By on May 19, 2021

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]

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15 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1989 Saab 900 SPG, it’s Sporty, Personal, and Good...”

  • avatar

    A Saab 900 Turbo of this vintage remains the single car I’ve ever driven with the most dramatic turbo lag.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel like my ’84 Chrysler Laser Turbo had more dramatic turbo lag than our ’94 Saab Turbo Coupe did, but we are talking about pretty ancient memories now. I actually enjoyed the lag in the Laser. It was “wait for it, wait for it, bam!”

    • 0 avatar

      I think it was a Saab thing. The later Viggen, while a cool car, also had some pretty astounding turbo lag for its time.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    The only car I’ve been in in which a passenger could remove the ignition key whilst the car was underway – and hide it.

  • avatar

    That’s a lot of money for a Swedish meatball starting its return trip from the moon.

  • avatar

    Closing in on 300,000 miles this SAAB is a hobby vehicle. Similar to rescuing a homeless dog it’s going to require constant attention and patience. Absolutely no way I’d pay adoption fee of $6500.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW…rescued a homeless dog here, he required no more attention or patience than any breeder bought dog. Polite, gentle and appreciative!

      But I do get your point on this awesome SPG. ’88 900T convertible owner here, too.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Just gorgeous, quite a contrast to the other Swede from those days.

  • avatar

    I loved those machines. Thanks for posting this.

  • avatar

    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!

  • avatar
    bill h.

    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.

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