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Topless fun with a Swede

Sam Burnett on why his Saab convertible is brilliant.


I recently fulfilled a long-held dream and bought a convertible. A Saab convertible, in fact. It was more of an impulse purchase than anything I might have carefully planned, because if I'd stopped to think about it I would have run screaming (for the bus stop).

It's a ridiculous machine really -- old enough to vote, for goodness' sake. A drop-top from a country where the average highs hover around freezing for five months of the year. The insurance premium is three times higher than anything I've had to pay before and it gets through fuel like a NASA space launch.

It has to be said, though, that it's a great feeling to have the wind in your hair. You might think that you could replicate this feeling simply by opening the windows, but there's something more to it than simple hair rufflage. You experience the flies in your face, too. That happened the other day; I drove through a cloud of midges at 30mph. It was carnage; I had to stop and clean my glasses. And an awful lot of leaves end up in the footwell around autumn time, too.

Passengers in my new car have to be constantly prepared to feel the fresh air on their faces. I must tell you, it's always been a belief of mine that it should be law that whenever it is sunny (well, not raining), anyone driving a convertible should have to put the roof down. There's something whimsical and smug about the pleasure you get from al fresco driving, gazing around you at all the chumps in their boring cars at the lights. It can be difficult to use some of the more fiddly controls with ski gloves on, though.

One thing I wasn't prepared for was the lack of stiffness. The car wobbles like a massage chair as you go round corners, and I shy away from hard cornering in case the car breaks in two. The torque-steer is quite impressive, too -- hit the accelerator in second with a spooled-up turbo and the front end weaves around like it's looking for a field to throw itself into.

These aren't flaws, though; rather they are endearing character traits. Reasons to love the thing even more. For instance, I could get annoyed by the ceaseless rumbling from the tyres and suspension, but driving over cat's eyes on the motorway reminds me of the exploding bolts in "Das Boot" when the submarine is stuck on the seabed. I feel more connected with the world around me because the hood barely filters any sound at all. If it did I would miss the grumbly parpy sound the exhaust makes when I come off the gas and the rally car roar as the needle approaches the red line.

Sure, the massive wheel is like steering a boat and the body rolls like you're in one, but all of these quirks add up to something with far more character than anything you can buy today. This is a car with life experience. And where else could I carry three passengers in cracked leathery comfort?