Fifty years ago, legendary rally car driver Erik Carlsson romped through his first of three – in a row - British RAC rally titles while piloting a three-cylinder, 750 cc Saab 96.
As a Saab aficionado, Carlsson has always competed in rally races while driving only one brand and today, the Swedish manufacturer is celebrating Carlsson’s rally accomplishments by building a special edition Saab 9-3 carrying his name.
Called the Saab 9-3 Aero Carlsson, the 280-horsepower limited-run model was announced by Saab at a recent luncheon at the RAC Club in London to honor Carlsson himself.
Understandably, Carlsson was honored by Saab’s gesture. "This is a great occasion for me,” he said.
“I feel very honored to have a car named after me. Anyone who loves driving and is as passionate about Saab as I am will be excited about getting behind the wheel."
We don’t know a great deal about Erik Carlsson because he raced even before we were born, but from what we’ve heard and read about him, he seems to have been one of the pre-eminent rally racers of his time so it’s only appropriate for Saab to honor the man that gave them their honor back in the day.
Press Release after the jump.
Rally legend Erik ’Mr Saab’ Carlsson today celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first British RAC Rally win by being reunited his co-driver, Stuart Turner, and a replica of the car that took them to victory.
Erik, now 81 years old and still working as a roving ambassador for Saab, was guest of honor at a lunch organized by Saab Great Britain at the prestigious RAC Club in London. He shared the limelight with the diminutive Saab 96, shipped over from the Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan, which will be displayed at the club for a week in honor of his achievements.
His victory 50 years ago at the wheel of the little three-cylinder, 750 cc car shook the world of rallying. It was the first of a hat-trick of RAC victories and Erik would go on to win the Monte Carlo rally twice, as well as the Acropolis and San Remo Rallies in the early 60s. Such ’David and Goliath’ exploits against bigger, more powerful cars were the springboard for launching Saab as a global car brand.
Co-driver Stuart Turner, a little known motor sport journalist when he sat alongside Erik, would go on to achieve fame as international competition manager for BMC and Ford. He shared in today’s celebrations with Erik and after the anniversary lunch the two old friends entertained guests with a lively question and answer session.
To mark the occasion, Saab Great Britain also announced the launch of a 280 hp, Saab 9-3 Aero Carlsson model, a limited edition of which only 96 will be produced.
"This is a great occasion for me," said Erik. "It has been wonderful to see so many old friends again, including Stuart who did such a fantastic job reading the maps. I wouldn’t have won without his help.
"I also feel very honored to have a car named after me. Anyone who loves driving and is as passionate about Saab as I am, will be excited about getting behind the wheel."