Lance Cole: The new Saab 9-5 – now that the dust has settled…

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.

You can read Lance’s work at Trollhattan Saab here. Or his later work for Saabs United, here.

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Lance Cole takes a deep breath and adds his thoughts

The thing that makes us Saabists is the way that we love our Saabs as Saabs – not just as cars.

We love them in a way that (as proven by some recent academic research) we have a relationship with our Saab badged lumps of inanimate alloy, plastic and rubber that transcends the normal human-to-car relationship.

This also means that sometimes, we lose our sense of independent rational critique, and ignore faults that our Saabness blinds us to.

I know one thing – that when I wrote here in 2009 that Saab was in a spin and about to die (which it was – a wind down team had been appointed) I received criticism heaped upon me. This missed the point entirely – it was not negativism, but a healthy dose of situational awareness. Gladly things worked out differently.

I stand by every over-the-top, gushing word I also previously wrote here about the
new 9-5’s styling: It is a triumph of car design and brand identity and of presence: It is emotive and has a sense of occasion.

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Lance Cole: Selling Saabs and the whole ‘Aero’ thing

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.

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Recent posts about how to get Saab sales going set me thinking. How does Saab re-establish itself in the market place?

Some of you will argue that this is to deny Saab’s existing profile, but you will miss the point. Yes we the cognoscenti may know all about Saab and its survival, but believe me, there are plenty of people out there who gave up on Saab under GM and neither know nor care that Saab is reborn: We need to get them back.

Earlier this year under a post entitled, ‘Ok Victor, so what do you do now?‘ I rashly set out some of my, and your, thoughts – and it is good to see, entirely by coincidence, that some of those ideas have actually become reality in Saab’s own corporate language.

Getting the new cars and the re-born brand out there, reframing it and representing it to private buyers and business customers, is key to Saab’s survival: No sales – no Saab. It is simple…

In that earlier article I suggested that Saab should place cars with the police, coast guard, rescue services and outdoor activity clubs – and not just cyclists or skiers. And that the business / fleet buyers need to be motivated into taking a fresh look at Saab – and specifically the 93 TTID – it being a weapon they really ought to try, because it is brilliant. Shout that louder someone!

Which is all very well, but are the mainstream car buying public – that is them – not you – who are the Saab enthusiasts, still happy to be on the receiving end of the message about Saab and aircraft?

Are the ‘Born from Jets’ and ‘Aero’ Saab hallmarking, not just a little jaded after the years of make do and GM genetic modification? I mean, how far can Saab take this whole, aircraft derived thing?

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Frog eaters love Saabs, no Crapaud allowed

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.

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A photo report from Lance Cole’s visit to Swedish Day UK

‘Crapaud’ is French for toad – it is also a Canadian village in Queens County, Prince Edward Island. And isn’t their a band called the Crapauds?

The Swedish for toad is ‘Paddan’ and that was the secret code name given to the development Saab 96-99 bodies in 1965-66.

Frogs Saab Cole.jpg

As a devotee of la vie en France, my south west Brittany based French accent went down a whole load of crapaud with the self proclaimed frog eaters that drove all the way from Lille, north east France, Paris, Belgium and Switzerland to attend Swedish Day UK. They decided that they were not toads, but frogs- eaters of frogs, hence the wonderful rally style plates on the front of their cars identifying them all as ‘Le convoi des mangeurs de grenouilles’. A convoy of frog eaters then – because grenouille is froggy for frog.
Frog is very nice baked in garlic and olive oil with spices, red wine is needed. sorry I digress…

So the frog eaters turned out in force bringing a range of lovely classic 900s and Dimitri – he of the car model company brought his Swiss registered 99 two door, circa 1969. Ettiene (he of the SaabHuy blog) arrived in an ex-UK right hand drive 99, which seemed odd until you thought of Belgian beer….

French Saab owners Cole.jpg

The lads from Saabsportclub France – they who organised that fantastic Saab show and photo opportunity at the French air and space museum – also arrived but sadly without the Viggen fighter that they acquired for their event earlier this year.

Anyway, despite Crapaud British weather, Swedish Day UK turned out well this year and of notice was the dearth of NG900s and 9-3Mk1s. Instead, there was a sea of 96s, 900 Classics and a handful of exquisite 99s – right back to two 1969 cars and the black be-striped, full bore rally spec 99 mega turbo owned by Julian Davies – voted ‘peoples choice’ winner by Swedish Day visitors.

We had a real 96 and 99 fest- a whole squadron of 96s lined up for photo-love bombing. The Saab – Fiat love child the 9000 turned out too – still looking good all these years on and with a strong following.

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The great SU design debate – shaping the new small Saab: Part Two

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.

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Lance Cole draws up some new ideas

In my first post of the discussion about a small Saab, (see photo) I rashly presented my design for a new, smaller Saab. The design was not a total retro pastiche, yet it is clear from the the 360+ comments, that even the element of retroism and curves found little favour with our readers.

Saab 91s

I still stick by the Saab 96 inspired rear end. Personally, I like it, but I have to accept that it was not on the target in marketing terms. Make it sharper, move it on, kill the retro – I think these were the messages of the amazing debate that followed. The designs presented in the comments section were great, even if some of the shapes were far from small! Having said that, Jeff came up with a small gem of a baby sporty Saab – a touch too concept coupe for a wider market possibly, but a stunner nonetheless.

I went away and thought long and hard about the whole thing. Here then is my reply, and no, it is not a copy of any of the themes that emerged in comments. This is not easy – as we are all trying to incorporate old and new Saab design elements into our work. My main need was to create a new look that had Saab elements, but which does not make me think of a Saab concept car from recent years- even if some see that as the way to go.

So here it is in three and five door forms (both on the same wheelbase).

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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.

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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.

Lance Cole: Ok Victor, so what do you do now?

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.

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Lance Cole on the need for Spyker to take us beyond the Saabness of things. Getting all spyked up for a tough road ahead…

The saga or Saab’s survival reads like an Arthur Hailey novel, yet here we are in the cold clear blue light of a dawning reality – Spyker saved Saab – with some help from the internet, the Saab community at large, Saab’s management team and workforce and a colorful cast of potential bidders.

Saab lives and we must not undersell the unique contribution made by an internet-led series of Saab Support Convoys in over 60 cities around the world. GM got a message, that in PR terms, must have made them realise the risks of contaminating their own backyard if they dumped Saab in the manure heap.

Alright then, so what now?

Can we Saab enthusiasts offer any insight to Mr Muller, and to Saab’s management? I reckon we can.

So here are some thoughts of my own, egged on by a few of you. We discussed these things in the recent article, How only design and money can save Saab. Well, Victor got the money, so what of the design?

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Lance Cole: Spirit of Saab Savoured

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.

Click here to read all of Lance’s previous contributions at Trollhattan Saab.

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Photo report from Lance Cole – who rode a Saab 96 in the UK Saab convoy

I had forgotten just what fun the two stroke Saabs are. Thanks to the kindness of ex-Saab GB technical director, Chris Partington, I joined the UK Saab Support Convoy in his lovely blue 1963 Saab 96 – complete with four-speed gearbox and the full radiator blind kit.

All photos by Lance Cole. Click to enlarge.

Saab 96 Chris Partington Cole 2.jpg

Chris, along with his wife and I, buzzed across country in the burbling, wailing, all-singing stroker – its manic ‘thrum’ and ‘burble’ bouncing off the ice bound winter landscape.
Chris used to drive works supports cars for Erik Carlsson and it shows – Chris really knew how to handle the little 96 – rally style and fully stoked up, with the superb feel of the direct steering and strong brakes allowing the driver to point the car with accuracy. Chris told great tales of the 1970s and ’80s heyday of Saab GB and life on the rally support team.

Saab 96 Chris Partington Cole.jpg
Then we parked up at our first convoy meeting point and had a chat with Erik – as you do ….

Onwards then to Duxford and the Imperial War Museum where Josephine Gatsonides, Mike Philpott, and all helpers from the Saab Owners Club, dealers et al, had an emotional and nostalgic Saab gathering; the cake was great (thanks Cambridge Saab) and Erik Carlsson cut it open ‘on the roof’ – as bidden by us all!

Saab UK convoy Cole 4.jpg

Swedish Day UK organiser and SU favourite Robin Morley was there too – in a Saab 9-3 ‘vert: Lots of SU readers turend up as well, which was fun.

Brit motoring journalist John Simister turned up in his two-stroke – with Autocar’s Rchard Bremner on board. Car Magazine was there as well – look out for feature on Saab. A nice Sonnet 3, a rare 900 four door, and every mark of Saabs old and new turned out.

Saab UK convoy Cole 2.jpg

Saab UK convoy Cole 3.jpg

Saab UK convoy Cole 5.jpg

Saab UK convoy Cole 6.jpg

I think it was the thought that other Saabisti were doing likewise all over the world that made its mark upon us. The love for the brand and the respect for the men that made it, was tangible. And to see all those cars gathered – it was a pure Saab day…

I jumped back aboard the 96 and we buzzed off into the sunset, engine and exhaust wailing. I sat there, part of the little Saab and its wondferful design, thinking of Lungstrom, Mellde, Sason, Envall, the Holms, Svenson, Carlsson and all those other names from the band of brothers of Saab – our beloved Saab. It was quite emotional.

Ah, what a day – my best Saab ride in years. I will never forget the sight, sound and smell of the Saabness of things.

Whatever happens, we will all love the days of Saab, always.

Saab UK convoy Cole.jpg

Snowbound in a Saab – Lance Cole

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.

Click here to read all of Lance’s previous contributions at Trollhattan Saab.

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Snowbound in a Saab

Lance Cole takes to the road for a blast into the past and a musing upon Saab’s fight to survive

The man that runs Saabs United – Mr Wade – cannot be getting much sleep lately. He is not alone, for any Saab enthusiast must feel tortured by the apparent bipolar antics of the Saab sale and its seller.

Contrary to perceived wisdom, not everything General Motors (GM) does or has done in its history is as silly as its current demeanour. Messrs Mitchell, Earl and Cole (not me!) were leaders in design, engineering and brand-ability. GM has made some great cars – under various names.

The American design iconography of GM usually gets all the plaudits. But GM’s Opel design bureau in Germany has turned out some fantastic cars under some talented design chiefs. Are you familiar with the Opel Manta mk1, the Lotus Carlton/Omega, the 1980s ‘aero-weapon’ designs of Gordon Brown? (And no, that’s not the UK’s Prime Minister but the brilliant GM head of design who fell off a cliff in Germany’s Hartz mountains in the late 1980s). Remember the Equs? Recall Wayne Cherry’s designs and the ‘droop snoot’ Firenza cars of the ’70s?

Don’t forget either that Sixten Sason’s one-time apprentice, a certain Mr Bjorn Envall (he of Saab, and Scandinavian Design), was a lead figure at Adam Opel design in the 1970s before he returned to the fold.

In fact there were many aerodynamic and stylistic synergies between Saab and Opel, and it is odd that these did not flourish under GM’s control in the late 1990s.

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SnowySaab900.jpg All this occurred to me as I sat in an untypically British -18 degrees snow drift, high up in the hills of England’s West Country. I was waiting for the youths of today ( I am an old fart of 40 +) to stop spinning their wheels and to stop blocking our Saab’s progress.
Image was sourced from Flickr and is not related to the events described.

Young Brits you see, have no idea how to drive in snow. Watch BBC Worldwide or Sky to see footage of everyone revving madly, wheels spinning wildly as they try to drive on the snow before they hit brakes hard and wonder why they crash.

Swedes in front drive Saabs learn how to drive in snow and ice at their father’s or mother’s knee. As do Canadians and some Americans: Germans in rear drive BMWs are not so hot in snow though…

Anyway, the thoughts continue…..

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