Saab 92HK

Going camping is always a compromise. You can go small and light—sleeping bag and small tent—all the way up to a gigantic motorhome with a garage in the back.

Most tow some sort of trailer. There's a big selection, from large to small and, let's face it, you're not going camping every weekend. So why spend the expenses associated with a dedicated vehicle—the motorhome?

Saab wondered the same and, in 1964 introduced the SAABO—a super lightweight camping trailer suitable for a family of four. It had to be lightweight because Saab's vehicles at that time were powered by tiny two-cylinder, two-stroke engines—and 28 horsepower isn't going to tow much.

Saab 92 and SAABO Husvagn

Saab 92 and SAABO Husvagn

The SAABO weighed just 300 kg (661 lbs.), but only 390 of the little plastic and composite trailers were built before production ended. Maybe it was just too much of a compromise.

That's probably why the Volkswagen Westfalia line took off: they're camper vans you're able to drive daily. Throw some food in the cooler, grab the clean blankets and a copy of Hungry Hungry Hippos—you're ready to go away for the weekend.

But what if you made a camper that had none of the compromises of van-based designs and none of the compromises of a trailer?

In 1963, Torsten Johannesson found the answer.

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By building around the mechanicals of a Saab 92, Johannesson thought he could combine the ideal parts of trailer and car.

Front-drive, with a small engine and frame, the Saab was an ideal candidate for such a project because all of the greasy bits could be packaged up front and built around.

His first prototype, the 92H, was a great example of out-of-the-box thinking, even though he ended up with a box. When parked, the vehicle was like a little cabin. Low, wide, with slab sides and a tall roof, it allowed for far more space inside than, say, a Volkswagen T2-based campervan.

But the Saab mechanicals let him down: Johannesson was unable to get the vehicle certified for production because the additional weight was just too much for the little 28 horsepower engine and front axles to handle.

Online, you'll see a three-tone example in blue, red, and white. That's the 92H. After the failure to have it licensed, it was turned into a hunting lodge.

Johannesson was not defeated and, with the Saab 95's mechanicals—now with 40 horsepower and, later, 65 horsepower from the V4 4-cylinder engine—came up with today's vehicle, the (now) red-and-white 92HK.

After much interest, only one was completed. It could have been timing—Saab themselves had just started producing the SAABO.

Before restoration, the 92H (foreground) and 92HK (background)

Before restoration, the 92H (foreground) and 92HK (background)

Years passed and a classified ad led enthusiasts to the 92HK—and shortly after, the 92H, still sitting in the forest! Klassiker magazine learned of the unique vehicles and started to help document the two-year restoration process.

Now, both are running, driving—very slow—examples of what camper vans could be. They're also both fully road legal (!) 

Of course, this is just one way to make a home away from home, and history shows us that there's a lot of creativity in the ol' campervan and motorhome business. Even after the SAABO, Saab wasn't out of the camper game just yet.

But that's a story for another day.

Sources / Recommended Reading