Rare Rides: The 1989 Saab 900 SPG, It's Sporty, Personal, and Good

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1989 saab 900 spg it s sporty personal and good

Today we return once more to the Saab 900. You may recall our first featured 900, a very early green on green example from 1979. Today’s refreshed and sportified 900 is substantially different from its older brother to warrant another look.

Introduced for 1978, the original 900 was a heavy rework of Saab’s prior family car offering, the 99. Built atop the same basic bones, the 900 grew larger, safer, more modern, and was specifically designed to comply with U.S. crash regulations. It also appealed to a much broader market, as Saab took its volume model a bit more “mainstream,” though the company’s offerings were still well off the beaten path of the average consumer.

Over the years Saab lightly reworked and refined their bread and butter 900, necessary as the model lived from 1978 through 1994 before its GM-influenced replacement. Trim options and engine tweaks varied substantially by market, as Saab wove a complex history for the internet to document later. Engines were four in number for the 900 and included three 2.0-liter models and a single 2.1-liter. All engines were developments of the basic B series engine which started its life in 1972 in the 99. Four- and five-speed manuals were available, and the only automatic on offer all the way through 1994 was a three-speed Borg-Warner unit.

As Saab added things like turbochargers, more valves, and special trims to the 900, one desirable performance package appeared in 1984. Called Aero in most markets (later a North American trim), north Americans knew it as SPG or Special Performance Group. GM owned a trademark on the name Aero within North America which forced the change.

In ’84 Saab prepared 28 SPG prototypes and handed them over to the media to rave reviews. The original plan for SPG was a pearl white paint job with a red leather interior and a red dashboard, but the paint proved too difficult to color match upon repairs and was not put into standard production.

The SPG was the first 900 to arrive with the turbocharged 16-valve engine, good for 160 horsepower. Visual changes included a special body kit, a three-spoke steering wheel, and three-spoke wheels unique to the trim. The aerodynamic body kit and additional power meant a higher claimed top speed of 130 miles per hour.

The 900 remained in its original visual guise through 1986 before a refreshed version arrived for the ’87 model year. Though the metal was unchanged, bumpers and lamps took on a more modern look. The SPG remained in production through the visual update and was sold only in two or three colors per model year. 1991 was the last year of the SPG and made for a total of 7,625 North American examples.

Now a collector’s item, today’s SPG is a 1989 example. That year the SPG was offered only in grey and black. Its excellent condition doesn’t indicate its 286,000 odometer reading, but the 900 is a car known for longevity. Yours in Denver for $6,500.

H/t to our own Chris Tonn for finding this on the Craigslist.

[Images: Saab]

Join the conversation
2 of 15 comments
  • 1nOnlyEdsel 1nOnlyEdsel on May 20, 2021

    What are you guys talking about? I don't see an '89 SPG! THATS AN '86 SPG!!! With euro headlights. Might be Canadian or just a conversion.Those bumpers and grill are the same as my 86 900 turbo. My car is still waiting in the que for its resto to begin. I'd love to drive it again after all these years. Happy Saabing, guys!

  • Bill h. Bill h. on May 21, 2021

    In my garage right now is my son's restored 1991 SPG in Beryl Green, one of ~100 cars in that color from that year. Thanks to his efforts it's in excellent driving condition and pristine cosmetic condition, and has won several car show awards. It's awaiting a new steering rack to replace the leaky one it has, but everything works, including the A/C. A real pleasure to drive and the thumbs ups on the road it gets are worth the effort to keep it in great shape. There are still engineering features on that Saab that I miss from modern cars, and remind me of the 1988 900 that my son came home from the hospital in when he was born. You can catch photos of it on the Maryland and Virginia Saab Group pages on Facebook.

  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!
  • EBFlex For those keeping track, Ford is up to 24 recalls this year and is still leading the industry. But hey, they just build some Super Dutys that are error free. Ford even sent out a self congratulatory press release saying they built Super Duty’s with zero defects. What an accomplishment!
  • Norman Stansfield This is what you get when you run races to keep the cars bunched together for more excitement. F1 doesn't seem to have this problem after the first few laps.