SAAB V4 sedan and 99 sedan 1969 baja 1000 entry


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Interesting watch. Also I didnt know the guy that narrated the STD videos in high school did motorsports too.


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Great Video! Was that COCO with both his legs?


Sure dont miss the old days when they stole vehicles from the United States (1:49) and drove them across the border.
I like how the baja bug had the same size tires all around just like the new 5 car trend today. The Ford even had the spares side by side in between the bedsides although they didn't need to notch the fiberglass to fit.
Great video and only 25 hours to finish? Not a bad time although they did have a 105 HP souped up engine
Those Saabs where bullet proof even in the eighties when they raced in class 6. You would come up on one and wonder how they even made it through some of the stuff out there. Slow and steady I guess.


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Hard to argue with the results for the Saab. 45 years later, people are bumbling around with Subie's trying to do the same thing.

The video is wonderful. The mix of cars is wild.
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this copy paste info was given to me by my daughter i dont know were she got it, but is related to this document great and historical info, the race course notes were born, and where are they NOW?.
This all happened in November of 1969 in LaPaz, in Mexico's Baja California Sur province. We were waiting for the start of the prize ceremony for the 1969 Baja 1000, an "off-road" race which Steve McQueen had not been able to finish, and in which Jim Garner, driving a seemingly giant Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was only able to finish second in class...behind a Saab V4.

California Saab dealer Ingvar Lindqvist, a Swede who had lived in California for many years and was known as Mr. Saab of Southern California, since he had been servicing--and sometimes selling--Saabs there, long before they were generally available, had run the Baja 1000 the year before in a Saab 96 and had placed first in the passenger car (two-wheel drive) class.

Saab Motors had just introduced the Saab 99, and I had the honor of travelling with Erik Carlsson on the West coast in that connection. In several places, most importantly at the offices of what was then Competition Press (nowadays AutoWeek) near San Francisco, people told us that Saab would do well with a serious effort in Baja. Someone even set up a meeting for us with the head of the organizing body, NORRA (National Off-Road Racing Association), so we could see films from earlier events, and learn more about the 1969 running.

Listening to these people, and to Ingvar Lindqvist, we felt that maybe they were right. Erik had retired from active rallying a few years earlier, but wanted to return to the action. We decided that he would suggest a Baja entry to the Saab powers in Sweden, while I would try to convince Saab Motors President Ralph T. Millet in

We both succeeded. I got the necessary U.S. support, and some funds; Erik got the rest of the money, manpower, and a couple of quite different Saab V4s.

One of the cars was taken off the assembly line in as rudimentary a state of finish as was possible. It went straight to the Trollhattan competition shop, where it was totally taken apart, and put together again with a few extras, like: Heavy duty parts wherever possible; special exhaust system, with the tail pipe along the side of the roof; handlebars and footrests for someone to ride on the back, just in case. Of course, the engine had been tuned as much as was possible, still retaining reliability.

The second car was somewhat simpler. It looked like the real thing, white paint, roof exhaust, decals and all, but it was otherwise a pretty stock V4, in this case designated as a practice and eventually photography car.

Both cars were air freighted to Los Angeles, and the Saab team, with Erik Carlsson, co-driver Torsten Aman (today PR manager for Saab Sweden), and super competition mechanic Leif "Malin" Melin, set up shop at Saab's regional office in Torrance.

While Malin prepared the race car, Erik and Torsten did something very few Baja competitors at the time bothered with. They practiced in the other car, and reconnoitered the entire route--twice. Torsten wrote copious road notes, covering practically every yard of the way, the way they used to do it in Europe. At the start in Ensenada a few weeks later, Aman's notes were admired by many, and he could probably have made good money selling copies.

One thing the two of them discovered was that the Baja peninsula is rough country. Roads are really non-existent. What there is are dusty trails and tracks, with lots of rocks and bumps. The bumps were so tough that Erik felt he needed something like a kidney belt for the race itself. The wife of a friend made one--from tow of her old girdles.

Aircraft came into service a lot during the Baja--and still do, although I assume there are many more helicopters these days. By the time the race started we actually had the services of four aircraft, two of which were paid for. But a big problem was that aircraft are not allowed to fly in Baja at night because there are no illuminated landing strips..and it was at night that we could have used their air support. Air strips are also pretty far apart, and whoever had heard of a race car breaking down at a service point. (At one point our pilot actually planned to set down right on the "road." Fortunately his passengers were able to stop him.)

The 1969 event was the third scheduled Baja 1000, if I'm not mistaken. The earlier ones had drawn mainly four-wheel drivers, one of whom was Bob Sinclair, who drove a Volvo-powered dune buggy, and finished both times he entered, once on only three wheels. By 1969 there were big bucks and big names around, like Jim Garner with his Olds, and Steve McQueen's monster vehicle that looked like the Humvee of Desert Storm renown.

At lot has been written about Saab and the actual running of the 1969 Baja 1000--the best account I believe is told by torsten Aman in Anders Tunberg's excellent Saab racing and rally history "From Two Stroke to Turbo". I can't add much to that, since I spent most of the time in an airplane rather than on their ground. Suffice to say that Jim Garner was pretty surprised, when he was passed, time after time, by Erik. That was between the times that Saab was stopped because of recurring driveshaft problems. When Garner finished, he believed he was way ahead of the pesky Swede and had the class won, only to learn that Ingvar Lindquist with co-driver Sven Sundquist had passed him--using a different route, (and driving a car that Ingvar had used in Baja the year before, as well as for some other similar excursions). McQueen wasn't able to finish at all. The final results included three Saabs: Lindqvist/Sundqvist first in class; Carlsson/Aman third in class; and in sixteenth, a Saab 99 entered by the Saab Rocky Mountain distributor.

Which led us to the LaPaz gathering. Jim Garner, a true gentleman and sportsman--and a pretty good driver to boot--explaining to an admiring Saab service crew how he starred in Grand Prix. And Steve McQueen showing his 'Bullitt" type driving and scaring the wits out of Erik Carlsson by driving a very hot Saab V4 Baja racer through the streets of LaPaz at full speed--chicken, pigs, but thankfully no humans, scattering out of the way.

And then the prize ceremony, with lots of Margaritas and Miss Hurst Shifter, Linda Vaughn, presenting some pretty ugly trophies. I wonder whatever happened to them, especially the big silver bull.

Were Saab's entries worth the expense? I think so. When you're small, and practically unknown, you have to try some pretty unorthodox ways of gaining recognition. One such way was the Saab entry in the Baja 1000. Was it fun: You bet, and exciting, too...and we did come back for the 1970 race with a bigger team.

Michael Smith

New Member
Hey Everybody, hoping someone can toss up some useful information as I am traveling to the Baja 1000 for the first time.

I have been keeping an eye on the border crossing times but really need to buy my flight. Rule of thumb says not to drive while dark but if I left at 4-5AM on November 21st, race ends 20th. I am trying to figure out how long I would be at the border as I am sure the event will increase traffic. So as much as I want to buy a 930AM flight or so I am probably better off with a noon? If I roll from Ensenada at 6AM, chances are hoping worst case in San Diego by 930-10? Two hours early for a domestic noon flight?

I just do not want to make a decision based on watching the current crossing times at 7-8AM only to have that double because of the event.

Any information helps! Thanks!


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Assume 30 min border wait southbound and 4 hour border wait northbound (but can be 3-5 hours). Plus 2 hours of drive time. Worst northbound line will be Sunday afternoon. If you can cross Saturday evening or Monday mid-day the line will be shorter by at least an hour, maybe 2 hours shorter. But it's also a crap shoot based on many variables.

La Tijereta

Well-Known Member
If you get out of Ensenada at 4am Sunday.. Get to the Border at 6am.. Maybe a 1 hr wait at that time.. 9:30 flight might be tight w/ a 2 hour check-in... Just my experience...


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How the heck did this sabb guy get through the silt with a 2wd low-clearance car, when we have TT's that get stuck in it. God bless the guy!