Through amazing perservance, dedication—and help from others—Peterborough's Matt Stimpson might just have undertaken one of the longest (and furthest) car restorations in history.
Matt's Saab story begins in 1989 as an 18-year-old in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in the UK, when his father, Allan, bought him a 1971 SAAB 96 V4 in Tyrol Green colour.
Matt Stimpson as a teenager with his new Saab in Abingdon, Oxfordshire
"It was my first car—my father was a Motor Trader and found it for me," Matt tells PTBOCanada. "I drove it through my college years in the UK before rust got the better of it (they did suffer badly from underside rust), so the SAAB finally came off the road in 1994."
Stimpson as a teen behind the wheel with his father, Allan
The car was stored away for a number of years there, and Matt started to slowly take it apart. He then began the arduous task of collecting hard-to-get parts to put it back together.
"Ebay was great for getting all sorts of parts," Matt tells PTBOCanada. "Ironically, the hub caps came from a Canadian whilst the car was still in the UK." Other parts came from all over the world—Sweden, Holland, Germany, Hungary, UK, and the US.
The beautiful restored car pictured with the garage Matt built to house it
When Matt emigrated to Canada in 2005, he looked into how to get the car here. The Saab ended up being shipped in the rolling shell in the same container as their personal effects.
"The house we bought here in Peterborough on Weller St. didn’t have a garage so I had to build a 'new home' for it, so I could finish off the restoration," says Matt. "The house also needed a fair amount of work, so the Saab had to take a back seat whilst we knocked the house apart."
"The steering wheel was a 'barn find', Matt tells PTBOCanada, "a Les Leston Stirling Moss, extremely rare find. Someone offered me $1,000 for it a few years ago!"
But despite the life stages adulthood brings—marriage, work, home, kids, etc.—Matt stuck with it over the years and slowly but surely the Saab began the transformation into its original self. A re-birth, if you will.
Matt tells PTBOCanada: "Every nut and bolt has come off this car—the body stripped down to bare metal and everything has been powder-coated, painted or replated."
The beautiful restored engine
Help came from all over in Peterborough to realize Matt's dream of restoring his childhood car.
"CCS Industrials and Part Source have been great at finding some of the more obscure nuts and bolts for it," Matt tells PTBOCanada. "Jack’s Autobody on Erskine St. painted the panels and did a fantastic job on the colour match. A friend who is an expert in historic rallying helped get the engine (a German Ford V4) fired back into life—after sitting for two decades."
The Saab's Headliner was remade by the very talented Leslie Menagh and the seat foam—Saabs are known for their super comfy seats—came from Restwell. "They were very helpful in getting the correct density foam so the seats feel 'original'," Matt says.
Matt just recently ran his restored Saab (an extremely rare find in Canada these days) for the first time on the road after 21 years—"it was a quick run around the block to make sure everything works," he says.
Nonetheless, it was a great ride. A historic ride. With his son. Everything has come full circle. And next up? Well, he's going to retire it to the garage for winter before getting it back on the road in the Spring—and becoming a regular at Bridgenorth Cruise Night.