It's been a number of years now. During one of my many visits to the Saab Museum in Trollhättan, the conversation with museum curator Peter Bäckström came to the Saab 9000 and all-wheel drive. A 9000 powered on all four wheels? I had never heard of it.
Even months later, the topic would not let me go; the story behind this model is exciting.
The story of the Saab 9000 CS 4WD goes something like this: In the 70s and 80s, the Saab Motorsport department experimented with all sorts of ideas to improve traction in sporting use. sigvard”Sigge” Johansson, or simply called Saab-Sigge, invented an electronic locking differential in 1980 to wrest even more traction from Saab rally vehicles.
Beginnings in the motorsport department
This certain Sigge Johansson is the scion of a Saab family. He belongs to the Saab Adel from Trollhättan, if you will. His father in law Tage Flodén was already working as a toolmaker in the Stallbacka. He helped get the Saab 92, the brand's first production car, onto the road.
His son Peter Johansson also worked for Saab in development. He was involved in getting the Turbo X, Saab's first true production four-wheel drive model, ready for production.
During the 80's and 90's the commitment to motorsport in Sweden decreased more and more, a brand from southern Germany started its triumphal procession with the Quattro concept. Saab saw a reason to also develop in this direction.
In 1987 at least one four-wheel drive prototype based on the 9000 CC was built, Saab experimented with a further development of the "Sigge Johansson" differential and a four-wheel drive system based on Torsen differentials. In 1990 there was another prototype, which was supplied by a third party.
In 1992 more vehicles were created, now based on the new Saab 9000 CS.
Saab 9000 CS 4WD
The Saab 9000 CS 4WD test vehicles, equipped with a 5-speed manual gearbox and a new rear axle developed by Saab themselves, 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 designed more simply than what Saab (maybe) was ready on the shelves. The Calibra was seen as a sporty highlight in the GM group - and as an image bearer. Saab took a step back, they say. Supposedly voluntarily, as one admits. And it was a mistake, as they also say today.
The Saab 9000 CS 4WD, with permanent all-wheel drive and supercharged 280 hp - other sources speak of 285 hp - would have been more than just on par with the up-and-coming brand from Ingolstadt. In the meantime, there was already the V8 series with Quattro drive. The urge of a certain Mr Piëch, including a willingness to conflict, in the direction of Wolfsburg was unchecked. While in Trollhättan they shied away from a showdown with Detroit.
A Saab 9000 CS 4WD survived
The whereabouts of the first CC-based test vehicle, it may have been more than just one example, has not been clarified. However, a Saab 9000 CS 4WD from 1992 survived. With a little more than 109.000 kilometers, it is in the depot of the Saab Museum in Trollhättan. The condition of the first all-wheel drive Saab is miserable, and there is no money for the restoration. Taking pictures of the objects in the depot is not desired, the picture shown is from 2012.
At the Saab Festival 2015, 30 years of the Saab 9000 were a side topic, the four-wheel drive story and the 9000 4WD stayed in the magazine. Why? Did you hesitate because of the bad condition or were you not interested in an exciting story? Or is it that the all-wheel drive technology came from Opel, not from Saab itself or Haldex?
Regardless of this question, even an unrestored 4WD would have attracted more attention than the rest of the well-intentioned "Its my Saab" exhibition, which would have fitted well into a year without a festival.
Haldex has its roots at Saab
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, ventured into self-employment and had his inventions patented.
Born out of his ideas Haldex, a company with global reputation and certain Saab roots. 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 to the press as the first four-wheel drive Saab and the world's first car with a Haldex25 clutch in 4 at the Circuit Paul Ricard almost 2008 years late.
But that's another story altogether.