A Family, a Road, and a 2-stroke Saab – Our Monte Carlo 850


I grew up in Ohio, right next to a small airport.  When I was a kid I’d beg rides in every aircraft I could get into, and every hangar, and got to know a lot about the place. Little did I know that, years after I’d left, that rarest of Saab models was sitting in one of those unexplored hangars, waiting to be rescued.

And so I did, in February of 1999. For the first time since she had been put up on blocks (in about 1986), a white 1966 Saab 96 Monte Carlo 850 sputtered and popped her way to life, drove home a few miles with nothing but handbrake and maybe two thirds of the plugs actually firing.  It quickly took up residence in my heart.  We have driven her mercilessly since, across country and mountain, ferry and snow, on gravel and macadam and washboard and dirt and, honestly, just beaten the living crap out of her like a rented mule.

Duffy Road Monte Carlo 850She can be cranky and temperamental without her morning salutations and offerings, she requires much tweaking and pampering along the way, and sometimes she just grenades an engine because reasons and strands us 500 miles from home. When she breaks, we fix her, and keep going. Our son has spent his entire life rally navigating from her back seat.

Monte Carlo 850

She is the rarest of the rare, but we have driven her without mercy or pause. She is no stranger to the harrowing Duffy Lake Road connecting tiny Pemberton and minuscule Lillooet BC, 94km of the most terrifying twists, turns and sheer cliffs known to man. She wears her battle scars with pride, and is no garage queen; she works hard for her rally stickers. Not too shabby for a 50 year old car with only seven moving parts (I kid), the Monte Carlo 850 features an engine that produces maybe 55hp…

And we couldn’t imagine life without her.

Chance Monte Carlo 850

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Posted in Saab
7 thoughts on “A Family, a Road, and a 2-stroke Saab – Our Monte Carlo 850
  1. Burt

    The neighbor kids used to make fun of my brother’s 2 stroke Saabs because of the sound they made. The wagon was called “Sand Flea” and the sedan was “Son of Sand Flea”

  2. Fun cars to drive with free wheeling and great in winter driving in Pennsylvania.
    Could be 10 degrees above zero and started right up. There was ice racing on
    Lake Ariel in the Poconos

  3. Mark Hollingsworth

    I’ve had a few two-stroke SAABs, but never a Monte Carlo- although I did have some parts. I really liked them.

  4. A delightful story, but perhaps needed a couple of odometer readings: BEFORE (when you found her) and AFTER (your kid started rally driving). Make an enlarged copy of the driver (with the large caption: THE WINNER!! =)

  5. Bob B.

    So …me not having driven a 2 stroke car before…i am assuming that…like a 2 stroke m/ cycle…the engines seem more powerful and torquey than the 55bhp number suggests…is that right? Was that a column shifter too?

    • Phil Lacefield Jr

      More or less. The stock Monte Carlo 841cc engine puts out 55hp and 61lb of torque at 4400rpm, with a very flat torque band across the board. We climb steep passes without stumbling and cruise at 80mph on the highway without issue, mainly because the stroker is happies at wide-open throttle 🙂 I have a new motor installed that will supposedly put out 81hp and 88lb of torque, we’ll find out here soon!

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