614. According to my research, that is the best estimate of the total number of Saab 9-4x’s produced. Estimates of the number sold in the United States are less than half that figure, probably around 267.
To put that number into context, that is roughly how many Toyota Camrys are sold every four hours, or the number of Ford F-150’s sold every two. Or to use another measurement at the opposite end of the scale, that is not even double the 450 total Veyrons sold by Bugatti.
For grizzled Curbside Classic hunters such as my self, this is the big one. It’s not just a unicorn, but a unicorn whistling Dixie while chewing bubblegum at the same time.
As if finding one in the wild wasn’t difficult enough, the 9-4x (like its 9-2x and 9-7x stablemates) looks virtually indistinguishable in profile from its donor platform (The Cadillac SRX in the case of the 9-4x). I’ve lamented about this problem before, but main challenge of spotting rare Saabs in the wild is that you not only have to find them, you have to see them from the front to recognize it as a Saab. If highly skilled car spotters struggle to identify badge-engineered Saabs in the wild, car buyers of 2011 certainly weren’t fooled.
A quick Google search reveals that, as of 2017, there are roughly ten 9-4x’s for sale in the US at any given time (I’m sure readers of this post five years from now will be amazed that 9-4x’s were once even this common). I’ve been aware of one for sale at a dealership about 45 minutes away from my house for a while now. I’ve pondered stopping by at some point just to see it, but that kind of feels like cheating – sort of like going on a big game hunt at the zoo.
Luckily, my moral dilemma was solved driving in to work early one gloomy and rainy morning, when by chance I happened to spot this car parked in the lot of the local Advance Auto Parts. I pulled into the parking lot, jumped out of my still idling car, and immediately started snapping photos with my iPhone. Shortly thereafter, a concerned looking gentleman rushed out of the still closed store to inquire what I am up to.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to do. I’ve been taking photos of other people’s cars for Curbside Classic for a while now, and in all that time I have never once run into an owner. I’ve always realized that sooner or later it was bound to happen, but I must say I never really prepared for what I would do when that day arrived.
Caught slightly off guard, I explained to him that I was a contributor for a website called Curbside Classic, which specializes in telling the stories about all kinds of cars, both mundane and exceptional (Every car has a story is really a wonderful strapline). I proceeded to explain to him how exceptional his 9-4x truly was, and how I had been looking for one for ages.
He seemed to be relieved that all I was interested in was his 9-4x, and not something more nefarious (after checking the CC web site on his phone to verify its legitimacy). Plus, I think he sensed my excitement over his car, which is hard to fake over an otherwise generic compact luxury SUV.
I soon came to find out that Sam, while not the original owner, bought 9-4x number 145 from a failing dealership in 2011 when it had around 1,000 miles. It was used as a personal ride by the dealership’s owner, and possibly as a demo. He bought it not because it was special, or out of any great love of Saabs, but because it was the type of car he was looking for, and it was a good deal. In other words, how most people choose their cars. In Sam’s case, it was an opportunity to get a Cadillac SRX at a significant discount. An off-the-rack version of the SRX is surly not what GM intended when product planners envisioned the 9-4x.
Sam was very cordial about the whole affair. He was happy to let me photograph his car, and even offered to meet me again after getting the car cleaned up. Alas, on the day of our scheduled meetup, the weather was even worse than on the day of our original encounter.
Sam is now well aware of the rarity of his ride, even if he wasn’t when he acquired it. Sometimes an acquaintance will tell him how they saw a car like his out on the road, to which Sam will respond, with justified authority, “No you didn’t see one. You only think you did.”
Sam has no particular plans for his 9-4x. I’m sure it will continue to be driven until it gets used up, and is no more. That’s just the way it goes with most cars, which is why there aren’t still tens of thousands of Edsels roaming the streets today. To most owners, theirs is just another car.
I did give Sam one last word of advice: Drive carefully. In the event of even a minor fender bender, replacement body parts would likely prove impossible to find (although some people appear to be hoarding 9-4x’s to prepare for this contingency).