard seat. Here Jan Lundkvist, Linda Landén and Ture Stam talk over the refurbishment of the seat, which will be re-trimmed to match the rest of the interior.

Ture begins to assemble the interior of the 93.

Knut Höglund and Ture Stam begin the installation of the gearbox and driveshaft….

…and inside, the first section of the interior installation is complete.

Roger Lönnberg begins wiring the electrical system. There are 10 fuses in each car, instead of the original two. In just about every other respect, however, the car is faithful to the original.

The front suspension and drum brake assembly. The car uses standard springs, with harder brake linings. A company called Vredestein supplied period-accurate tyres for the Saab cars as a sponsorship. 155/15 dimensions.

Ture is like a kid in a candy shop with all the new re-chromed parts arriving for installation….

….and he sets about assembling the front bumper, as well as the steering column.

Rolf Ebefors and Ture Stam dismantle the engine before restoration and tuning.

It’s a dirty job, but……. the engine was sourced by Saab and fully stripped down and rebuilt. This is just prior to porting the block.

Museum Director, Peter Backstrom, did the lions share of the engine restoration work and enjoys the opportunity to get his hands dirty on Saab strokers.

Restored crankshaft with NOS-Saab 93 GT 750 pistons! The pistons were made by a company called OK, from Norway. They’re the best there is.

Reassembling the engine. Competition engines were always painted red, and we have to concede that the red used here is actually from the Volvo paint catalog.

New pistons installed inside the re-bored cylinder block. The re-bore was done by Tommi Carlsson at Trollspeed, a local and legendary tuner in Trollhattan. The central chamber is bored a bit wider to cope with the middle cylinder running a bit hotter. 0.99 on outer bores and .010 on the middle.

The engine now ready to be installed into the car.

The engine is 748 cc and produces around 50hp and a magnificent sound! The original tuning in the 93A produced 33hp. This one could be tuned for more power, however Peter prefers an engine that is assured to see out the event OK and still provide a lot of fun.

Installed in the car….

The interior installation is complete. Note the bucket seat installed, now re-trimmed to match. All original interior fittings – no modern electronics. A Halda Twinmaster will be installed and mechanical stopwatches provided. It’s all authentic.

It’s early April 2011 and the car is now complete and ready for it’s test drive……

…. the test drive revealed an oil leak in the gearbox. Time to sort it out.

6th May – the car is loaded on to a trailer and begins the long journey to Brescia for the 2011 Mille Miglia, being run from May 11th to May 14th!

Our best wishes go with Peter and Mats as they hurl this little Saab around the Italian roads. I know it will be a dream come true for Peter, an historical enthusiast like few others.

Go well!

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  1. I love that 93a! What a bunch of great pictures! I really hate you now Steven, you get to see what happens in all the special Saab shops! After looking at these pictures I really want to finish the work on my GT- 850. I can’t believe they are towing that trailer with a 9-5 combi — I guess a 9-7 aero would drink too much fuel.

    I can’t wait to find out what the new mystery car is — If you need a car in the US I have a ems!

  2. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful !!! 🙂

    My 93B is the same yellowy colour as P54444 above, but not restored. Time to get it in shape, perhaps.

  3. This is a great photo-story, so thanks SWade!

    (Is this the new secret Saab colour!)

    Interesting to see Vredestein sponsoring with tyres. I’ve used them many times and am running the all-season Quatrac-3’s on my ’06 93 SC 120Tid. Very happy with them, and *much* better than summer tyres during the winter months! I wondered whether they could get an OEM deal with Saab, given the Dutch connection.

  4. My neighbor has three of these cars in his driveway. Two work, the other one he’s using for spare parts. Love to take it off his hands but I’ve no room (or garage)

  5. Swade…..wonderful story. I am drooling over all the photos. You are so lucky to see this in person. This is certainly a thorough restoration. I love the metal work with the new floor sections.

    Is the mille now really requiring that it be a 93a? I think the only difference is a split windshield.

    Keep up the good work! This is a great story.

    1. Yeah, Mille are kind of particular about that. The 93A is what was driven back in the day, so it’s the only one eligible now. Given the limited supply, it could make privateer entries difficult, but then exclusivity is part of the Mille mantra (and why they can charge what they do to do it).

      1. Bob Sinclair and I drove a 93b in the California Mille in 1996. It was a 1958, I guess Martin Swigg [the promoter] was happy to have a Saab so did not give us too much grief.

        Finding a 93a must be difficult…wish I had one. I have found a 93f that I am considering making a rally replica, but looks like the real Mille would not be in my future.

        That restoration is just stunning.

  6. Thanks for this fantastic story. 93A is imho one of the nicest cars Saab has ever built 🙂

    Hope they have a nice ride at the mille miglia!

    Greetings also to Ture!

  7. Wow! Thanks for the How-To guide! I just bought a rotisserie for my 96 restoration that I’ll be working on this winter. Think I’ll print this out as a reference. 🙂

  8. Thank you Swade for a great read and I’ll be sure to follow the car on the Mille Miglia.
    Oh, congrats on your new job. It’s wonderful for all SAAB enthusiasts to have you there giving us real info real time.

    Cheers from a little town 3 hours SW of Huy:-)

  9. This is the kind of article that I really like. I think it’s because I’ve always wanted to restore an older car. Reading this was the next best thing! Thanks.