On December 8, the office staff where I work at FOI made a field trip to The Swedish Air Force Museum in Linköping. Here the rich heritage of the Saab brand is portrayed in a very nice way. The whole museum is without no doubt one of the premier aerospace museum in the world. It is by no way the largest I have been to some of them, USAF Museum in Dayton, OH, Duxford Imperial Museum in Cambridge, Canadian AirForce Museum in Ottawa to name a few.
But none of these museums comes close to how the Linköping museum have intertwined swedish aircrafts and the history of that time period. One area displays the cold war of the 50 ies not only with planes but with housing interiors and political issues of that time period. It is almost like a combination of a ethnographical/interior architect and modern history museum with a lot of military aircraft hovering above safeguarding the traditional swedish way of living.
When designing a car there are dozens of conflicting issues to negotiate. Some wants a super sporty sleek car other a more family practical oriented. For a manufacturer this is a tough issue to deal with especially when You are a small player with a limited number of lines of models and nothing is then allowed to go wrong the cars just have to sell like cupcakes.
Saab started out of an airplane maker with the range of B-17 Dive-bomber, J21 and the jet powered J21R interceptors, so aerodynamics was nothing new. The 92 model was slick for its time but low speed up to its modest top speed of 110km/h was all-fine. The issue is when going faster, when the airstream over some areas of a car body creates lifting power just like what a wing does on a plane and the 92 was more or less across section of a wing. At high speeds the rear part of the body on the 92-93-96 models create lift, this force has a negative impact in the performance on the road. A tuned 96 V4 with an Sonett gear box (high 4 gear) would make that car go 190 km/h, that is not a pleasant experience, rear wheels hardly touches the ground.
In 1984 Saab had its first 100,000 car year. Achieved in large part to one of its most successful cars ever to come off the production line, the 900. The 900 was so successful that from 1978 to 1997 and two generations of this model, Saab manufactured and sold 1,182,378 of them.
The first generation was built between 78-93, a fifteen year life span and the second between 93-97.
In 1984 we saw the introduction of the 16 valve DOHC B202 engine which had hydraulic valve lifters and a pre-heated catalytic converter for reduced emissions and a top speed of 210km/h or 130mph with 175hp back in 1984.
Saab definitely had some performance in this car back in 84 and a lot of forward thinking too. I know fifteen years seems like a long run for a production car and it is but it was the 7 year of production before it had a 100,000 unit year and it continued to sell well after 84.
In 1985 Saab took a step into the future with the SAAB EV-1, not to be confused with the GM EV-1 as this was its own model and GM had yet to enter the Saab picture although the EV-1 did have seats from the Corvette. The EV-1 was ahead of it’s time in many respects and had a top speed of 270km/h and did 0-100 in 5.9 seconds. Most parts came from the 900 turbo and the car had 66 solar cells mounted in the glass roof panel that helped with the cooling system in the car. The EV-1 was even seen in the background of the movie Back To The Future II.
Also we can’t forget that as far as GM goes, their EV-1 didn’t come to be until 1996 so they just stole our name.
1987 was the next big year for SAAB with worldwide sales exceeding 134,000 units and with vehicles like the 900, 9000 and convertible models.
The 1987 Saab 9000 was the first front wheel drive car to offer ABS brakes.
The 900 was still the first generation and had now been in production for nine years and still selling quite well.
Saab was at this point looking like a company that was moving in the right direction and was making money.
Two years later in 1989 GM bought 50% of Saab for $600 million USD. While working with GM we saw Saab sharing technology with GM and the GM brand was becoming better and they gained a lot from being partnered with SAAB. Funny to see years later GM not wanting to share at all.
1999 Saab sales were 131200 worldwide with the 9-3 which was launched in in 1998 and the 9-5 launched in 1997.
In 2000 GM bought the rest of Saab for $125 million. GM has had a habit of making many cars off of one platform which is meant to help control costs but also makes for cars that directly compete with each other. Saab was no different and over the years we would see more and more GM in Saabs then ever before. The 9-5 shared similarities with the Saturn L series and at least three different Opels, the 9-3 with Chevy’s and Opel’s.
In no way am I saying that GM was only bad for Saab because they did put a lot of money into the Saab factory but it would appear that they bought Saab and the IP and then when they sold the company, they held on to the IP that was so critical and were not open to working with new partners which doesn’t sit well with me when you consider what they got from such a partnership in the past.
If you look at the years highlighted in here, 84-87 without GM, Saab had some tremendous success and sold themselves on being a car for drivers in any condition and a company ahead of the curve when it came to innovations. I do believe we can be all of that again.
South West Saab (England) had the great pleasure of welcoming Lance Cole to their monthly club meeting this week.
He came along to chat about his new book and to sign the many copies that our members had purchased. It was great to hear the stories of how he writes his books. One of our members had a copy of his book about Spitfires which Lance wrote earlier in the year. He hopes to be at other locations, like Swedish Day in May, and is always happy for a chat. The book “SAAB Cars: The Complete Story” can be found on line at many book shops including Amazon.
Because it is a part of our history, it is only fitting to share this video. 2012 marks 75 years for Saab and is filled with history and Saab cars has a special place in that history. As much as the Saab the defense company has been driven to protect the people of Sweden and national security, so too has Saab cars mission always been to protect the people who drive those cars.
Watch the video below and read the statement below to fully understand where we were when Saab was founded.
It is with great sadness that we let everyone here at SaabsUnited know that our friend and Saab Ad man Curvin O’Rielly lost his battle with cancer on Friday night. For a man that I never met but had the chance to interact online here and through Facebook, it greatly saddens me to have received the news last night through the crew mail.
I am Curvin’s son in law. I noticed your nice historical posts on Curvin and his ad work with Saab. I am writing to let you know that the original Saab ad man has passed away here in Saratoga Springs, Friday night. I can forward you a link to an obit when it is published in the next couple of days. I found your posts as we searched online for more material for his obit.
I did a post a little while back on SAABSUNITED where we touched on the subject of tattoos and the devotion of many fans to this brand called Saab. Since that post, I have received a few more emails of tattoos and not too surprisingly it would seem the most popular is the Griffin head logo. Below are three examples of this Griffin head inked on fans who really have no looking back on Saab now, it’s a part of them forever.
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