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.

Red J
Member

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!!

scand
Member
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… Read more »
Swade
Member

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!

Anna
Member
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… Read more »
3cyl
Member

” (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.

Hakan
Member
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… Read more »
maanders
Member
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… Read more »
mallthus
Member

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.

maanders
Member
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… Read more »
Member
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… Read more »
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