The Design Process of the Jason Castriota 9-3

There are few things that people within the Saab community have been more eager to see than the Jason Castriota version of the third generation 9-3. Even though bankrupcy came the interest never really died. We all were extremely eager to see what was hidden behind factory doors in Stallbacka.

After a few blurry renderings from a rather early state of design surfaced a few weeks ago we got a first impression of what it had looked like. Then yesterday we could publish two more pics of the design mule. This time in better resolution, but still hard to judge as they were little more like snapshots from only two angles. One even more important point that maybe did not come out clearly enough yesterday is that those pics do not represent the final version of the design, it’s more like half way.

That wind tunnel model was created in September of 2010 – just a few months after Jason came onboard – and represents a stage where design vision and engineering needs were brought together for the first time. The result went through first aerodynamic tests to evaluate where additional work was needed.

Ever since I saw the first pics I was amazed how much it absorbed some core lines of the 900 (or 99) without being a retro design. For me personally it was a proof for Jasons ability to adapt Saabs design heritage and transform it into a fresh design. While the Phoenix concept was more like the classic Castriota field of supercars I was now convinced that he could really come up with a fitting design for a high volume model.

To clarify the evolution of his design a bit more Jason was kind enough to help me by setting the pictures we saw until now into perspective regarding the state of development they originate from. He even added more pics from various states of the process and described the process a bit from his point of view.

Month 1-4 – first sketches, first 3D math model, first full scale presentation model

First Computer Model - Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Work In Progress: First Computer Model – Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Design Intent Clay Model - Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Design Intent Clay Model – Copyright Jason Castriota Design

JC: “In the case of the NG 93, the car had a particularly unique development given the compressed time table. Given a clear brief, we got right to work simultaneously performing an intense 2d sketch phase and computer modeling stage of approximately 1.5 months. We literally “sketch in 3D ” over the engineering packaging to validate the main themes from the get go. We then spent about 1.5 months integrating some more macro engineering criteria before using the data to mill out the first full scale evaluation model. This is what we often refer to as a ” design intent model”. However, beyond all the major dimensions and glass position, there is little in the way of finite engineering integration at this phase. This model is similar to a concept car design in that it indicates where we want to go – but in reality the road to get there is long – about 1.5 – 2 years from the time this model is created. (This model was made in the June of 2010)”

Month 5 – computer model development, CGI renderings

Phoenix 9-3 4-Door
CGI rendering

JC: “This is a more “developed” virutal design model with more engineering integration. This is where we must really begin to deal with all the structures, hinges, and housings underneath the surface, as well as the first stamping analysis of our forms – all of which push or pull our design. This is always the most awkward phase of the design project, as the intial enginereing integration moves most every milimeter of the design a little. Keep in mind that even a couple of millimeters (more or less) makes a huge difference in how how light runs along a surface and as such how we perceive form. Thus even thought the design intent is there – the form tends to loose some of the dynamism or tension from wher it began. It’s now the design teams job to work with the engineers find solutions underneath the skin to allow our volumes and surfaces to regain some of the intent that may have been lost in translation in this s initial industrialization phase.”

Month 6 – First wind tunnel mule
Jason Castriota Saab 9-3 Phoenix

JC: “This is the second full scale clay model created form the compter data as seen in the previous image – and the first model with any real finite engineering. This design an engineering teams to evaluate evaluation the before and after so we can begin to work together towards compromises that will better the project and the design. In the case of the NG93, we also chose to jump right into the windtunnel much earlier than usual with this model because aerodynamic performance was paramount. Preliminary results were already very good so we knew we were on the right track.”

See-through model, created in Feb 2011

See-Through Model - Copyright SaabsUnited
See-Through Model – Copyright SaabsUnited

JC: “This is a hard resin model which was built after roughly 3.5 months of engineering integration, and was created so that we could better evaluate the masses and the fit and finish of the body panel divisons that we had been designing and engineering. Given the extremely tight packaging of the nose, and the stringent crash and pedestrian impact standards that the car needed to pass, the interface of all the panels and structures between the hood, headlamps, fender and bumper are extremely critical. In the case of the NG 93’s clamshell hood and “soft nose” bumper even more. By making this model in hard material (vs clay) with proper executed body panel divisons, gaps and radiuses, it allows design, engineering and quality control teams from production to evaluate each solution “in the metal” – which always differs a bit to how we view them on a computer screen in virtual reality. This model has other added details which help it’s “real car” appearance – namely the transparant upper with plexiglass and mock ups of headlamps, grilles, and other details. From this model, we make our last evaluations before retuning to the virtual model and curing every mm to finalize the design together with the necessary engineering to actual create the tooling to build the car. After this model was created in February of 2011, our team worked for another 9 months right up tot he bankruptcy in late December 2011 when the exterior design was finally completed.”

Rear fender development (October 2011)

Rear Fender Development  - Copyright Jason Castriota Design
Rear Fender Development – Copyright Jason Castriota Design

JC: “As for the final design from Dec 2011…well you will have to wait a bit more for that!”

From comments on the post where we first revealed the pics I can see opinions spread quite a bit about it. For me this is a good thing. A design that has character does always polarize and can’t do it right for everybody. It definetely stands out like a Saab should. On a personal note, I already like that car much better than anything Audi or BMW have out there right now, let alone Mercedes. And with every photo I see of it it grows even more. Also, judging from the poll we had here the reaction was generally very positive. Many said it needs more work and that is what it got. I would not be too surprised if the reaction is even more positive when we can show the final thing.

cga900
Guest
3 years 7 months ago
Jason Castriota says in the short interview at saablog(http://saablog-in.blogspot.fr/2013/02/jason-castriota-nous-parle-de-sa-saab.html) that the his 9-3’s dimensions will be 1.45m in height, 4.69 Length and 1229 kgs. This weight is pretty low, I guess around 150-300 kgs less than the existing standards depending on the engine and equipment level. This makes me think that this car was aimed to be a driver’s car..I would love to learn how they did it.. Besides the front of the car appears to be only two pieces.. How did they do it? Apart from that JC placed hips on a 4 door saloon car.. It is very… Read more »
OddJob
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Extremely impressive weight figure, even if it should add up to some more kgs in a production car.

Since any weight saving is the key to less consumption and better performance, VW has been bragging quite a lot about their 100kg weight savings with their new MQB platform (a similar idea as Phoenix platform).

The result is that the new Golf TSI 140, which is 4.26 m long, weighs 1293 kgs
.
But the 9-3 would have been even 60 kg lighter than the Golf, despite beeing 40 cm longer.

cga900
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

I agree.. 150 bhp gasoline (A4, Merc C, BMW 3) 4 door saloons of this size average 1480-1500 kgs today.
I think Today’s market is composed of most boring products in decades. People would welcome innovation that could bring some enthusiasm to the game.
Elec. torque vectoring, valve actuators, use of composites. There is market for this in developed markets where main stream products seem to be highly compromised for Chinese taste..

Thylmuc
Member
3 years 7 months ago
Well, this is a minority opinion, I know, but let me nevertheless point to a problem regarding the weight. In general, I agree that reducing weight may become even more important with EVs. But: The weight of a car determines its towing capacity. Generally, but also very specifically in Germany for trailers that may run up to 100 km/h, provided that the have a modified hook mechanism, and do not exceed 1.2fold of the car’s empty weight. The 9-3 I allowed for 1600 kg even at 100 km/h, but a car that weights just 1229 kg would reduce that maximum… Read more »
cga900
Guest
3 years 7 months ago
Opinions may vary and change, that’s a good thing. I usually change my mind as I get to learn new things. From my POV; *weight is something that you always carry with you like fat, so you’re more likely to suffer from it than you benefit. You do not tow all the time. *Seminars regarding use of composites(Carbon or glass RF) are closely followed big manufacturers (BMW, Ford etc), and they are seeking ways to use more of them with a sound cost base. It will come sooner or later. Saab can be a pioneer. *Towing capacity should be dependent… Read more »
Thylmuc
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Additional info: The normal speed limit within Germany for trailers is 80 km/h, and several of the factors you mention are taken into consideration. E.g. the LandRover Defender has a towing allowance of 3500 kg. The 100 km/h speed limit has only been introduced a couple of years ago, and only there, a number of additional requirements must be met, one of them being the weight ratio I mentioned above. But who wouldn’t want to drive 100 km/h with a bored or upset horse in the back, who will become more stressed as time elapses?

JH
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Thanks for all the detailed information – I think I’m starting to like this design! Do we have any information on whether NEVS is continuing on this design for the EV2?

phermansson
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Last I heard they said that they are focusing 100% on the 9-3 and EV 1 right now, focus on the EV 2 will not start until 6 months after the launch of the EV 1…

JH
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I see – but they are already working (together with LeanNova) on finishing the Phoenix platform, right?

Dan P
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I think Tim was right. This is really starting to grow on me the more I see of it.

That rear view is very sexy, although I’m unconvinced by the window shape, and it seems like the rear end terminates in an awkward downward slope rather like the Crossfire (which Clarkson described as looking like “a dog doing a poo”). I’d prefer the wedge shape to continue, giving it stronger, more dynamic look.

Front end clay render is great.

Still worried that I prefer snapshots to the whole, but it’s looking better and better.

Baver
Member
3 years 7 months ago

With the effort made to blend the windshield with the side windows, why on Earth, are the side mirror colors not reversed???

rune
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I suspect the answer is: “Some of the things Jason did not get were a brand new type of headlights and wing mirrors and thus major component sharing took place with the 9-5 as this was much more financially efficient.” (from http://saabsunited.saabklubben.se/2013/02/the-story-of-the-9-3-phoenix.html).

Maybe they simply took the 9-5 mirrors and flipped the colors to emphasize that these weren’t the intended ones..?

Or maybe those are the new-style mirrors (kinda hard to tell IMO) and they’ve been colored that way because (compared to the 9-5) they have been placed further up?

Red J
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Most of all, because those mirrors do not have the colour scheme of the 9-5 (black/car colour) but are always black/satin chrome.

Yes it is difficult to see this detail on that photo, but Tim explained this on the first post. This was meant to be a Aero only feature, maybe the Vector would be like the 9-5 or inverted, but nobody knows.

Gatelaw
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Thank you so much for this insight in the design process. Very interesting read!!! I hope there will be more…
It’s a beautiful car, but it wasn’t finished so I gathered. Too bad we wont be seeing it for real!

tcastaldi
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I’m liking the car more and more and this portion of the story is very well written. Thanks very much for the insight, this is very interesting for someone who loves SAAB and car design in general. I love the rear hatch design, even in clay! That’s what I’ve been waiting to see, I’m excited to see the finished product!

scand
Member
3 years 7 months ago
Surely better pics of this exist? Why are we looking at an amateur hour blurry pic of a cgi side profile? There must be some great presentation drawings of what this car was supposed to be? Till claims the reaction ‘to be generally positive’ but I counted about 70 directly negative responses, and very few categorically positive ones . From what I have seen so far, I cannot say that it is even close to the standard of what the German 3 are doing, let alone being better than them. Perhaps the idea is to drip feed the story out,… Read more »
Jeff
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Traditionally the people who directly comment on our articles are the ones who like to complain (or at least their comments tend to stick out among the crowd). I think the best indicator of the reception of Jason’s design is the poll.

NC
Member
3 years 7 months ago

What’s that other car to the right at the October 2011 picture? Doesn’t look like the PhoeniX, though the picture is broken at the side.

Topa
Member
3 years 7 months ago

While it is difficult judge about appearance and appreciate that need to work. But most importantly, that this work is moving forward!

Carlo A
Member
3 years 7 months ago
This is a very interesting article with very interesting pictures and drawings. Thank you! After looking at the car for days now, I can pinpoint what my reservation is … the individual angles of the car are beautiful … the clay model of the front shows a muscular and aggressive front that is very sculpted …. said sculpted lines flow beautifully from the grill over the bonnet into the windscreen …. the tail is a revisited 900 tail with modern and minimalist Scandinavian lines …. the picture of the rear fender development looks also beautiful …. but the problem to… Read more »
Carlo A
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I forgot … of course I would love to see the final thing and happy that things are moving forward!

joachim
Member
3 years 7 months ago

First, Trank you JC for the pics and the Story behind.

Regarding to the comment of NC. The style of the roof Looks like the 9-1/9-x Air.
BUT this Car Looks like a Four Doors Model, because of the three pillars and two Door Windows. Could it be that this was a Design Model for smaller Car like the 9-3?
This Car as 9-1 would i like…

Red J
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Hi Joachim,
that car on the side of the third picture looks like the clay model of the 9-X BH (see here), but it looks like a 5Door version of the car, strange!!

Stefan Zomborcsevics
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

I think the car on the right in the “rear fender pic” looks like a pheonix concept, but the pic is “torn” at the very right, so I can’t be sure.
Exciting stuff never the less, thank you SU and jc for providing this story. A story that was a missing piece of the history.

joachim
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Hi Red J
Sorry but I mean the second pic. the roof of the BH is Not falling Down slightly like the Air of the Model in the
back right. Therefore i think it is the Air-style or the described 9-1 Model a Few Day before here on SU. I think
that would Look Great

MarkoA
Member
3 years 7 months ago
Wow! Thank you for sharing this. I love the way JC was able to bring details from Phoenix and mate them to Saab´s heritage. The car looks really balanced and this impresses me more knowing that the time was very limited. Love the rear. There´s lines which were supprising and it makes the model very attractive. I know many old fashion Saab fans would´ve find it difficult to like at first. But I remember clearly when I saw 9-3 SS for the first time and it really was disappointing how easy it was and so much mainstream at the time.… Read more »
RS
Member
3 years 7 months ago

OK, this is starting to make sense now. Just look at the almost final ‘Rear fender development (October 2011)’. Is that a serious hatchback or what?!
I suspect the front had also seen some radical changes/improvements compared to the February version.

Red J
Member
3 years 7 months ago

If I remember well, you did like this picture. 😉

RS
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I do like the form and the “beefy” wheel arches. Lot of space on the inside for all kind of stuff as well. Something must have changed compared to the wind tunnel mule which seems so much lower in the back.
Is this the pic of the final version?

Red J
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Sorry, don’t know if that is the final version, but it matches quite well with the clay model of october 2011

Troels, Denmark
Member
3 years 7 months ago
I still have the same reservations, as I wrote in an earlier post: “The MOST important SAAB-design-heritage to be followed up in new interpretations in new models is the “one-line-design”, where you can capture the whole body in one continuous line from the front of the rounded bonnet, along the under-edge of side-windows following the hockey-stick going forwards again following the roof-line, the rounded front of the roof, backwards on the other side, down the “hockey-stick and forwards to the front of the rounded bonnet again… JC seems to have captured that in the roof-line and in the shape of… Read more »
RS
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Troels, what do think if you’d put a smooth NG 9-5/9x Air type front on the JC (October 2011) back we could have real winner right there.

Troels, Denmark
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Maybe, something like that might work..

michael
Member
3 years 7 months ago

+1

Belfast_Saab
Member
3 years 7 months ago

My problem is with that falling waistline towards the rear, VERY un-Saab. That ‘math model’ shows the problem area, the Maybach look! Those arches are pure S-class/Ssang Yo g/Maybach, not Saab in any way at all. Front end could be any generic eastern tin can. Time not improving my 1st impressions yet, still very disappointed. Not the car to achieve volume sales for Saab.

Thylmuc
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Though apparently these arches are gone on later versions.

joachim
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Hi Red J
Sorry but I mean the second pic. the roof of the BH is Not falling Down slightly like the Air of the Model in the back right. Therefore i think it is the Air-style or the described 9-1 Model a Few Day before here on SU. I think that would Look Great

Joel
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Just when i think my mind is made up about the ng93 Saabsunited throws a curveball! So the previous pics in tim’s post weren’t final, and we are yet to see the final model?!?! I really didn’t want to dislike this car, and now my mind looks set to be thouroughly changed 🙂

THANK YOU!
(But don’t leave it too long guys & JC! For my sanity!)

FRANCIS GREENSIDES
Member
3 years 7 months ago

This is very special and Nevs, I think need to finish this car off and put it into production.

NEW2.0T
Member
3 years 7 months ago
It looks like a Hyundai accent 2000-2003 – That is the most ugly-SAAB . Make that and you will ruin SAAB (NEVES) again. What about that design is SAAB ? The design looks confused, the lines don’t look very SAAB. The lines don’t flow they stop at the door. The 900’s lines went from the rear window to the front to the hood. The backward hockey stick. Make the glass look like a wing. The SAAB car was born after WW2 by aircraft engineers – Bring a more sleek smooth SAAB 93.- Like air flowing around an airplane. Jason seems… Read more »
Mark
Member
3 years 7 months ago

If J.C. is missing that Saab DNA you mention, then everything from the latter part of the GM is as bad or perhaps worse? The Aero-X was okay as a concept but it was somewhat foolish to try and make all subsequent designs resemble it. Plastering an Aero-X nose on everything was definitely a mistake and I’m glad that Victor Muller and J.C. decided to try and get away from that whole GM era look.

cga900
Guest
3 years 7 months ago
92, 99, 900.. None of them were retro designs. They were about form following some brilliant ideas/functions. They were about future. I think AeroX was the best thing that came out of Saab for the last 200 years since the OG900. A nose job is not what’s meant by a concept, especially a concept like the AeroX.. It was Saab’s features&design clues for the next decade. Reading about the story of Renault Dezir, and later Alpine A110-50 (and the people behind it), it all comes a bit more together. The question is about tomorrow not yesterday. To me, Chris Bangle… Read more »
cga900
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Sorry it’s 20, not 200..

zippy
Member
3 years 7 months ago
I think the 2011 Saab 9-5 was the most Saab-like car since the original 900. The pre DE 9-5 and 9-3SS were great Saab designs as well. The cant count the number of times Id stare at my 04 9-3SS examining the brilliant lines and visual tricks used, particularly the metalwork from the rear door back. The trademark Saab wedge profile combined with the cheatline that ran from the front to the rear that created a ‘shoulder’ over the rear wheel arch. The whole ‘kicked up’ look accented by the line that was created by the bumper running to the… Read more »
rune
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Actually, recently it has dawned on me that there is some klutz surrounding the mirror mount. The chrome list ends in the mirror and doesn’t meet the bottom part of the blacked out A-pillar.

But other than that, the NG 9-5 does look good from all angles. Lovely car.

Troels, Denmark
Member
3 years 7 months ago

+

Red J
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Sorry, but there is one thing that they got wrong. The car is not on level, and the nose is higher than the backend, I think it is only one centimetre, but from soma angles it really looks awkward.

Jeff
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I thought I was the only one who noticed that, glad you said something Red. Not to mention, the NG 9-5 was the first Saab to break with the established leaning back rear light shape from the side (if looking at the left side of the car, the light should be / not \ ). It bugs me.

Red J
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I must admit that it took me some help from Hirsch to notice it, although I always thought that there was something wrong with the car.

Baver
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Wonder if there is an explanation from anyone at Saab why the back lights have an inverted angle to them? Perhaps because much of the work was done in Germany? Regardless, I love my NG 9-5.

Troels, Denmark
Member
3 years 7 months ago

You are right in this observation. IMO, though, this is a detail compared to the inhomogeneity of the JC9-3, especially regarding the missing relation between windscreen and bonnet-front-line.

NEW2.0T
Member
3 years 7 months ago
A car company, has to be careful with the design, look how Volvo’s share is slipping to. I think in part because they are bubbly. The S60 can be confused with many different cars. The XC60 can be confused with Mazda’s etc etc..Bubbly is perhaps what the main market likes, but its not Volvo. Like what GM did to SAAB, by taking away the hatchback and using Opel parts, the 2002/3 SAAB 9-3NG could have been a C-class, A4 or Jetta, GM gave the market no reason to buy a SAAB over another similarly priced 4-door sedan. My suggestion would… Read more »
NEW2.0T
Member
3 years 7 months ago
@Markac – You missed my point the URSAAB/92 & 99 were both 100% SAAB and much of the 900CG was too. SAAB injected their cars with a reason to buy a SAAB. vm Let the SAAB 95 and 94 fly, I know he did not have much of a choice, but those cars gave no reason to buy a SAAB over an Audi or Ford. Oh theres another pic of it from the rear 3/4s view on car scoop, its interesting from that view, it still would need much more SAAB classic DNA. It just looks really stuck together and… Read more »
Mark
Member
3 years 7 months ago

VM was unfortunately stuck with legacy GM era cars until he could do his own thing. I’m not saying what I’ve seen of J.C.’s design so far looks great. However it does seem mildly less disappointing than all the GM era designs that have arrived since the 9-3SS. I have to say I found the 9-3SS disappointing too. After the 9X and the 9-3 Crossover Coupe concepts (of 2000-2002) which showed a lot of promise, the 9-3SS was really quite boring. We can mostly blame GM for that I guess?

Toby K
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Has anyone stated anywhere that this is being continued due to potential within NEVS to uptake the design?
or is that just a pipe dream?

It needs work but there are some basics in there which do say Saab to me I agree its a bit Hyundai Coupe across the bonnet and the bonnet sill and edges of the headlights don’t work either-they don’t appear “unified” enough into the flow.

I thought it would be more “extreme” than the 9-5 and this isn’t.

anyway looks like more waiting…

Angelo V.
Member
3 years 7 months ago

My focus is more on whether NEVS will export Saabs to the markets where Muller was selling cars—-like the U.S. for example. Knowing whether or not I’ll be able to buy one is more important than going on and on over every design detail of a still-born concept. Does NEVS plan to sell new Saabs in North America? What model year will they be available?

Jesse Crandle
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I don’t love it, really I’m not sure I even like it, but just like with the 9-5 I’m sure over time I’d learn to respect it’s design and even like it. Plus, as others have mentioned because of it’s polarizing nature I’m sure it’d turn a lot of heads, which is always part of the fun of Saabs for me.

Troels, Denmark
Member
3 years 7 months ago

To be honest, I dont even think it is polarizing (like rightly many Saabs are). I find it to ordinary, missing the well-proportioned simplicity with lines that hold together the whole body, that characterize many Saabs. In opposition to the main-stream which is adding details in an attempt to make a specific car different and with the result that it becomes ordinary…

albertvdb
Member
3 years 7 months ago
The looks of the NG900/9-3 were an important reason to go for the car. The looks of my 9-3 estate impress me every day. But I am so glad that this Castriota Saab did not make it to the market. I would have walked away. What’s not to like? – the 3rd side window. The top corner should start earlier. The bottom corner should me more to the rear. – the hatch! If you can’t do it without a rear spoiler, you’re doing it wrong. Now it looks like a hatch from the ng900 that was treated by Leepu. I… Read more »
Angelo V.
Member
3 years 7 months ago

But is the spoiler functional at high speeds? If not, I agree with you—-it’s a silly afterthought. But if it holds the rear down when you’re pushing the limits of the car, I have no problem with it being there.

Baah
Member
3 years 6 months ago

First two pictures = JC Copyright. So we can expect these pictures to be somewhat close to the final version.

All other pictures = Saabsunites Copyright. Nothing to do with JC (as he does not own that design/copyright) and thus these are not even close to the final design.

The clay model is probably the best hint so far.

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