Q&A with former Saab designer, Taras Czornyj

It’s a fait accompli that many Saab executives drive Saabs. A lot of the time they get them as company cars and whilst they might be nice versions of the Saabs currently on the market (earlier this year, Jan-Ake Jonsson assured me he was going to nab a Turbo X for a little while), I’m more interested in what they have in their personal garage, what they’ve spent their own hard earned money on.
I was pleased as punch when I learned that one of Jan-Ake Jonsson’s first cars was a Saab 600, for example. And whilst SaabUSA’s Jan-Willem Vester has a Porsche 911 for fun in the US, he’s also got a imaaculate classic Saab 900 back at home in the Netherlands. Saab 9-4x designer Andrew Dyson probably has some non-descript runabout at work in Germany, but he’s also got a C900 in his garage back in England.
These guys love Saab. And so does the guy I’ve been in touch with recently.
The name may or may not be familiar to you, but Taras Czornyj’s work will be very familiar to you. And his personal car is an absolute cracker!!!
Taras doesn’t work for Saab right now, as you’ll read about shortly, but he’s got good reasons for choosing the Saab that’s currently in his driveway, and good reasons for the way it’s been enhanced, too.
Here’s a little Q&A we did via email in the last week:
When were you with Saab?
I was at Saab from 2000 to 2006. I started in Trollhättan and moved to the new GME Advanced Design Center in Göteborg in 2003. Its a company I wanted to work for because of its design heritage and potential.

What did you work on?
My first project when I joined Saab was the 443 (9-3X) exterior design. There was no wagon at the time only a 9-3 based crossover. The project had been underway for a least a year. Michael Mauer restarted the project with a new phase of design development and it was then that my design was chosen to be developed. At this point the Sportcombi came into the picture. From a design point of view the crossover was the lead vehicle. Unfortunately this car was canned by GM, one of the reasons being that it was too small for the US. Interestingly the X3 and the Outback felt right at home with little or no competition in the US.
93-X Concept exterior design…..
This project ran parallel with the wagons. This concept was the preview to the 443. It was the same platform but in coupe/ hatch body style. Shows the rear design theme you see on today’s sportcombi.
I worked on the two last years of exterior production development of the 9-3 convertible. Following a design direction set by Michael Mauer and Tony Catignani.
9-3 Sporthatch Concept exterior design…..
A preview to the sportcombi. This project was close to me for a couple of reasons. This was the first show car to be built in house at Saabs prototype modelling dept KMX. There were a few all nighters spent on the car putting it together but the final result was world class. Secondly the exterior design was basically the canned 443, that the cladding splits were filled and the car was lowered giving a more rally on road look.
9-3 Sportcombi exterior design…..
A very satisfying project. A hard slog with engineers at times but well worth it! I learned a lot and worked with some fantastic people like Ziggy Bis the 9-3 studio engineer and Erik Sörum from design quality to name just a couple. I am particularly pleased about the rear lamps. One thing to point out was how streamlined and efficient the staff at Saab were, something I realised later, working at Volvo. There was myself on exterior design, Lars Falk on interior and we basically discussed the design directly with Michael Mauer. There was not the overblown set up as in other companies with a designer, senior designer, assistant chief designer, chief designer, exterior chief, and the design director.
Next generation convertible concept…..
A study into what could the next cab could be. A skunk works type of group was formed to look into this. Somebody from marketing, engineering, myself from design, and a few others. We test drove and benchmarked competitors, brainstormed and came up with a roof concept which was presented as a full size model to GME managment and culminated in a patent that I am 75% credited with. The basic idea was to be shown a couple of years later on the 9-X Air concept. These types of project are gold dust for a designer, where you are given the opportunity to start with a blank sheet and really do something new.
2008 9-3 facelift…..
I developed the design theme and carried out the early design development for the face lift which Ola Granlund later followed through to production.
I also worked on a variety of advanced design projects for various brands in the GM family. These will not see the light of day but might influence future products.
What have you been doing since you left?
When GM decided to move Saabs main design operations to Germany I made the decision not to follow. After six and a half years I felt I needed a change of scene and to experience the design process at another company. So in late 2006 I took up a position at Daihatsu in Ikeda, Japan leading a small group of non Japanese designers in a strategic and advanced design group. We developed ideas which ultimately became the Mud Master C, I love that name, OFC-1 and the HSC show cars.
In 2007 I started a design company Mutations AB together with my wife Ingrid who is also a designer. This was a real opportunity for a bit of freedom and to choose exactly the projects I wanted to work with. We work with a variety of partners primarily within transportation.

I spent most of 2007 at Volvo cars. I worked on a proposal for an all new model. Very interesting to see things from the ‘other side’.
Since late 2007 I have been working with Hirsch Performance developing initially the 2008 9-3 range exterior products. Wheels, aerodynamic kit, spoilers etc. Looking forward to working on future Saab cars.

I am presently leading the exterior design on a project at Scania Trucks. An exciting and new challenge in an industry where design is gaining more importance.
I am also tutoring at Umeå Institute of Design.
Cars that you drive?
As a daily driver a 2008 9-3 Sportcombi 2.0 Biopower Aero. Hirsch have recently fully upgraded it and I must say in my honest humble opinion the car moves like a rocket and looks s?#t hot!

I also own a 1995 Ovlov 480 Turbo, one of the last ones built. It’s the only ovlov I would drive and a car I loved when I was younger.

It’s actually quite Saabesque in concept, a practical sports car. A shooting brake bodystyle, one that I admire, think 2001 9X, P1800 ES, Z3 coupe. A body style gaining favour again with cars like the 2007 9X, Renault Altica concept, VW Scirroco, Mini Clubman and the C30. Now and then I take a spin in my wife’s 2002 9-3 Aero.
And a final question….how the heck do you pronounce Czornyj??
It’s pronouced chorneey. If you can, you roll the R.
Its Ukrainian and means black. Very designer! 🙂

My thanks to Taras for taking the time to fill us all in and sharing a few pics of his cars with us.
He is a deadset legend, as we like to say here in Oz.