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