Neat! And amazingly, it appears that this building is still standing – Google StreetView screenshot below, and the link is here:
It seems that Thomas S. Kenny Saab only lasted for a few years – it was gone by the late 1970s. St. Louis wasn’t exactly Saab Country in the 1970s.
This building itself is very similar to that of the Saab dealer near where I grew up in Suburban Philadelphia – similar size, with one or two cars in a small showroom, plus a service facility. And oddly, I remember that Philadelphia Saab dealer had a blue Sonett on display in the showroom well into the 1980s.
Though there’s no sign of life at that building now, it looks to be part of the same complex as the building to the right of it visible in the Google link, with the same style of green awning. I guess I could call Adams Iron (building to the left, with phone number on it) if I was curious enough and ask what that building is used for now, if anything.
Good point. Looking into it further, I see that it’s all one parcel.
Thomas S. Kenny operated a used car dealership on this site before he acquired the Saab franchise, and below is an aerial image from the 1960s. It looks to have been used as a single site back then too – cars are parked across the full frontage, though there doesn’t seem to be much activity or vehicle storage on the back part of the site.
Seems that the dealership quit operating in 1976 or ’77.
I was able to find a picture online of the Philadelphia-area Saab dealership showroom I mentioned above . This picture is from 1977, and that’s the Sonnett I remember – the Sonnett stayed in the showroom for at least another decade afterwards.
@Eric703, Victor Saab, in Glenside! Do you remember the salty service manager, a Ukrainian named Steve Kuznir? 🙂
Yes, Victor Saab! I don’t remember the salty service manager, but I do remember one of the parts counter guys, I think his name was Norm, and he was a musician in addition to being a parts guy. At one point I bought a CD from his band – it was pretty good, though I doubt I still have it.
Owing to the lack of 5MPH bumpers on the Sonetts, they are 1972 models at latest. I suppose they could be leftover models and the photo was taken later, though. But assuming the photo dates from ’72, I see there were both Vega and Maverick buyers who were so fed up with their cars that they traded them in on new SAABs.
The first 500 1973 Sonetts did not have the 5MPH bumpers. Since they weren’t required until 1 Jan. 1973, early models didn’t need them. The metal grilles on the 99’s and 5 MPH bumpers should make them 1972 models. I could be wrong- perhaps the first 99 with plastic grills were the 1973 EMS models. I’ll have to check.
“I see there were both Vega and Maverick buyers who were so fed up with their cars that they traded them in on new SAABs.”
Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Pre-1975 US-market 99s were beyond problematic. K-Jetronic EMS models probably approached Maverick dependability.
Maverick and Vega owners couldn’t afford a SAAB.
I owned a Vega in 1977 and shopped a Saab 99 EMS. I didn’t like it. Ironically, I test drove it at the dealership that was then in my current home town, a town which used to have every domestic make and quite a few European dealerships, but now only has Ford and Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Ram, and all Japanese except Mazda; only VW of the Europeans and no Korean.
The dollar hadn’t been flushed down the toilet yet in 1972. You could still buy a Saab 96 in the US in 1972, and for $2,595. Meanwhile, although the Vega started at a lower price, by the time you added an interior, a 2-barrel carburetor, and a 4-speed instead of a 3-speed; you were well above that figure.
Why not ? You hadn’t have to be a millionaire to fetch a SAAB from the dealer’s second hand lot, I think.
I didn’t know a vinyl roof was ever available on 99s.
By the earliest I remember, mid to late ’70s, these sorts of small dealerships were nearly gone in the suburbs and cities I lived near. I don’t recall any standalone Saab dealers; Saab (and other smaller imports) were always handled by a dealer whose main line was something else (exception: one multi-brand dealer that put up a separate modern Saab building a few years before Saab failed). There were still some of these small buildings (even for major brands like Ford) in more sparsely populated areas for decades after that. Even the small city I bought my 2007 VW in had a small, old 1950s-looking building until they moved to a vastly larger new building in a different area in the 2010s; the old building became their used-car sales building, and now is used just for administrators or something else, no sign on it anymore.
The vinyl roof was never a SAAB offering. Certainly, our town and likely most towns, had a business that offered aftermarket add-ons. Vinyl tops were a popular addition up until perhaps, the mid-80’s. A close friend had a business that did tops, aftermarket stereos and luggage racks.
Bruce in StL it was Auto Air Company on the south side. They did sunroofs and those “special edition” packages for dealerships that included stuff like the vinyl top and tape stripes. Back then I guess A/C as well, before it was standard equipment. Oh and the fake roadster tops on Caddys and Lincolns. I guess times have changed because their location seems to be a carwash now….
Oh yeah they did. Bringing back some vague memories. Their sunroofs were of the “pop-up” variety. Super cheap looking and prone to leaks.
Some day I will write my Saab St—no,NOT using that tired cliche—entry. My first of 2 looked like the blue 99. What strikes me and moved me to write was the hideous and inappropriate vinyl roof on the white one. I know there are a number of people in our community who like vinyl roofs… I am not one; to me it is a useless addition that pretends to be something it’s not..a car toupee if you will. (Although I admit to being charmed by the Mopar mod tops.) In this case, I would think even the vinyl aficionados would agree that this is a pretty bad application. Coupled with the rally inspired? saab stripe on the bottom it really does NOT work. I would venture. This was a U.S. dealer installed option or did they do this abomination in Europe to.
Living in Europe since the first breath I took, I have never seen something like this on a SAAB (though there was a small number of vinyl roofed Volvo 240s in some countries, esp. Italy and Britain).
Speaking of the Mopar ModTops, my mom had a friend who drove a Saab 99 with a paisley-patterned vinyl roof. This was a brown 99 two door model with the trunk with a brownish color roof. This was in the 70s, so bad taste reigned supreme but even this was extraordinarily tacky in my pre-pubescent opinion.
I have been in StL my entire life, so since 1970. I have zero recollection of this dealer but grew up (and currently work) within a couple minutes of Suntrup West County Volvo, which I am pretty sure also offered SAAB when I was a kid.
I also recall Debrecht Imports (Datsun) in a smaller Spanish looking building just down Manchester Rd from them, now long gone in the name of progress (Best Buy and Walmart and a furniture store).
I was born a bit too late for it but how cool would it have been to be out shopping for new cars and get to drive brand new 240Zs and Sonnets….
I did come home from the hospital in Dad’s almost new dark green 2 door Volvo (stick with brown tweed interior). In later years we bought others from that dealer, a PRV V6 GLE in gold and a Turbo 244 in brown (yechh), about a 1984.
Thos. Kenny really missed the boat as SAAB sales skyrocketed in the ’80s with the 900 then the 900T. The decline started after GM’s buyout and their resulting neglect and adulteration, they just didn’t know what to do with it, and sadly we all know how that ended.
Our SAAB history is extensive, starting with the 1st car I bought with my own money in the Summer of ’71 when a ’67 3 cyl 96 became my daily driver. Traded on a new 99 in Feb 74 followed by ’77 99, multiple 900s, including an ’87 that we still have in Vermont, a 2 9000s. Both sons are also SAAB fans, and all told in the family we’ve had 12 of them. One son still has an 2003 9-5 that he uses as a summer driver, and a ’07 9-3 Aero wagon winter car, and a ’99 9-3 he heavily modified and autocrossed The other still has his 1st car bought almost 20 yrs ago, an ’82 Turbo, now a hobby car.
btw that SCCA number was chosen intentionally, as you might have guessed! lol
I got my first car, a ’68 Saab 95 V4, in St. Louis in 1971. I had it serviced at Splisgardt Automotive on Manchester Road, who had the franchise at the time. I left St. Louis at the end of 1971. I later heard that Splisgardt no longer had the Saab franchise but was still around as an independent garage.
Those Saab 99’s:
1. They looked streamlined, but then, they weren’t.
2. They didn’t look streamlined ….. yet they were.
I guess that means, transitional styling.
DeBrecht became Mallory Nissan SAAB as I recall, bought a Nissan Stanza from them 1989ish. They were in Webster Groves as I recall.
I’m old enough to remember the successful SAAB dealer in Lansing Illinois. Their first garage and showroom looked similar, but imported cars in Blue Collar South Chicagoland is a winner and within a decade – they were sporting a state-of-the-art showroom and garage near River Oaks in Calumet City, just a block from Chicago itself.
SAABs were a favorite of my father’s and he used to visit them on his day’s off now and then to see how they were doing. He played around with getting a SAAB, but could only afford Beetles he bought from them. SAABS were out of his price range.
I tried to locate a photo of the dealership, but the entire region has been completely rebuilt – everything is different. It is about as gone as SAABs themselves.
We bought our only new car ever in the entire family in 1969. It was a white 96 V4 right off the showroom floor at Rod’s SAAB dealership in Gardner, Massachusetts. I believe it was “Rod’s Auto Electric” before he got the SAAB franchise. His given name was evidently Carl “Rood” with some dots over the o’s, and it was a Scandinavian name as I recall. He ran the show, and his elderly mother was the accountant/bookkeeper/paymaster/receptionist. He was genuinely passionate about SAABs, and his test drive bore that out. He did everything from driving up over an 8″ curb diagonally, to driving up a steep dirt embankment, to swerving violently from side to side on an untraveled section of roadway, all to demonstrate the superiority of front wheel drive, and the stability of the car. The easy to use three point harness held us in, and the car did amazing things. Our ’65 6 cylinder 3 speed Falcon would have incinerated its clutch climbing that curb! He then got out and boosted himself up to sit on the top of the window frame of the driver’s door which he said would have bent the competitors’ door hinges as he bounced up and down (and he was no featherweight.) All in all, a compelling presentation which led to a $2300 sale (including an upgrade to Pirelli radial tires.) A Maverick on bias ply tires was $1995 without the additional fees, so the two were probably very comparable in price, and far inferior to the SAAB. We drove that car for many years and replaced it with two more as rust consumed them out from under us, and used them for everything from commuting to boondocking into fishing and hunting spots. With FWD, 15″ tires and the relatively flat belly pan, only a Jeep would go further than we did, with reasonable care. They were truly wonderful cars and great in snow, too. In their declining years, my parents wouldn’t drive anything but a 96 and both gave up driving when the last 96 we had couldn’t be made to pass inspection. Carl Rod didn’t overstate the virtues of SAABs. He evidently was noticed by the American SAAB distribution organization in Georgia (I believe) and was invited to headquarters to work for them. Without him, and due to changing times, the dealership quickly faded and closed, and there isn’t any sign remaining of it today. You could not have had a better new car buying experience, nor a better service facility, than Rod’s.Those were the days….
If the test drive had freaked you out, that would have indicated that it wasn’t the car for you.
There is definitely some distortion at the right edge of the photograph, almost like what you’d get with an iPhone, which obviously did not exist in the seventies. A wide angle lens perhaps? I think we’ve discussed this phenomenon here before.
The burnt orange Vega looks like a Nova out there on the edge… the only way I could tell it was the smaller car is by the headlight, skinny bumper, and the wheels.
The two sporty cars (sorry… I don’t know my SAABS, other than the 900-xxx cars) appear to be the same model and year, and yet the red one looks wider than the yellow one.
And those SAAB 900 predecessors all look unusually small. No way they’re smaller than a Vega….
The building facade, with three stripe molding, and full hand-lettering, has a 1930s/1940s feel. Very retro, even for 1972. In more recent times, SAAB would not allow the charm of their logo, being hand-painted. They’d supply consistent corporate signage.
‘SAAB’ bodyside striping, in a near identical style to other manufacturers at the time. Including the Jensen-Healey, and Porsche 914. With all caps lettering on a broad black stripe, framed by two thin stripes. Very similar to Maverick Grabber striping. Probably inspired by Mustang striping. As on the Shelby GT500.
Always a lover of Great American Land YACHTS, never could understand what people see in Saabs. Years ago at my local gym another member was relentlessly going on and on, day after day talking about how great Saabs were while the rest of us wanted to get a workout. Finally one afternoon, I stopped another attempt by him by saying, Wait if this is ANOTHER Saab story, no one wants to hear it. 😉 Received round of laughs from others in the gym and that was the LAST we heard about Saab! Still don’t understand what people think is so great about these cars.
Well it’s obvious that you’ve never actually driven one. Opinions are best based on facts and experience… what a concept!
“Finally one afternoon, I stopped another attempt by him by saying, Wait if this is ANOTHER Saab story, no one wants to hear it.”
Yes, it is a liitle bit strange. These SAABists very often drove on the missionary side of the road when it came to cars. Read “A Man Called Ove” and you’ll know what I mean.
They don’t make Great American Land YACHTS anymore. They don’t make Saab’s anymore either. I guess that neither one had a big enough fan base to support them. Game Over.
They don’t make Saabs anymore? Sure they do!
I always admired the optimism of someone who would open a Saab dealership in the midwestern US in the 1960s or early 1970s. Things had to be set up just right for that to become a paying proposition.
Building is still there. It’s on the Rock Rd- cattycorner to Advance Auto Parts. Strange place to locate. It’s a rather working class neighborhood with a Ford or Chevy in the driveway, not the area that I would think would be Saab owner friendly. That is unless they wanted to be close to McDonnell Douglas engineers who might like uniquely engineered cars.
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