The Wallenberg family has long had an important role in Swedish civic life. Now that the family has stepped in to save Trollhattan’s Saab Museum from being liquidated, its collection will not be dispersed. Swedish Radio has reported that the Wallenberg Foundation, Saab AB (the aircraft manufacturer) and the city of Trollhättan have reached an agreement that will keep the museum open and its collection of historic Saab cars intact. Though civic pride is all well and good, the receivers in charge of the Saab car company didn’t really have a choice. While selling off the collection piecemeal might have brought in more than the 28 million Kroner ($4 million USD) that the consortium will be paying, for the Saab bankruptcy to proceed the receivers need at least some kind of cash flow and the museum is a popular tourist attraction. Nothing else that the Saab car company owned is currently generating any revenue. From the reports it appears that cash flow from the Saab Museum will help pay the costs of liquidating the rest of Saab.
The museum’s collection of about 120 cars makes it one of the larger single make museums in the world and the collection includes classic Saabs like the 92, 96, 99 and 900. Of course the most significant car in the collection is the so-called Ur-Saab, the first Saab cobbled together by aircraft engineers in 1946. Per Liljekvist teaches industrial design at Lund University and speaking about the Ur-Saab he said, “Den representerar sin tid när den kom och den är tydlig i sin form och identitet. Den har följt med Saabs historia hela vägen fram” [per Google Translate “The representative of its time when it came and it is clear in its form and identity. It has complied with Saab’s history all the way”]. A number of automotive and design museums had expressed interest in acquiring the Ur-Saab and in total the receivers were inundated with over 500 bids for individual lots or the entire collection.
Trollhättan Mayor Peter Akerlund didn’t talk about the costs involved in selling off the Saab car company’s assets. Instead he stressed the museum’s value as a tourist attraction and its role as “part of Trollhättan’s soul” in the municipality’s decision to help save the museum. Ongoing costs of operation will be carried by the city and by the regional government of Västra Götaland.
The head of communications for Saab AB issued a statement saying “We consider it very important to preserve the Swedish industrial history. That the collection is now staying in Sweden and Trollhättan is important to us. [Saab] cars are also part of our company heritage.”
Apparently there is a also a connection between the Wallenbergs and the museum. According to SaabsUnited, one of the cars in the museum’s collection is a track-prepped Saab 9-3 SS that was formerly raced by Peter Wallenberg.