The story we never finished (fuel, testing and Saabs) and why some of us are absent

Note the previous owner’s logo still semi-visible. On the desk, a BAIC model sits proudly.
I do not have access to this site’s traffic numbers anymore, but it is no big secret that saabsunited.com probably has way less regular readers than back in its heyday. Many (all?) of the former contributors either moved on or went into hibernation following the factory’s bankruptcy. Without new content being posted on a regular basis, how can we expect to have as many readers? Though some of us remain interested in Nevs’ endeavors, there just is not much to talk about yet. That will hopefully change soon (?), but things are what they are.

My latest effort dates back two years three years. Heck, I thought it was only two years ago, but it has actually been three! RedJ was writing a post about TechROi and I tagged along as his inept photographer. TechROi is one of the many spin-offs following the bankruptcy as former Saab engineers continued developing automobile technology elsewhere. In this case, their main focus was a gasoline tank made from steel. Yes, steel. “Isn’t plastic lighter..?” It turns out that no, it isn’t! By improving the way they press the steel, the engineers managed to increase tensile strength while keeping the steel sheet relatively thin. The result is a lighter and safer design.

This is what happens when dropping fuel tanks onto concrete
It was a promising story at the time. Not least of all, there was a tie-in with Nevs. Back in 2014 Nevs resurrected production of the 9-3, but several parts proved difficult given the low production numbers. One of the old partners eventually told Nevs “why do you not get in touch with TechROi?”. Being a smaller company meant that they could accommodate Nevs. There was even a hint dropped that a future unannounced Nevs product might some day use the new TechROi design… Then they showed us a fuel tank that had seen severe track testing: They unbolted the tank, then drove 70kph on the side of the test track dragging the tank through the gravel. A plastic fuel tank would not have coped so well. I was reminded of one of those videos shown inside the museum, of Saab engine testing ‘back in the day’: A guy strapped across the hood of a 93 (or 96?) checking the two-stroke engine _at speed_! Crazy, but you cannot fault their attention to detail. Not to mention the 10m drop onto concrete test. Saabs are not built like regular cars and every component must be as safe and strong as practically possible. (yet many of us expected to pay way less than what we would have paid for lesser cars, go figure)

RedJ and I left that meeting feeling a little bit more optimistic about the future. We believed we would see at least a hybrid within five or ten years. Combining technology from several of the spin-offs and suddenly you have a competitive product. AWD system from e-aam, light weight fuel tank, and I am sure someone mentioned a next generation dual clutch transmission. But… Yes, there is a but. RedJ did not manage to complete the story in time before Nevs fell into rough waters. No more 9-3 and no more murmurs of a properly fueled product. Suddenly our big story felt moot. RedJ certainly put a lot of effort into the story. He treasures his anonymity, but I think I can reveal that he does not live in any Nordic country. Getting to Trollhättan involved quite a bit of driving for him. (I live in Mariestad which is only an hour’s drive away) Neither of us knew how to present the story given the new circumstances and everything fizzled out. Again.

As for me, real life intervened as well. My first-born son arrived near the end of 2014 and my second son is now 8 months old. They are both great boys, but I am unable to keep up with all my obligations. Oh, did I mention the house? It will hopefully be ready some time in July. Why this particular house? Well, click on the thumb on the right, and see if you can spot why. I spoke with several house vendors, and none of them had what I was looking for. One even went so far as to suggest that his houses were built like Volvos. Then I saw this picture in a brochure and was immediately sold. So far they have erected the walls and put on the roof tiles, but everything inside still remains. While waiting for the builders to finish their work, we are two adults and two kids living in a 60 square meter apartment. It could be worse, as I had my mother-in-law staying with us between August and January. That went surprisingly well. Swade, if you ever read this: She spent several months on the same couch that you cursed after only a single night.

I aim to post more in the hopefully not-too-distant future. E.g. it turns out one of my future neighbors is a veteran who spent forty years working for Saab. I have also clung on to a bunch of business cards from other persons of interest. However, I have tried chasing down leads in the past that led nowhere. Part of the problem seems to be that the engineers do not like talking about past projects, because they are currently working on related technology and do not want to give anything away. Which is understandable, but leaves us/me strapped content-wise.

Let me end this by sharing one of the many nuggets I learned during our visit with TechROi: The normal E85 mixture is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. In Sweden this is reduced to 75/25 in winter, but if the mixture remains 85/15, and the temperature drops to about -7 to -10 degrees Celsius (or thereabouts), the mixture gets slightly more volatile. When both the gasoline tank, the fuel itself and ambient air hits this temperature range, great care must be taken to prevent sparks while refueling. A spark at the cap can reach all the way down into the gas tank. Which is why Saab’s engineers redesigned the 9-5 BioPower’s refilling system. TechROi’s chief quietly noted that Ford/Volvo did not bother solving this issue. Again: Attention to detail. In other cars you should be asking “have anyone thought about what would happen if..?”, whereas in a Saab somebody else already did that for you.

15 thoughts on “The story we never finished (fuel, testing and Saabs) and why some of us are absent”

  1. Yes, it was three years ago. And regarding engineers, we love to talk about our current projects and the fantastic and not so fantastic things that we have achieved on those projects, but most of us have signed a couple of non disclosure agreements!!
    But on the other side, it is better when engineers keep quiet, otherwise people wouldn’t buy cars!!

  2. In the spirit of “why some of us are absent” , it would be interesting to have a recap of all of the main SU players from back in those crazy days leading up to the bankruptcy. When viewership was through the roof, comment threads were 100’s long, and it was one giant industrial soap opera.
    Swade went to Koenigsegg, TimR started a BMW blog…and seems to have changed his surname, the others – where did they go? Jeff (from the USA) ? etc.

    Of the bit players in the story – remember North street capital ?! A dodgy dude by the name of Alex Mascioli, who was going to buy Spyker, and the come in like a white knight and save Saab singlehandedly. I smelt a huge rat at the time, and my SU comment got picked up by ‘Truthaboutcars’ in one of their exposes. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/our-daily-saab-this-man-gives-his-last-shirt-to-save-saab/
    Anyway – that guy went on to announce a phoney takeover bid for the RV make Winnebago, which resulted in him getting a $100k fine from the SEC to settle fraud charges. Full story here..

    https://www.sec.gov/litigation/litreleases/2014/lr22941.htm

    Time marches on. its now all 6 years ago, amazingly. According to ‘howmanyleft.co.uk’ there were 138K Saabs still on the road in the UK, which is down from 230k at its peak in 2008. They are losing cars at about 200 – 250 a week, in the UK (the only market I can find numbers for) , but you can probably extrapolate to the rest of the world at the same rate.

    Over here in the states, the convertibles are definately holding their value, if low mileage, and the values on other late models seem to be stable, even can be quite high on rare models, like the last 9-5’s and 9-4’s. You see less and less on the road though.

    I still look at SU now and again, but not nearly as much as before. I really dont have any interest in NEVS, which is just some abstract Chinese entity, doing who knows what, but not apparently making cars.

    In my car world, I had a Golf TDI that got bought back as part of ‘dieselgate’ . They gave me $18500 for a 2011 car with 120K miles on it. I took that money and found an immaculate 35K mile 2012 Diesel X5 in florida for $25k. (Not sure how thats better for the planet – but thanks anyway VW…) I also leased an electric 2015 E-Golf for next to nothing ($141 a month, after all the rebates and subsidies) . That car has been great, apart from the 80 – 100 mile range. Cheap as chips to run, and most of the charging places are free.

    Electric is definately the way of the future.

    • I guess the number of running saabs will follow a bell curve of sorts.

      Interesting that the convertibles keep their value. My wife absolutely loves 9-3 convertibles, but we were too slow to pull the trigger on a sky blue that ANA had back in 2012. Not sure what we were thinking. Maybe the optimist in me thought there was still hope… Actually, I still think there is a chance we will see some interesting THN made cars again: Nevs hired back quite a few ex-Saabers and I can only guess they want to put their skills to good use. Why else hire them?

  3. There is nothing a mother-in-law loves doing more than taunting their son/daughter-in-law. It seems that yours will even endure torture 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing the new place!

    • Is this what is meant by the term ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’? MIL-MAD so to speak?

      Guest spare room 2.0 will feature better sleeping accommodations. Promise!

    • She will never do that Swade 🙂 Even though she was she was helping me a lot with new born Aleksey , while I had my hands full with Nils who wasn’t a 2 years old and didn’t sleep much, was not sleeping until 1 am or so and during the night was waking up few times too and yet had lots of energy. For 5 month my mum, almost didn’t sleep, she cooked and even helped with cleaning, and being on that uncomfortable sofa. ? She never complained and she never will 🙂 Her grandkids mean a lot to her and if she will even need rip her heart for them, she will do it without any second thought! Same my brother will do for his nephews 🙂 It’s just in our family’s nature do everything what’s possible to help. Once when we drove to Georgia on the way back ,Rune got really sick , he was barely breathing and we had to hurry on ferry to Greece and we didn’t have much time left, since I don’t drive Rune had to get in shape as soon as possible, so mum stayed with us (we rented separate apartment) for 2-3 days, she really nursed Rune so he would be capable to drive to Greece, it’s quite a bit of driving from Batumi to Igoumenitsa. She managed to got him back on his feet again and we arrived to Greece even little bit early. ? We don’t talk much about things we’ve done for each other or will do ? I wish every MIL’s were like that, but unfortunately they aren’t….

  4. ” (yet many of us expected to pay way less than what we would have paid for lesser cars)”
    Nothing truer has ever been written on this site,

    Send my thanks to the vendor for putting into words why I don’t like Volvos – they offer all the driving excitement of a house.

    As for the house in the picture, it is an attractive design. Congratulations.

  5. Nice post Rune, and a good looking house as well. I guess it will work well for you as long as you will not put it on the road. I like the short end note about E85. Now and then I read about troubles with using E85, and hardly no car manufacturer produce any cars/engine using E85. Driving a 9-5 biopower, I have never experience any sort of troubles with E85, even if I have followed the advice to use petrol during winter times. But probably E85 works well through the whole Winter. Contrary to anticipated troubles, the E85 gives the car a nice extra boost on the road.

    • I must confess that I stopped using E85 after the tax hike a couple of years ago. It used to be cheaper to run on E85, but now it costs about the same. I often need the extra range that regular gasoline gives me, so in the end I stay away from alcohol.

      Back when the NG 9-5 was launched, it was said that SAAB had not had time to tune the engine to take advantage of the E85 (unlike earlier BioPower efforts that awarded extra bhp when running on E85). The Hirsch stage 1 upgrade is also oblivious to E85. (another topic that we should try to explore in the future)

      I used to enjoy E85. One of the times we visited RedJ, I followed him to his local gas station that had E85 (only E85 pump for several miles). I filled up a full tank and went inside to pay, only to discover that they did not accept credit cards. For some silly reason I happened to have the exact amount in cash. I was left with maybe five cents, but not much more. We have had so many adventures in our 9-5 that I can’t imagine driving anything else. I have had nightmares where I dreamt I was being forced to change to a different car, but luckily it keeps rolling without any issues.

      As for the house, I think I would have wanted a bit more “oomph” somehow, but the picture in the catalogue showed it next to a very attractive car, and I took it as a sign.

      • I will keep my 95 MY 2007 for the foreseeable future. But to get hold on a NG 9-5 would be nice, even if it wouldn’t bring the advantage of the E85. I don’t know if it have been implemented yet, but the Swedish government have obviously decided to reduce the tax on E85 once more (?).

        • Interesting, that happened over a year ago! (http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article22439494.ab)

          Yet… I wonder if the distributors are keeping the money themselves, because I have not noticed any reduction in price at the pumps?

          Very strange. Or maybe my calculations are off. I will choose E85 as soon as the price difference is more than 30%. Looking at the current official OKQ8 price, the difference in price is almost exactly 30%. WTF. The difference in price was pretty close to 30% before the tax reduction as well.

  6. As scand mentioned, here in the US, loyal Saab owners are still driving them, but you do have to be fortunate enough to live in places that has independent Saab certified mechanics nearby. I do not see as many Saabs on the road as a few years ago, but here in a larger city in the mid-atlantic states, I do see several at work and on the road…mostly newer models. I did, however, see a 1998 900SE pass me on the highway last weekend.

    I picked up a 2008 9-5 Sportcombi 2.5 years ago in great condition with low mileage to replace my 2000 9-3 and plan to drive that at least another 100k or more miles. By then, the car industry will have changed again and I will re-evaluate my options. My 1971 Sonett III is for fun local driving in nice weather. 🙂

    I do check in here from time to time and enjoy reading new content when it is available…..when I am not drooling over Ageras due to the photos and blogs that Swade posts over on the Koenigsegg site.

    • Have to agree, but with a caveat. Early Mk2 9-3s are now on their 3rd or 4th owners and have started to descend into beater status. It’s a car I’m considering as a project for my 13 year-old son, but cars we’re finding are either very, very rough or pristine and, thus, pricey.

      • True. You have to decide what you are looking for and then it depends on the need as to how patient you can be. In my case, my 2000 9-3 was still running well a couple of years ago, but it had a lot of miles and I was watching for a good deal on a newer 9-3 Sportcombi. That is when I ran across the 2008 9-5 Sportcombi with only 70k miles. It was a one-owner car and the previous owner not only had taken very good care of it (it was his wife’s car), but he was asking a very fair price. Since he was only 3 hours away from me and the car had never seen snow, after looking at it and test driving it, it was too good a deal to pass up. I only found it because I was looking, but not in a hurry to buy something until the right deal came along.

  7. Nice to see a few old faces on here, I was stopped (or was stopped by TimR) some years ago, but sometimes pop on here to read what is going on.
    I used to post as terry9000K.

    I am now retired @ 68 years, but 2 years ago bought a 2009 9.5 2.3 turbo edition (Aero) wagon. from N’Ireland.
    In silver with superb bodywork, but although with great Saab service history which turned out to be doctored (partly false) it has been expensive.
    At 70k miles still a baby, so will keep her.

    Maybe pop by more often now ‘The BMW blogger’ has gone….

    Thanks Saabers….!!

    PS, still have a 98, 9000 2.3t, stage 1 auto though…….

    Best to all…..

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