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Saab 99 & 900

Saab 99 & 900 Published: 24th Aug 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Saab 99 & 900
Saab 99 & 900
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Why should I buy one?

Engineered to survive Swedish winters, 99s are tough, sturdy machines that prove the Triumph slant-four engine was capable of racking up huge mileages. They’re idiosyncratic inside and out and, in Turbo form, also one of the defining performance cars of their era, responsible for bringing turbocharging to the masses.


What can I get?

Those no-nonsense Swedes made the 99 range far less confusing than Triumph did. The 99 was unveiled in 1967 and a deal was made with Triumph to use its new 1709cc slant-four engine plus continued Saab’s long-standing love affair with front-wheel drive. When Triumph grew its motor to 1854cc, Saab upgraded its 99 to adopt it from 1971. However, it had reliability issues and rather than wait for British Leyland to sort things out, Saab simply took things into its own hands and reworked the engine itself. The 1985cc B engine, as the revamp was christened, lasted through to the 900 models of the 1980s, after which it was further redesigned. Saab was also ahead of many of its rivals by introducing fuel injection, with the 99E from 1970 and the EMS from 1972 which, prior to the Turbo, was the sporty offering of the line-up. There were a mass of options to suit whatever customers wanted, from the basic L through to the GLE (Grand Luxe Executive). Body styles over the years encompassed two and four-door saloons and three and five-door hatchback combi coupés. There really was a 99 or 900 to suit any need.

The 143bhp 99 Turbo, unleashed in ’78, was a game-changer and paved the way for road going turbos. Inca alloy wheels and front and rear spoilers, made this model even more special. Saab itself would dominate with the 99’s enlarged successor, the 900 which in turn lead to the Vauxhall-derived 9-3 of the 1990s which still retained much of the oriignal’s character. Just 115 Saab 99s are listed as still road-taxed so perhaps broaden your search with a later car.


What are they like to drive?

The immediate impression with any Saab is how solid they feel, with a real sense of heavyweight engineering. That means less powerful examples can feel a bit slow, although they’re all capable of sustained high-speed cruising, eventually. The front-wheel drive handling is predictable, with the merest hint of understeer, minimal roll on corners. All-round disc brakes provide a lot of stopping power. It’s in Turbo forms where the 99 and 900 really shine though. Once you’re through the lengthy lag, there’s a surge of power that just seems to go on and on. It’s quite wild, necessitating a tight grip on the wheel when it kicks in, but it’s also utterly exhilarating.


What are they like to live with?

For ages, Saabs were among the bargains of the classic world. That’s changing, although more common-or-garden scruffy ones can be found from about £1500 upwards. Around £5000 should be sufficient for a very good example. It’s a very different story for the Turbos though; they’re rightly regarded as iconic and that means five grand will be your starting point. The spares situation is less healthy than for Dolomites, which is why club membership is a must.


We reckon

More left-field and cerebral than a Dolomite, and with an inherent solidity that makes them still suitable for everyday use. The Turbo is something all enthusiasts should experience.

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