Historic Car Brands
Saab Automobile AB was founded in Sweden in 1945, when its parent company, Saab AB, began a project to design a small automobile. The company had been established in 1937 to build aircraft for the Swedish Air Force. As the War drew to a close, the company looked to diversify.
Saab’s Automobile design Project 92 began in 1945 and the ’92’ was simply the next in sequence after the Saab 91 single-engined trainer aircraft. The Saab 92 went into production in December 1949.
1951 Saab 92 De Luxe – Lars-Goran Lindgren
As you’d expect from an aircraft manufacturer, the car’s design was very aerodynamic for its time, with a drag coefficient of 0.30. It was powered by a transversely-mounted, water-cooled, two-cylinder, two-stroke 764cc, 25hp engine, based on a DKW design, giving a top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph).
The transmission had three gears, with first unsynchronised. To overcome the problems of oil starvation during over-run (engine braking) with its two-stroke engine, a freewheel device was fitted. Suspension was by torsion bars.
Initial models were painted in War-surplus green.
The slippery, lightweight Saab proved to be dirt-road flyer, when Saab’s head engineer, Rolf Mellde, entered the Swedish Rally and came second in his class.
In 1953, the 92B arrived, boasting a larger rear window and an opening lid for the boot. 1954 the Saab 92 output was upped to 28hp and in 1955, it acquired an electric fuel pump.
Saab 93 – Martin Hans V
The Saab 93 was introduced in December 1955, powered by a longitudinally-mounted, three-cylinder 750cc Saab two-stroke engine giving 33hp. In September, 1957 the 93B introduced a one-piece windscreen.
In 1957, Erik Carlsson won the Finland Rally in a Saab 93 and in 1959 he won the Swedish Rally. Also, in 1959 the 93F was introduced, with front-hinged doors from the Saab GT750 that was introduced for the US market, with a tuned, twin-carburretor engine that was good for 50-55hp.
1964 Saab 96 De Luxe – Lars-Goran Lindgren
In 1960, the 93 was replaced by the Saab 96 that initially had the two-stroke, then longitudinally-mounted and upped in capacity to 840cc and 38hp. Suspension was by coils all around.
Erik Carlsson won many international rallies in the 96, with his most famous successes being wins in the 1960, 1961 and 1962 RAC Rallies and first in the 1962 and 1963 Monte Carlo Rallies. Other rally successes followed in other drivers’ hands and it was these top-level victories that put the Saab 96 ‘on the map’ and established its reputation for reliability and toughness.
Saab Monte Carlo Rally model – Bonhams
The two-stroke was replaced by the 1.5-litre, four-stroke Ford Taunus V4 engine in 1967. The three-speed gear box gave way to a four-speed, but oddly, the then redundant free-wheeling system was retained.
The 96 was an important model for Saab and was the first Saab to be widely exported out of Sweden. The unusual vehicle proved very popular, selling nearly 550,000 examples.
1969 Saab 99 – Matti Blume
The Saab 99 replaced the 96 in 1968 and the first models were powered by a four-cylinder, in-line engine, tilted at 45 degrees. The 1709 cc Triumph-sourced engine produced 86hp and was upgraded to 1.85 litres in 1971.
The 99’s engine was fitted in a reverse longitudinal position. to position the weight of the engine behind the gearbox, to avoid nose heaviness.
The 99 was the first all-new Saab in 19 years and a clean break from the 92.
The 99 was Saab’s last factory rally car, first in EMS guise and later as the Turbo version.
Saab Turbo 16S Knud Dobberke
The Saab 99 Turbo was one of the first ‘family cars’ to be fitted with a turbo.
Australia’s Wheels Magazine wrote in a July 1978 road test of the 99 Turbo:
‘Compare the top-gear times and you’ll see that the Turbo is almost as fast between 60km/h and 160km/h in fourth gear as any five-seater in the world’.
Modern Motor, in August 1978 wrote: ‘It is necessary to drive the car to believe that such a seemingly endless surge of strong acceleration is possible from a 2.0-litre engine in a far from lightweight car’.
The 99 range was expanded in 1973 with the addition of a combi coupe modelled the millionth Saab automobile was produced in 1976.
Saab 9000 CD 2.3T Sedan – OSX
Saab entered into an agreement with Fiat in 1978 to sell a rebadged Lancia Delta as the Saab 600 and jointly to develop a new platform. The agreement yielded 1985’s Saab 9000 that was a sister to the Alfa Romeo 164, Fiat Croma and Lancia Thema, with all of them sharing a common Type Four chassis.
The 9000 was Saab’s first proper luxury car but failed to achieve the planned sales volume.
Also in 1978 came the 99’s replacement: the Saab 900. Nearly one million 900s were produced, making it Saab’s best-selling and most iconic model. A popular convertible version followed in 1986.
Saab 900 GLE – David Wright
In 1989, the Saab car division of Saab-Scania was restructured into an independent company, with General Motors and Investor AB controlled 50-percent each.
General Motors’ involvement spurred the 1994 launch of a new 900 that shared its platform with the Opel Vectra. Due in large part to its success, Saab earned a profit in 1995 for the first time in seven years. However, the model never achieved the cult following of the 900 and did not achieve the same reputation for quality.
Saab 9-3 SportCombi II 1.9TiD – M93
Saab’s 50th anniversary as a car manufacturer, in 1997 was chosen to introduce the replacement for the ageing 9000: the Saab 9-5. At the same time. the 900 received a facelift and was renamed the Saab 9-3. The 9-5 was the first Saab without a combi coupé body style option in 20 years.
In 2000, GM exercised its option to acquire the remaining 50-percent of Saab shares and in 2010 GM sold Saab Automobile AB to the Dutch automobile manufacturer Spyker Cars NV.
On 13 June 2012, it was announced that a newly formed company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) had bought Saab Automobile’s bankrupt estate. NEVS lost its licence to manufacture automobiles under the Saab name and produced electric cars based on the Saab 9-3 but under its own new car designation “NEVS”