Some will be of the opinion that ‘SAAB oddity’ is something of an oxymoron, in particular when it concerns the Swedish company prior to its acquisition (and homogenization) by General Motors. That may be so, but over the course of its existence, the Swedish marque produced and, in some cases, inspired its fair share of projects that were noteworthy and unusual, even by the company’s own sometimes eccentric standards. Today we will Continue reading “Swede Dreams are Made of These”
Bouquet of lilies in hand, we ponder what might have been.
Editor’s note: Following the retrospective pieces earlier this week on ‘lost’ design concepts from both Saab and Lancia, we revisit this fine piece by our erstwhile Hamburg design correspondent, first published on DTW in February 2016.
The demise and desecration of that most idiosyncratic Swedish brand may well be the source of an endless stream of stories. Yet more interesting however is a less well-publicised aspect of the period when Saab was already taking its last breath: the cars that were not to be.
The very fact that Saab was a deeply mismanaged business would appear to be indisputable. And yet, at the very end of its existence, that other Swedish brand seemed to have developed a hitherto dormant will to Continue reading “Ghosts of Saabs Unborn”
As the world’s auto press converged at Geneva in March 2008 for the annual motor show – blissfully unaware of what would unfold within the global financial markets that Autumn – it was all very much business as usual. For General Motors however, already fighting several fire-fronts at home (to say nothing of their perennial loss-making volume European arm), there were increasingly dissatisfied voices being raised with the performance of their upmarket Swedish satellite.
Relations with Saab AB had become strained, with senior GM management viewing the troubled marque as simply a problem child to be dispensed with. But while keen disagreements at senior board level over Saab’s future were still taking place, a striking concept was prepared for landing at Palexpo 2008, intended to demonstrate the mothership’s continued backing for the Trollhättan carmaker while its future was being decided.
With a good deal of Saab’s development being twinned with Opel’s Rüsselsheim engineering centre by then in an effort to curb costs, there was a belief that a smaller, C-segment Saab offering could broaden the marque’s appeal, especially in European markets where such cars still sold strongly. The 2008 concept did not however simply emerge out of the ether, it was in fact the apogee of a dialogue that had been initiated at the turn of Millennium to Continue reading “Number Nine Dream”
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.
All too easily dismissed as somewhat of a crude hash-job, the 90 nevertheless sold well by SAAB standards and stayed true to traditional brand values.
In the eighties SAAB was still an independent manufacturer enjoying a relatively small yet very loyal customer base, but the lack of available finances for the development of new products was starting to hurt. Flirtations with Lancia in an effort to continue serving the lower price field after the discontinuation of the 96 with the Lancia A112 and SAAB-Lancia 600 proved unsuccessful; the cooperation in the Tipo 4 platform project did allow the Swedes to Continue reading “Swedish Math”
The year of 1967 would be an auspicious one for for the Trollhättan-based carmaker. The start of the year witnessed the maiden flight of the aircraft division’s advanced new Viggen jet fighter aircraft, while that Autumn, the first completely new Saab motor car since the marque’s inception would make its press debut. The 99 model (and its derivatives) would go on to Continue reading “Nordstjärna (Part Four)”
The early 1960s had been good years at Trollhättan. Saab sales had risen exponentially, the export performance of the 96 showed considerable promise, and its rally exploits further bolstered its appeal. But it was clear that to consolidate upon this success, a more modern, more adaptable Saab motorcar was required. In April 1964 management initiated Project Gudmund which would culminate in the 99 model, unveiled to the press in November 1967.
But meanwhile sales of the two-stroke 96 were stalling, and technical chief, Rolf Mellde recognised the need to act. Not that his engineers had exactly been warming their hands in the interim. Between 1960 and 1964, a number of four-stroke engines were evaluated in Saab bodyshells. Initially three powertrains were selected, a longitudinal 897 cc four cylinder Lloyd Arabella unit, a transversely mounted 848 cc BMC A-Series (à la Mini) and a 1089 cc V4 Lancia Appia unit.
In the years immediately following the cessation of global hostilities, the pace of technological change accelerated massively. However, this rapid forward motion was particularly obvious in the aviation sector, especially following the advent of the gas turbine jet engine.
The 9-4X arrived too late to save Saab. But could it have done so?
When General Motors acquired Saab, they were not taking control of a healthy, thriving carmaker. Saab was already losing money and furthermore, required massive investment. It’s clear that GM made many mistakes over its stewardship, but perhaps the most glaring of them was (and GM were by no means alone in this) a growth policy which placed speed and market presence over quality of execution.
Having spent vast sums of money acquiring European prestige car brands, General Motors, like their Dearborn rivals saw expansion as the favoured route to Continue reading “Late Reprieve”
Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We conclude the story of this unhappy union.
Having taken full ownership of Saab Automobile AB in 2000, GM was free to continue its planned transformation of the company into a premium competitor to Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The existing 9-3 was looking dated, appearing little different to the New Generation 900 launched in 1994, and its five-door format was out of step with its intended competitors, the A4, 3 Series and C-Class.
A new 9-3 was developed in parallel with the Opel Vectra C, based on the new GM Epsilon platform. Both cars were launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2002. The 9-3 adopted a four-door Sport Saloon format. A convertible followed in 2004 but the arguably more important SportWagon estate didn’t Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part Two)”
Like so many ill-considered marriages, GM’s entanglement with Saab was destined to end badly. We look back over this unhappy union.
Throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s, GM looked on enviously as its arch-rival Ford carefully and methodically assembled the pieces of what would become its Premier Automotive Group* (PAG), a stable of European premium, sports and luxury car marques to which it would add its own Lincoln and Mercury brands.
Ford began by acquiring an interest in Aston Martin in 1987, then assuming full control in 1991. It purchased Jaguar in 1989, followed by Volvo’s car business a decade later. In 2000, Ford acquired Land-Rover from the wreckage of BMW’s failed ownership of Rover Group, which it folded into the newly formed PAG.
The latter acquisition was particularly painful for GM because, in March 1986, it had agreed the purchase of Land-Rover, then part of the nationalised British Leyland, from the UK government before a public outcry and political pressure forced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Continue reading “Irreconcilable Differences (Part One)”
Among the many reasons why a car company might come into being, matters of geography are not always the primary rationale. However in this particular instance, both they, and geopolitics played a significant role. During the 1930s, German territorial aggression had become an existential threat to Sweden’s neutrality, prompting the government to develop an independent air defence force, not so much to repel possible invaders it would appear, but to make any such invasion more difficult and expensive to implement.
The development of a home-developed aircraft therefore came about from the unsuitability of bought-in hardware, and as hostilities became inevitable, the inability to Continue reading “Nordstjärna (Part One)”
Historically, long production runs had been something of a holy writ at Trollhätten. As an independent company, Saab’s engineering integrity, coupled with well-judged updates and their slightly left of centre appeal meant the frequently cash-strapped carmaker could eke out model lines long after rival offerings had succumbed to the inevitable. Continue reading “Botched : 2008 Saab 9.5”
As Transport for London enacts its Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the case for DTW’s 1996 Saab 900S (and others like it) becomes scalpel-thin.
When it comes to motor cars there is absolutely nothing dull about metronomic reliability. I therefore hesitate to employ the adjective ‘boring’ when it comes to the dependability of my Saab, despite the undeniable fact that, in the almost six years I have been its steward, it has been an almost entirely trouble-free experience.
If there should be a parlour game to identify the most DTW car possible then this might be one an exemplar: Bertone’s Saab Novanta concept car.
Why is this a very DTW car? This is a concept car from the year 2002 and has a challenging appearance; it was good enough to deserve production but wasn’t produced; it was a proposal for an extinct and much-missed brand (Saab) and it originated from a now-dead coachbuilder, Bertone. Finally, you can’t help but Continue reading ““A Smoky Mizu please, Dr. Voss””
We are still rifling through the footnotes of 1998 and now the examination has produced the Saab 9-3.
The back-story to this 1998-for-1999 car can be traced to 1994, the year the NG900 appeared as the headstone to Saab’s career as maker of indestructible doctors’, engineers’ and professors’ cars. In 1998 the 900 became the 9-3 and fitted under the 9-5 in Saab’s small range.
The 1978 Saab 900 could be dismissed as merely an evolution of an older model, but it became far more than that. It became the ur-Saab.
“The car has become an indispensable part of our everyday life. We need it so that society will not grind to a halt and so that people will serve society efficiently. looking ahead a little further, will the car continue to be as essential in our everyday lives as today?
There are other websites with better photos than the ones I take. I gave up taking arty photos of cars ages ago because I am simply no good at making a good car look any better than it might be.
Some cars are easier than others to work off though and this Saab is one of them. It also helps that the owner has chosen to give the car some steam-punk charisma. Is there a small vogue for this in my little area I wonder because if I Continue reading “Manchester, second arrest in”
Marking the Saab 99’s 50th anniversary, we revisit legendary motoring writer Archie Vicar’s impressions of one of the top-ten great Saabs. (First published Nov 7, 2014.)
There can be little doubt that in the annals of automotive journalism, the voice of Archie Vicar was unique. At a time when most road test texts were couched in the most circuitous language; where opinion or indeed outright criticism required from the reader a keen appreciation of the science of forensics, Vicar stood apart.
A little like the cars of Trollhätten, if we can make that analogy. The Swedish carmaker, by the latter 1960s, had made itself a name for finely crafted, durable motor cars, but more so, for going about their business to a drumbeat very much their own.
1967’s 99 model marked the point where Saab began to be taken seriously. A car which in its various forms would serve the carmaker loyally for more than two decades, it was perhaps the most ideally realised of Saab’s production designs, being at the very least, closest to the vision which inspired it.
Today’s reissue, sees the esteemed motor-noter essaying forth to Sweden to sample the 99 on home territory and proffer his wildly opinionated generalisations both on the car itself and on the subject of national stereotypes. (Although one never quite knew how far Vicar’s tongue was in his cheek as he did so…) His fine (and inimitable) review can be found by clicking upon this link, right here.
For more of Archie Vicar’s renowned period car reviews, click here
It’s been a while since we reported on NEVS. How goes it in the netherworld?
Recently, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) released official images of the ‘forthcoming’ 9-3 and 9-3X EV’s based on the decade-old former Saab bodyshell. These images, shown on SAABSunited.com appear to show both models in production specification, demonstrating if little else, that hope really does spring eternal.
Already a decade old in 1977, the SAAB 99-series perhaps best embodied the Swedish ideal of ‘Lagom’ .
The 99 saw Saab come of age. A bigger, more commodious, more mainstream model than the somewhat home market-specific 96 series which not only preceded it, but was sold alongside. By 1977, the 99 was a very mature product, and what bugs may have arisen in earlier incarnations were fairly thoroughly expunged. Continue reading “Theme: Brochures – Just Right?”
This is one of the cars I saw at the Saab Car Museum in Trollhattan, Sweden.
It reminded me of some other 80’s aerodynamic cars of the same time but when I went looking nothing matched. I found a hint of the rear window and boot in the Subaru SVX. More than a few GM concept cars from Oldsmobile, Saturn and Buick had similar surfaces. Yet there wasn’t that one car which made me think: yes, that’s the one. Do our readers have any suggestions?
In our previous instalment we featured the production cars at the Trollhattan museum. Today we turn our attention to the concepts.
Visitors to the Saab museum will notice that prior to the 21st century, Saab did not do very many concept cars but eventually they came and we show them today. The photos are again courtesy of NMJ (apart from the odd one marked “RH”).
The Saab Car Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden has a well-presented and thorough collection of production, prototype and concept cars.
In this installment I will take a gander around the production cars. DTW is very pleased to present the work of photographer NMJ who accompanied me on the visit. A few of my own images are scattered in the collection. A while back a Buick Electra 225 caused me to think about the links between Sweden, American and American cars in Sweden. Now a visit to the Saab Museum took me back down that path. Continue reading “Saab Museum: The Production Cars”
DTW is almost nauseously thrilled to be able to present this successor to the legendary Saab 900 ashtray.
A lot is revealed about the Saab 9000 merely by inspecting its ashtrays. The driver and front passenger can use a smoothly-actuating drawer-type unit with a capacity of nearly 200 mls. It’s very well situated and easy to open and close. In the back we find that Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1984 -1998 Saab 9000”
The predecessor of the GM Saab 900 still has the power to turn my head like only the Citroen CX, Jaguar XJ series 3 and Opel Astra F.
However, 22 years later I can see a lot of good in this car too. It’s better than the long-term average at least. The photo shows that the 900 could last. Normally these rubbers bend and get misaligned. Though the car received criticism for its ride it really didn’t deserve the comparisons with concrete-filled tyres. Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday- 1994 to 1998 Saab 900”
While the coffin lid appears to have finally slammed shut on Trollhättan’s revenant marque, Driven to Write has unearthed secret plans to exhume the brand name once more.
Following Spyker Cars’ failed 2010 takeover of Saab Automobile, the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company (or NEVS for short) attempted to reanimate Saab’s rapidly cooling corpse by setting itself up as a ‘biofuel industry pioneer’ – a peculiar mission statement for a company with the avowed intention of producing electric cars. After licensing the brand from SAAB AB, (the aerospace division who held the rights to the name), NEVS restarted production of the GM-funded 9-3 model – a small number (about 450) of which were assembled in Trollhättan during 2014. An even smaller number of electric prototypes were also built. Continue reading “SAAB: Dead, But Not (yet) at Rest”
Values: How can this term can be ascribed to the subject of the motor car, and how much do I place upon my own vehicle?
Most of the time our cars are simply a tool, taken for granted and unconsidered unless we deign to clean them or the blasted thing refuses to start. There are currently two cars in my life. A 2013 Jaguar XF, (which isn’t in fact mine) and a 1996 Saab 900S, which is. The Jag was purchased about six months into its life, and is a low mileage, fairly cosseted luxury consumer durable.
The Saab was purchased in 2014 with about 110,000 miles on its odometer, but with every stamp present in its service book. It’s still in remarkable condition despite not being cosseted at all. The XF cost its owner something in the region of quite a lot of money, while the Saab – well, lets just say my road bike was more expensive. Continue reading “Theme: Values – More Than the Sum of its Parts?”
Bouquet of lilies in hand, Driven to Write ponders what might have been.
The demise and desecration of the idiosyncratic Swedish brand may be the source of an endless stream of stories. Yet more interesting is a less well-publicised aspect of the period when Saab was already taking its last breath: the cars that were not to be.
The very fact that Saab was a deeply mismanaged business would appear to be indisputable. And yet, at the very end of its existence, that other Swedish brand seemed to have developed a hitherto dormant will to survive. Continue reading “Ghosts Of Saabs Unborn”
Well, not Saab as we recognise it and not with the Saab name. So, the headline is a bit misleading.
NEVS who own the assets of Saab are going to supply lots and lots of electric cars based on the dead-then-not-dead Saab 9-3 body. You can read the statement here. This is the first paragraph: ” National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs) and the Chinese company Panda New Energy Co Ltd. have signed a strategic collaboration agreement. According to the agreement, Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 9-3 sedan electric vehicles until the end of 2020. In addition, the agreement also includes 100 000 other EV products and services from companies associated to Nevs and its owners. The total value of the agreement is 78 billion RMB.”Continue reading “Saab Is Back From the Dead: Official”
Valmet and Mercedes have announced that production of the M-B GLC SUV will increase at their Uusikaupunki plant. This is to make room at Benz’s Bremen plant which is already completely busy making GLCs.
Production of the A-class at Valmet will move to Germany. Valmet will make as many GLCs as they did A-classes so it’s a production swap rather than an increase. The change will result in an increase in labour requirements at Valmet.
That revolving door is still swinging. Digital Trends and TTAC have reported that Turkey’s government has purchased the rights to make the Saab 9-3.
And it will have a Cadillac BLS front end. Goodness me. It seems the 9-3 will be made and sold in Turkey with a engines of an unknown provenance which might or might not be electric. At the same time Dongfeng who are the main owners of the remains of Saab will Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door: More Saab EV News”
Driven to Write salutes the passing of a motoring giant
The motoring world is a little bleaker today following news of the death of Erik Carlsson, Saab’s legendary rally champion and latter-day marque ambassador. Saab may well have made their commercial mark in the 1960s without his exploits on the special stages, forests and safaris of the World Rally championships, but Carlsson’s wins in the underpowered two-stroke 93-series were instrumental in making the world sit up and take notice of those funny looking little cars made in that funny sounding little place called Trollhättan. Continue reading “Obituary: Erik Carlsson – 1929-2015”
Seitz Automobiles in the Schwarzwald have this year 2000 Saab 9-3 2.0i Turbo SE for sale at €12,990. A high price you may think, but it has only covered 11,800 km. The 9-3 has proven to be an unexpected pleasure for one DTW member but, like me, they might be ambivalent to this timewarp example. Continue reading “Theme : Secondhand – Forecourt Temptations 7”
Our visiting Saab experts can probably identify this car more precisely.
It lives near my home and comes out at the start of summer and disappears in the autumn. It never seems to move in the meantime. I think it may be a piece of conceptual art. The timeline for the Saab 96 shows you could buy a new one until 1980. Similar living-fossils such as the Mini, Beetle, Renault 4 and 2CV all existed into this period so the 96 was not so out of place. However, the 96 must have seemed very archaic compared to the Golf which in many ways Continue reading “A Photo for Sunday: 1960-1980 Saab 96”
The Swedes are a pretty rational bunch. At least they were when the Saab 9000 was being designed. This dashboard takes the essential L-configuration of a dashboard’s elements and unifies them.
Oddly, some people found this design unconventional and difficult to take. It’s hard to see where the problem lies with this though unless you like messy arrangements of elements. The various displays and controls are gathered into one very clearly demarcated black area. The rest is given a colour to suit the remainder of the car’s interior.
Everything one needs is to hand. This is clearly an interior that has been designed rather than merely styled. As there are no eccentric inflections and the detail finishing is rational, the concept has aged very well indeed. Continue reading “Theme: Dashboards – 1986 Saab 9000”
Automotive News has reported another turn of the swing door in Trollhattan. Those of you keen on re-gravedigging will have been following the death-rebirth-death-rebirth of Saab. At this point the cycle is akin to an automotive version of Buddhist re-incarnation except Saab keeps coming back as an about-to-die brand. The last news (May) was that some of Saab’s putative investors declined to throw more money into the open grave in Trollhattan and the stake was once again hammered into Saab’s turbo’d heart. Continue reading “Death’s Revolving Door is Now Spinning”
“The new Saab 99 tested”. In this transcript Archie Vicar samples what is now viewed as one of the top-ten great Saabs. Is it more than the anti-Volvo?
From “Mass Motorist” Dec. 1968. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.
When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavian climate. But it’s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they have gained in aerospace to Continue reading “1968 Saab 99: Review”
Okay Saab, we know this is a difficult time for you right now, especially with you being dead and everything. Obviously we’re sorry for your trouble, but if we can be completely candid, this whole thing is starting to get a little unnerving.
Driven To Write has some news for anyone who has been reading the UK motoring press.
Far from being “an undiscovered bourne from whom no traveller returns” (copyright W. Shakespeare 1599-1602), it appears death is a place car brands can pop over to and come back from much like an obscure place with an out-of-the-way airport served by Ryanair. I think Saab is dead but it might not be. Or it might be. It died spiritually under GM, it died again physically, was reborn under Spyker but soon expired. National Electric Vehicles revived the firm in 2012.