Saab 900 Origins
It would be another quarter-century before the Saab line became popular in the U.S. with the release of its breakthrough Saab 900 in 1978. Produced over two generations until it ceased production in 1998, the Saab 900 borrowed the chassis of its predecessor, the Saab 99, but the front end of the 900 had to be lengthened to conform with U.S. crash regulations.
The 900 series set numerous speed and endurance records during its run. Most notably, in December 2006, a U.S. midwestern traveling salesman donated his Saab 900 to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum after having amassed an astounding 1,001,385 miles during his career. About the Saab 900
Even to the most casual observer, the exterior look of Saab’s vehicles over the years points to a design distinction rare in the automotive industry; the stout rear-end, elongated front, and the distinctive black trim along its window frames. But there’s much more going on under the surface.
Harkening back to its aircraft heritage, one of the first noticeable features of the Saab 900 is its deeply curved front windshield, affording the driver enhanced road visibility. The interior dashboard layout was similarly aircraft-inspired, with a curved design for easy dial reach with front-illuminated gauges. Saab engineers also placed the gauges according to their usage frequency so drivers didn’t have to divert their eyes from the road any more than was absolutely necessary. Not surprisingly, the radio was given the easiest access.
Innovativeness reigned under the hood as well. Unique among cars at the time, the Saab 900 featured a backwards-installed engine with power coming from the crank at the front of the car. To match with the engine’s position, the transaxle transmission was bolted directly to the bottom of the engine, forming the vehicle’s oil pan. Power between the two was subsequently channeled via a set of chain-driven gears. Saab 900 Features
The closing year for the immensely popular Saab 900 in 1998 utilized the same body design that signaled the launch of its second generation four years earlier.
Four trim variants were available to buyers: the non-turbo four-cylinder S series, the four-cylinder turbo or V-6 SE model, the five-door convertible, and a special edition Talladega model, named after the 900’s record-breaking performance at the famous racetrack in 1996. All trims came in two-, three-, or five-door options.
Available in a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual overdrive transmission, consumers were given several engine options, the base powertrain consisting of four-cylinder 2.0-liter gas-powered engine that delivered 185 hp and 194 lb-ft of torque. With a 2,000-pound towing capacity, the 18-gallon 1998 Saab 900 was EPA rated for 19/25 mpg city/highway when utilizing the four-speed automatic and 21/27 mpg respectively for the five-speed manual overdrive.
Some of the 1998 standard features included 15-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and mirrors, power windshield wipers front and back, driver and passenger airbags, cruise control, anti-theft alarm system, and a rear spoiler. Leather seats and steering wheel, as well as a power-operated moonroof, were optional on all trims. Saab 900 Evolution
Over its 20-year production run, the Saab 900 enjoyed many model variants and commemorative special editions.
Arguably the most well known Saab 900 variation, at least in the U.S., was the convertible, initially introduced in 1986. The three-door hatchback was usually equipped with a 16-valve turbo-charged engine, but was also made available within specific markets with a 2.1-liter fuel-injected engine.
Two years earlier, Saab created the Aero model, better known as SPG in the U.S. It was Saab's first 16-valve turbo-charged engine, with a stated power output of 175 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque. Lasting until 1991, the Saab Aero’s predominantly came with a striking red leather interior.
1994 saw the unveiling of the second generation Saab NG900, which featured one of Saab’s more unusual attributes: the Sensonic gear box. Available only with the turbo models, the Sensonic clutch variant omitted a clutch pedal in favor of an electronic device that engineers believed could control the clutch faster than drivers could. Unpopular with many drivers, the Sensonic feature was discontinued in subsequent Saab models.
Despite a lengthy and widely praised career of producing some of the most recognizable cars on the road, the Saab Company filed for bankruptcy in December 2011, after 64 years in the auto-making business.