This Museum has been a labor of love, with a serious mission: “To preserve the cars.” As Tom explains, quoting a favorite line from Ronald Reagan, “After Patti and I purchased the Saabs that had been held in GM Heritage Collection with Bill Jacobson in 2012, it became apparent that someone needed to try to save these Saabs for future generation to see and enjoy. ‘If not us…Who? If not now…When?’ This is the generation that must preserve Saab’s legacy- those of us who’ve owned them and driven them in the wild.”
While this impressive collection of more than 80 Saab cars is a worthy attraction in itself, Tom has bigger dreams for it, ones he hopes this organization can help him bring to fruition. “I feel my job is to create the Museum. Having set up several businesses, creation is my strong suit. “Fundraising will be critical, as we are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. That said, someone will need to step forward and be hired to eventually run the Museum, because that’s not where my talents lie.
“In the meantime,” Tom continues, “I hope to expand the collection, and add more to it than only Saabs. It would be cool to specialize in race cars.”
“My connection to Saab would be a love story. When Tom and I met, he was driving a 99 EMS, and I thought it was one of the coolest cars I’ve ever seen. We have always had Saabs, and would pick up another Saab here and there, through the years. Our family vacations would be centered around a Saab that had been discovered somewhere, so these cars have always been a big part of our lives.”
The sad demise of Saab Cars as a functioning automaker, and subsequent dissolution of the Saab portion of the GM Heritage Collection, had a life-changing effect on the Donneys; through their purchases, this family took on the crucial role of caretaker of these important cars. Still more roles have arisen since they formed the Saab Heritage Car Museum: they are now preservationists and historical interpreters.
“When Tom and I stopped and got an actual count on the number of vehicles that we had, we knew that it had gotten bigger than us,” Patti muses. “Going forward, we knew we had to do something with these vehicles to ensure their future. We wanted to make sure that people would be able to experience, and gain knowledge about these cars, well beyond our lifetime.
“It is my hope that the Museum will go on for decades to come, providing education and enjoyment to future generations. Tom and I will continue to promote, to finance, and to direct the growth and expansion of the Museum, to get the word out there.”
Indeed, for decades, Saab enthusiasts have considered McIntire, Iowa’s Meyer Garage to be a stronghold of quality and expertise, and its Saab Master Technician proprietor to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic. “The end of Saab vehicle production obviously changed my life, but I continue to service Saabs, and always enjoy my vintage restoration projects,” Marty explains.
“I feel this Museum’s mission is important because it offers the opportunity for not only the history and preservation of the Saab automobile, but the spirit of the Saab enthusiast. It provides a central point of contact for individuals to share technical tips, restoration stories, and most importantly, the creation of lifelong relationships and friendships. This isn’t just a museum. It’s a community of individuals who enjoy driving and repairing Saab automobiles.”
Contemplating the ongoing process of improvements that have brought the Sturgis campus to its current state, Marty says; “Getting things organized and in place has been a priority. As time progresses, I see the Museum becoming a destination and a resource for current and future enthusiasts. With the tourism opportunities in the South Dakota area, exposure to a wider audience will be available. I enjoy my trips out to the Museum, working on the vehicles and getting them ready for display. Talking with fellow enthusiasts is always a highlight- Saab stories are the best stories.”
He continues; “Another idea for a blog project or such would be a ‘Meet My Saab’ section. Many of us have named our vehicles over the years; we’ve had such memorable vehicles as The Green Bean, Moonracer, Killer, and the Silver Streak. It could be fun for others to be able to add photos and their Saab stories. Or better yet- a donation to the Museum could get them included on a page.”
“I’m 66 now, and have been around Saab since I was 11, because of my father’s automotive shop,” Jerry explains. Today, Mile Hi Automotive is an Official Saab Service Center expertly versed in Saab and Subaru repairs, as well as home to a highly regarded auto body shop that offers comprehensive collision repair services. (Ask about their Viggen deer-strike repair experience!)
“I have grown up through the whole production run, from the two-strokes and V-4s to the 99s, 900s, the 9-3s, and 9-5s, and have worked on every one of them. My whole heart has been around Saab, and there will be a time soon when I will be able to support the Museum through my efforts.
“The beauty of this Museum is that those who have heard of the vintage Saabs can now see them,” he ponders; “And those who have been around Saab, can walk down memory lane.”
Carol Ann Pampuch
Carol Ann’s legacy includes the state of Delaware’s first-ever Saab dealership, which was founded more than 50 years ago by her father, John Jacobson. Sports Car Service, as this Wilmington-based business is called, has remained in the family through a second generation, being run by her brother, Bill Jacobson, since 1984. “When my father was not fixing Saabs, he was racing them, so I grew up surrounded by Saabs,” she recalls.
Carol Ann earned a degree in Civil Engineering, but grew tired of the frequent layoffs she experienced working in that field, so in 1992, she took the opportunity to join Sports Car Service. “35 years later, and I’m still there,” she says with a smile. “The people I’ve met through being in a Saab business and in the Saab community are from all over –so many different lifestyles, so many different backgrounds– but we all share a passion for the same brand… Saab.”
Regular customers and visitors alike have long recognized that the Jacobson family collection of historic Saab automobiles was one of America’s finest, and it was Bill who’d joined forces with Tom in 2012 to purchase the 10 vehicles that comprised the Saab Cars North America Heritage Collection. Those vehicles are all now part of the incredible assembly that is housed in Sturgis. “Tom and Patti have achieved something that my brother Bill always wanted to do, but just didn’t have the means or the time to,” Carol Ann explains. “Our showroom has always been a Saab museum, so to speak, but on a much smaller scale.”
Pondering the Saab Heritage Car Museum USA, she speaks from the heart; “My immediate hope for the museum is that the Donneys can get it to a place where they can finally enjoy what they have set out to do. The work that they are putting into getting the building ready, moving cars, and organizing a lifetime of Saab hoarding, seems to never end.
“I was honored when they asked me to be on the board, and I will continue to support them from Delaware, with any record-keeping I can do via computer. I would love to spend time there to organize the donations of items they have received, and to help set up the Saab literature so it can be a good resource,” Carol Ann says enthusiastically.
“Tom and Patti have definitely taken their love of Saab to the next level by creating a place to keep the Saab passion alive, not only for themselves, but for us- the die-hard Saab fanatics.”
Parental admonishment over his teenage driving mischief meant he wouldn’t keep that particular car long, but the hook was set, and through the following decades, he would own many other two-stroke and V-4-powered Saab cars, including his famous 1961 96 rally competitor, Puttyus Maximus. With the support of his always-enthusiastic wife, Lori, Bruce, became one of the most knowledgeable and engaged vintage-Saab enthusiasts around the globe. “My connection to the marque grew over time as I became involved with various Saab clubs throughout the USA and Europe. I was elected president of the Vintage Saab Club of North America in the late 1980s, and continued in that role as president until 2018.”
When asked if he’d serve on the board of the Saab Heritage Car Museum USA, Bruce quickly agreed. “Without a home base such as this, the Saab brand would have an increasingly difficult time reaching out to the public. Having a Museum that shows not only cars, but also archives the history of the brand with sales literature, books, accessories, and memorabilia, will be an integral part of introducing Saab to future generations,” he asserts.
“My hope is that more and more people decide that restoring a Saab to its former glory –whether it be for show or for competition– is a worthwhile endeavor. I make myself available to the novice restorer to supply technical advice, parts sources, and most of all, encouragement! Do you have a Saab-related question? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
“My connection to Saab is a lifelong affair,” Nate recalls. “Saabs were a part of my father’s life long before I entered the picture, and they have been integral in my entire family’s story. As kids, our summers were usually filled with ‘Saab Safaris,’ where we would travel the United States in search of the unique cars; we’d attend Saab conventions, help others in restoration projects, or simply organize and maintain the ever-growing collection.”
This U.S. Army veteran has personally pitched in with many Saab-related projects, including helping bring his father’s restored 1965 96 Monte Carlo 850 to Portland, Oregon, where that car would star, alongside actor Fred Armisen, in an episode of car-guy-extraordinaire Jerry Seinfeld’s famous online program, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Nate supports this Museum because he knows its role in preserving and presenting the story of Saab cars in America will be told not only through the four-wheeled specimens in the collection, but through the people whose passion it represents. “This museum is important because it is a continuation of not only my father’s work, but of my family’s story. Saab may not produce cars anymore, but the company’s history lives on in places like this.
“Being the youngest board member, my plan for the future of the museum is to keep that history and those stories alive beyond not just my father’s generation, but for generations to come,” he explains. “I want to make that happen by helping build a place that sustains and shares these stories, brings them to life, and gives back to the communities that have given life to my father’s dream.”