The early history of the Saab Club of North America is rather vague and spans several years, so it’s difficult to celebrate the beginnings. The current magazine, NINES, grew out of the newsletter of the Chicago Saab Club, which began 25 years ago. But it wasn’t until 1974 that the "Club" went national.
The Chicago Saab Club actually started in 1971, and there may have been an earlier newsletter, but "Issue No. 1" of UP FRONT is dated March 1973. The name refers to front-wheel drive, at that time still a rarity for most manufacturers. Allyn Reilly was listed as the return address on the first issue, but much of the work was done by Dick Grossman, a semi-retired graphic artist. Grossman went on to become known as the first editor of The Saab Club Newsletter, and founder of The Saab Club of North America. For over seven years, he and his wife Ruth would crank out an 8 to 12 page newsletter every month from their Chicago apartment, doing all of the layout, folding and mailing of each issue.
Beginning with issue #17 in July, 1974, Grossman tried to expand on the growing popularity for FWD, as the banner atop the first page read "Compact Front Wheel Drive Club of America," and later added the legend "Dedicated to Small Engined, Small Cars & Energy Conservation." While the primary topic was still Saabs, other makes such as Honda, Renault and Volkswagen were often included in the tech tips. At about the same time, he began advertising the newsletter in Road & Track magazine under their "Clubs" section in the classifieds. (R&T used to offer clubs a special rate which made it reasonable to advertise there. A few years ago, new ownership of R&T decided they weren’t making any money off those ads so raised the price to the same as other ads.) Issue #17, all six pages of it, indicates 95 paid members, with an additional 20 issues sent to "local dealers and friends." Based on Grossman’s comments in later issues, #17 appears to be the first effort at growing the club beyond Chicago, and established the basic format that lasted until May, 1988.
By July of 1975, the membership was over 500 and still growing. The July, 1976, issue was the first to break 1,000 members. Dick Grossman’s legacy seems to be his vitriolic editorials, often titled "Five Minutes of Hate", in which he tore into General Motors and other auto manufacturers for putting profit ahead of safety and reliability, and at the numbskulls who bought such products based on advertising or price and not on the merits of the vehicle. Grossman was forced to retire as editor when he suffered a series of heart attacks in 1980. The newsletter was taken over by Jeff Delahorne, who moved the publication to his home in Duluth, Minnesota.
Other than greater use of photos, little changed on the publication during the next five years. Delahorne remained editor until 1985 when he took a job with Saab-Scania of America (and later with Saab AB in Sweden, where he now resides.) The newsletter followed Jeff to SCUSA's then-headquarters in Connecticut while his wife, Carolanne Curtis, acted as interim editor for several months.
Tim Winker took over the reigns officially with the January, 1986 issue and the publication moved back to Duluth. A few months later, the newsletter was given the name NINES, because Winker felt that all publications of this sort needed a proper name. NINES was chosen because it was the first number in the model designation of all Saab cars, and it was something unique to Saab. Fortunately, Saab has decided to carry on that tradition with its latest models, the 9-3 and 9-5. In April 1999, Tim decided to dedicate more time to his day job as narrator and announcer for the SCCA Run-Off Rallys, and NINES was handed over to longtime contributor and budding publisher Steve Goldberger in North Canton, Ohio.
Steve wrestled the publication back into a steady bimonthly production cycle, and grew the subscription rate to over 3000 members in short order. By this time, however, the SCNA had been reduced to nothing more than a magazine subscription, lacking any real club member benefits or representation.
In January 2002, NINES contributing editor Phil Lacefield Jr. incorporated the Saab Club of North America, Inc. as a fully functional car owner club. Former reporter and long-time Saab owner Seth D. Bengelsdorf took over the reigns of NINES in January 2004. The hope of the club is that with it's dual offerings of the national magazine and annual national Saab Owners' Convention, along with other programs on the planning board, Saab and the SCNA continue to grow and strengthen.