It was a few years ago. During a visit to the Saab Museum Trollhättan, the conversation with museum curator Peter Bäckström came on the Saab 9000 and on all-wheel drive. An 9000er powered on all four wheels? Never heard of it. The topic did not release me even months later; the story behind this model is exciting.
The story of the Saab 9000 CS 4wd goes something like this: The Saab Motorsport department experimented in the 70s and 80s with all sorts of ideas to improve traction in sporting use. Sigvard "Sigge ”Johansson, or simply Saab-Sigge, invented an electronic limited slip differential in 1980 to give the rally vehicles even more traction.
This certain Sigge Johansson is the offspring of a Saab family - old Saab nobility, if you will. His father-in-law Days Flodén worked as a toolmaker in the Stallbacka, helping to get the Saab 92 to be the brand's first series production vehicle. His son Peter Johansson was also involved in development for Saab. He was involved in making the Turbo X, Saab's first all-wheel-drive production model, ready for series production.
While in the 80s and 90s the motorsport involvement in Sweden decreased more and more, a brand from southern Germany started its triumphal march with the Quattro concept. At Saab a reason to develop in this direction as well. In 1987 at least one prototype based on the Saab 9000 CC was created, and Saab experimented with a further development of the “Sigge Johansson” differential and an all-wheel drive system based on Torsen differentials. In 1992 at least one other prototype was created, now based on the 9000 CS.
The Saab 9000 CS 4wd test vehicles, equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission and a new rear axle developed by Saab, are said to have worked well. The traction is said to have been unique, especially on snow and ice. Nevertheless, the development was stopped.
Why? With the Calibra 4 × 4, the GM subsidiary Opel brought an all-wheel drive model that was more simply constructed than what was ready-made on the shelves at Saab. The Calibra was seen as a sporting highlight in the group - and as an image carrier. Saab took a step back. Voluntarily, how to admit. And it was a mistake, as they say today.
The Saab 9000 CS 4wd, with permanent all-wheel drive and charged 280 PS - other sources speak of 285 PS - would have been more than just on par with the aspiring brand from Ingolstadt. In the meantime there was already the V8 series with Quattro drive, the urge of a certain Mr. Piech including willingness to conflict in the direction of Wolfsburg was unchecked. While in Trollhättan the struggle with Detroit was avoided ...
The whereabouts of the first test vehicle based on CC, possibly more than one copy, has not been clarified. A 9000 Saab 4 CS 1992wd survived. It stands, with a little more than 109.000 kilometers, in the depot of the Saab Museum in Trollhättan. The condition of the first four-wheel drive Saab is pathetic, there is no money for restoration. It is not desirable to take pictures of the objects in the depot, the picture shown is from 2012.
At the Saab Festival 2015, 30 years of Saab were a marginal topic, the all-wheel drive story and the 9000 4wd stayed in the magazine. Why? Was it because of the bad condition or was it not interested in exciting stories? Even an unrestored 4wd would have attracted more attention than the rest of the, certainly well-intentioned “It's my Saab” exhibition, which would have fit in well in a year without a festival.
While Saab ignored a major opportunity in the 90s, the four-wheel drive story came to a forgiving conclusion for the Johansson family. Sigge Johansson left Saab in 1984, took the plunge into self-employment and had his inventions patented. Haldex, a company with international renown and certain Saab roots, emerged from his ideas. Saab Sigge left this world in 2011. He could still see his son Peter Johansson, in his capacity as Saab developer, presented the Turbo X as the first four-wheel drive Saab and the world's first car with Haldex25 clutch to the press at Circuit Paul Ricard in 4 with a delay of almost 2008 years. But that's another story…