By on December 18, 2009

my farewell Saab memory

My tribute to Saab was the Saab 96 Curbside Classic. But I’ll excerpt the first and last paragraphs here as well as my parting Saab memory:

It’s hard to look at this old Saab and not get choked up. And it’s not just because this once proud and spunky company is on the ropes. Old Saabs just have a way of stirring my emotions. This is going to be a Saab story…

GM’s purchase of Saab was phenomenally stupid. There was nothing to suggest that they could bring lasting health and success to this then already moribund and broke marque. History has been harsh to smaller premium brands and the “rescue” of such (NSU by VW and Rover by BMW) were abject failures. Lancia is on perpetual life support by mother Fiat. But GM’s hubris was limitless, and there’s a sucker born every minute.

It’s hard watching loved ones that you’ve known for fifty years fall by the wayside. But I’m old enough to have seen others go too. The sad thing is that during the last twenty years, Saab was essentially moldering away in the underfunded GM nursing home, fed enough to stay alive, but with no prospects for regaining its health. It should have just been left to die with dignity in the nineties.

I will never forget an early morning blast over the Angeles Crest Highway in a Saab 99 Turbo, one of the most exciting, original and influential cars of its time. That’s how I choose to remember Saab. How about you?

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91 Comments on “The Saab Wake: Our Farewell...”

  • avatar

    As a kid in New Jersey, and having to shovel snow for money, because of my cheap ass father, I remember shoveling out stuck Saabs and Volvos mostly. How ironic.

  • avatar

    I think my favorite Saab is the last 9-3 Viggen. It probably remains the all time torque steer champion. It was great because it was so silly and ridiculous. Compared to that car, the final 9-3 is utterly soulless and without any sense of humor whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. I drove a 5 door Viggen from Dallas to Shreveport, doing no less than 80 the whole way, taking it over 100 at times, and it was an excellent cruiser. Getting to speed was effortless, even though torque steer was an issue, and the car handled the speed like a champ. It was the last true, good Saab. Everything else since has been an Audi chasing POS. RIP Saab, although you truly died years ago. The last few years were more like A Weekend At Bernie’s.

  • avatar

    As a kid in the ’70s, my neighbor was having an affair with a guy with a beautiful new black Turbo Saab. We neighborhood kids all referred to the man she was having an affair with as “Turbo Saab”.
    Then later, in 2006, I bought a new 9-3. It drove great but was an abject lemon. So I got rid of it. Two years later I missed its ride so much that I bought another, a 2008. This one was a cherry. But I sold it the day Saab declared (partial) bankruptcy in early 2009 to save my financial shirt. I loved that car and miss it every day.  Maybe I’ll buy another when the used market drops through the floor.

  • avatar

    Bombing around Lake Tahoe in my sister’s boyfriend’s (now brother-in-law’s) mid-60’s Saab 96 in the early ’70s. The more I learned about this odd tear-dropped, two-stroke, oil-sipping beast, the more I respected it. I was in love with boxy Volvos then (still too young to drive anything), but then I read about Saab’s origination from aircraft production, it’s safety roll cage, etc. And, it was red.

    It was…just weird enough to be appealing.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    My first taste of Saab was when I watched the Richard Pryor film “Moving” and he had a Saab in that. I always liked that model.
    It’s  shame to see any car brand die, but that’s life.

    • 0 avatar

      A Saab played a memorable role in the quirky Robin Williams movie The World According to Garp.

      The only other, most recent, noteworthy appearance  in the media was Jerry Seinfeld drove a Saab convertible (after he had to get rid of his BMW with ‘the funky smell’). It had quite a run, even having an entire episode set at a Saab dealership.

      My guess would be that exposure, alone, is what accounted for most of the sales in the nineties. Once Seinfeld went off the air, the writing was pretty much on the wall for Saab, as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Rudiger: If you mean the car in the accident that injures the kid — and honestly, what other “memorable role” does a car play in that story? — that’s not a SAAB; it’s a Volvo PV 544. Remarkably true-to-the-book filming there, by the way; it’s a PV in Irving’s original, too, AFAICR.

  • avatar

    As a five year old kid in the summer of 1979, I enjoyed a ride in the then brand spanking new Saab 900. The neighbouring family to our summer house had just got one, and they were oh so proud, and let all the neighbors get a glimpse and a ride. It was a three door GL, but their pride and satisfaction was none of this world. The event felt like something really special. I don’t know why that memory stuck, but it did. I guess it was because they were a bit snobby, and the event felt so special to them.

  • avatar

    I will never forget an early morning blast over the Angeles Crest Highway in a Saab 99 Turbo, one of the most exciting, original and influential cars of its time. That’s how I choose to remember Saab. How about you?

    Never owned one.  Never wanted to.

    As a kid in the 60’s, I remember seeing them and thinking that’s what someone buys who absolutely has to be different. 

    I think that’s how I will always remember them.

    • 0 avatar

      When my wife worked at a downtown library in the late 60’s there was one custodian who you could tell had been in the elevator thirty minutes after the fact. (“There’s such a thing as deodorant?”) He had a couple of 3-cylinder 2-stroke Saabs and was my first source of Saab stories. So, never owned one. Never wanted to.

  • avatar

    I had in my collection (junk pile to some) a home built Formula Continental based on a SAAB 95 Montecarlo motor attached to BMW 600 transaxle.  I never drove the car but got the engine running a couple times. It was loud, glorious and the sight of those 3 solexes with air horns was a thing of beauty.   SAAB will always be me old films of Eric Carlsson rally driving in the snow like a bobsled.

  • avatar

    A girl in high school gave me a ride home in her brother’s early 60’s two stroke and I never looked at either of them the same since. Every mile was an adventure, rowing the column shifter thru the gears finally hitting 30 mph. Wow. Going so slow was never so much fun.

  • avatar

    Saabs were popular in the small New England town I grew up in.  Particularly with schoolteachers and attorneys.  The popularity, as I recall, seemed to peak between 1984 and 1986-7 when the 900 Convertible hit the market.  Saab for me will always be the (non-Opel) 900 Turbo sedan and convertible.

  • avatar
    Oregon Sage

    My first exposure to SAAB was through a doctor in town who put a 2-stroke SAAB engine in his boat. We got it to tow 6 skiers in my Boy Scout troop.
    A few years later my parents bought a 99 after a week test shopping/driving it against a Volvo 240. There was no comparison in performance or refinement; the SAAB was much nicer to drive.  This was followed by another 99 my sister drove.
    I finally got my own personal SAAB in 1994, a 1991 9000 hatch, 5 speed, 2.0 turbo 4.  The seats were great, the performance great, the mileage great.  It took a little extra to maintain, but no worse that my wife’s Saturn at the time.  Frankly I’m sorry I sold it, but Ive never quite gotten back to buying another one. The last time I came close was a 2007 9-3 Convertible, but without the turbo 4 it just didn’t seem special…. and there was the sure killer depreciation to make one think twice, or thrice.
    Maybe I can pick up an orphan cheap someday if the parts network doesnt get too spotty.

  • avatar

    And who could forget the Saab camper, one of which was driven from Sweden to Malaysia and back

  • avatar

    It certainly does seem as though there will be an enthusiast community for these cars for quite a few years. Whether there will be enough of ’em to start having parts made from scratch is another question.

  • avatar

    When I was 5 years old, the guy down at the end of the street had a Saab.  I don’t remember what model, but it was probably a 99.  It was red and exotic.  I remember my dad being suitably impressed, and had a couple of rides in it.  It was way cooler than the Beetle next door, and the key went between the seats.  That was soooo cool.

    The first exhaust note I ever noticed on my own was from a mid 80’s 900 Turbo.  I was in my mid-teens and starting to covet cars in a way I hope I never grow out of.  There was just something alluring in that throaty growl that you didn’t hear in the pony cars or malaise tanks that were everywhere at the time.

    The first convertible I ever rode in was an ’87 900 convertible.  That trip was on the Autobahn between Frankfurt and Heidelberg, and was absolutely thrilling.  The girl driving was even more so.  I was in double-love…not a bad way to hitchhike.

    So fast-forward to 4 years ago.  My wife wanted a convertible, and I needed to be able to fit my 6’4″ frame into the driver’s seat.  After looking at everything else in my price range, I found a beautiful gold ’98 900 convertible.  I know, it’s the GM model and not the pure previous one.  I’m not a purist, so I’m OK with that.

    It’s a true visceral convertible experience, with lots of cowl shake, wind, and sunburn.  It’s been mostly reliable, and the work I’ve done on it has been challenging and interesting.  (once you’ve gone through the crucible of owning a Citroen CX, not much will phase you)  It goes fast, cruises down the freeway comfortably at 100 MPH, is enjoyable with the top up, and is a functional coupe with a big trunk and seating for 4.

    Sure, there are faster, bigger, smaller, more comfortable, more sporty, etc cars…but this one’s the right combination for me.  It’s one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever owned, and I’m keeping it until it’s dead.

    So I’m grateful for Saab’s existence.  But I’m not a delusional fanboy – there wasn’t any realistic way that they were going to survive.  They didn’t make it, and I completely believe that GM didn’t do them any real favors.  But the automotive world is better off for their weirdness and I’ll miss them now that they’re gone.

    So thanks, Saab.  I’ve enjoyed your company along my journey, and will always have a place in my heart for you.

  • avatar

    I got my Christmas present!!!!!!!
    Took 30 years but Saab is done.

  • avatar

    My ’01 SAAB was fun, but getting rid of it was the best automotive decision I ever made.  I found this post on a SAAB forum.  Good riddance:
    Three weeks ago my 2002, 9-5 oil light came on. We stoped and heard a clicking noise. Had it towed to an independent Saab repair shop. They dropped the pan and indicated the oil screen was clogged preventing oil from being distributed. I needed a new engine. They changed the oil and indicated the car would get me home which it did. Took the car to the SAAB deatership. The dealer indicated the proof was removed when the independant changed the oil. The dealer indicated that a gravely/sandy mix was the cause of the blockage – perhapse caused by carbon buildup and was not a sludge problem. I have proved good oil change records which are not in dispute and the car falls within the 8 years oil sludge program. However, they deny sludge is the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      My ’01 Saab is fun, and keeping it has been the best automotive decision I ever made.
      167k miles so far, no sludge, no crap in the engine.
      GM–good riddance.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Saab indeed had a major engine sludge problem and did everything possible to avoid taking responsibility for it. One of my best friends got burned by that mess.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, not true.  GM extended engine warranties on certain years of the B235 engine (up to ’03 I believe).  GM/SAAB also developed a revised PCV system (the culprit, along with careless maintenance) that cured the problem if you caught it in time.  I wouldn’t say they did everything possible to avoid responsibility.  We had an ’03 9-5 that we sold with 145K, maintained by the book, updated PCV, no sludge.

  • avatar

    One of my cars is a Black 93 Saab 900 s.  Dad used to loan it to me to blow the carbon out.  I’d go on a +2000 mile trip between Texas and S. Dakota.  Always reliable and always stuck to the road.  Out in the middle of nowhere I’d be happy as a clam at +100mph.
    Dad also owned a Studebaker Hawk long after they passed.  So I know from his example that I should start looking for spare parts before they vanish.  Any advice?

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know enough Saab history to even know if this is a pre GM or a post GM model but here’s some very general advice.  Figure out if any other cars use the same engine or transmission parts and then figure out the most economical ways to stock up.  Should you look around for models with good engines but crap transmissions to get engine parts?  Should you look for someone parting one out?  Any independent Saab mechanics in your area?  Start researching, how “pure” do you want your car to stay mechanically?  I’ve seen good looking Packards and Studebakers on eBay that look absolutely orginal except they’ve had GM engine/transmission/rearend swaps just to make them easier to maintain.  These are the questions you need to ask yourself. 

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      Well my brother-in-law has both a Saab and a Studebaker Hawk, so I think I’ll be learning from his experience base in future years…..

  • avatar

    The closest I ever came to owning a Saab was storing a 1984 900 my friend and I intended to ice race. A lack of good ice and too many unregistered vehicles relegated that machine to the back lot of an independent Saab mechanic in Maine. But it’s not my only Saab story (groan).

    Another good friend had a 1981 900 turbo 4 door as his first car. I can’t say it was a great car, as the transmission had been swapped out with a 4 speed (and the 5 indicator on the console expertly scratched off), but it had been previously owned by a volunteer firefighter and the wig-wag headlights were intact. Slow moving traffic was no match for this car! Unfortunately it met its match when it was rear-ended by another friend in his CRX. The Saab drove away, barely, but the fenders were squished into the rear wheels.

    I also had the joy of driving a hopped-up V4 96 a couple times. Loved the super quick steering, and the column shifter made switching gears very quick. Somebody in a Rabbit GTI thought he’d pass me in the little green Saab, he didn’t. One day I will own one.
    The one time I competed in a stage rally, I was the co-driver in a blue 1980 99.  It had a bolt-in cage, not a ton of power, and we landed some jumps so hard we stripped the keyway on the distributor rotor (here’s to zip-ties and JB Weld fixing that one), part of the dashboard landed in my lap, and the poor car was basically boat-shaped on the bottom by the time we finished the event.

    Despite some of the quirks (can you avoid the q-word when talking about Saab?) and gearbox troubles, the cars would take an incredible pounding, and they were incredibly safe for the period in which they were built. I knew it wasn’t good when I was fixing the rear brakes in my neighbors 03 or 04 9-3 and they looked exactly like those on my other neighbor’s Malibu.

    Buick and Hummer still live while Saturn, Pontiac and Saab fade away. Rest in Peace, Saab.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I’ll always remember the commercial where they rolled one down a hill and after it had stopped started it up drove off.  

  • avatar

    I was never a huge fan of SAABs, although my mother pined for one for years back in the ’80s. Never mind, though. Every car brand that disappears is a great loss, especially when due to total mismanagement. It’s a sad day. My condolences to every SAAB fan the world over.

  • avatar

    My brother had a Sonett up in North Dakota in the early 70’s. Don’t know if it got him laid but I’m sure that was the idea.  My dad certainly was not too excited about it.  There was not a metric wrench or anyone who knew anything about imported cars back then.
    Once he spun it off a bridge, citing the freewheel mode as being responsible for his lack of
    control: completely possible.  A few friends picked up the back of the 1600 lb. car and threw it back onto the road.  Less plausible is his explanation for the demise of the car.  He claimed that it developed a carb leak and that in turn started an engine fire.  But I a sure that he torched it in the middle of the highway to collect a bit of insurance money as he could find no one to work on the little beauty.  He sure did have an affinity for matches.  I never did get to have a ride in it.

  • avatar

    Afraid I was never impressed with Saabs. The 93s couldn’t keep up with a Ford Anglia 105E on the Maine freeway back in 1960, and were two stroke to boot.

    A 1974 Saab 99 I drove extensively in the UK was not really as good as a Ford Escort 1600 wagon I also drove, and the Triumph-derived engine was a slug. Couldn’t see what attracted the boss to buy the Saab. He usually took the Escort himself, because it was more fun to drive, and far more tolerant of his none-too-brilliant driving skills.

    Later, my business associate’s 900 Turbo was a slug compared to my Talon turbo TSi AWD, and driving it was akin to sitting in a bucket, peering out over the high window sills. Couldn’t see the point. Plus, I thought it was supposed to be quick, but it really wasn’t.

    The 9000 was quick but floppy feeling, and no real match for an Audi 5000 turbo five speed manual during a new car hunt my brother and I conducted. Completely outclassed. Of course both cars were highly unreliable as per CR, so my brother caved in to the pressures of being a new Dad, and bought a Taurus wagon instead which provided many years of faithful service.

    A few years ago, gave another business acquaintance many drives to the Saab dealer to pick up his warrior after yet more repairs. Even he could see my Impreza with a crap interior was a better car, because it never went wrong and went round corners better with the mere addition of an Outback rear sway bar for $178 installed.

    After that, I completely lost interest in Saab.

    What was the point of Saab, again? It was never clear to me or to 99.8 percent of the population at large.

    File it in the Won’t Be Missed folder.

  • avatar

    My first car was an ’85 Saab 900 Turbo.  I stumbled across it looking for a BMW and fell in love with its unique style, fun turbo power, and non-BMW image. That car now has over 400k miles on its original engine and is bombing around the upper midwest. I owned two Saabs after that, but realized the ’94 built on a euro GM chassis was just not the same, and haven’t bothered with or been interested in one since. Sad case of brand mismanagement…

  • avatar

    Should GM be praised to giving Saab an extra 20 year lease on life, or damned for all the money wasted that probably hastened their bankruptcy?

    • 0 avatar

      GM was Saab’s enabler to suck money in the misguided attempt to stay alive.
      Much like the Ford Volvo/Jag relationship.  They never understood the market, dumped billions and billions {complete with Carl Sagan voice over} of dollars into the companies.  And in the end gained nothing.

  • avatar

    The first car I choose to buy…my father said, ‘Find us the next family car’ round about 1963 or so.  What I suggested and he bought was the station wagon version of  the old 2-cycle.  What a lovely little car with *so* much space and practicality…swallowed my mother’s wheelchair and was easy to get her in and out of.  Like the Volvo of the time, it was a profoundly honest car.  The later Saabs were probably better cars but without much character to me.  And when my brother slid off a long icy downsloping road in West Virgina, it soaked up the energy of bashing into fence posts such that we hardly felt a thing.  It was totalled and we weren’t even mussed.
    A great car, a great design, fantastic utility….think of a 60’s base pickup, but done as a light car a little bigger than a VW Rabbit.  Subaru made its name doing something of the same.  Most cars of the era (and still) were/are a statement or a delusion of one.  The old Saabs of that era delivered simple, efficient, capacious, compact transportation much like a latter day Model T.  It stood in the driveway with a Maserati 3500GT and a  Bugatti without any inferiority.

    • 0 avatar

      A profoundly honest car…. I felt my 1978 99EMS was also. My 1992 9000CD, not at all.
      Hatchbacks are death in the US, but I sure liked mine, better than the two wagons I owned.
      But, other cars caught up and passed Saab on fundamentals  and then the GM de-quirkification did the rest.

  • avatar

    I owned a BMW 3 series (318ti).  I would probably have bought another one, but the boot (trunk) was too small, didn’t overtake with enough power and the seats were not comfortable enough. After a lot of searching bought a 2003 SAAB 9-3, and have been happy ever since.  Over 80,000 miles later it still drives like a new car.  I’ll keep it until the engine melts.

  • avatar

    Rättvis cologne jag bort spädbarn!
    Or something like that…

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    I know the pun has been played up here a few times, but I got a chuckle the first time I heard the adage:
    “Every Saab owner has a Saab story.”
    Now every Saab owner has a sob story too.

    I used to lust after the 9000 Turbo when I was younger. Sexy.

  • avatar

    Well, let me piss in the casket.

    A Hyundai Sonata has a double wishbone front suspension.
    Every current Saab uses cheaper, worse handling struts.

    The cheapest Subaru (outside JDM) has a longitudinal engine.
    Every current Saab uses a cheaper, worse handling  transverse engine (the old real Saabs had longitudinal engines, but still failed to have AWD like Audi and Subaru).

    And those Hyundais and Subarus are just as safe (check IIHS, not your up your anti-Asian butt), with dramatically better quality.

    The world does not need overpriced, questionable reliablity FWD cars, and now there is one less company that will be tricking misguided enthusiasts into buying them.

    And, no, I don’t drive a Camry.  And I don’t drive a rebadged outdated GM either.

    I feel bad for the Saab employees, they are people.  I don’t feel bad for the company brand, its not a living thing.  It should have died 20 years ago when the idiots running it thought they could charge RWD/AWD money for Saab’s overrated FWD cars.  Instead Saab has been tortured on life support by GM since it failed as an independent company, but now it can finally rest in peace.

    I don’t care about brands, I care about car designs.  There are hundreds of FWD, transverse engine cars available for sale in the US.  That is by far the most common car platform design.  The FWD transverse engined cars sold as Saabs won’t be missed. 

    Saab hasn’t failed because it is quirky, it’s failed because it isn’t, it makes the same transverse engine FWD cars as everyone else, it just charges more money for them and they have less quality.

    Now, if RWD and manual transmissions go away, then I’ll have to mourn.

    • 0 avatar

      @ no_slushbox
      Amen. The voice (and username) of reason as usual.
      The automotive landscape needs fewer car companies/capacity. Fewer.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      “(check IIHS, not your up your anti-Asian butt)”
      Well since I am Asian, I’ll just say that someone’s got issues here…..
      “Now, if RWD and manual transmissions go away, then I’ll have to mourn.”
      As will most of us, on that we can agree.  However, I’m not sure those days aren’t numbered too.

    • 0 avatar

      “Every current Saab uses a cheaper, worse handling  transverse engine (the old real Saabs had longitudinal engines, but still failed to have AWD like Audi and Subaru).”
      Engines don’t handle. If you’re talking about weight distribution, there are other variables besides which way the engine points.

    • 0 avatar

      Jack Baruth on the transverse engined (like a Saab) Lincoln MKS:

      “As with the [longitudinal engined] Audi, I prefer the layout of the [Infinti] M45’s AWD system, which avoids the annoyances of a transverse engine and the attendant wandering steering wheel.”

    • 0 avatar

      C’mon, you drive a Camry.  Just admit it. 

      Anyway, I’ll race you in my 9000 2.3t 5 speed, then I’ll carry your sofa home in the hatchback as my prize for kicking your ass in my transverse FWD car.

    • 0 avatar

      The 9-3 is now available with AWD (the XWD system). Yes, 20 years or so too late, but there are now AWD Saabs.

  • avatar

    My best friend’s father had a 96 when we were in college.  It was a great car when it was running, but had an electrical system that must have been designed by Lucas.  After it left my friend (or his dad) stranded a few times for failure to start, dad traded it on a ’75 Buick Century.  Really boring, but at least it was reliable.

  • avatar

    I never understood why GM bought SAAB (or why Ford bought Volvo or several other purchases). At the time, there seemed to be no good reason to purchase the company, unlike GM’s purchase of Lotus which delivered immediate dividends, or even the more recent purchase of Daewoo. It seems the Opel-ization of SAAB didn’t really help them at all.
    My sister had a 99EMS back in the 1970’s, definitely an unusual car, my oldest nephew destroyed it in a fit of teenage hoonage. He came out of it without a scratch, but the 99 was toast. Another friend back in the ’80’s had a 900 Turbo, but it was slower than my Dodge Lancer Turbo automatic, and as craptastic as that car was, it was a lot cheaper to maintain than the 900.
    Sorry to see them go, but it appears no one will really miss them THAT much, as no one stepped up to revive them.

  • avatar

    My 2004 convertible fulfills my dream of relatively practical open-air driving.  The front wheel drive (unlike BMW’s) will help in the snow and rain without swapping to snow tires.  The trunk is larger than the Audi’s and I fit a golf bag and some small items with the top down.  Unlike the Volvo, it’s got a stickshift.  So, sad to see the brand not reborn to something great, but this is a practical and fun car for me.  

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    I was going to write something here about my Saab-experiences – but then no_slushbox summed it all up perfectly:
    Saab hasn’t failed because it is quirky, it’s failed because it isn’t

  • avatar

    I had an ’87 white, four door 900s.  I traded it in on a ’98 Jetta, and that was a foolish mistake I would only realize much later (though I liked that car very much).  The Saab had awesome seats, and every control felt like it was connected solidly to something– from the door handles to the A/C knobs.  I miss the ignition in the middle console I was always wary of spilling drinks into, how I had to pull that wire up out of the shifter and bend it over the edge when the reverse-lockout got messed up… how the exhaust melted through the gas tank when I went over a huge jump and the axle bent it up into its little nook.
    I loved how much snort it had in second gear.  A heater that could literally burn you.  The THUNK of the doors shutting, and the way the hood folded forward and upwards.  The weak syncros I cursed to hell frequently.  How impossible it was to find parts, and when you did how shockingly expensive they were.  Easiest car to parallel park ever thanks to that sloping decklid.

    I loved the sh** out of that thing.  I still go through ads looking for a nice example.  Cars these days don’t have that oddball soul Saabs once did.  When I traded it, it had 185,000 miles on the original drivetrain, and it had never broken down, left me stranded, or hell, leaked oil.  The new owner found my friend’s cell wedged in the back seat and called his house to find his address to return it.  He passed on how thrilled he was with the car and I think that’s when it really sunk in, what I’d given up.

  • avatar

    I became a Saab fan in the 80s when my parents had a couple of 900s and then a 9000 Turbo.  As someone said earlier, the hatchback was a thing of beauty when loading up for college — the amount of stuff you could pack into one of those cars was simply stunning.
    And the (for the time) ergonomics were fabulous — the seats were always amazing and I remember the beauty of heated seats and the special vent that blew cold air in your face to keep you awake and alert.
    Had a 99 9-5 wagon of my own for quite a while… again the seats were great, and that thing could be loaded down and roll through highway miles at 30 MPG forever.  But by then it was the era of funky direct ignition cassettes and multiple PCV system recalls and sludge and the darned thing was just not reliable at all… the fact that they’re going out 10 years later still selling essentially the same car really says it all.

  • avatar

    I went to high school with the son of the fellow who owned the local Chinese restaurant. His dad made good dough selling chow mein and was a certifiable SAAB nut – in Chinese. It amused me no end. I remember wanting (and getting) to drive the V4 Sonnett III – mostly to prove to myself that I could figure out how to shift the four-on-the-tree. Damn thing was so light in the ass end you could break the tail free on a right-on-red.
    SAAB, I hardly knew ye.

  • avatar
    my car runs on methane

    saab has been dead for a while now, and its spirit been residing in subaru in case you haven’t noticed

  • avatar

    My first Saab was a mint condition ’95 900S and the car was unstoppable- bought it in ’98 with 90,000 miles.  I sold it it in 2006 with 180,000 miles and it was still essentially in mint condition and had been almost mechanically perfect.  Ironically, I know these cars are considered the “bad” Saabs, but mine was fantastic- comfortable, fuel efficient and could haul more than the average SUV.

    We also went through a ’95 9000 Aero (great car but awful reliability, taught me my lesson about not buying used high performance cars), a 9-5 sedan and a 9-5 wagon.  Both 9-5s were incredibly comfortable cars but their reliability was too spotty.  When my 9-5 wagon left us stranded with my two kids in the back, I knew it was time to move on.
    I was a Saab true believer- hell, I annoyed my friends by constantly evangelizing about the brand.  The key thing I loved about Saab is it made me feel “smart.”  Yes, they did things their own way, but there was frequently a good reason (I still love, approve and understand the center ignition).  I considered buying a new 9-3 when the latest generation came out- was at a car show and sat in it and immediately recognized that I was looking at Chevrolet and GM parts bin bits all over the interior.  The realization dawned on me that if I’m so smart, why would I pay Saab money for Chevy parts?  Love affair was over.  I drive Audis now.
    Regardless of who is to blame, Saab was a wonderful brand with a wonderful product and they were somehow driven into the ground.  I am truly sorry to see this brand go.

    • 0 avatar
      my car runs on methane

      so you pay audi money for vw parts now?

    • 0 avatar

      >so you pay audi money for vw parts now?
      That’s true even if you buy a VW.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not a huge fan of VW Audi (reliability).  However, the management of Audi is a perfect example of what went wrong with Saab.  Sure VW and Audi parts share.  But they don’t parts share where it matters.  You will find overlapping engines and some common knobs and buttons, but (with some exceptions that are branding mistakes (e.g. the A3)):

      A VW has a transverse engine and a strut front suspension.*
      An Audi has a longitudinal engine and a 4-link front suspension.

      On the other hand:

      A Chevy has a transverse engine and a strut front suspension
      A Saab had a transverse engine and a strut front suspension.

      The old Passat with the longitudinal engine and 4-link front suspension was a great deal compared to an A4 or even an A6, which is why, as a business, VW had to kill it.  Now nobody buys the new Passat (which shows that people will not pay a premium for a transverse engine strut car), but they are buying A4s and A6s intstead, so it’s ok for VW.

      *This is a very efficient design that is great for basic </=~$20K cars (thank you Sir Alec Issigonis), but a company better not expect to charge a premium for it, and a company better make it well because the Japanese and South Koreans make it very well and very affordably.

  • avatar

    mine was a white ’86 900s. i bought it because of the functionality – well designed and useful interior space and hatch.  many positive design elements for the time. the manual sun/moon roof worked amazing, the heated seats were a joy in new england and then chicago, and the transmission was fun and smooth to drive. and, til the last day i owned it (’97) not a spot of rust or sign of exterior age.  the one nagging mechanical issue was a faulty O2 sensor (or so i was told) that resulted in unpredictable starts and rough idling when cold. after too many visits to the saab mechanics in chicago, still never got it resolved.  on the positive side, i have fond memories of tapping in to the hard core new england saab mechanic network for advice on fixes as well as great deals on parts. it was a true community of saab lovers back then, which made owning and working on the car special.

  • avatar

    I sold imported cars in the late 70s through the early 90s. I specialized in Saabs, mostly  900s although I owned a few 96s and 9000s. I loved these cars although realizing their unreliability early on. However in the Northeast, they were good sellers. Almost every 3speed automatic had problems and was the most expensive fix on the car. The manual transmissions were somewhat better but had issues as well. These cars were super fun to drive, but as the miles piled on, so did many many mechanical problems including electrical demons. I still love that quirky car and will miss it very much. I grew up with Saabs and will miss the original designs. To me, the car was dead every since GM took over, so I have somewhat gotten used to it’s demise since then.

  • avatar

    methane- great point, but VW is a much better starting point than Chevrolet.  I was actually one of those guys who always thought “There’s no real difference between a Saab and an Audi or any other premium/near premium car.”  As soon as I bought my first Audi I realized how dead wrong I had been- absolutely a different class of car.  But yes, there are some VW parts in there.

  • avatar

    I made a good living working on them in those days. The 900’s had their problems but also had lots of things going for them.
    The 9000 started their demise. It basically was a 3 way standoff between the customers, GM and the people working on them. Customers were extremely demanding as many luxury oriented customers were sold more of a sporty car, the car had many fit and finish issues (rattle trap) on top of the huge transmission problems as well as brake wear – noise and electrical problems. GM warranty pay was abysmal and did not come close to what it took to properly repair the cars.
    Basically everyone ended up pissed and blowing each other off and refused to deal with it any longer. The only miracle is how long they managed to push the demise into the future.

  • avatar
    The Gold Tooth

    Only one Saab memory, and it makes me blush. Sometime in the mid-1980s I took a 900 for an unaccompanied test drive from a dealership in Fairfax, VA, and stopped by my local for a quick lunch. Returning to the car, I discovered that I had no idea how to start it. I forget the details — some sort of key push or interlock or secret button you had to push, perhaps — but within a short time I had a whole bunch of restaurant regulars outside offering me their advice on how to start the car. Something worked, eventually, and I drove off, well-fed but red of face. Does anyone remember the secret of starting a 900?

  • avatar

    I got a 2004 convertible because I wanted to do open-air driving with a front wheel drive car, with stickshift, back seats, and sufficient trunk.  With the top down I can fit golf clubs and a few other items.  Audi was a much nicer car, but no stickshift, and I’ve heard the trunk doesn’t fit clubs with the top down.  So this was the best car for me . . . looking forward to 15 more years with this as my convertible ride.

  • avatar

    1. Hauling wife and baggage for a week to Florida from Atlanta to Sarasota on I-75, cruising in comfort in one our collection of 900s without adding gasoline. Oh, and we had a washer and dryer in back we were taking to her parents.
    2. Loving the super front seats in a Saab. Reading shortly after GM took over that an executive was quoted as saying the first GM change would be to the seats.
    3.Wondering why some people thought you had to be from Boulder or the Northeast because of a driveway full of SAABs. Used to interest the SAAB indy garage in Woodstock GA too.

  • avatar

    I bought a new  ’78 99 2dr hatchback, back when SAABS were actually innovative. It was an absolute pleasure to drive–except, with its four-speed, on the highway–and except in city traffic with its industry-worst shift linkage.  

    For some reason, it never had enough heat in the Canadian winters. However, the cabin had plenty of time to warm up in the SAAB dealer’s garage. It amazes me how much could break so often on a simple car. My wife, who hated that car (noisy, cold, ugly, as expensive to keep as rent) said that for the money I spent on that car, I could have had a BMW.  I endured that car for nine years.

    On our final drive together–to the Subaru dealer–the dashboard caught fire.

  • avatar

    I love all of the random out and out hostility to SAAB from some non-owning posters. It’s as if a SAAB moved in, slept with their wives, and got them fired level of hostility.

    For those who don’t get it, what made SAAB special was that it was a car from an era where cars were designed by genuine and thoughtful designers, not corporate board rooms and committees. In the case of SAAB, it was Sixten Sason – a designer, a man, who had an idea and a vision for a car that was his own, independant of what other makes were doing.

    From his creative hand came the SAAB 92, 96, 99 and by extension the 900 (although he did not design the 900, it was based closely on the 99, both in layout and style). These were cars that were their own, with nothing else on the road like them, and enough people out there liked them, and bought them, to make a go if it. 

    With the death of Sixten, and the purchase of SAAB by GM, it was no coincidence that the next generation GM900 was less unique, less special, less interesting, and more the corporate creation.

    With the last generation 9-3, corporate management had sucked out anything remotely special or interesting. The only aspects of the Saab 9-3 that were remotely unique, were SAAB carry-overs from when they were unique (grill etc..).

    Cars today are vastly more capable and superior to classic cars of the past. Unfortuntely, they are such corporate creations, that there is very, very, little out there that is genuinely unique, special,  interesting…or by extension human.

    The future will belong to Hyundai and Toyonda ever more. Yes cars work better, but for those of you who rejoice at the demise of SAAB, I hope you enjoy, and your kids enjoy, driving your silver Hyundai, or whatever other nearly identical car Hyundai chose to ape. 

    With bland cars, even the fast capable ones, lack of automotive diversity, electronic complexity, and environmental and economic pressures, let’s all sit back and watch the demise of automobile enthusiasm for all but the most die-hard. Enjoy!

    Personally, I lament the loss of SAAB, but as said elsewhere, would I have invested my money to keep the company going? Unfortunately no. To me however, the loss of SAAB is more symbolic of an ever less diverse, less creative, and less interesting automotive landscape.

  • avatar

    My first love was a Saab. 1989 9000CD Turbo, a $500 hand-me-down and family heirloom. It had quirks, not all of which were standard Saab features, including an intermittently functioning ignition key, fixed by re-routing a dash button for some long broken feature to become a sporty starter button, a mostly duct tape interior, and an inability to be repaired for less than $1000.

    It became something of a rolling apartment, with the rear seats gaining blankets, pillows, and a television wedged between the front seats (for the comfort and entertainment of myself and other potential first loves,) though with performance far better than the average motorhome, and frankly better than almost every other “sensible” (read: non-pony) car a 16 year-old could buy as well.

    Eventually, too many things fell off of the car at once, and after a difficult period where it performed much like a tractor due to the turbo imploding and the header pipe breaking in half, it was parked in its intended final resting place behind a friend’s house and, as proof that it was finally meant to be, never started again.

    God, I loved that car.

  • avatar

    What bothers me about all the crying over Saab is the emphasis on brand over design.  There is nothing unique or interesting about the Saab that died.  At its best Saab made FWD cars with longitudinal engines, which not enough people would not pay Mercedes and BMW RWD money or Audi AWD money for.  At its death it made nothing more than rebadged transverse engined GMs.

    Lotus and Morgan make cars that are actually unique, and they are alive and well.

    So what that Saab was started by passionate designers and engineers, almost every car company is.  Yes, even the Asian ones.  Some of those companies grow into large corporations, some of them fail and get bought by GM.

    And what is wrong with Toyota and Hyundai?  Sure they make FWD transverse engined cars, just like Saab but with better prices and quality.  But Toyota recently made a 2,000 pound mid-engined roadster.  And Hyundai makes a RWD, 6-speed manual, turbo inline-4 coupe for about $20k.  That is unique design that goes deeper than the badge.

    The best thing about Saab’s death?  Because of Saab’s death Koenigsegg and Spyker, which do make unique cars and still are run by passionate designers and engineers (ex Saab in Koenigsegg’s case), can live.  Nobody should be so naive to believe that Saab’s dead brand and outdated GM platforms wouldn’t have put one of those companies out of business if one of the deals went through.

  • avatar

    Even though I never liked Saabs, I still think the automotive world is a poorer place without Saab. We need small quirky, oddball nichebrands alongside the boring Hyun-cam-cords to keep automotive interest alive. Thank God for Saab, Subaru, Lancia, AlfaRomeo, (and dare I say Chrysler?) who dare/dared to be different.
    GM never understood what was in the bag when they bought Saab. A premium brand?? Never. Big mistake.
    Still – I don’t think we’ve heard the last words from Saab, yet!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m kind of like that with 911s.  I don’t like them, and I don’t get why people buy rear-engined 911s instead of the better balanced, better handling Boxster/Caymans.  But I don’t want Porsche to stop making 911s, because they actually are unique, it is the last rear-engined car in production (other than micro cars like the Smart and I’m sure some keis).  If the 911 goes away it will truly be worth mourning.

      But I think you’re being unfair to Subaru.  Subaru is an independent company (Toyota is a minority shareholder) using unique engines, unique AWD systems, and unique longitudinal engine chassis.  If Subaru ever starts making commodity FWD transverse engined cars I hope it does die, but right now it doesn’t, and it deserves some credit for that.  The other names you mention are just brands, not companies.  One is a subsidiary of GM, selling rebadged GMs, and the other three are, or soon will be, badge engineered subsidiaries of Fiat.

      I do agree that we have not we have not heard the last from Saab; as punishment for selling rebadged GMs I predict it will be reincarnated as a line of rebadged LG appliances sold exclusively at Ikea.

      Again, I feel bad for the Saab employees, but I thought we all agreed that there were too many badge engineered GM brands.

      And really, let’s all celebrate that Koenigsegg or Spyker weren’t taken out.

      Really, is it going to be better if some Chinese company buys Saab and starts putting center console ignitions in its knock-off cars? That’s what you all want instead of it just going away?

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      You say you feel bad for the employees at Saab.
      Pardon me if I find that hard to believe.
      B10er: +1
      Meanwhile, stories in the Swedish press continue to imply that the “deal” with Spyker was essentially done, but that GM pulled the plug.

      “Deal with GM only hours away

      TROLLHÄTTAN: A deal with Spyker Cars was only hours away when GM suddenly pulled the handbrake. The day after, everyone is asking the same question: Why?

      GM’s decision to close down Saab was incredibly dramatic when it arrived on Friday afternoon. And the picture that is now being painted about how it happened further increases the drama.

      According to information to TTELA, a deal between GM and Spyker was only hours away when GM suddenly called the whole thing off. This view is confirmed this Saturday afternoon by Saab’s Information Manager, Eric Geers…..

      No official explanation for why GM now stopped the deal has yet been given. A rumour says that it was Spyker’s major owner, the banker Vladimir Antonov, that gave GM cold feet. But one could argue that this explanation is flawed.

      Antonov’s role in Spyker is known. If that was a problem, GM and Deutsche Bank could have rejected Spyker much earlier.

      Another theory is that the new GM management wanted to show decisiveness.
      That would then mean that GM had already decided to close Saab – that the last weeks were just playacting.

      Magnus Nordberg”

  • avatar

    Though I didn’t have to deal with their maintenance issues much, I certainly did appreciate those cars when blasting their way through Connecticut snows on a set of new Gislaveds.

    A gorgeous black 900 Turbo was the first car to teach me what truly atrocious turbo-lag is. ~4000rpm anyone? -Only a German word could possibly encapsulate the love+hate+beauty+disgust I felt for that jarringly fun car.
    It would probably be: Scheissenfreudeschönerempörengesellschaftkapitän.

    Otherwise, Saab is yet another example of a once-passionate, Steve Jobs-ectomied, company started by philosopher kings, vivisectioned by acquisition and then whittled away by a thousand mediocrities into nothing.

    The history of business is littered with them, and bigger & more dominant ones, too. As soon as the founders are bought out, you might as well put the morticians and vultures on speed-dial.

    Btw, I Love FWD cars! -Enjoy the ditch in snow-driving, SUVs and RWDs :P !!

  • avatar

    Saab driving experience is sufficiently different to this day to make the company viable if properly managed. What is a Subaru? Nothing but smaller, less comfortable, less practical, less distinct looking Saab albeit reliable and with AWD? And Subaru is tearing up the sales charts.

  • avatar
    Disinterested Spectator

    While I’ve always had a place in my heart for Saab, I do believe that GM just needs to end it.  The brand, unfortunately, long ago lost the very persona that made it special.  The new 9-5 is not a Saab, it’s just another Epsilon derivative that could be rebadged as an Impala if GM really felt like it.  The 9-4x is just another CAMI Crapbox too.  The real Saabs were the 99, old generation 900, and the 9-3 Viggen.  Now, however, the only thing that makes this brand different from its Chevrolet counterpart is the clear taillights, key in the center console, and the 2.3 Turbo 4.  You’d think that the years of carrying around a DI cassette would have been allieviated with the dawn of GM’s own DI engines.
    The bottom line is that while we all love Saab, the most humane thing for this special brand would be to simply honor the memories of the days of the 99 and 900…

  • avatar

    So now what are the disaffected, eccentric, permanently drugged, but artistic and creative goof-balls of the world in south Eugene going to do for a used car?

  • avatar

    I think I am too young to really appreciate SAAB. I like the idea of the old 900’s and 9000’s from my youth, but I grew up with Audis.

    Last SAAB I drove was a bright yellow ’99 9-3 Viggen. This car was everything right and wrong with SAAB. Huge hatchback and some other useful SAAB quirks remained which was nice. The motor was great, but the rubber chassis just couldn’t handle it. The chassis is beyond “quirky” we are talking big league shaking, stuttering and quivering, so much so that when you buy a Viggen you have to buy an aftermarket “rescue kit” to make it drivable. Seems like all the rest of the SAAB quirks were designed in just so SAAB could different enough for their buyers to justify throwing their money away: the dual convexity mirrors, key switch between the seats, funny sounding directional ticker, speed alarm, night panel…all of dubious functionality and only existent to tow the long severed “born from jets” line.

    The most amazing thing about that Viggen was that it stickered for almost 50k and my friend bought it for 24k 2 years old and with 7500 miles(never titled!). Shows what the buying public thought of that vs. the mighty M3. SAAB, I mean GM, must have lost a boatload on the Viggens.

    Sorry SAAB, you haven’t made anything good in a long time.

  • avatar

    Everyone, just ignore no_slushbox.  As I have stated before, he has never owned a SAAB and thus his vitriol carries no weight.  But, the uninformed have equal access on this forum, so there it is.

    Slushy, you are clearly obsessed with longitudinal engines and RWD, and you are free to run your Miata in little decreasing-radius circles to your heart’s content, but just…stop.  As is apparently unclear to you, there is more to a car than the orientation of its engine and the location of the motive wheels.  You don’t like SAABs, fine, but your harping adds nothing. 

    I am not a SAAB fanboy – I have owned cars from over a dozen makes, some FWD, some RWD, some AWD, some part-time 4WD, with engines pointing north, south, east and west.  I have enjoyed owning other cars more than I have enjoyed my SAABs.  But after owning a few, I can say that SAABs are great, and unique, cars. 

    However, the qualities of a SAAB have nothing to do with the key between the seats.  That’s just pap for the clueless.  SAABs have (mostly had) combined qualities that other brands/makes lacked – high fuel efficiency combined with high performance and excellent space efficiency for passengers and cargo and tank-like build quality and long term durability (if not always reliability). 

    SAAB has a devoted following, and that’s what automotive enthusiasm is all about.  It isn’t always rational, but there’s a reason for it.  Discover what the reasons are before commenting.  Go drive an ’88 900 SPG, or a 9000 Aero or a 9-5 Aero wagon, then get back to all of us to complain.  As you so eloquently said, there’s a whole automotive world out there.  And most of it isn’t longitudinal/RWD.

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