As we fast forward to the present day, it’s incredible to consider the fascinating journey and history behind the 1967 Saab SaabO Camper. This vintage travel trailer, currently up for auction on Bring-a-Trailer, represents not only a piece of automotive history but also a time capsule that transports us to the “Swinging ’60s.”
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SaabO: A Product of 1960s Innovation
In the early 1960s, Saab, a Swedish manufacturer known for both its airplanes and automobiles, embarked on a project that would lead to the creation of the SaabO. This little caravan had a unique origin. It was born out of the creative minds of two Saab engineers, Bo Bjernekull and Birger Lindberg, who, at the time, were working on a hovercraft project called MEFAN.
This hovercraft endeavor was intended for military applications but would eventually birth the Saab 401, a one-of-a-kind vehicle. Unofficially, Bjernekull and Lindberg explored a more personal project: crafting a compact and lightweight caravan that could be towed by a Saab 96, a vehicle with a modest 38 horsepower engine, without any speed limitations.
Their idea was not just innovative but practical. The SaabO would cater to the growing number of Saab owners who desired a leisurely escape, with the ability to hit the open road without restrictions. The SaabO project went before the “Saab diversification committee,” which enthusiastically approved it. Thus, Saab ventured into the realm of leisure products, giving birth to a remarkable piece of automotive history.
A Marvel of Design and Engineering
The first SaabO prototype was crafted at the Fisksätra shipyards, and a pre-production model followed. What makes the SaabO truly remarkable is its design. It consists of two polyester hulls made from glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) that were fused together. This ingenious design allowed the SaabO to provide ample space for sleeping, dining, and even accommodating up to five people with an optional bench, all while maintaining a lightweight profile (a mere 230 kilograms).
Inside the SaabO, you’ll find two cozy sofas, a dining table, a galley sink, and two wardrobes, all crafted to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience. Its innovative design features large, low-set front and rear windows, enabling the driver of the towing vehicle (the Saab 96) to have an unobstructed view through the camper into the rearview mirror, eliminating the need for additional side mirrors.
A Rare and Coveted Collector’s Item
The SaabO was in production from 1964 to 1968, with only 438 units ever made. Today, this rarity has become a prized collector’s item, highly sought after by Saab enthusiasts and vintage camping aficionados alike. Its charm lies in its scarcity, quirky imperfections, and a design that was truly ahead of its time.
Influence Beyond the SaabO: The Toppola
While the SaabO didn’t see widespread success, its existence inspired others in the leisure vehicle sector. In the 1970s, a company called Scando developed the “Toppola,” a system similar to the SaabO. It was adapted to various Saab models and the Ford Sierra, marking a continuation of Saab’s influence in the world of camping and outdoor leisure.
Despite the relatively limited success of the SaabO caravan, it inspired others in the leisure vehicle sector. In the 1970s, a company called Scando developed a “caravan” system known as the Toppola, which was adapted to various Saab models, including the Saab 99 and later the Saab 900, 900 NG, 9000, and 9-3, as well as the Ford Sierra.
Production of the Toppola continued until 2006, and these products, like the SaabOs, have become collectibles in their own right. The Toppola could accommodate two people in a 170×200 cm bed and featured a kitchenette, all while allowing the rear seats of the car to remain usable.
An Opportunity to Own a Piece of History
Today, as collectors eagerly seek to complete their collections of vintage Saabs, the SaabO stands as a cherished relic of a bygone era, a symbol of the unquenchable human spirit of exploration and innovation. It’s a testament to Saab’s legacy of ingenuity and a reminder of the joyous freedom that comes from hitting the open road in a well-designed and lightweight camper. Whether it’s the SaabO or the Toppola, these campers continue to captivate the hearts of enthusiasts and carry the legacy of Saab’s adventurous spirit into the 21st century.
Now, this very SaabO Camper from 1967 is up for auction with a starting bid of $1,200 and ending in just five days. It’s a chance to own not only a vintage travel trailer but a time machine that transports you back to a period of simpler adventures and unhurried road trips.
Bid now and become a part of the SaabO Camper’s ongoing adventure. This rare gem embodies the spirit of innovation and exploration from the ’60s and represents a unique slice of automotive and camping history that is waiting to create new memories with its next owner. Don’t miss your opportunity to become a part of this incredible journey.