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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The first Two Stroke Saab. The Ursaab/Saab 92

From the Saab Museum in Trollhatten, Sweden. Amazingly this prototype is still in working order today

Aircraft Company, Saab, realised as World War II came to a close, the market for Military
Aircraft which had been their bread and butter for so long, was also ending.
They had been manufacturing Aircraft since 1937, when the company was set up for
specifically that purpose by the Goverment.
Their first Planes were copies of German models that they built under license.
Shortly after this, they began to make their own aircraft and quickly obtained a
reputation for making high quality, fast planes.

They knew that in order to survive financially, they had to diversify into other things.
They considered many things including, Fitted Kitchens, Motorcycles, Cars, Vans and
Trucks.
Most of these fields already had established manufacturers in Sweden already, lIke
Scania for Trucks and Volvo for Cars.
Saab realised though that Volvo cars were quite pricey and what Sweden needed was a
small, affordable and reliable car for families and people of average means.
So, Saab sought to develop such a car and fill a niche in the marketplace.

This project was given the name 'Project 92' and twenty people were recruited to develop it.
Out of these twenty, about fifteen were Aircraft Engineers.
Stylist Sixten Sason  was responsible for designing the body of the car, and
Engineer Gunnar Ljungström was the brain behind the technical aspects.

All two stroke Saabs had a freewheel fitted and all were water-cooled.

The Ursaab

A 1:10 scale model Ursaab was tested in a wind tunnel  and gave a drag coefficient of 0.32,
an impressive figure even by today's standards.
Ursaab is Swedish for 'original Saab'.
The body drawings were completed by January 1946 and a full sized model was ready by
April of the same year, reputedly coated in black boot polish!
(whether there's any truth to this, I don't know.)
Although nowadays, the beautiful styling of this car is apparent to all lovers of classic
cars, at the time there was a mixed reaction to the styling and it came in for quite a bit
of criticism and trepidation on the part of Saab's own management team.
Engineer Ljungstrom said "...if it can save 100 litres of fuel a year, it doesn't matter if it looks
 like a frog."
This first prototype was given the number 92/001 and was made using a steel body,
an 18hp DKW two stroke engine, an Auto-Union fuel tank and many other parts were
sourced from scrap yards.
The car was front wheel drive, with a  monocoque body, which was very unusual and
advanced for it's time in the 1940's. The styling and sleek aerodynamic lines show it's
Aviation inspired pedigree.
Saab have always been considered to have been a little bit different and unconventional
from the norm of Car makers( at least until they were taken over in modern times by Gm).
The prototype was ready by the end of the Summer, 1946 and was immediately tested
night and day under the most rigorous conditons.

The testing showed ways in which the car needed to be improved.
One of the problems encountered was that the car's wheels were too close
to the bodywork and would get easily clogged up with snow in Winter.
It was decided also that the doors were too thick, heavy and impractical.
Otherwise the car stood up remarkably well to the rigours of it's testing.
One Swedish newspaper of the time, reported that Ursaab had "...defied all efforts
 of its driver to destroy it." (Over 50 years later, this Car can still be seen in the
Saab Museum in Trollhatten, Sweden and is still in full working order.)

There were three of these identical prototypes used for testing and between
them clocked up over 530,000 km- equivalent to thirteen journeys around the
world to ensure thorough testing under every known driving condition.

Any colour as long as it's green, baby!. Rear shot of 1951 car.


In 1947, their factory in Trollhatten was adapted for mass production to
build this car. They had to bust a hole in the roof to install a tall body
stamping press.

Further pre-production prototypes were tested and it wasn't until June, 1949 that
the Saab 92 was launched to the Public and Press.
Full scale production started in December of that year and  1246 cars were
made by the end of 1950.
All of these 1950 cars were painted in Green, similar to Henry Ford's mantra of
any colour as long as it's black,albeit green in this case.
An unsubstantiated rumour is that the Saab had vast stocks of this paint left
over from their manufacture of military planes and used it as a cost cutting measure,
which I believe is highly probable.
Only 17% of the Saab 92 was made from imported materials.


1947 Saab 92


Saab 92  1950-52

They managed to produce around 9000 cars in the first four years of production, yet
waiting lists were large, such was the demand for the car.
The Saab 92's engine was similar to the Ursaab prototype, of DKw origin but with a
higher power output of 25hp and a displacement of 764cc, with water-cooling.
This was a two cylinder engine, very similar to the one that would later power the forerunner
to the Trabant, the Zwickau P70 and was also transversely mounted.
So typical of Dkw engines, the radiator sat behind the engine, close to the bulkhead.
It had a three speed gearbox with a column change.
It's maximum speed was 105 kmph(62.5 mph), which was excellent performance for these
times from such a small engine.
The suspension was extremely clever and I think, anyway, heavily influenced by Dkw, and
utilised torsion bars.
The boot could only be opened from inside the car, making it not very practical.
The car had a 6 volt electrical system.
It's fuel-mixing ratio, petrol to two stroke oil was 25:1.

Saab 92 De-luxe, 1951.


The only change Saab made to the 92 in 1951, was the dashboard instruments were
changed from the American 'Stewart-Warner' type to the German Vdo brand.
It's not clear why this was change was implemented. I suspect the VDO were easier
obtained and probably more cost effective.


Saab continued to update this car and make many improvements with subsequent models, 93,95, and the Saab 96 for a time, was the last one to use Dkw two stroke power until 1967 when a v4 Ford engine was implemented and two stroke Saab production ended.
The Two stroke Saab's had remarkable success on the World Rally circuit with many, many victories and successes.
Famous Rally driver Erik Carlsson in particular had many big wins to his credit.


1951 Saab 92 Interior.





The 1st People's Car from Japan. Two stroke Subaru 360:

Subaru 360:  1958- 1971

1958 Subaru 360


With it's engine of just 360cc, you might consider this to be in the microcar class, but
this car did provide room for 4 passengers, albeit small ones and also produced
commercial versions, a flat bed truck and panel van.
Furthermore, the Subaru was an excellently engineered car.
 It was the first car mass produced car to be made by the company.
It's cute styling and shape earned it the nickname 'ladybird'.
It looks a little like the Beetle and also the Fiat 500 of the time.

360 engine


Whilst Dkw, the Pioneers of Two stroke technology, also made their cars front wheel drive,
Subaru followed the VW Beetle with a rear wheel drive, rear engined layout that was also
mounted transversely. Like the Beetle it was also air cooled.
The car taxation policy in Japan at the time ruled that cars with engines of less than
360cc displacement qualified for the lowest taxation bracket, called the Kei class.
The reason this low tax incentive existed was to ease the congestion in Japan's cities
that was growing at an alarming rate. The Kei class was implemented in 1955.
In addition to the engine restriction, to qualify, there were also dimension restraints to
comply with.
Cars had to be no longer than 9 feet, 10 inches.
Owers of K class vehicles were also permitted to park their cars overnight in city
streets, which was forbidden at the time to all other vehicles.

Subaru Sambar Flat bed truck


The Subaru 360 came in at just under 9 feet, 6 inches ( 2990mm) and 356cc, so
it was clearly designed to fit into this class.
It's tiny engine was pretty powerful for these times and the 2 stroke unit developed
16 Hp in its initial format. This added to a low body weight of around 1000 lbs made
the car perform remarkably well given its small engine.

Top speed was 60 mph and it was claimed by Subaru that the car was capable
of returning up to 65 mpg. ( my own feeling here is that the car was undoubtedly
economical, but not to the tune of Subaru's claims)
The decision to use a 2 stroke engine must have been an easy one, given that
two strokes pack twice as much power into the same space as four strokes, and
are also lighter, simpler and cheaper to make.
A four stroke engine of just 360cc would've been a lot slower.

The Subaru was a one piece, monocoque construction which was still unusual and
pretty forward thinking in 1958.
Early models needed their 2 stroke oil premixed with the fuel, of which the fuel cap
doubled as an oil measuring cup
Later models had the 'Subarumatic' automatic oil mixing  lubrication system.
This appears to have been more successful and somewhat simpler than the ill-fated
system made by Dkw in 1961.

Subaru Sambar Minibus



The 360 despite the negative press it got in the Usa, was a well engineered and competent
car that enabled the fledgling Subaru company to get a foothold in the world of car manufacturing.
It spawned a Kei class 'War' that saw rival companies such as Honda and Daihatsu build
alternatives that were spawned on the success of the 360.
What set the Subaru apart and makes it so commendable is the fact that the car was designed
exclusively in-house, from its styling to its mechanics. For a manufacturer new to car making,
it was an excellent achievement. Most car makers using two stroke engines at the time were
either getting their engines from Dkw or had copied Dkw's designs.
In the Post-War period that existed in Japan, there was little innovation and much copying.
This was due to both lack of money for development and a lack of technical expertise.
What the Japanese  became famous for was for first copying or adopting technology,
 then improving it over time.

Interior view of the Subaru 360


To put Subaru's accomplishment in making the 360 into perspective, at the time of the
360's inception, Nissan were producing Austin A50's in Japan under license.
Isuzu and Hino were doing the same with the Hillman Minx and Renault 4CV respectively.
All of these companies would eventually thrive with designs of their own, but not until
later and after they had ' cut their teeth' in manufacturing 'old' Western designs.

1950's Japan was desperately rebuilding itself ( like Europe) after WWII.
Most people couldn't afford a new car, only a motorcycle or Scooter.
The 360 bridged that gap and enabled people in the market for a two wheeler, to buy
a proper car for the first time, such was its competitive pricing.
In this sense, the 360 was the first genuine people's car of Japan.

1967 Subaru 360




Friday, May 20, 2011

Great car, the 311

Having had the car out a few times and over 300 km of driving, I can say that the 311 is a super car.
There's not a rattle from anywhere on the car and the handling is brilliant on corners, thanks to the leaf spring suspension, without the body roll that afflicts the Wartburgs 312 and 353.
Wartburg 311's were actually imported into Ireland before the Uk, in the late 1950's or early 60's.
Very little information exists on this and they were only imported into Ireland for a short time and were not big sellers.
I believe that mine is currently the only 311 on the road in Ireland.

Having had 2 x 353's, I can say that the 311 is a far better car with a much better build quality than the 353.
Although they share mechanical similarities under the bonnet, the 311 oozes class and with its sleek body lines and curved panels and glass,  it's no surprise that the same workforce that assembled this car used to make luxury Bmw's in the same Eisenach factory. To compare the fit and finish of the bodywork seams and panels, between the 2 cars is like night and day.

For a car first made in 1955/56 the 311 must have been years ahead of contemporary competition as they drive so well and are not difficult to manoeuvre. Visibility for an old car is also very good.
I doubt anything that Dkw were producing of the same era was as good, which is praise indeed, given that the Wartburg's mechanicals owe so much to the former.

The only downside to the 311 compared to the 353 is that it requires more maintenance, namely the many greasing points that must be regularly addressed. But, that's a small price to pay for such a wonderful classic and all 50's and 60's cars usually have them.
Interestingly some early 311's were fitted with a central lubrication system that the driver activated periodically with his foot to pump grease into the required points. I wonder why they later discontinued this system, whether drivers were neglecting to do it or it became problematic, I don't know.

My car has been retrimmed at some point with white leather seats. Whether they were originally leather or cloth is anyones guess as they came in both. The seats are reminiscent of classic French cars as they're softly sprung and comfortable.
The large steering wheel is a lovely feature,a s is the column gear change whose ratio's operate in nearly the exact opposite to that of the Trabant. 1st on the Trabbi is in and down, whereas it's in and up on the 311 and so on.

There's a battery isolation switch under the dash which is a lovely feature which will not only stop someone from stealing the car but also eliminates the need to disconnect the battery from the terminals when laying the car up for a time.
Another nice feature is the foot operated dip switch for the headlights, which I'd never seen before.

The car has electronic ignition and an electric fuel pump fitted, so makes it much more suitable for regular driving, not to mention more reliable.

There's a nice original 'Stern' radio fitted to the car that works.

The chrome on the car is practically perfect, the last owner having sourced 'new, old stock' chrome from Germany and fitted it which is a real bonus due to the high cost of re-chroming and the copious amounts of it that this car possesses.

I gave the car a wash and wax after getting it home and the bodywork is in really excellent condition.
The car isn't concours but it's in superb condition throughout.

The spares package that I bought with the car is also brilliant. I can't list everything that came with the car as the list is exhausting, but the main items are:

*spare 311 engine which is free and compression is evident. It's also a factory replacement engine, made in 1979, which has seen some use but looks very fresh and almost new.*

* spare gearbox*

* 2 spare drive shafts*

*full new exhaust system*

* a spare front and rear windscreen*

* the original side-draught  carburettor that was on the car*

*Brake cylinders*

* spare dashboard*

311's are becoming very rare in good condition and fetching big money these days, even in Germany which is usually the only place to get one. You sometimes see the odd one in Poland come on the market, but they're getting thinner on the ground with each passing year. Some part's too are now difficult, not to mention very expensive when available.