Jun 102017

The Ursaab (original Saab), also known as 92001 and X9248, the first of four prototype cars made by Saab AB, (which at that time was solely an airplane manufacturer), was unveiled to the public on this date in 1947 at Saab AB’s headquarters.  It led eventually to a production model, the Saab 92, in 1949. A little glimpse into the creative engineering that went into the prototype helps explain why Saab proved so successful over time.  Trump recently railed against Germany for unfair trade practices for exporting its (superb) cars to the US, yet does not import US cars into Germany. Sweden could equally well be accused of making great cars, as could Japan – and not importing US models.  In my humble opinion, US car manufacture was at one time revolutionary, but now simply cannot compete in the global market because the big US car companies have, for a long time, had no interest in advancing their technology.  Henry Ford revolutionized factory production in general with the moving assembly line, and blew away the competition . Industry was changed forever. But then US car manufacture rested on its laurels while new car companies with new ideas sprang up in Europe and Asia, especially in the postwar years, while the US just looked on and said how unfair it all was.  This is how Saab did it.

Saab AB, a manufacturer of warplanes, started an automobile design project in 1945, with the internal name X9248. The design project became formally known as Project 92; the 92 being next in production sequence after the Saab 91, a single engine trainer aircraft. The aim was to design a car that would compete with small German cars like Opel Kadett, DKW and Adler. The target consumer price was 3200 Swedish kroner. Bror Bjurströmer, who was then head of the design department, developed a 1:25 scale sketch and the overall design specifications, which included the following: a wheelbase of 2.75 meters (108.3 in) and total length of 4.5 meters (177.2 in); employment of a monocoque (single skin) design; 50% less drag than other cars; 800 kilogram maximum weight; power from a transverse-mounted two-stroke engine; and front-wheel drive. The choice of rear-hinged doors was made by Gunnar Ljungström (head of the development team) as he wanted to lessen the risk of damaging doors whilst driving out of a garage. The company made four prototypes, 92001 through to 92004, before designing the production model, the Saab 92, in 1949.

Development was started in Linköping by a 16-person team led by engineer Gunnar Ljungström and designer Sixten Sason. The immediately preceding Saab production code was for an aeroplane – the Saab 91 Safir. It was for this reason that the first car project was called the Saab 92. Normally the development would have been handled by the testing workshop, but it was busy with the Saab 91 Safir and the Saab 90 Scandia. Thus the tool workshop, which had a lighter workload at that juncture, was given the assignment.

The engineers responsible for making the prototype had no prior experience in making cars, and out of the 16 engineers only two had a driving license. They needed information about the car manufacturing process, but had to simultaneously keep the project secret. A few visits were made to Nyköpings Automobilfabrik (later ANA), but as the extent of their work involved the simple installation of bodies on imported ladder frame chassis, the engineers were not able to gather as much information as they had hoped. Also, since all available literature only described how cars were made before the war, they realized that much of the manufacturing process would have to be learned on their own. Close to Saab AB’s factory a junkyard provided the engineers with both parts and inspiration. They also purchased a number of cars to study, including a DKW, a Hanomag, an Opel Kadett and a Volkswagen.

Structural integrity concerns led to other design decisions. The team tasked with that portion of the project was used to building aircraft where every opening was covered with a load-bearing hatch. Since this was not viable on an automobile, it was decided that the body structure should be strengthened through the use of a rear window that was as small as possible and which used a split-window design, and omission of a rear boot (trunk) lid.

Because the car had to have a very low drag coefficient, aerodynamic tests were part of the early evaluations. Thus, the body was of novel design and, with safety in mind, it provided damage-resistance in the event of an accident. Winter driving capability was enhanced via front-wheel-drive and wide wheel arches which allowed for snow accumulation without obstruction of the wheels.

Using some carpenters from Motala, a full sized mock-up in alder wood was built in the spring of 1946. The model was colored black using shoe polish. Some extra workers were recruited from Thorells Kylarfabrik in Linköping for building the steel body. Hand-shaping the 1.2 mm thick steel sheets proved to be difficult work. By summer 1946 the first prototype body was ready, hand beaten on a wooden jig. Shaping of the metal was done in Saab’s secret factory 30 meters below ground.

The color proved to be a problem. The managing director wanted it painted black, but the vice director wanted it blue. However, the workshop had already purchased black paint, making this a moot point. The Saab AB paint workshop did not have the capacity to handle the paint job so the builders contacted Aktiebolaget Svenska Järnvägsverkstäderna (ASJ), the Swedish railroad works in Arlöv. This firm was experienced in painting railway cars and buses. Having been told that their assistance was needed in painting a car, the company was initially reluctant to help since it was thought that the vehicle was a management car such as a DeSoto or something that would take a lot of time. However, when it was learned that the vehicle was a prototype of a new car, ASJ quickly took the job.

The prototype had a borrowed 13 kW (18 hp) two-cylinder two-stroke engine, which was placed transversely in the front of the vehicle. The first engine and gearbox came from a DKW vehicle, but they were later replaced with an engine and gearbox designed by Gunnar Ljungström. The prototype engine blocks were made by Albinmotor. The head of the firm, Albin Larsson, was hesitant to take work since the cooling pipes in the engine block were considered to be complicated. After test driving the prototype, however, Larsson changed his mind.

Ursaab was driven over 530,000 kilometers (330,000 mi), typically in utter secrecy, and usually on narrow and muddy forest roads and in early mornings or late nights. Today it is in the Saab museum in Trollhättan, with a polished grille and more modern headlights.

Linköping where the prototype Ursaab was developed is in Östergötland where pearl barley is a traditional staple. Korngryn och rotsaker (pearl barley with root vegetables) is a classic dish served either hot or cold.  I can’t quite understand why southern swedes make so much over this dish because it seems so ordinary and bland. But I suppose, that’s how I would describe Swedish cuisine in general. Hot this dish may accompany lammstek med timja-rödvinsås (roast lamb with a red wine sauce), or, it can be served cold as a salad dish when tossed in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Korngryn och rotsaker


100 g (½ cup) pearl barley
salt and pepper
450 g (3 cups) mixed vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, leeks, red onion and celery), cut into large chunks
1 tbsp  olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Rinse the pearl barley thoroughly by placing it in a sieve and running it under cold water.

Bring 2 cups of salted water to the boil, add the barley, cover, and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Check for doneness. Cook more and add a little more water if needed.

When the pearl barley is cooked, pour it into a sieve, rinse under cold water and drain.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a preheated 400°F oven for about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and rosemary.  Stir the aromatics around in the oil, add the vegetables and toss them so that they are coated with the seasoned oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 20 minutes, then add the drained pearl barley and continue cooking until everything is a golden color.

Serve warm garnished with parsley, or leave to cool, chill, and serve tossed with a little extra oil and balsamic vinegar.

Nov 102015


Today is the birthday (1697) of William Hogarth, English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects.” Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as “Hogarthian.” I’ve used Hogarth’s images many times before here on this blog and I am sure he needs no introduction. His are the images of 18th century England.

William Hogarth was born at Bartholomew Close in London to Richard Hogarth, a poor Latin school teacher and textbook writer, and Anne Gibbons. In his youth he was apprenticed to the engraver Ellis Gamble in Leicester Fields, where he learned to engrave trade cards and similar products. Young Hogarth also took a lively interest in the street life of the metropolis and the London fairs, and amused himself by sketching the characters he saw. Around the same time, his father, who had opened an unsuccessful Latin-speaking coffee house at St John’s Gate, was imprisoned for debt in Fleet Prison for five years. Hogarth never spoke of his father’s imprisonment. He did, however, portray prison life in his famous painting of The Beggar’s Opera.


By April 1720, Hogarth was an engraver in his own right, at first engraving coats of arms, shop bills, and designing plates for booksellers. In 1727, he was hired by Joshua Morris, a tapestry worker, to prepare a design for the Element of Earth. Morris heard that he was “an engraver, and no painter”, and consequently declined the work when completed. Hogarth accordingly sued him for the money in the Westminster Court, where the case was decided in his favor on 28 May 1728. In 1757 he was appointed Serjeant Painter to the King.

In 1731 Hogarth completed the earliest of his series of moral works, a body of work that led to significant recognition. The collection of six scenes was entitled “A Harlot’s Progress” and appeared first as paintings (now lost) before being published as engravings. “A Harlot’s Progress” depicts the fate of a country girl who begins prostituting—the six scenes are chronological, starting with a meeting with a bawd and ending with a funeral ceremony that follows the character’s death from venereal disease.

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The inaugural series was an immediate success and was followed in 1735 by the sequel “A Rake’s Progress.” The second installment consisted of eight pictures that depicted the reckless life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant, who spends all of his money on luxurious living, services from prostitutes, and gambling—the character’s life ultimately ends in Bethlem Royal Hospital (Bedlam). The original paintings of “A Harlot’s Progress” were destroyed in the fire at Fonthill House in 1755, while “A Rake’s Progress” is displayed in the gallery room at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, UK.

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When the success of “A Harlot’s Progress” and “A Rake’s Progress” resulted in numerous pirated reproductions by unscrupulous printsellers, Hogarth lobbied in parliament for greater legal control over the reproduction of his and other artists’ work. The result was the Engravers’ Copyright Act (known as ‘Hogarth’s Act’), which became law on 25 June 1735 and was the first copyright law to deal with visual works as well as the first to recognize the authorial rights of an individual artist.


In the twelve prints of “Industry and Idleness” (1747) Hogarth shows the progression in the lives of two apprentices, one of whom is dedicated and hard working, while the other, who is idle, commits crime and is eventually executed. This shows the work ethic of Protestant England, where those who work hard get rewarded, such as the industrious apprentice who becomes Sheriff (plate 8), Alderman (plate 10), and finally the Lord Mayor of London in the last plate in the series. The idle apprentice, who begins “at play in the church yard” (plate 3), holes up “in a Garrett with a Common Prostitute” after turning highwayman (plate 7) and “executed at Tyburn” (plate 11). The idle apprentice is sent to the gallows by the industrious apprentice himself.


Later prints of significance include his pictorial warning of the consequences of alcoholism in Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751). Hogarth engraved Beer Street to show a happy city drinking the ‘good’ beverage, English beer, in contrast to Gin Lane, in which the effects of drinking gin are shown – as a more potent liquor, gin caused more problems for society. People are shown as healthy, happy and prosperous in Beer Street, while in Gin Lane they are scrawny, lazy and careless. The woman at the front of Gin Lane, who lets her baby fall to its death, echoes the tale of Judith Dufour, who strangled her baby so she could sell its clothes for gin money. The prints were published in support of the Gin Act 1751. Hogarth’s friend, the magistrate Henry Fielding, may have enlisted Hogarth to help with propaganda for the Gin Act: Beer Street and Gin Lane were issued shortly after his work An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, and Related Writings, and addressed the same issues.

In 1745 Hogarth painted a self-portrait with his pug dog (now also in Tate Britain), which shows him as a learned artist supported by volumes of Shakespeare, Milton and Swift (top image). In 1749, he represented the somewhat disorderly English troops on their March of the Guards to Finchley (formerly located in Thomas Coram Foundation for Children, now Foundling Museum).


Others works included his ingenious Satire on False Perspective (1753); his satire on canvassing in his Election series (1755–1758; now in Sir John Soane’s Museum); his ridicule of the English passion for cockfighting in The Cockpit (1759); his attack on Methodism in Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (1762); his political anti-war satire in The Times, plate I (1762); and his pessimistic view of all things in Tailpiece, or The Bathos (1764).

Hogarth wrote and published his ideas of artistic design in his book The Analysis of Beauty (1753). In it, he professes to define the principles of beauty and grace which he, a true child of Rococo, saw realized in serpentine lines (the Line of Beauty). By some of Hogarth’s adherents, the book was praised as a fine discourse on aesthetics; by his enemies and rivals, its obscurities and minor errors were made the subject of endless ridicule and caricature.

Hogarth lived in an age when artwork became increasingly commercialized, being viewed in shop windows, taverns, and public buildings, and sold in print shops. Old hierarchies broke down, and new forms began to flourish: the ballad opera, the bourgeois tragedy, and especially, a new form of fiction called the novel with which authors such as Henry Fielding had great success. Therefore, by that time, Hogarth hit on a new idea: “painting and engraving modern moral subjects … to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer; my picture was my stage”, as he himself remarked in his manuscript notes.

He drew from the highly moralizing Protestant tradition of Dutch genre painting, and the very vigorous satirical traditions of the English broadsheet and other types of popular print. In England the fine arts had little comedy in them before Hogarth. His prints were expensive, and remained so until early 19th-century reprints brought them to a wider audience.

When analyzing the work of the artist as a whole, Ronald Paulson says, “In A Harlot’s Progress, every single plate but one is based on Dürer’s images of the story of the Virgin and the story of the Passion.” In other works, he parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” According to Paulson, Hogarth is subverting the religious establishment and the orthodox belief in an immanent God who intervenes in the lives of people and produces miracles. Indeed, Hogarth was a Deist, a believer in a God who created the universe but takes no direct hand in the lives of his creations. Thus, as a “comic history painter”, he often poked fun at the old-fashioned, well-worn, and now hackneyed subjects of religious art in his paintings and prints. Hogarth also rejected Lord Shaftesbury’s then-current ideal of the classical Greek male in favor of the living, breathing female. He said, “Who but a bigot, even to the antiques, will say that he has not seen faces and necks, hands and arms in living women, that even the Grecian Venus doth but coarsely imitate.”


Hogarth died in London on 26 October 1764 and was buried at St. Nicholas Church, Chiswick, London.

“The Gate of Calais” (1748; now in Tate Britain) was produced soon after his return from a visit to France. Horace Walpole wrote that Hogarth had run a great risk to go there since the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle:

. . . he went to France, and was so imprudent as to be taking a sketch of the drawbridge at Calais. He was seized and carried to the governor, where he was forced to prove his vocation by producing several caricatures of the French; particularly a scene of the shore, with an immense piece of beef landing for the lion d’argent, the English inn at Calais, and several hungry friars following it. They were much diverted with his drawings, and dismissed him.

O the Roast Beef of Old England ('The Gate of Calais') 1748 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Presented by the Duke of Westminster 1895 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01464

Back home, he immediately executed a painting of the subject in which he unkindly represented his enemies, the Frenchmen, as cringing, emaciated and superstitious people, while an enormous sirloin of beef arrives, destined for the English inn as a symbol of British prosperity and superiority. He claimed to have painted himself into the picture in the left corner sketching the gate, with a “soldier’s hand upon my shoulder”, running him in.


So roast beef and Yorkshire pudding plus all the trimmings it is !! I’ve talked about this before, but this time I’ll concentrate on the vegetables. I like to cook the meat quickly in a very hot oven (200°C) for about 45 minutes for a 3-4 lb joint. I cook the Yorkshire pudding in individual ramekins for about 10 minutes whilst the beef is resting after coming out of the oven. Resting before carving is absolutely crucial so that the juices evenly distribute after the fiery heat of the oven. “Roasties” have always been a big favorite in my house – crisply browned potatoes with a floury inside. You only get this if you have a very hot oven and roast the potatoes in a pan with lard or duck/goose fat (which I almost always have on hand). In the same pan I usually put a couple of whole, peeled onions, and leeks cut in 4” pieces. Parsnips are also excellent roasted. Carrots work well with beef too although I’m more inclined to use them in beef stews than roasts. I find it just works well to have a roast medley along with the beef and gravy, plus a poached green vegetable, usually spinach or Brussels sprouts, for balance. Keep your salads for a different meal. This is the roast beef of Old England – not French trash !!