Recently, a SAAB powered road racing special resurfaced and was sold to a New England based collector and racer. It has been relocated to the Lime Rock, CT area and a restoration is being planned.
This car piqued my interest because it tickled a memory in the back of my brain. It also has some interesting bits and bobs that popped up in the photos of the auction. As it turns out, this car had an interesting 15 minutes of fame in the SAAB world.
Every vintage SAAB sports and racing car nut worth his salt owns a copy of “Alla SAABs Sportbilar, The Sonett, and All Other SAAB Sports Cars” by Björn Svallner. Published in Stockholm, Sweden in 1983 it attempts to summarize not only all the SAAB sports cars that SAAB ever built (up to that time), but also the ones they thought about but didn’t manufacture, and a few that were only tangentially related to SAAB through use of SAAB components.
The Jabro I mention above is one of those latter cars. It had no formal connection to SAAB at all. It is “SAAB-ish” only in that it utilized the SAAB two-stroke three cylinder engine that so many H-modified class sports racing cars of the 50’s and 60’s chose. The engine was compact, powerful for its size, and offered an easy solution to one of the main challenges that plagued many homebuilt racing cars of the time… Managing crankcase oil. The SAAB two-stroke had none, so that fixed that!
Why Björn Svallner chose this particular car to include in his book, I will likely never know. It didn’t have the most significant racing history and wasn’t built in large numbers. It did look cool, but the photos included in the book were relatively poor snapshot quality and as it happens, the body is not representative of the way it came from Jabro. It has been rather heavily modified. However, this means that it is immediately recognizable amongst Jabros and that brings us to that tickle in my brain.
Of course, as a youngster, I poured over Svallner’s book like as if it were a handbook, or a guide to future collection building. The Jabro was intriguing, but a sort of sidenote to me. At that time, I had my eyes on the pinnacle of collectible SAABs. Today, I know that those are out of my reach while something like this Jabro might be within my reach, somehow or someday.
On December 4th, 2020 my friend Jonah sent a message with a couple of photos and the brief question “Is this a car you know?”
But then, in January, though a post in the Facebook “H modified Over the Hill Gang” group, with a couple of ridiculously small photos, the car popped up again. This time, despite the puny photos, far more recognizable.
Of remarkable interest (to me at least) is the car on the trailer in the background of the color photo. It is a Formula S! That caught my eye so naturally I started looking closer.
The tickle in the back of my brain turned into an itch and finally, a light bulb began to burn. I remembered where I’d seen that car before. It *had* to be the same one. There can’t possibly be another car with that same “swingset” roll bar (not my description, but an apt one coined by the original poster Mark Schoenlein. Mark (posting under his wife Meg’s account) was bringing th ecar to folk’s attention and proposing that the Jabro might be Larry Metz’s old car. Larry is a member of the group, but hasn’t chimed in on the discussion yet.
This car, put up for sale on eBay but I believe sold privately off-site, is the very same one pictured and described in Svallner’s book! I’m positive. The historical photos provided in the auction with the racing number “46” on the car confirm it.
This is one of the historical photos from the eBay auction. ⇑
And this is from Svallner’s book. ⇓
The photos appear to have been taken on the very same day!
Aside from the rollbar and numbers and obvious photo relationships, this car is notable for the modifications it bears. The bodywork in not standard Jabro Mk III bodywork.
The front bodywork has been reprofiled. The wheel arches are higher and with larger openings. One assumes this it to accommodate larger tires. The openings are relatively rough, indicating somewhat hurried or unconcerned application of fiberglass skills. The radiator intake in the nose has been squared off and enlarged. The nose itself has been elongated and vents added on the top surface.
The rear body has had its wheel arches likewise modified. The leading contour has also had air intakes added, likely to route air to the rear brakes and or the quick-change rear end visible in the photos.
For comparison, below are two photos of a stock-bodied Jabro Mk III that I took at the 2007 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park.
My notes show that this lovely green and white Mk. III was then owned and driven by Daniel Hayes. Today, it is caretaken by Kurt Marquardt.
The text of the eBay auction is copied below.
Jabro MKIII H-Modified race car with complete records of ownership back to original builder. Powered by SAAB 3 cylinder two stroke motor and has quick change rear end with spare gears. SCCA log book shows the car participated in 19 race mid-west events throughout the 1970’s including IRP regional, NEOHIO Regional, Grattan Regional, Road America, WOR Games, Misery Bay Regional, Western NY Regional, Hoosier Grand Prix, Fort Wane National… Current owner purchased in 1982 and stored the car ever since. Documents include SCCA log book and notes about gearing set up for various tracks as well as specific parts used. This race car is part of an estate and is being sold by Historic Motor Sports of Candia NH. We are a dealer and I welcome any inquiries or offers.
Here is the full gallery of photos I’ve collected from the auction, from the book, and from the Facebook groups posting.