(first posted 5/15/2013) Brethren, we are once again gathered together to mourn the passing of another automobile company. Saab was of that rare breed of car that always had a band of devoted, aye, fanatical followers. In her prime, Saab could not fail to ignite the after-burners of anyone with a predilection to genuine character, speed, innovation, intelligence, and even sexy good looks (at times). Not bad for a company that never once designed a clean-sheet new engine and borrowed more platforms than Heidi Klum. But when you’re small and from Sweden, resourcefulness is essential: Saab finagled an existence in this brutal industry far longer than might have been expected. But now she joins an august group of other fallen automotive heroes in Valhalla: Borgward, Panhard, Tatra, Pontiac, Kaiser, Glas, TVR, Jowett, etc…better that then whoring herself to another rich benefactor. But Saab’s story is worth retelling.
Forget the “Born From Jets” tag line; it was propellers anyway. And in actuality, Saab was born out of necessity, as so much else at the end of the war. We built the factory, now what do we do? Do what everyone else was doing: build a car. And how? Easier said than done. Contrary to endless attempts to prove otherwise, there’s not all that much in common between the two. So where to start?
How about with this? Saab wouldn’t be the only ones looking to DKW for inspiration. And what a brilliant car DKW’s F9 prototype was, especially in 1939. A highly aerodynamic body and a two stroke engine driving the front wheels. The car of the postwar future. What’s not to like?
Initially, the sixteen Saab aviation engineers (of which only two had a driver’s license) assigned to the task came up with something a bit more radical and aviation-like, as in all the openings in the car being stressed members, like airplane hatches. Not practical. So they scoured junkyards, and bought some new cars, including a DKW. The more functional end result, the 92001, or Ursaab, certainly pays homage to the F9 as well as their relentless pursuit of an even lower coefficient of drag.
The prototype was powered by an actual DKW engine and transmission, a two-stroke twin producing 18 hp. With an (ac)claimed Cd of 0.30, the 92001 undoubtedly made the most of that modest power. Or at least looked like it. And rarely has an automobile company (save VW) had a more iconic birth-mobile.
Although the Ursaab used a DKW drive train, Saab did something rather different when it came to locating the transmission for the 92. Unlike the DKW, which had its transmission behind the engine, Saab placed it inline with the engine. This was a first, and the 92 doesn’t get nearly as much credit for it, as everyone tends to credit the 1962 Autobianchi Primula as being the first. After the Primula, it quickly became the default configuration for FWD cars with a transverse engine.
Although the Ursaab was more fetus than progeny, it embodied the qualities that would hence define (real) Saabs: feminine, creative, intelligent, feline, eccentric, distinctive, progressive.
No wonder Saabs came to be embraced by those attracted to its inherent qualities, to the extent of being stereotyped as a college professor’s car. As limited as any such generalization ever is, that expression did mean something more once than today. Or did it? Is the Prius a college professor’s car?
Maybe it’s easier to define Saab’s intrinsic personality by contrasting it to that other Swedish car company, Volvo. The two are almost perfect complements. Volvo dates back to 1927, and its cars have traditionally been, well, traditional. Firmly embraced by the more conservative set, there is a saying that captures its place in the Swedish mindset perfectly: Volvo, villa, vovve (Volvo, house, dog). No wonder Volvo came to be famous for their wagons, like the legendary Duett.
Volvo’s all-new car for the post war era, the PV444, may have adopted a bit of hump-backed aero-pretense, but it was fundamentally a brick compared to the Saab. And built like one too: tough, masculine, conventional in configuration and execution. A solid and reliable burgher.
Of course, it was a bit different in the States, where Volvo was one of dozens of import brands, and also came to be associated with college professors as well as engineers and parents with kids in Waldorf schools. But that’s all relative; and even in the US, Saabs were always one or two steps to the quirky side of Volvo. And which company is still around, even if owned by the Chinese?
After a few years of refinement and the deft hand of the gifted industrial designer Sixten Sason, the Saab 92 entered production in 1949. The DKW engine gave way to Saab’s own interpretation of it: 746 cc, 25 hp, thermo-syphon cooling, and a three-speed transmission with column shift. Top speed: 64 mph (105 kmh). Time to get there: indeterminate.
The nattering two-stroke spewed a plume of blue smoke on acceleration, and blubbered on over-run. A bit ironic then, that the stinky,smoky Saabs were so favored by the progressive set. But the idea of two stroke was enthralling to certain minds. Only seven moving engine parts! Just the thing to brag about over Chianti while listening to a jazz combo. Smugness is born from (ram)jets: No moving parts at all!
But two-strokes are receptive to tuning. By 1952, a Saab 92 (now with 35 hp) brought home the first of many victories at Monte Carlo, copping the Coupe des Dames there, with Greta Molander at the wheel. A delicate foreshadowing of greater things to come.
The skirts were really lifted for the Sonett I, Saabs first tentative foray into genuine sports cars. Developed in a barn by a few enthusiasts, the Sonett had a 57.5 hp version of Saab’s new three-cylinder two-stroke. Weighing some 1300 lbs, this was a brisk little barchetta good for 100 mph, nothing to sneeze at in 1955. Racing would have been its purpose in life, had the rules not suddenly changed. Although only a handful were built, it was not forgotten. How could it be?
The Saab was thoroughly re-engineered for 1955, now called 93.
The 93’s new three-cylinder was now mounted longitudinally, yielded 33 hp, and still feeding through a three-speed, with over-run (freewheeling). The first Saab to be exported, it arrived in the US just as the great fifties import boom was really getting under way. Yes, these are what I used to see as a kid blowing smoke around the University of Iowa campus, confirming their stereotype.
And one of the kids in my grade school class rode in one of these. His Mom was at least as good looking as this one. Although the Type 95 had a perfectly functional rear-facing third seat despite its compact dimensions, I preferred to sit next to her, as she smelled much better than the exhaust sucked in from the open rear window.
The definitive first-generation Saab was the 96, built for some twenty years, until 1980. A more in-depth write-up can be found here, but let’s just say Saab was doing a VW during all those years, with the biggest change coming in 1967, when impending emission regs killed the two-stroke once and for all. Ironic too, that an American-designed engine would be the only thing to fit under the hood in front of the axle line.
The little 60 degree V4 was originally intended for Ford’s VW fighter in the late fifties, the aborted Cardinal. That car and its engine were shipped off to Cologne, Germany, where the V4 and its six cylinder offshoot powered millions of Euro-Fords, before finding its way back home into billions of Explorers and such. And of course Saab 96s, where it was embraced with welcome engine mounts. A number of other engines had been tried, but the Ford was right-sized and right-priced. Just not right-sounding, as it’s nigh-near impossible to make a V4 sound like its not missing a cylinder or two. But for the 96, it just was just another continuation of its eccentricities: from engine blubbering to engine stuttering.
Saab carved out an impressive corner in the world of racing by sticking mostly to rallying, if not all four wheels. The high-performance GT 850 Monte Carlo two-stroke, and the later V4s racked up repeat wins at Monte Carlo and elsewhere, especially in the hands of the legendary Erik Carlsson.
The Sonett re-emerged in 1966, this time as a coupe and production-ready, with the US as the prime intended market. Making room for the V4 only challenged its intrinsically compromised lines further. It was one of the most eccentric sports cars ever, at least from a mass-producer of automobiles. There were plenty of British limited-production plastic-bodied weirdos then, but who ever actually saw a Fairthorpe or Berkeley Sport? Sonetts, yes. Better to be inside it than the other way around.
The attempt to smooth out its bulbous nose on the Sonett III was somewhat successful. But with arrivals like the cheaper and infinitely more powerful and handsome Datsun 240Z, the Sonett’s few buyers were serious Saabistas, especially since it had all of 65 hp. A Karman Ghia without the Italian styling. But this was no damensportwagen; it was a gnarly little troll, and its buyers were certainly not needing for public expressions of their virility.
By the mid sixties, Saab was now twenty years old, and ready to make its mark in the automotive world. It was an ambitious act, and the most defining one. As well as the last truly all-new all-Saab. The 99 arrived in 1967, ready to take up battle with the likes of the small BMW, Alfa Romeo Giulia, and of course Volvo’s also-new 140 Series.
Despite reflecting a more rectilinear world-view of the times, the 99 still cut through the air with a very respectable Cd of 0.37. It was roomy, handled well, had fine brakes, was comfortable, offered excellent traction, and was powered by…well, nobody’s perfect (except BMW, of course).
The engineering firm Ricardo had assisted Saab in developing its own four stroke engine, but it was going to be too expensive to finalize and put into production. So Ricardo put Saab in touch with another client, Triumph, that was just about to put its own new SOHC “Slant Four” engine in production. Saab once again did the (seemingly) expedient thing, and had engines shipped from England. It won’t come as a surprise to hear that this didn’t work out so well. By 1972, Saab started building its own improved version of the engine, now known as the B engine.
As is fairly obvious, Saab 99 and 900 engines were mounted “backwards”, with the output and clutch at the front, then feeding power to the transaxle mounted underneath the engine, although with its own oil supply. Mustn’t be too conventional.
In 1974, Saab added a sloping rear hatchback to both its two and four door 99s, creating the combi coupé, or Wagon Back, in Americanese. This became a defining aspect to most Saabs hence, or it least it seems that way. And it was remarkably roomy back there, thanks to the low floor height. It was the closest Saab got to building an actual wagon in a long time. Meanwhile,Volvo was churning out wagons by the boatload.
During the seventies, when American cars lost their mojo, Saab’s was very well intact, and growing. The 99 started out reasonably powered by European standards of the time, but that was just a starting point. Increases in displacement, fuel injection, and the sporty EMS model countered the trend convincingly. But the real kicker was the 99 Turbo, which blew a fresh and stiff new breeze upon the automotive landscape. And made indelible impressions on those who ever got behind its wheel.
At a time when Detroit V8s were making as little as 110 hp, the two-liter turbo four packed all of 145 hp. Sounds ridiculous now, but in 1978, it was a revelation. Especially compared to the BMW 320i, which had all of 105 hp. It’s all relative, and the Saab Turbo helped spark the whole turbo revolution. Soon Dodge Caravans would be proudly sporting turbo badges. The Saab 99 Turbo was a prophet of the eighties, as malaise gave way to yuppiedom.
The short-nosed Turbo 99 had a brief life, and is hard to find in the wild anymore. Replaced in 1979 by the 900 series, which featured a longer sloping hood to help meet US front impact standards. The (original) 900 probably defines the “Classic” Saab better than any other. Certainly more so than the Vectra-based neo-900.
Convertibles, and higher performance models, along with an ever-greater refinement in technology, 16 valve heads, electronic engine controls, and minor body tweaks kept the 900 going all the way to 1993. A remarkable 25 year run for the definitive Saab.
Well before the 900′s protracted demise, Saab knew it had to be replaced. But the complexities and costs of developing a brand new car was too much, so Saab joined hands with Fiat on the Type Four platform, that would constitute the Saab 9000 of 1984, as well as the very similar Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema, and the better disguised Alfa 164. A competent and roomy car, it was a bit more challenged in taking on the deeply entrenched and successful mid-sized premium cars like the Mercedes E-Series and BMW 5-Series. Buyers in this class were not so readily moved by the inherent advantages of fwd and a hatchback. A sedan version soon followed, but obviously the fwd was here to stay.
The usual progression of styling tweaks and performance updates tried to keep the 9000 relevant and attractive. The reality was that the 9000 was not a hit, and Saab was in a pickle. The 900 was aging quickly, and the 9000 was not producing the profits necessary to even contemplate successor cars for either of them. Saab’s ambitious push into the premium sector was stalled, and the nose was pointing earthward, precariously so. Time to bail out, or be bailed out. Where are the parachutes?
That GM would be the one to buy Saab was not a good omen. It was obviously a case of Jaguar envy, after Ford snapped up that equally desperate automaker. Undoubtedly, GM would have preferred BMW, but it kept saying nein danke! Everyone was getting into the Euro premium car game, and never being one to be left out, GM bit where it could. Who would have thought?
Thinking didn’t appear to be the primary factor; more like fear of getting left behind. That’s one of the most powerful decision drivers ever, usually for the worse. And how exactly was GM going to successfully manage another weak brand? At the end of the worst decade of its existence, when its own market share was imploding? In the usual way, by platform sharing.
Ok, but execution is the key, and Saab’s (unfortunately named) neo 900, riding on an Opel Vectra platform, was quickly seen for what it was: the future of Saab, for better and for worse. Saab now had access to capital, technology, and GM’s euro-V6 engine, but quality and genuine Saab-ness were sorely missing.
After five years of GM’s involvement and sanitizing, Saab finally showed an operating profit for 1995. It was not to be a regularly recurring feature. Not that it kept GM from buying the rest of the company in 2000; they were too committed by then not to. Welcome to the growing GM orphanage!
GM’s versatile 2900 platform was duly enlarged a bit to accommodate the long-overdue 9000 replacement, the awkwardly named 9-5. Like the 900, soon to be called 9-3, these cars had their virtues and vices, lovers and haters. You can duke that out yourselves, but what can’t be argued is that they failed to save the brand, in more ways than one. GM had the answer to that problem too: brand extension, the formula that also worked so well at Saturn.
Have we almost forgotten (or repressed) the Saaburu? Graft a Saab nose on the Subaru WRX, and it’s…just about the best Saab made in ages! Here was the true successor to the spirit of the real old Saab. Too bad Subaru had co-opted that decades earlier. Subaru probably mopped up more ex-Saab and Volvo drivers than any other brand.
And as appealing as the 9-2x might have been with GM’s crazy discount prices at the time, the ruse was seen for what it was: another pathetic joke in GM badge-engineering’s comedy club. Also known as the Improv.
That was just the warm-up act. The headliner was the 9-7. An Saab born from truck frames and V8s. Probably the best SUV of its kind GM ever built; what more can be said? Poor Saab; now a sex change operation in its old age. What next?
Nothing. Our Eulogy ends here, because if the true Saab was still alive to some extent then, the 9-7 was the final straw. Everything that happened since are the twitches and jerks of a zombie. And were inundated with the antics surrounding it. The end was inevitable, but obviously some didn’t think so.
Many may well have enjoyed a genuinely positive experience with their 9-5s and 9-3s and such, but the level of Saab fanaticism in the final months is remarkable. It seems to be a reflection of the times: I’m entitled to have Saab, because I’ve pinned my self-identification to it. I’m owed Saab.
I’d have been much happier to see Saab go to its inevitable grave twenty years ago, without the GM years and recent histrionics. Death is never a pretty thing, car companies included. We might have spent the past twenty years arm-chairing endless “what -ifs” and “could-have” scenarios. But its hard to imagine anyone coming up with a more bizarre outcome.
So will we spend the next twenty years debating alternative outcomes? Not me. Saab was an iffy proposition from the get-go, and there’s really no room left in the market for what Saab once embodied. Others have long plucked its remaining useful attributes and made them their own.
If there really was to be a true Saab born from airplanes today, it might look something more like this. And we all know how that turned out. Everything has a season, and Saab’s is well over.
(Thanks to Ingvar Hallstrom for his insights)
Postscript: Brother VanillaDude would like to add some pithy words:
SAABs were not perfect. They were never designed to be driven by folks interested in running Pookey to soccer, getting Mariposa to the American Girl shopping euphorium, or for Molly to pick up fresh brioche at Whole Foods. SAABs could to that, but that is NOT why SAABs were designed. It is not why they are beloved. How SAABs handled the daily routines of farting around town is not why they will be missed.
They will be missed because they required more than a 3000 mile jaunt to Jiffy Lube. SAABs needed more than anything put out by Tokyo and most vehicles out of Detroit. SAABs needed you. Rarely do today’s brands ask from their drivers an actual relationship with their cars. Today’s cars don’t need you because they have been designed to be ignored by you, yet put out a few hundred thousand miles, and be sold off with a respectable resale price to another driver who will ignore the car. If you think a car’s only purpose is to drive from point A to point B, without it intruding into your life, then Tokyo, Detroit and most any other European brand can do that for you, and then disappear into the wallpaper.
SAABs needed their drivers. SAABs needed mechanics. This shouldn’t be considered a flaw, anymore than having a favorite horse thinking it is a part of your family and needing love, daily care and vet visits. SAABs are auto pets. Ownership can be more than just holding a car title. Ownership can be more than just bragging about how your car doesn’t fail. Ownership can be more rewarding than tooling to the mall in an Accord, a Camry, or a Fusion. Cars can be more than our passive silent slaves.
Cars used to mean more. Today they really don’t. Perhaps it is because a growing number of supposedly enlightened people tell us that using them is some kind of symbol of whatever-it-is-they-are-kvetching-about-this-week. College professors lecturing against cars because of sexisms, or poverty in Flambodia, or an ice cube melting in Dallas. Cars used to be considered more than wheels. They used to be considered the future. Car ownership used to be a positive statement in a future-focused society. Cars used to have fins, torpedos, jet hood ornaments, and cockpits. SAABs come from that era.
It is a wonder SAAB survived this long. Twisting a SAAB into a boring people machine with hopes of churning profits into GM’s coffers was like trying to mass produce your favorite pair of flannel boxers. You wore those holes into them, you stretched them out so that they don’t yank at your hairy bits, they smell like you. There is a reason you sneak them out of the trash when your wife finds them in the laundry and continually throws them out. There is a reason SAABs are saved from junk yards. It is our imperfections that make us individuals which finds us comforts and love.
Cry brothers and sisters! Today we mourn! We have reached a point where soul-less Toyotas, Fords and Nissans sit passively in our three car McMansion garages. Cry for a time when men were needed to tend to their family’s rides. Look back at today and recognize there was the time when there were brands of cars that needed your sweat, brawn and muscle, your patience, time and cash to stop them from piddling on your driveway. Cry for the death of another one of a man’s favorite responsibilities. Auto perfection is causing our hands to grow soft and our tools to collect dust. It is closing our garages with their smell of grease, Snap-On calendar girls and empty PBR cans and forcing us into sipping lattes in dealer showrooms where computers tell spotless auto specialists your Civic needs a new chip.
Look upon a SAAB like you do an old Kentucky Derby winner and savor the relationship it offers you. That is true auto perfection!
Great Piece. RIP Saab.
China and Japan have brought Saab back from the dead the new Saab is being manufactured in Sweden , the USA won’t see it until it succeeds gas powered at first but will go electric some time soon. Saab lover say your prayers!
I read TTAC for about two weeks, and I remember this article, so now I know about when I was reading over there.
And ursaab — I love it.
More proof that OPEC destroyed the car dream. Now we are left with mindless variations of Accords and Camrys that function well, but have no soul.
I am driving a Subaru Legacy now 2013 that is swell but just a car. No one is going to pay to see this car in 40 years or wax nostalgic about dates like my parents talk about in their 73 Firebird.
Seems like that romantic era died with CAFE.
Even bad cars were good like pizza when they meant something to you.
And for many other cars on the road today, too.
SAAB was killed largely by globalization. Companies that small could survive when the global car market was comprised of a bunch of isolated backwaters. But for products such as cars, which have high production and development costs, globalization forces the creation of globally-oriented companies.
Once the Brits dropped that ball, the Japanese and Germans proved to be the best at taking the initiative. SAAB was too quirky, plus it never developed the luxury good-better-best troika (think 3-5-7 series or C/E/S Mercedes) that could provide a branding ladder for the customer to climb. Orienting the lineup around two cars and no halos was doomed to fail.
“SAAB was too quirky, plus it never developed the luxury good-better-best troika (think 3-5-7 series or C/E/S Mercedes) that could provide a branding ladder for the customer to climb. Orienting the lineup around two cars and no halos was doomed to fail.”
Telling quote – sad but true. If a person can truly appreciate what a (real) SAAB was meant to be then he can call himself an aficionado of automobiles in general.
Another problem came from the squeeze created by Toyota and Honda. Companies such as SAAB simply didn’t have the bankroll to keep up with their 4-5 year model cycles.
It used to be possible to milk 10 or 15 years out of a car design with just minor variations, but that’s not longer true. Every change requires several hundred million dollars to make, and not everyone can afford that.
Well actually, basic platform designs have been hanging around longer, the car makers have just gotten creative in reskinning them well. It started with the big switch to FWD, instead of engineering a whole new body, they can just redo the unibody. All the car makers do it, if you really dig in the basic architecture of many of the popular sellers have remained the same for years.
The cost issue isn’t the reskinning so much, it is the cost of everything else that goes into a car. Safety and various other regulations, drivetrain updates, and most importantly, capital costs. The physical buildings, equipment, and labor. Large volumes manufacturers like GM, Toyota, etc. can spread around costs easier and be able to subsidize niche models, even if they are profitable like the Corvette, because all the sunk costs are amortized throughout the whole organization. A lot of why GM went through bankruptcy was not simply because they lost market share, but because they were burdened with a lot of capital costs, the physical plants, but most specifically costs related to labor.
Manufacturers have to take advantage of economies of scale. A lot of fuss is made about how the GM divisions lost their engines, and various other things, but it was no longer feasible for that to have continued indefinitely. Every multi-make manufacturer went to sharing parts and bits. Lincolns were powered by off-the-shelf Ford motors from the 60s, Chrysler never really had a unique motor for the Imperial, and Cadillac got lucky being able to run the Northstar as an exclusive motor in the deVilles/DTS until 2011. Even Lexus, is completely shared except for the big LS sedan, Toyota can only justify such a unique product because it sells for house money in many parts of the country.
What is happening is that the automakers are getting slick about making the appear and feel different but utilizing as much architecture as can be practically continued and shared.
So yes, purists can bemoan that the Old Saab died in the early 1990s but those days were numbered. Just look at the Ford D3/4 platform, it underpins a good 1/3 of Ford models and at least 1/2 of Volvo models at different times. And they managed to make them different enough that the average buyer could not really tell they were the same.
So in the end, it is what it is and what it was going to be. The days of craft building are over unless the car is rare and very expensive. So GM, Ford, BMW (for RR) didn’t wreck anything it just became what it was. Cars now are mostly brands and marketing exercises rather than being totally unique.
Growing up, I had a neighbor that owned two 900s for years. They were very good cars for him.
Now, I know one person that is still daily-driving their 9000 turbo sedan which, although not perfect, is a pretty darn fun car to drive and it handles well.
Rust In Pieces, Brother Saab, Rust In Pieces.
Keep it up and I’m gonna buy one of these myself.
Good, Saab still has fans. We at CC have been assigned to write Saab stories by Victor Mueller, CEO of Saab-Spyker. The reason to do so is for rather large amounts of cash (ad revenue) & to see if Saab still has many hardcore fanboys in the real world anymore. So far, both prove true.
(This message was endorsed and approved by Victor Mueller, CEO of Saab-Spyker Motorcars in Utopia)
Just now I’m wondering how many bags of chicken feed would fit in the back of a 900 if I had one. I say, IF I had one…..
DO. I remember driving my Dad’s 99s and 900s, and — outside of Dad — there was nothing more idiosyncratic. A very upright seating position, a steering wheel approaching a horizontal position, no damn doorsills, and a crazy torque steer that told you you were too hot off the line… lines like no other car on the road, and a hatchback that let you haul more than ANY car should be able to hold. They were cars that engaged both soul AND heart — and then there was the turbo.
Unfortunately, I’ve only found “well-used” versions of those cars. I’m on my second GM-era Saab, replacing an ’03 9-5 SportCombi with an ’08 9-3 SportCombi Aero. Both are good looking cars, fun to drive, but mere shadows of the real thing. Still, I’m crochety enough to fly around in the 9-3, though I don’t dare to drive it to its full potential. I’m toying with the idea of looking for a convertible to add to the stable. In yellow, if I can find it!
In hindsight, SAAB was on life support and the final years of the brand were, interesting, to say the least. The 9-7x was bizzare, and the Dayton GM assembly that built it was like a popsicle factory – any flavor, available in Chevy, Saturn, Olds, Buick, GMC, Isuzu and Saab. I’m surprised there wasn’t a Saab variant of the Uplander (facelifted Venture van) . . . . Think Saturn Relay. I at least got to sit in one of the last new Saab’s at last year’s Honolulu car show (a 9-5, which I thought was nice, but grossly overpriced for what it – did not – offer; a car in the BMW 5 series category).
I grew up in San Francisco/Marin and Saabs truly were driven by those who follwed the proverbial beat of a different drum, or, like Volvos the car that ferried the young girls to the Marin Ballet Academy right around the corner from where I grew up in San Rafael.
I work with a fellow who drives a 99 9-5 Combi turbo/automatic. He bought it a few years ago for very little cash, and it has been a good car for him. It still seems to maintain some of the Saab character like the key on the console and a very unusual oil-dampened slide out and twist cupholder in the dash (but only one, despite the fact that there are two front seats). Very Saab-like.
Congrats, great post, great photos….rip Saab
The alloys on the 1st generation Turbo were very unique and in my estimation a great design in their day. They still are.
I shed a tear for poor Saab… I have many fond memories of them. My father was half owner of a dealership that sold, get this, Saabs and Checkers (there must be a joke in there somewhere…). My favorite Saab from the past was our ’67 wagon that had some sort of, ahem, “high performance” engine (I believe it was called the Monte Carlo?). We also had a ’63 that grenaded one fine July Saturday on the Ohio Turnpike while heading down to Nelson’s Ledges roadcourse… ahhh… the memories…
“I Saab at my Checkered past?”
I”m in Stockholm now and not seeing many Saabs. Perhaps the Swedes weren’t buying them as well.
Unlike suggested in the text, Tatra is still alive and kicking, building off-road trucks!
Actually, I have an ’04 turbo that has had no issues, is blinding fast, and corners like
a Dino. It is also comfortable. I like this car so much, even if/when it does have a problem,
I’ll still think its worth it. How many cars can you say that about? (Ive owned many cars.)
Fantastic driving machine.
I just saw a fully restored 1959 SAAB 93 at a small car show. It had the three-cylinder smog maker and suicide doors. CC effect?
Something I’d never noticed before is that the 92/93’s rear fender cutline is different from the 94-95-96s, and absent from the Ursaab prototype.
Really, once it appeared in the development process they should’ve finished the job and given the 92 and all its’ original-shape successors four doors.
I sold my huge 1966 Bonneville convertible in 1991 after driving it for 17 years (that is, since age 18). When it came time to own a convertible again, 3 years ago – one with a rear seat, specifically – I found that I was in the market for an ’08-’09 Saab 9-3, after having rejected all the used alternatives (a new one being out of the question). I’m so glad I didn’t settle for a Chrysler or Mustang or gamble with a German marque. The Saab is delightful (except for where GM cheaped out – interior plastics, no fuel filler lock, etc.), both powerful and economical (standard turbo motor and 5-speed auto), and distinctive and scarce; I’ll probably never see another Electric Blue one.
Had two Saabs, a 96 9000 and an 06 9-5, my favorite car I ever owned was the 9000 although the 9-5 was blindingly fast in “sport” mode. I’ll never forgive GM for killing Saab. Saabs were different but excellent cars for the money.
I could never afford Saabs when they existed. Now I have a reservation for an Aptera.
So maybe there’s hope?
I own three Saabs. Two 9-3’s and a 9-7x. And I love them all very much. If I find an easy rebuilder at an insurance auction, I’ll gladly pick up a fourth car. If you want a car, you have tons of choices. If you want a Saab, you have one choice. Get a Saab. Nothing else on earth drives like one. There are cars and then there are Saabs.