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A floating Saab 96

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The perfect weather, lots of spectators, fun and the perfect waves rounded off the event around the "RED BULL RAPIDS".
And in the middle of the participants is a small group of SAAB fans with their SAAB 96 boat. With a lot of time and effort they finally created their boat and had a lot of fun. Just the right thing for us and therefore asked for a small interview about the creation.

Can you tell me something about your person?
I’m Matej from Slovakia and as expected I’m a SAAB fan. And it helped me to rally friends for the crazy plan to join the Red Bull Rapids event. As it was a team effort from the start, here is the team:

  • Andrej, the designer, who also lived with SAABs for the longest of us all. The final shape is his work.
  • Michal, who sacrificed parts of his workshop, breaks and free time to help build it.
  • Tomas who is another skilled and experienced builder. With Michal they were the strong men in the front.
  • Marek who helped organizing. He was riding in the back with me, helping to steer.
  • Milan and his dad who were the key players for the lamination process
  • and musicians Margita & Besna, without these girls we would not have show at the race day.

How did you come up with the idea to participate with a SAAB 96?
As somebody who spent quite some time on internet I knew of these Red Bull events and when it was coming to our city I wanted to take part. At that time our small group of SAAB fans was regularly meeting for small talk over a beer or two, a time where crazy ideas come up and fall into oblivion. This one did survive to the next day and slowly evolved from a SAAB looking shape cover for glued barrels to a fully laminated bullnose 96 look alike. To be honest the exact decision on model unknown (hint, beers), but the shape just lends itself to floating down a river, upside down of course. Then we focused on the story of 50th anniversary of Rally Monte Carlo win and it helped to finalize the specific look.

How long did it take to build the boat? Do you still have photos of the construction of the ship?
It was 3 weeks from the purchase of the first building materials (OSB & Styrofoam) to the race day, when even the night before we were still applying decorations. The first week was about preparations and making of the core from OSB panels. Second week was about gluing approximately shaped 10cm thick slices of Styrofoam and then grinding them to final shape. First half of third week was when the laminating process was done and rest was for painting, testing and such.

How were the reactions to the SAAB boat?
Compared to the other competitors who were going for the ‘cool factor’, we were not getting the most attention form the crowd. But displaying the SAABull with the wheels down, most people were intrigued on how we are going to ride that thing down the whitewater canal. We left the surprise of the “På Taket“ roll for the show on the starting ramp.
Of course the local SAAB fans were lot more excited. We have an annual event called SAAB Session Slovakia and we took it there the same year (2012). Kids were pushing it there and back and generally enjoying it. The next year we took it with us again, that year one of the activities was a rafting on a local river, so of course we took SAABull for a ride. The local guides were quite intrigued as they never saw anything like that going down ‘their river’.
We also got an article in UK Saab Enthusiast Magazine.

Does someone from your team drive a real SAAB 96?
Unfortunately no, but of course if anybody of us would be looking for a classic the bullnose SAAB 96 would be high in the list.

Did you win? What placement did you have?
The biggest prize was that we endured and finished barely on time. And that all the calculations were right and SAABull survived. As these Red Bull events go, the show and cool factor are valued a lot and we did not really prioritize those compared to technical aspect. Once we were in the water, delayed by the security officer not allowing us to push start our ~500kg heavy fully laden boat down the ramp, we were one of the fastest.

What happened to the boat? Where is the boat today? Are you still using the boat?
SAABull still exists, currently having the honor to be a decoration in a friend’s independent car workshop. We haven’t took it to water for some years partly because we don’t have the VW Transporter that it was made to fit and it would also need patching up of some dents from hitting the rocks head on. Right now it is displayed with those battle scars for the full effect.

Despite not winning any prize, 2012 was a great year for the team around Matej.
True to the motto "Taking part is what counts".


Saturday, 15th September 2012 from 15:00 to 18:00h

Areal Divoká Voda, Cunovo (Slowakia)

Red Bull Rapids