Saab 9000. The car from the high-tech forge.

In the mid-80s, Saab was on the move. The new R&D complex was built in the Stallbacka, and the laboratories were ready for occupancy in 1986. The brand finally had its own modern wind and air-conditioning tunnel, acoustics labs and the latest computer technology. The Saab car department mutated into a high-tech forge. Fans who were in Trollhättan for the 2015 festival were able to visit the rooms. You still breathe the spirit of the exciting 80s and 90s, which should have a lasting impact on the development of the brand.

Saab high-tech of the 80er. JAS 39 Gripen and 9000 CC. Image: Saab Automobile AB.
Saab high-tech of the 80er. JAS 39 Gripen and 9000 CC. Image: Saab Automobile AB.

The Saab 9000 was considered an avant-garde high-tech vehicle from Sweden, the production grew from year to year and reached 1988 with 52.199 units an all-time high. Saab Turbotechnik was considered a leader, albeit expensive, as environmentally friendly and low-consumption vehicles.

A Saab 9000 Turbo with 175 PS won the consumption test of the auto newspaper (12 / 86) against Ford Scorpio 2.8i, Mercedes 260E, Lancia theme, Renault 25, Opel Senator, Peugeot 505, BMW 525i and Volvo 760. The smaller 9000i relegated the Ford Scorpio, Audi 86, Mercedes 100E, Opel Senator and BMW 230i to the test of the car's image in May 525. Everything was fantastic, but Saab wanted more.

In the 80s, turbo engines were generally not considered to be durable, but in Trollhättan Olle Granlund was convinced of the stability of the construction. The engines and the manual gearbox in the 9000 can be classified as oversized, the big Saab is unbreakable, and as long as the engine and its gearbox find a drop of oil somewhere, they will run.

The Talladega Long Run

Good conditions, because the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama had a challenge in itself. Mercedes had tried the record run with the 190 2.3 16 and had left when, after 50.000 kilometers, only one of the 3 sedans ran. Audi came to the track after Mercedes. The turbos from Ingolstadt failed on the oval in Alabama. Audi ended the nightmare, grabbed together, and the Swedes arrived.

The story is well known and part of the Saab saga. 3 Turbo sedans, brought by representatives of the Motorsport Authority in the production state of the tape. 31 drivers, a maximum of 85 kilograms of spare parts per car were allowed to be carried. The Talladega Long Run of the Saab Turbo starts at the 7. October. After 5 minutes, the first record for 10 kilometers at a standstill. And that should only be the prelude. Within 24 hours Saab 13 won international records!

30 years later. Talladega number 1 is still a star. With a film crew from France.
30 years later. Talladega number 1 is still a star. With a film crew from France.

Every 20.000 kilometers, the Saabs rolled into the pits for a scheduled “inspection”. New oil, new oil filter and fresh spark plugs, that's all you need. The fastest inspection is said to have taken only 2 minutes and 18 seconds. Saab is on the move fantastic and the turbos eat up kilometers day and night with high precision. After 20 days the time has come. The fastest Saab 9000 Turbo has set the coveted record for 100.000 kilometers with an average speed of 213.229 kilometers, and all 3 vehicles can travel the distance without any problems.

The most innovative Saab ever

Saab has impressively demonstrated the quality of its vehicles, and in the 80s one innovation chases the next. Never before and never again will Saab show so many innovations as in the life cycle of the Saab 9000. And the Swedes are doing everything right at this point. Facelift - the art of always keeping the vehicle desirable - is at the top of the list.

1985 Saab brings the revolutionary direct ignition. The system dispenses with moving parts, thus minimizing sources of error. The ignition voltage increases by 60%, the ignition spark is 20 times faster than with conventional systems. At the same time, Trollhättan was one of the first manufacturers to install the belt tensioner in the 9000. The following year the 9000i 16 appears, also with a 80 valve engine that was considered high-tech in the 16s. In 1988 the prestige sedan 9000 CD was presented in Nice with a lot of effort, the exhaust gas control was improved with a heated lambda probe, airbags were introduced for the driver, a traction control system was introduced.

Saab 9000 production. Image: Saab Automobile AB
Saab 9000 production. Image: Saab Automobile AB

In 1990 the 2.3 liter engine with balancer shafts appeared, and Saab promised customers the smooth running of a 6-cylinder. The promise is not kept 100%, the 2.3 is still very cultivated, and Saab also eliminates the turbo lag with the mildly charged soft turbo models. Saab Turbo engines are constantly being cultivated, their acceptance is increasing and increasing, and the flood of innovations of 1.400 engineers seems to know no bounds. Saab is a leader in turbo technology and they will prove to the world that they make the most environmentally friendly engines.

High-tech here - barn there

The design department stands in strange contrast to the high-tech atmosphere at Saab. The engineers have the best computers and the most modern laboratories. The VAX 8800 and VAX11 / 785 are directly with the Cray 1 of the Aerospace Division in Linköping. At the same time, Björn Envall's design team is working in a building on the factory premises that could be described as a barn. Just big enough to set up a 1: 1 model and with a balcony so you can see the design from all perspectives.

Envall was never happy with the design of the first Saab 9000 generation, now referred to as the 9000 CC and 9000 CD. The original lines came from ItalDesign, Envall could only contribute in detail areas. But Envall's big hour comes with the second generation of the great Saab. The 9000 CS will be the last model that will be designed in Trollhättan without any specifications from the USA. Just like the 9000 was the only modern Saab where Saab was allowed to do what you wanted. Envall would say that publicly much later, around two decades away.

But it's the truth, because the Saab car division has meanwhile drifted into the loss zone again with high investments. Negotiations with Ford failed, in March 1990, the passenger car division was spun off from the Saab Scania Group. GM took over 50% of the shares, and decisions were made that would significantly affect the life cycle of the Saab 9000.

What's next with the Saab 9000 saga?

Envall gives the world a wedge. Opportunities are not used, the competition has caught up. And the 9000 lives longer than planned. Why? All in the next part.

Read part 1:

Saab 9000. The first Tech Saab.


We thank you Saab archive by Wolfgang Schmel for the press photos provided.

8 thoughts on "Saab 9000. The car from the high-tech forge."

  • blank

    Of course, everyone who is at home here on the blog is happy. I am particularly pleased that Audi failed….
    Just, the fact today; Audi and MB play in the Champions League and unfortunately Saab is dead. It's the same with Lancia, my second passion next to Saab. What good is the 6 World Rally Championship title in a row today? Lancia is dead too.
    It is becoming increasingly difficult and of course more expensive to keep the great cars from Trollhättan and Turin alive.

    • blank

      That's right. But it's fun to drive SAAB and the modern cars are just plain boring. Better an old SAAB, even if it makes trouble.

  • blank

    On the 50th “Jubilee Day” on August 30, 1987 in Trollhättan, the factory tour was even more interesting and above all larger than in 2015, on the entire factory premises, including guided tours through the then current production facility, test halls, research laboratory as well as warehouses with ideas for future projects and a unfortunately rainy aircraft and vehicle acrobatics demonstration followed by a museum vehicle presentation on the airfield. It was really worth an unforgettable visit, clearly better and more intensive performances than in 1997 and 2007! It's a shame these times are over ...

  • blank

    Whereby I consider the 9000 turboS MY91, that is, the CC with a sloping front, built just one year to be one of the most beautiful 9000 ever ... 😉

  • blank

    ... in our family one of these was the “gateway drug” (to replace the 528i)!
    ... and unfortunately I am still fully dependent to this day! 😉

  • blank

    Great written. And as always, this topic grabs me more (SAAB) than the other (NEVS).

    Inspection in 00: 02: 18? Wow!

    This results in a workshop rate of 85, - € / h maintenance costs of 3,26 € plus material and VAT.

    Has anyone ever looked, whether the blog since the launch of his read-worthy and enthralling series of articles on the 9000 its prices has continued to drive up?

    • blank

      The articles write the 9000 at least back in the interest. Because there is not much that could drive you up. The market is almost empty as far as good and well-kept vehicles are concerned. Before 4 or 5 years, the selection was still great. Who bought then did everything right.

  • blank

    History ...., as always, grippingly written and extremely interesting to read!
    The virus remains ... even if the SAABs keep getting older.
    Great that the sequel is in the works…. 😉

Comments are closed.