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Story by Lois Grace


SAAB - Conks out anywhere it pleases, usually with a great gush of coolant and/or whapping of broken belts for which you are not carrying a replacement. Will not care about the weather and/or location, will merely expire anywhere it feels the urge. Freeway off ramps, intersections, and bank drive up windows are favorites.

VOLKSWAGEN - Will rattle gently to a stop after picking its place carefully (doesn't want to leave you in a bad or dangerous spot). Sometimes will give odd warning signals of its malaise. Occasionally, even after dying in a safe place, will try desperately to fire up once more and get you on your way. These bursts of loyalty, while appreciated, rarely prove successful.


SAAB - Will require the use of a large flatbed tow truck, due to its ignition-mounted locking gear shifter. (most tow truck drivers will not know or care that it's perfectly fine to pick up the front wheels and tow it this way and will refuse to tow the car instead) Car might dig in its heels and refuse to climb aboard the flatbed, should one ever be available. Most flatbeds are nearly always "out of service" or 200 miles away when you call with a dead Saab.

VOLKSWAGEN - Will ride behind nearly anything, even another VW. Towing with a tow bar and Vanagon or Bay window Bus is the preferred method, but if the use of a professional is required, the VW gets a particular thrill from being on the aforementioned unavailable flatbed. Will wait forever in the freezing rain for the tow, and never complain once.


SAAB - Requires vast amounts of technical knowledge, expensive one-of-a-kind tools, and someone named LARS or DIETER. Massive infusions of cash help speed things along but don't always guarantee a long-lasting result. Large mechanical failures will need installation of expensive, one-of-a-kind parts, usually only found in specialty catalogs or other junked Saabs. Other junked Saabs are nearly always located in junkyards far from your home, and only open on every other Tuesday.

VOLKSWAGEN - Repairs can be made by anyone with any name and nearly any tool. (something pointy, something sticky and something big and heavy are good things to carry with you) Sometimes do not even require towing to a shop or garage; repairs by the road where it stopped are common and work nearly as well as the Real Thing. Parts can be had nearly anywhere - check your local Safeway in the "hardware" aisle and you may find a VW part or two.


SAAB - Upon receipt of the repair bill or invoice, the Saab owner is likely to do one of two things: faint, or burst into hysterical tears. (I have been known to do both) Once recovered, the owner will either apply for a second mortgage of his/her home to cover the cost, or will begin mending fences with their family in the hopes of securing a small loan from relatives. In either case, it is likely that they will still be paying off the loan when the car in question decides to suddenly heave to a stop once again.

VOLKSWAGEN - Usually (but not always) the bill for VW repairs is easily paid with whatever change you can find under the floormats and rear seat. When more costly repairs are required for a VW, a check or credit card is produced and several thousands of miles of reliable, trustworthy service begin again. In fact, typically a VW will function so well for so long that the owner begins longing to spend his money on something, so goes directly out and buys the alloy wheels or stereo he's been longing for.


SAAB - Owner finds himself/herself sitting on the freeway on-ramp, dialing a flatbed tow truck that will not show up (because it's out of service). Car wears brand new alloys.

VOLKSWAGEN - Owner finds himself/herself sitting happily behind the wheel, watching the numbers on the odometer going around and around and around and around and around..................................


This is not meant to be a critique of Saabs or their merits (or lack thereof). My Saab and I motored happily for 18 years and more than 90,000 miles - and I remain a devoted fan of the Saab. He was a great car. He was also a car that was not for the faint-of-heart: repairing Saabs is much, much different than repairing a Volkswagen (the only car I really have any experience working on). I got tired of being "different", and that is why my Saab went home with a new owner last year. I hope his new family is enjoying his unique brand of quirkiness.

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