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How to collect 47 Saab cars in one photograph and more than double the amount two years later

Our guest blogger, Henrik Zaar, from Sweden tells his story on how he managed to gather a lot of Saab 9-5 cars on the same photograph one day in 2017 and in 2019.

Right before the Saab Festival in 2017 I got this crazy idea to try and gather as many new Saab 9-5 cars as possible in the same photo. The reason behind this was that during the days of the official launch of the Saab 9-5 NG, around 30 cars where lined-up at the Trollhättan-Vänersborg airfield in Sweden waiting for the guests to arrive by airplane.

An exciting flight assignment 2010

I worked as an Aircraft Maintenance engineer at the former Malmö Aviation and in the spring of 2010, I was asked if I wanted to go on a charter assignment which included many flights in June and July in Europe and all these would end in Trollhättan. It was not particularly difficult to figure out that it was Saab Automobile who had laid out the assignment, but there was no more information than that. Summer came and the mission started, the first flight for me went Malmö – Rotterdam-Trollhättan. Wow! I can only say when we made the first approach to Trollhättan that it was amazing. The sight that met us on the ground was inspiring – some 30 Saab cars neatly lined up in a semi-circular formation to pick up our passengers below the flight of stairs.

The week continued with a flight in the morning with excited participants, and in the afternoon a flight out with participants who had arrived the day before. That view with all the Saab cars in 2010 is something I always wanted to see again and try to take better pictures. In 2010, not all colours were represented on the cars, but they were in neutral grey, silver and black. My thoughts revolved around how I could manage to collect Saab cars in the same way at the airport to photograph them. Could I even get a permit to do so?

Saab cars lined up at an airfield

Photo: Henrik Zaar.

Saab 9-5 on airfield

Photo: Henrik Zaar.

Photography at Trollhättan Airport 2017

I looked it up to see if it should work to do a photo shoot at Trollhättan Airport, but the first answers came back a no. So I made another plan – to borrow the staff parking at NEVS, or at worst occupy the main entrance to them. The day before the festival started, I was at NEVS and talked to the guards and got a green light from them, as long as we did not block the entire entrance.

I prepared an event on Facebook for this on the Swedish Saab NG 9-5 group, but decided to wait before posting it. The idea had struck me that if I first talked directly to the staff on site at the airport, it will be much easier to touch base with them and answer their questions. That said, I went the last mile from NEVS to the airport and met the ramp manager who immediately snapped at the idea, just because it was so crazy and besides, it worked perfectly between departures and arrivals. I also took the opportunity to ask my friend Nichlas Strandberg to pack his photo bag and head to Trollhättan for a “once in a lifetime” photo shoot.

On Thursday afternoon, I sent a message to the Saab NG 9-5 owners in the Swedish Facebook group that there would be the opportunity for a photo event at the airport. There was also a brief note on the website for the Saab NG 9-5 SportCombi. I also took the opportunity to talk to the international guests I could find with a Saab NG 9-5 car and of course invited them to the event.

The weather forecast unfortunately said 11 degrees Celsius with thunder and rain, but those in the Facebook group started responding one by one that they would show up. By Thursday night, about 20 car owners had already said they would arrive.

On Friday and the day in honour, I checked the weather for the afternoon – not directly uplifting with 14 degrees Celsius and rain. But the forecast got better and better during the day and it also rolled in more and more cars that wanted to join.

In the afternoon around 4 PM, Nichlas and I drove our Saab NG 9-5s out to the airport. We were of course met by the day’s first rain showers and the mood dropped, but after a cup of coffee and a little talk with the staff at the airport it was time to go out and meet the cars and their owners. Then the sun was breaking through the cloud cover and just as quickly the mood went up again when we saw all the cars coming. In the parking lot outside we saw about 40 cars and there seemed to be at least one of each colour.

We briefed everyone on what would happen and how the cars would be set and what rules applied since we were at an active airport. The caravan rolled through the gates and was set up. The airport staff had also rolled out a car with a basket lift on so that we could take pictures from a higher perspective, which was much appreciated since you are not allowed to fly with drones at airports. Pictures were taken on all cars and all participants, then it was free for everyone to photograph, talk and admire each other’s cars.

The result was, as you can see, absolutely outstanding with a total of 47 vehicles, of which four are the SportCombi and also a custom-built SportCombi based on a sedan. Of these cars, two did not have a varnish offered on the Saab NG 9-5 when they were sold – these were “318 Sky Blue Pearl” which was introduced in model year 2012 and “330 Ice Pearl White” which was available for the Saab 9-4X.

A man taking a picture on Saab cars

Photo: Nichlas Strandberg.

Saab NG 9-5 on airfield

Photo: Nichlas Strandberg.

Favourite in reprise 2019

After the success of the photo shoot in 2017, there were a lot of questions about whether the same event would occur before the Saab Festival in 2019. I thought that 47 vehicles in 2017 would be hard to beat, but the more time went on, the more people got in touch and asked just the same. So, during the winter of 2018 I started contacting several different people to see if it was possible to do it again and where we could host the event? However, the interest was cool from most, so the project had to be on ice until April 2019 when I contacted the airport again. But unfortunately, new rules had been introduced that meant that events like these needed to be tested for security reasons, which would entail a lot of administrative measures and costs that became an obstacle for me as a private individual.

But with the help of my friend Michel Annink, we managed to get in touch with the right people at NEVS and got permission to use their staff parking for the photography. About seven days before the event, information was published on the Facebook group and on the Saab NG 9-5 SportCombi website that it would be an event with a new photo shoot a certain day and time, but no more information was revealed to the guests. There was great interest and when it was only two days left, it leaned against the fact that about 60 cars would show up. It suited me well based on my planning for how the vehicles would be set up and how the picture would be taken.

Friday, June 7, 2019, was the big day and the weather seemed to be good. In the afternoon, myself, Nichlas Strandberg and Michel Annink gathered and set away in our cars well in advance of the event, we thought. Once at the parking lot we are met by a mill of Saab NG 9-5 in both sedan and SportCombi versions, as well as some Saab 9-4X. There were already about 40-50 cars waiting! It was absolutely amazing to see all the cars rolling in. My idea was that this will be bigger than expected, but how big I didn’t understand until the clock approached four in the afternoon and most cars had gathered. I quickly had to revise my plan for how the cars would be positioned for the best possible photo. The idea of a crescent moon that I first had was no longer feasible.

After almost 60 intensive minutes of parking cars, close between each car to the owners’ dismay – between the front and the rear of the cars there was only 5 cm apart and no more than 50-55 cm on the sides between the cars – we had managed to get all the cars in a spruce formation. Now it was time to photograph and count all the cars.

The result was an incredible 113 cars! On the site were 8 Saab 9-4X, 8 Saab NG 9-5 SportCombi, 96 Saab NG 9-5 sedan, and a car that started out as a Saab NG 9-5 sedan but had been converted to a Saab NG 9-5 SportCombi. It made up a remarkable 0.8% of all sedans in the NG 9-5 series, 1.2% of all Saab 9-4X and as much as 23.5% of all manufactured SportCombi’s in the NG 9-5 series.

After this successful event, my comment was “beat this if you like and can, because I won’t do it again, not without help”. So, what are the plans for the future? Will it be a similar event in 2021? It would be fun, but given how big it has become now, it is difficult to find a place to gather all the cars and actually implement it all by yourself. But the future will tell!

Saab cars on a parking lot

Photo: Henrik Zaar.

Saab cars lined up seen from above

Photo: Niels Petersen.

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