Rally Legend Erik Carlsson Celebrates 80th Birthday
Erik Carlsson in 1958|
29th March, 2009
Erik ‘Mr Saab’ Carlsson was 80 years young earlier this
month (5th March) and still employed by Saab, making him the Swedish manufacturer’s longest-serving
As one of international rallying’s first real well-known names, Erik’s career with Saab spans six
decades and today he remains actively involved as an international ambassador for the brand, attending
Saab launches, dealer and customer events around the world.
The names of Carlsson and Saab are inextricably bound together. Born and bred in Saab’s home town
of Trollhättan, Sweden, Erik first sprang to fame in the early Sixties, as ‘the big man in a little
car’, taking two back-to-back victories in the Monte Carlo Rally (1962-63) and a hat-trick of wins in
the British RAC Rally (1960-62). His ‘David and Goliath’ exploits against more powerful cars were the
springboard for launching Saab as a global car brand.
As a young boy, Erik used to stand on the perimeter of the local airfield in Trollhättan and admire
the aerobatics of Saab aircraft flying overhead. Little did he know that Saab would soon start
manufacturing cars, and that he would play such a key role in promoting its products.
He bought his first car, a second-hand Saab 92, in 1955 and it was a development of this car, the
Saab 96, which took him to his most famous rally victories. Over the years, he has driven thousands
of Saab cars and been involved in the development and testing of many of the models. There is probably
no man on the planet who has driven more Saabs than Erik.
He currently drives a Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi and, in celebration of his 80th birthday, Saab
Switzerland launched an uprated ‘Erik Carlsson’ edition of the 9-3 SportCombi and Sport Sedan, both
featuring Saab’s widely-acclaimed XWD, all-wheel-drive system.
Erik Carlsson driving a Saab 96|
in the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally
An ebullient character, full of stories and anecdotes laced with a Swedish charm for understatement, Erik
continues to ‘live his dream’. He is still in great demand as a celebrity guest and entertaining speaker.
His extraordinary memory for faces and names is as sharp as ever and almost as legendary as his exploits
behind the wheel. Very much a ‘people person’, Erik is never happier than when meeting and sharing his
experiences with enthusiasts.
“I’ve had a wonderful time with Saab,” he says. “We started off by producing real drivers’
cars with a distinctive character and this is as true today as it was when I first joined the company.
Design and technology may have developed a great deal over the years, but the qualities that make a Saab
a Saab are still same.”
“I’ve travelled the world as a driver and ambassador for the company and I plan carrying on just as
long as I am able. I’ve been very lucky because my career with Saab has been a passion every bit as much as
Erik enjoyed his birthday at home with close family and friends. On Saturday, 14th March, he attended a
special Open Day at the Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan held in his honour.
“Erik is a truly charismatic figure, part of Saab’s living heritage,” says Jan-Åke Jonsson, Saab
Automobile’s Managing Director. “As we move forward, he will continue to symbolise the enthusiastic,
fun-to-drive tradition that inspires the development of our brand.”