As promised, we're starting our Saab book series today. Anders Tunberg's Saab 20 book appeared 900 years ago, and two decades can be a long time. The car industry has changed a lot during these years and some car brands have now disappeared. At that time Saab was in the midst of change. GM had moved into Trollhättan with 50%, and Keith Butler-Wheelhouse was the first manager from the US group to rule in Stallbacka.
Butler-Wheelhouse is still welcome in Sweden today. The Butlers in Trollhättan, as the Saab legend says, came into being at his instigation and on the initiative of the then Volvo Aero boss. Before that, there is said to have been no restaurant in the town where you could have taken your international guests. But that was also 20 years ago, and Trollhättan now offers guests a lot more. Butler-Wheelhouse, who also defined the term "Saabisch", returned with an iron broom. Reduced the workforce drastically, closed the unprofitable plant in Malmo and lashed the new Saab 900 to series maturity.
Rigorous crackdown was sorely needed. Because the Saab crisis was profound, the belts kept standing still for weeks due to lack of demand, and the classic Saab 900 had long passed its zenith. It was in this situation that the new Saab 900 came into being, and the book very openly describes problems Saab had to implement this project. So much openness would no longer be authorized today, but 20 years ago it was possible.
What the book is about
In addition to a trip to the Saab history, which is beautifully illustrated, author Anders Tunberg also provides background information on the history of the new Saab 900. With a wink Tunberg notes that Saab would have liked to continue building the old 900. But the management in Trollhättan was already clear at the beginning of the 80er years that for the classic Saab 900 a successor had to be found. The concept, still based on the 99, was exhausted, and economic production became increasingly difficult.
1985 launched the project x67, a new Saab 900 on bottom group of the Saab 9000. One quickly realized that it would get a car with strange proportions and above all too expensive and too close to the 9000. Nevertheless, the idea was continued to build two different cars on a floor group.
Today this is everyday life, the VW Group plays this story virtuously. An Audi, a Skoda, a VW and a Seat share the same basis. Nobody cares, nobody notices. It was new territory at the time, and Saab reached its limits as a small company. Project x67 was discontinued and resulted in projects X68a and X68b. In order to implement two separate projects, orders were placed with external companies, including: Abtech, The English created an 5-door study, from which the Saab 9000 CS emerged as the successor to the 9000 CC. The second 9000 generation was born for the Swedes, but still no Saab 900 successor.
In 1988 the development of the X68 project was stopped and Project 102 was restarted. Again on a Saab 9000 basis, but this time with the core values that made the 900 popular. So a combi coupe with the typical Saab hockey stick in the C-pillar. The result - a picture of the study can be found in the book - was impressive. However, the dimensions and price were again too close to the Saab 9000.
The solution came 1989. In December, GM entered 50%, and the Swedes got access to the GM Building Kit. A fall of sin, as we know today. But economic need.
Project 104, or it just works on the fourth try.
In December 1989, Saab reviewed the compatibility of GM / Opel parts with the 102 project in a quick study. The result looked good, because in Rüsselsheim there was a ground group that could solve the urgent Saab problem. The project 102 became the project 104. The survival of Saab hung on the new Saab 900.
The schedule was ambitious because Saab lost money. Day after day. First prototype in May 1991, start of series production in week 31 of 1993. The book describes the development and the Saab philosophy behind each individual component. As for GM, the attitude of the Swedes can be described as follows: “Hey Guys, thanks for the floor assembly. We have solved our problem. We preferred to develop everything else ourselves or to get it from our own suppliers ..."
What I liked about the book
One of the book's strengths is the large number of images and sketches with a wide variety of designs and prototypes. Also external designers like Pininfarina or American Sunroof Company. Some are happy that they didn't go into series production. Others would have had potential. Again and again you can see pictures of Saab management in one of these secret courtyards in Trollhättans Design Center and looking at the prototypes. And you can see the then very young Saab designer Einar Hareide at work. A piece of exciting Saab history.
Environmental protection, ergonomics down to the smallest detail and why the door handle on the new 900 is as it is and stayed that way until 9-5 ... the whole Saab philosophy is discussed here. The then new “Black Panel”, also known as “Night Panel”, is presented as a new piece of “Saabism”, and so the book is full of wonderful Saab details. Material for Saab reading evenings, concentrated on 144 pages.
And what not…
Car literature, of course, always invites you to foke. It has always been this way, it will always be like this. Never in an Audi book, if we ever wanted to read one, would we read something praising about a Seat colleague from whom the idea originally came. It is similar with Tunberg and the Saab book. The flunkery, however, is limited. The built in Saab 902 V6 is developed in Trollhättan, which is strong Tobak. The machine comes from English GM shelves, which does not change anything, that this engine has its charm. But this is another story.
The Swedish Saab 900 story by Anders Tunberg breathes a lot of Saab spirit. Now, with an interval of 20 years, some points of view are changing. Maybe also because the mantra of the motor press "is just an Opel.”Has now fallen silent. It has also been noticed in the publishing houses that small manufacturers are or have been the icing on the cake for their daily work as a motor journalist. Working in a monoculture of large corporations is boring.
The successor to the legend from Trollhättan had a hard time. Maybe because Saab was not able to communicate all the small details to its customers. A poor performance in the Norm-Crahstest, the Swedes had oriented their safety thinking too much to the real life, ruined the reputation in addition.
Times have changed. Saab, and also the 902, are in a newly awakened interest. You can tell from Tunberg's Saab book. Like many Saab books, which are now only available in antiquarian books, it was quite unpopular for a long time. In the case of a well-known internet platform, the books have been sold over the counter for an average of € 10,00 in recent years.
Meanwhile, prices have multiplied. Before Christmas was at ZVAB a copy for over € 100,00 on offer. What can I say? Sold! Also a silent reparation for the unloved successor to the Saab 901.
Information about the book:
Title: Saab 900 A Swedish story
Author: Anders Tunberg
Publisher: Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart