The Saab Wake: Our Farewell

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

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?

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Disinterested Spectator Disinterested Spectator on Dec 19, 2009

    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...

  • Panzerfaust Panzerfaust on Dec 20, 2009

    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?

  • Power6 Power6 on Dec 20, 2009

    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.

  • PartsUnknown PartsUnknown on Dec 21, 2009

    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.