Lance Cole’s sneak preview of a new small Saab?

Lance Cole is a writer living in England and has penned several books on automobiles and aviation. Saab enthusiasts would know him best for the book Saab 99 and 900: The Complete Story, which is an excellent and essential volume and available for sale at the SU Bookshop.


Lance Cole on shaping the new small, sporty Saab…

The Saab community and Saab itself, knows that it needs a new small Saab that re-invents the very essence of Saab – after all Saab’s first car was not a luxo barge or a premium saloon, but an advanced front drive, transverse engined, flat floored, crash proof , rally steered, tear drop shaped icon, long before the Mini, the Citroen DS, etc .

Saab has needed this small car for decades. In Mr Muller, we have a man who believes the same thing – believes in a jewel of a car that can win back Saab buyers and become the icon so many of us want to buy. The new small car, may, in a way, be the car that saves Saab.

Saab’s United has seen lots of potential Saab designs and it is clear that creating a shape that ‘works’, one that encompasses the Saab elements, is tear drop shaped, and yet is not a retro-pastiche is very difficult. Designers are struggling to hit the mark – it is a very tough brief. Some of the recent suggestions in my opinion have been brilliant, but perhaps not quite fitting the small car need; others have been retro-reinventions…

How do you pay homage to the small Saab’s of the past, incorporate other Saab motifs, and draw something that is not a throwback or a future vision too far ahead? How do you avoid aping the recent Saab concept cars and their looks.

It is not easy and criticism is not difficult to find.

So, finally, after months of attempts in private, here is my suggestion for a jewel of a small Saab that is actually a three door hatch back but looks like a bigger coupe. It has lots of Saab elements, it is definitively tear drop shaped, and yet it is not a retro pastiche: It is both old and modern.

Some of you will hate it and say so – fine, my ego is big enough to take it, and I can probably, just about, avoid reacting to you.

I cannot tell you what a struggle it has been to make all the design elements fit and work. I hope some of you like it as much as those who have seen it so far- because some of my designer friends have given it the thumbs up.

In case you are asking how or why a motoring journalist and author thinks he can design a car, the answer is that I started out as a designer, specialising in car and aircraft design and styling. Thanks to my ending up as a design writer, being the designer of a couple of car styling themes that made production eons ago, winning the Sir William Lyons Award – making working for Autocar back in 1980-something, reality, and having attended several design institutions, I rashly and immodestly feel I now might be able to shape this Saab. Oh and you might have read my design discussions here at SU, or read my book on the Saab 99 and 900… So maybe it was time to put my money where my mouth was…

Here is a sneak, side-view-only sketch of my idea for a smaller-than-it -looks, cute coupe-esque little Saab. The front and rear are designed, and I might let you see them…

Click to enlarge, then click the back arrow on your browser to return

Saab 91s

Above all, the point about my design is that it has old and newer model Saab design elements, all wrapped up in a mildly futuristic shape that hits the tear drop mark.

I have made it look longer than it is by reducing the length of the rear side windows and increasing side door length. In reality, the shape is not much bigger than a Grande Punto- the length is in the tail, not the wheel base.

Is it a hatch that looks like a cool coupe? I hope so.

Notice the Saab 96 style rear end and wrap around rear window, allied to a Saab 92
shaped rear side window. Note the ‘hockey stick’ from later models as it runs along the graphical window and up the C pillar.

Is there not a suggestion of a clamshell where the window line motif runs into the front
wings? The front end has a hint of the 93’s ‘Italian front’ shape. There is a slight dome to the roof, and the rear wheel arches seem familiar…

Replicating the curved windscreen of the 99 is a no-no I am afraid – we can hint at it, but making it work in a small car is not easy, nor cheap.

Above all, this is design is not a retro pastiche, yet it combines lots of Saab elements in a
curved teardrop – for the tear drop icon is a must.

In fact, the tear drop shape presents an aerodynamic problem – as it allows the airflow to stay attached down the tail (good), but without a Kamm-type chopped ending, the airflow separation point can get messy and affect side wind stability as well as dirt and wake vortex control (bad). So, I envisage an airflow critical separation point mounted just aft of the rear window. It will be a ridge and a spoiler combined in a boot lid handle style.

The long doors will need lateral compression struts, and anti-intrusion overlap panels with interlocking sills, but it is all solvable. Rear headroom is not envisaged as problem – by the way.

Overall then, I have tried to blend some major Saab elements into a production possible shape with due regard to crash test needs (hence the deep front and high scuttle), aerodynamics, accommodation, and above all, to try and capture the Saab spirit in the shape.

I hope some of you agree that it has the elements of Saab style the new small Saab needs. Who knows, Victor Muller might even post another comment here if he sees it!

Saab Up!

(All rights reserved. Design by Lance Cole 2010) Copyright (C) 2010.

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