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
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
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.”
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
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)
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.