We were saddened to learn this morning of the passing of Robert J. Sinclair (1931-2009), who yesterday lost the battle he’d been fighting with cancer. He is survived by his wife Anne and their six children.
I had the great fortune and pleasure to interview Bob, as he insisted being called, for a “Profile in Excellence” piece for Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine back in the spring of 2006. He lived up to his reputation for being humorous, direct and remarkably personable. In fact, he graciously sent us a surprise gift of his homemade salsa and fresh avocados picked from the trees in their Santa Barbara, California, back yard.
This note was in the package, and it has been hanging on the wall in my office since the day it arrived.
Bob remains a legend among America’s Saab faithful for the numerous ways in which he brought the cars and the company into the spotlight. He got his start with the newly formed Saab Motors, Inc. as a field representative, and by 1958, the 27-year-old was handling all of the automaker’s public relations and advertising, as well as acting as the sales manager. He left Saab when the U.S. office moved from New York City to Connecticut in 1961, and he joined Volvo, where he would work until 1978, rising to the position of vice president of marketing, sales, advertising, public relations and more.
It was a call from his former boss at Saab, Ralph Millet, that lured him back to the smaller Swedish automaker with the offer of president and CEO of Saab Cars U.S.A., which he accepted in May of 1979. It was Bob who raised Saab’s profile by promoting the company’s turbocharging, by sponsoring Skip Barber’s open-wheel Spec Car racing series, by helping the Saab Club to host the first annual Saab Owners Convention in 1983 (the 2009 SOC will be held in Colorado) and by coming up with the idea for the Saab Convertible, which was introduced in 1986 in 900 Turbo form and quickly became Saab’s halo car.
This energetic man retired in 1991, shortly after General Motors bought 50 percent of the automaker. Far from sitting still, he continued to attend the Saab Owners Conventions, and he and Anne indulged their passion for traveling the United States with their camper, riding motorcycles and for creating gourmet meals- his ‘job,’ Anne told him, because once he retired, she’d retired from cooking dinner.
We last met up with Bob at the autumn 2007 Boston Auto Show launch of Saab’s 9-3 Turbo X and unveiling of the Heritage Collection’s 1985 Turbo SPG, and he was as jovial and happy to share his stories as ever.
You will be missed…