99 Turbo Test cars the first 100 – help to find them all


In 1977 the greatest leap into the future for Saab was taken with the launch of the 99 Turbo. The first car shown to public was a pearlwhite at the Frankfurt autoshow that year. That color never made it on the production cars by the way. Saab needed to get experience of the turbo boosted engine and therefore built about 100 test cars. The cars where dived in three groups SW (Sweden) UC (USA/California) and EU (Europe). I have through some research work managed to track down 100% of the SW cars the ones scrapped and the ones alive or near dead. Unfortunately there is only one SW car alive on the roads but that one is 100% rebuilt wrong engine etc. The models made where 2 door sedans based on the regular EMS model, 3 door CombiCoupe (WagonBack) based on the 3 door EMS, 4 door sedans based on the GLE model and 5 door models exclusively for the Swedish police. None of the 100 test cars had sunroof.

So how do You know if there is a test car sitting in the cornfield or in Your best buddys barn. The are all painted in cardinal red metallic and they all have the EMS “Soccerball” wheels. The also do not have the TURBO logotype in metal emblems they where white or in some cases cold stickers. On the fake wood tape under the glovebox there is a small sticker saying TEST CAR No. XXX”. The electric fan is positioned in front of the radiator and is housed in a metal frame, the battery “shelf” is also different from production cars.

Today I know of 3 cars beside my own that is under renovation, will post information on the project(s) as they evolve

Of the UC cars I know the history of 6 of them. 33 of which I have the VIN no. and state it was delivered to and in some cases the first owner. Some of the owners was Jacob Wallenberg while he was a student in New York, 2 US Army officers at YPG (Yuma Proving Grounds) guess they knew how to destruct a vehicle.

My questions to the international Saab community for this research job are:
– Where are the approximate 20 EU cars?
– Where are the US test cars? I have the VIN´s is it any way to trace them by DOT or DMV? If You believe You have a test car send me the VIN no. and I can verify it.
– Any stories about the cars would be appreciated.

Good luck tracking down the early Saab Turbo history.

Email to jtrued[at]gmail.com

40 thoughts on “99 Turbo Test cars the first 100 – help to find them all”

  1. I have the last Test Car out of Trollhattan…I believe that she’s number 197. She is a CombiCoupe….no sunroof. She was driven by the head of the Test Car Programme in Orange…the man’s name escapes me now. John Moss does remember tinkering on her……the engineers in Orange added water injection, Euro headlamps and a few other oddities. At one point, she had AC…the bracket is there for the compressor, which was not on her when she came to live with me.

    Presently, she is not running…awaiting a full restoration. Besides Rich Kushner’s notchback and my own EMS Turbo, the only other one known to exist is the remnants of another CombiCoupe owned by Marty Adams in Meyer, Iowa. Marty’s car is a basket case…he’s not certain if he can cobble his back together again.

    • Linnea, Yours is the car with the highest VIN no. 31774 af them all but the Test Car No. is 951. Norm Card was the SSOA guy assigned to the vehicle on 15th of october 1977. It had CT TEST as licence plates. Rich has VIN no???

      • Trued–

        You are correct and yes, it was indeed Norm Card who drove Emma back in her heyday. Her dash plaque indicates that she’s #197, but 951 is etched into the rear bumper support. Emma also has the SAAB TURBO rocker panel stripes, but they were painted on….they’re not decals.

        I don’t know the VIN of Rich’s car. It is nice, but in my opinion, it was over-restored. Rich is down in Marietta, PA. Regrettably, I don’t have his contact info.

        Once I get my SPG restored, the NewGen back on the road and get the ’78 99 Turbo’s body done, we’ll start working on EmmaGirl.

  2. Back in the early ’90s, when I worked for Saab Cars North America, I had either # 934 or 937 (memory is fuzzy) a 2dr sedan. It was in rough, but complete, shape. I sold it in ’92, after the GM buy-in and subsequent SCNA layoffs, to a fellow near Hartford Connecticut to raise money to restart my old Saab repair business. I haven’t heard of it since. I DO, however, still have (somewhere) a file that my boss @ SCNA gave me that has notes and assignment info on the N.A. test car program along with some prototype service manuals. I, also, have a box of some prototype replacment parts. If any of this helps your quest, let me know and I’ll try to dig it up!

  3. Wow! My Mechanic Larry Gesch, at Country Imports, Neosho, Wisconsin has a burgundy one. It has an original shell in great condition but has a lot of the parts removed ready for re-assembly. It even has the original Pirelli CN36s on the rims

    • I will contact him, this is so much fun. Spoke to Björn Enwall today on what was going on during this programme. I have lots of leads now!

    • Yes we do have test car #992 and it is one of the rare 2 door sedans. In process of restoration and has not been touched for 10 years. About 52K miles on it. Rebuilt trans and engine with MSS pistons and cam. Suspension pieces powder coated. Might sell for right price.

        • I will try and get some pictures in the following days. Yes that is correct it was Arnies car. It was also in the New York and Chicago Auto shows. At the Chicago show some type of number pulling was done and Rallye Imports won and was able to purchase the car. I worked at Rallye and the fellow who purchased the car was Bob Hume. I purchased the car from Bob when he bought a 900 convertible and it has sat ever since and Bob was a faithful customer until his death, I had always wanted to finish the car and give him a ride in it again. Too bad I didn’t stay on it. I guess I should finish it now!

          • Larry, great story, I am looking forward to many more on the other 99 (ninety-nine) cars. So all of You with memories-pictures anything related to the Test cars, post it here at SU!

    • I was so excited I forgot but I just loved that color and I ordered one of the first Burgundy 1978 Turbo in Wisconsin. Mine was the first one to be purchased through oversees delivery as well as my very first Turbo.

  4. I am trying to track down my dads original SAAB 99L 1974 in indian yellow UK reg GRA159N.
    I look at how many left, I believe there are 3 of this year 1 licenced, other 2 sorn.

    • Noticed that error as well. I emailed the seller, asking if it was sold or not and if so to Sweden. A guy here claims ownership but it is not in the Swe. DMV records.

  5. I have heard that before the turbo there was some 50 test cars equipped with the Triumph Stag V8. That would be interesting to see.

    • There is more to come I am now interviewing some of the guys who was around at Saab when the turbo time started. paddan I am happy you like the post. I try to cover the history here at SU.

      • Trued

        You have to put John Moss on your list of folks to interview. Not only is he informative, but he’s a great guy with a wealth of information. He’s probably forgotten more about Saab than most people will ever know, having worked as a tech, a trainer and the head of Saab Service and Training up until he retired a few years ago.

  6. Nice post, nice to read something other than NEVS, GM etc..
    I could see many more interesting stories about notable SAAB’s. I would love a story on the 9000 Aero and how many were made and how many are left, maybe a registry on various models could be achieved.

    I just purchased a 1994 9000 Aero on Cirrus White, was told only 65 were made for the US. She has just 1 owner and 76,000 miles.

    • I guess the question should be addressed to the owners if the site on what focus should be. My primary focus is history and that is basically what Saab is now. Lets put all effort in caring of the old brand.

    • Maj. John C McAnnally, Capt. Paul Ruder and possibly Lt.Col. John Clarke, all where involved in the test Programme. if they can be found and talked to would be awesome. thanks.

  7. As any of you come across any 1977 Saab 99 Turbo test cars, please suggest they add them to my Saab 99 Turbo Registry – and that includes any Saab 99 Turbos for that matter.

    We currently have nine 1977 99 Turbo’s on the Registry (remove the 1977 year filter if you want to see all):
    View Saab 99 Turbo Registry 1977 Test Cars

    Also, we’re looking for writers so anyone interested in talking about 99 Turbos, contact us.

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