Our Mintex ride

By Classic Yorkshire columnist Mike Cowlam

Ian Clark is the owner of the Saab 96 V4 that we will be using on the 2022 Mintex recreation event.  Whilst we all love the Escort and the Mini, they are, well, just a bit common.  The uniqueness of the Saab always attracts lots of attention and its association with one of the world’s greatest rally drivers (Stig Blomqvist) just adds to that appeal.  Ian has built the car as a replica of Stig’s car in which he twice won (amongst others) the Swedish Rally. A Saab 96 was also driven by one of Yorkshires top rally drivers Jack Tordoff in the early part of his rallying career. 

Jack Tordoff’s Saab 96 in the original Mintex Rally
Ian Clarks Saab 96 on the Mintex recreation.

The 96 was the first Saab to be exported to the UK and was an unusual new car purchase favoured by architects and dentists.  It was manufactured between 1960 and 1980 with 547 221 cars built. The 96 featured aerodynamic two-door bodywork, four-passenger seating and at first a two-stroke, three-cylinder engine, later a four-stroke V4.

In 1967, Saab launched the 96 V4, with the Ford Taunus V4 four-stroke 1498 cc engine. Cars from the first year of production had engines with “Ford Motor Company” stampings.  The V4 96 managed 0–100 km/h in 16 seconds and featured column mounted transmission with synchromesh on the first gear. With the coming of the V4 engine, models were fitted with front front disc brakes.

The Saab 96 was driven most by Erik Carlsson and his most famous successes were first in the 1960, 1961 and 1962 RAC Rallies and first in the 1962 and 1963 Monte Carlo Rallies. It was these successive, top-level victories that put the Saab 96 ‘on the map’ and established its reputation for reliability and toughness.

Ian’s Saab was built in 1973 and was acquired in 2014 from a scrapyard saving it from a crushing end.  From the start it was planned as a recreation of the Stig Blomqvist car, making it eligible to run with the Rallying History who organise events for period rally cars or ex works recreations.

First step was to strip the car so that the bodywork could be repaired and strengthened.   Once completed the shell was painted Torreador red, the colour used by the works teams.  After the shell was completed it was transferred to Malbrad of Huddersfield who are well known specialists for the 96.  Not only do they know the 96 inside out, they also have a substantial stock of spares which can be difficult to acquire.  Malbrad are also experienced in racing and rallying having prepared a number of customers cars for competition.

Malbrad rebuilt the engine with a 1700 crank, new pistons, rally camshaft, new cylinder heads (for unleaded fuel), weber carbs and a high pressure oil pump.  The suspension was rebuilt with new springs and Bilstein shocks.  A sump guard was made for the car and all the rallying equipment, fire extinguisher, kill switch, rev counter, spot lamp brackets, bonnet pins and bulkhead fire proofing was added.

The final job was to reproduce the stickers from a photograph of Stig’s car.  The only way to tell Ian’s car from the real thing is that Ian’s car is right hand drive.  Whilst the option was available to switch the steering wheel over, it was decided to keep it right hand drive to make driving in the Uk easier.

The car was completed on the 21st September 2017 and was taken from the MOT bay straight to Castle Coombe for an appointment with Stig Blomqvist.    Stig drove the car enthusiastically and gave it his seal of approval by autographing the door card. 

Ian takes his car to local shows as well as the events organised by Rallying History.  On April 8th and 9th Ian will drive the on the Mintex with Classic Yorkshire columnist, Mike Cowlam in the navigators seat.


One thought on “Our Mintex ride

  1. Hi Mike great article, looking forward to April 8/9th. In Harrogate.It has been quite some time since the cat was last out on an event, mainly due to Covid but it’s always good to get these ageing cars out now and again and give them a run, after all that’s why they were built. I’m looking forward to Harrogate. My favourite motor sport film is the 1971 RAC RALLY, “From Harrogate It Started” which was won by ex World Rally Champion Stig Blomqvist in his Saab 96. It featured the very famous Special Stage at Esholt, Bradford . The weather was icy and the organisers had hired divers stationed by the settlement tanks just in case one of the cars slid in. Although Esholt will not feature as one of the stages this time I feel the 2022 Mintex Rally will be my own From Harrogate it Started. Ian Clark.


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