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Swedish faithful soldier on to car show, despite rain

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  October 19, 2009 02:46 PM

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(Clifford Atiyeh/

A 1960s-era Volvo 122 wagon sits among dozens of other Volvos and Saabs at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline on Sunday.

BROOKLINE—Even in the biting swirl of cold rain and wind, Peter Maitland was certain the Saab faithful would show up on the drenched, soupy lawn of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum with their cars. For what were they, Volvo owners?

"More likely you get Saab people at an event like this, in this kind of weather," Maitland said, his 1968 Saab 95 station wagon behind him in the muck.

While the museum's annual "Swedish Car Day" usually attracts more than 200 vehicles in fair weather, more than half of the 60 or so cars on Sunday were indeed Saabs (despite sponsorship from both Charles River Saab and Boston Volvo Village). Maitland, who has come for 10 years and won a best in-class award for his powder blue wagon, smirked as he described the two distinct camps of Swedish auto enthusiasts.

"There's a lot of people who just have Volvos," he said. "Most Saab people tend to know a lot more about their car and its heritage than most Volvo people."

But whether Volvo or Saab devotee, the crowd that gathered outside and within the museum were busy gawking and swapping car stories rather than debating a favorite brand.

Most of the stares were fixed on Ralph Bockoven's immaculate 1968 Saab Sonett in the museum's grand hall. Bockoven said he spent five years restoring the fiberglass-bodied coupe after finding it as a heap of parts in Lexington. Only 1,610 were made equipped with an unusual V-4 engine.

"Not to sound like a snob, but when you drive another car, you find yourself saying, 'this just don't feel right,' " he said next to a table covered in original factory manuals and brochures.

Most of the cars - with the exception of a mildly-rusted 1960s Volvo 122 wagon, an early two-door Saab and Maitland's Saab wagon - weren't detailed antiques but late-model examples from the 1990s.

To the casual observer, there's hardly any difference between these conservatively-styled cars, which carry a reputation for prudence and safety rather than extroverted performance. But we found several with aftermarket wheels and exhausts, a Volvo wagon with neon green trim on the grill and mirrors, and a Saab sedan with three racing gauges bolted to the hood and a Grateful Dead oval in place of the Saab logo.

"I don't need a Ferrari, though I can appreciate a Ferrari," Bockoven said. "This is my Ferrari."

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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