Sunday, August 07, 2005


To the Meeting Platz at Zollverein

With a little help, I found my way to Zollverein, the former coal mine that is now a museum and convention center. The mine itself is open to tours, provided you meet the criteria of small stature and age. I spoke with someone about my size who tried to take the tour and gave it up because the tunnels were small and the temperature was quite hot, about 30C. The buildings are now used for museums, galleries, and restaurants.

But of course, I am here to hang with my Saab buddies from around Yurp. Right off the bat I run into a familiar group from Austria. As I approach the parking area to look at the cars as they arrive, an older gentleman walks up and says “Hi.” I am taken aback because I did not expect to see any other Americans, much less one from Barnes, Wisconsin. Ingemar Ekstrom is familiar to me because he owns a semi-restored Saab Sonett V4. He purchased the car from Bob Adams, the dealer in Albert Lea, MN, about 10 years back. He played host to a German couple at the 1999 U.S. Saab Owners National Convention, so they are returning the favor. Throughout the day the Saab faithful arrive and get signed in, then most head off to their motels or campgrounds. At the Welcoming Dinner, all gather in the dining hall for … pancakes? Yes, pancakes, though they are not like the fluffy buttermilk variety we are used to at diners all over the Hew-Hess-Hay, but more like crepes. The fillings are also odd to Americans; a choice of bacon and onion or sausage and sauerkraut, with apple or cherry filling for dessert.

I was fortunate to catch a ride back to the Jungendenberge with a British family that was camping nearby. Mark and Trudi Hodges are among several dozen Sabbists who choose to travel on the cheap by tenting along the way. There are also several “caravans”, camping trailers pulled by all manner of Saabs. I chatted with a Dutch couple who pull a tent-style trailer behind their Saab 96-V4. It has been modified for hauling the additional load by punching the engine out to 1800cc (from the standard 1700cc) and installing a Weber carburetor for more power. Those with newer Saabs trail house trailer style caravans up to 20 feet in length without a problem.

A "bullnose" Saab 95

Photo copyright 2005 by Tim Winker

Saturday is the Grand Display, with hundreds of Saabs from all over Europe. Though it is billed as the “International” Saab Clubs Meeting, it is better described as the European Saab Clubs Meet. Other than that, it is much like the SONC, though without the dozens of tech sessions that consume so much time at the U.S. meets. There is a “Farmers’ Market” of Saab parts and accessories, with the emphasis on peripheral goodies like miniatures and posters. I have brought several posters that have been gathering dust in my basement and manage to bring in about 200 euro. Of course I have to spend a little of it on some items that I just must have for my shelves.

Intermittent rain puts a damper on activities throughout the weekend, but the rains are generally short and the sun dominates most of the time. Those who take a test drive in one of the new 9-3 convertibles usually get to drive with the top down.

A German brass band entertains the Saab visitors for awhile in the afternoon, though I found their first musical choice to be rather odd… Anchors Aweigh.

There is a Saturday afternoon meeting for representatives of all the European clubs and I am invited to observe as the U.S. rep. Since I am no longer active in the SCNA, I can’t really speak for the club, but can at least listen in. They have scheduled their annual events through 2008, while the U.S. clubs can’t seem to plan more than a year ahead for their conventions.

The grand dinner and awards are on Saturday evening, with a two-piece combo called “Piano Cocktail” plays light jazz for your dancing pleasure. The evening ends with presentation of gifts to the chairman of this year’s meet by representatives of the other clubs.

Sunday is reserved for tours of the Essen area, with several routes available, each with a different theme. Since I am without car, I visit the Red Dot Design Awards museum on the Zollverein grounds. It is full of remarkable design and engineering items that make everyday living a little easier. Among the items on display are kitchen appliances and utensils, computers and associated devices, cell phones, furniture, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, power tools, and machines for particular industries.

One more lunch of a hearty German soup, and we must say our good-bys. There are plenty of the usual “until next year” and “you must come visit”.

I have been invited to an evening at the home of Klaus and Anna Weissbauer, and Klaus has asked me to drive his Saab 96-V4 to his home as he will be driving his Sonett-V4. I am apprehensive, after all the car is not familiar to me, nor are the local rules-of-the-road. We get there without incident, thankfully. Several couples have been invited for a light dinner and socializing, and we have a lovely time. Late in the evening, Klaus drops me at a nearby motel called “Formule 1”, a no-frills place with a room rate of 28 euro (about $35). It is owned by the same company that owns the Motel 6 chain in the U.S.

My Saab adventures are over for this trip. Now it’s off to Recklinghausen to see if I can locate any references to the Borgmann and Schurman families.

(posted 12 Aug 2005)

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