Our man in Sheffield innocently goes on holiday, gets Saabed for his trouble.
Holidays: Billed as the great getaway from it all, but even with the nine to five out the window, nerves can still get frazzled, just in different ways. Extra traffic and roadworks, snaking ice cream and café queues, soaring blood pressure under a relentlessly torrid sun, along with phrases I have no wish to hear – staycation being the current one to infuriate. Add to this, the plethora of grey utilities which, no matter how remotely one wanders, seem to permeate every car park, blocking the high streets.
Enamoured more with the mountainous and coastal beauty of Northern Wales’ Llyn Peninsula than perambulating amidst the more populated areas, it was difficult to find any form of automobile interest; a sky blue Lamborghini Urus and a bright orange Jaguar I-Pace being two distinct and distinctive wildcards. Everything else really did appear to be a crossover or sports utility until three chance sightings gave light to that glimmer of hope. And they all once hailed from a town called Trollhättan.
First to transfix my gaze was this 9-5 saloon. At twelve years old, this two litre, 220bhp petrol engined model passed every MOT and covered but 64,000 miles, still looking the business at a soupçon over five metres in length. Overall, there’s an elegance along with a fuss-free charm to the car. Details which delighted were the translucent blue area on the side view mirror along with the rear lighting area which, amid today’s overwrought nonsense appears calm, almost tranquil.
Built when Spyker had just bought SAAB, this model derivation started at a not insubstantial £27,000 and garnered favourable press plaudits. Sadly my attention was diverted by another modern Defender barrelling through the local streets towing the coastal water weapon of choice, the jet ski. Adding to my frustration, a large group of people then spilled out of a café and surrounded the 9-5, seemingly intent on lingering, thus preventing further inspection. With the intention of returning, I hastened on, only to find another Swedish vision close by.
Looking somewhat more careworn, the striking Lime Yellow livery on the 9-3 convertible was truly a wake up call from the ocean of greys, even on a glorious summer’s morn. With its no longer truly black closed lid, this 2004 model would have cost the original purchaser in the ball park of £25,000, no cheap carriage when new. Akin to its saloon brethren, there is no aggression here.
Yes, the rubber strips might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, nor that particular hue, but tucked most neatly into its parking space, the 9-3 cut more of a dash than the (naturally grey) T-Roc convertible that chose to disturb my viewing pleasure this time – the mature male driver’s balding pate certainly proved more distracting than his expensive steed. One likes to hope that this Swedish beauty continues to offer reliable service though the niggling doubt of spares availability must weigh on the present owner’s mind from time to time.
Maybe not, for the next model seen is this tale’s oldest in timeline and by far the furthest travelled – this being a 1994, 2.3 litre 9000 CSE. The overall look of this car belies its 316,000 miles, something not lost on brand aficionados. Yes, we know the 9000 also shared with Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Lancia a Type Four platform beneath, but my word, look at it. The beige paintwork may be somewhat unprepossessing, but this Giugario/ Björn Envall penned sculpture knocks the very socks off the ranks of bland moderns parked nearby.
Full marks to this now deceased manufacturer in building such a long legged machine in as much the owner keeping this practically thirty year old example in decent fettle, especially in a coastal and therefore rust inducing environment. Those beefy bumpers, a perennial SAAB feature (gloriously smoothed away in the aforementioned 9-5) and my memories of seeing those quite magical looking headlamp wipers in operation make for an exotic, esoteric choice of car.
Even the name, a SAAB Nine Thousand creates an enduringly granite feel to proceedings. The slim grille and headlamps, enlivened by a correct amount of chrome trim – a treat for the eyes. The wheels, whilst in need of a minor scrub are a delightfully clean design, again a far cry from anything emanating from most modern day manufacturers.
To the rear, there is no mistaking the Swedish levels of safety – that bright red rear strip could derive from a fire engine. The smoked indicator glass lends the archetypal architectural look. Does anyone know what form of rubber SAAB used for the rear spoiler? For this and seemingly all other rubber surfaces on this example suffer not from pitting, greying or weather induced ageing. Reawaken that formula, apply it today, somebody please?
One particular detail that engaged me most was the rear window surround on this liftback. A judicious third brake light encumbers not upon rearward vision while the ventilation extractor is almost a thing of beauty. Such small but perfectly formed areas are so sadly lacking on today’s machinery. And whilst sure the readership of this parish will undoubtedly know more than my fleeting glance at such a rare bird, what other vehicles wore such unappreciated jewellery?
In the days before PCPs and internet searches, this CSE came equipped with airbags, ABS, cruise control, heated front seats, front and rear compartment ash trays along with that effortlessly Swedish style that few others could get close to. The engine in particular garnered high praise from road testers and owners, alike. That SAAB made around 175,000 from 1992 to the range being ousted by the 9-5 in 1998 is testament to how niche they were, even then.
As yet more jet skis ambled by, this time pulled by several of Stuttgart’s Cayenne and Macan offerings, the realisation that the family hatchback and saloon are an endangered species withered me as though I were a melting ice cream. Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. Fortunately, not all adhere to this utility malarkey.
PS. still yet to see a new Astra too.
 www.sea-doo.com. Seen almost everywhere, either being towed behind a 4WD or flat chat out on the briny.