Saab history. It started at fourteen.

The virus, it hit me out of the blue. I was just fourteen years old, and somewhere high up on a remote part of the Swabian Jura I came across a really strange automobile. What was that? I was immediately in love with the shock and had to find out what it was.

My 9-5 NG

It was: a Saab.

Hunchback and with a panoramic window at the back, type 96. I had never seen anything so funny. But I couldn't get this thing out of my head. And suddenly it was at the top of my automotive wish list. However, my first car then became a red Renault 4, which only stayed by my side for three months until I sold it after a hailstorm. Sales revenue and the sum insured together gave 2000 Mark more than I had before - and that then became the basis for my first Saab. In Hof an der Saale stood an 96er, who had done it to me, pig beige with red seats, year of construction 1977.

I enchanted my friend's mother from the neighborhood to take the almost 400 kilometer journey with me and to get the car. The ink on the contract was barely dry when someone at the petrol station in Hof got me into a conversation and wanted to buy the car straight away. Of course I remained steadfast. It only became clear in the course of time that this 96er was not exactly a matter of reason. On the one hand, he asked for remarkable repairs, and on the other hand, the door hangings began to rust through after just five years. Russian sheets, as I found out later. After less than two years, I quickly parted from the vehicle.

That didn't stop my love for Saab, and I searched for a model that was even rarer because it was never officially sold to Germany: the Saab 95. With patience and spit I fished one out of the - at that time compulsory reading - ad section of "auto motor und sport". In order to top the rarity a bit, it had the steering wheel on the right side and was for sale near Ludwigsburg. The car was older than its piggy beige predecessor, olive green (euphemistically referred to by Saab as veronagroen) and had more miles on the clock. However, its condition was better by classes and its price was very cheap - its owners could not get rid of it because people thought a Saab 95 was a sewing machine. And nobody wanted a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side - apart from me, of course!

This vehicle was loyal to me for ages and accompanied me through half of Europe, from Rome to Scotland and Ireland. A great car that I could spend the night in and that accompanied me throughout my studies and far beyond. When the veronagroene color turned into a rather unsightly matte at some point, I decided to have it repainted in two colors. My individualistic and in no way true to the original color choice fell on a petrol tone from Lancia and a Volvo white for the roof. The model for the division of the paintwork was the VW Samba bus, whose snout ran down so wonderfully pointedly, which I had always liked.

An elaborate upholstery project that was supposed to give the car two-tone leather seats in petrol and light gray unfortunately got stuck halfway when the great upholsterer died unexpectedly and prematurely. I still have the leather today, the front seats and the third bench were still finished, as were the door panels with hand-punched holes for the loudspeakers. It is a shame that I could not get the vehicle as I would have liked, because the restorer I had chosen for it also died recently before he could do his job.

I then became unfaithful to Saab for my freelance work in my design, advertising and communication office and bought three Volvo 480s in succession, followed by a Renault Avantime. For a long time, what the Swedish company brought to the market under the aegis of General Motors did not meet my taste, and I never really established an emotional connection to these cars.
That only changed again when 2009 presented a breathtaking automobile at the IAA in Frankfurt: the Saab 9-5 NG. What a design! Pot modern and timeless at the same time, drawn with a sure line, an icon for eternity, designed by Simon Padian.

Kombifreak, who I am, I flirted with the announced SportCombi and kept loitering around the dealer near me to find out when he would finally come. On the occasion of an art exhibition of my photographic works in Salzburg, the organizer quartered me in a hotel that was just opposite the Saab dealer there. And what happened there the day after my vernissage? The road show with the introduction of the 9-5 NG SportCombi and the 94-X! I literally stuck to the SportCombi and was completely thrilled, running around like a little boy. We all know what eventually came out of this vehicle: nothing. He just didn't go on the market anymore and Saab went bankrupt instead.

But stop! There were a few, pre-series models and prototypes, some crashed for test purposes, others still alive. My hunting fever was aroused. I missed the big auction because of a hospital stay and was heartbroken. Saab freak Marcus Bergfeldt from Sweden finally attracted me to the festival in Trollhättan the following year. I wisely left my own car, now a Volvo C70 with the steering wheel on the right, at home, and I took the ferry to Gothenburg as a pedestrian. At the festival I met many crazy people who share the same passion as I do: Saab. And of course 9-5 NG owners and some of the lucky ones who got hold of one of these super rare sports combos.

In the meantime, they were even legal to drive on the road, except in Sweden. In the country where he came from, it was crazily longer before the car was allowed to hit the road. Among other things, I had entrusted the matter to a Member of the European Parliament until the time had come and the Swedish authorities had come to an understanding at some point. However, my own search for one of the SportCombis was unsuccessful. So at some point I decided to look for one of the beautiful limousines.

Condition: The car would have to have all my favorite equipment if I should do without a SportCombi. The search took at least two years, a seductive offer in Riga had proven to be a rust arbor. Finally I got a call from Kiel: "Jochen, we may have exactly what you are looking for!" A black 9-5 NG with automatic, head-up display and panoramic roof as a two-liter petrol engine with all-wheel drive, extremely rare in this combination , Then I struck. And I haven't looked back since. The car is fantastic, lies with its electronic chassis on the street like the proverbial board and drives, now deigned, like Hulle. He shares the kilometers fraternally with my now renovated Volvo, so hopefully both will drive for a long, long time and always give me sparkling eyes.

What has developed in recent years and what I hadn't expected at all: that my artistic work as a photographer and my car-softness complement each other so well. In the meantime, I photograph cars with my very special, individual look. Works of art are created that warm the hearts of many. Also for fans and owners of other rare brands such as glass or Maserati.

What has also developed over the past few years: very wonderful friendships around Saab. I like the unpretentious, genuine and warm nature of the Saabisti. Whether at the IntSaab, at the festivals in Trollhättan or at the very famous fondue meeting in French-speaking Switzerland. This year in June, after the festival, I went on holiday to Sweden with Saab friends and we had a great time. Life is Beautiful. And Saab lives in our hearts.

Text and images: Jochen Gewecke

15 thoughts too "Saab history. It started at fourteen."

  • Just as Jochen's pictures show the world, he describes it in words. Many thanks for that from Würzburg!

  • What a great story with a wonderful temporal arc, highly aesthetic images and which - despite the sad ending of Saab that we know - manages to set a positive final punch line and perspective that gives you a cozy feeling in the 3. Advent led! 🙂 By the way, I think the old 95er (what year was it and the 96er?) In the not-true-to-original two-tone paint job!

    I only go on two points (personally, it's all a question of taste, which, as is well known, you can't argue with), not d'accord:

    1. I think the 9-3 III from the GM era, but with very high Saab DNA (more than the 9-3 Ì and the 900 II) for one of the best and most beautiful cars of all time, especially the convertible and also the SportCombi. (I could never do anything with limousines. A serious mistake that there was no hatchback.) Also designer, so finely drawn, from a single cast, for example, think of the shell-shaped bonnet - simply elegant and perfectly shaped. If you look at others (meanwhile my usual “glasses” for other cars), you can only turn away with horror. For example, in the penultimate 5 and 3 series BMW and the current 1 series, the designer has simply forgotten that he must somehow finish the engine compartment lid - and then, oh, just cut it 10 cm before the end of the bonnet.

    The last Griffins made of 201, especially the convertible, are the designer non plus ultra for me, perfectly drawn and still highly topical !!!

    2. In my view, only the 9-5 NG is an equal, a wonderful dream car! I am as happy as a snow queen every time I see one in the wild! Only the SportCombi is not so successful, the rear is a bit clumsy, very different from its highly elegant limousine sister, which doesn't look like one at all. (But of course all owners of these extremely rare combi have every right to be proud of it, since they also have a piece of jewelry.) Only I personally find the 9-3 SportCombi drawn much more elegantly at the rear.

    As a sedan, the 9-5 NG looks practically like a hatchback, highly elegant! For me, it would have been the 9-5 NG hatchback, as practical as a combi, but much more elegant! But unfortunately unfortunately…. 🙁

    Dear Tom, do you really know what happened to the two prototypes that existed? "Are you still alive? (Please please!)

    Thanks again for this happy story to the authors! 🙂

    • The trace of the two prototypes gets lost in spring 2012. They were probably scrapped. Which doesn't necessarily have to mean the final end in Sweden. Because sometimes here comes a teaser for 2020 (!), scrapped vehicles reappear in a surprisingly complete condition.

  • Thank you for this emotional roller coaster ride - with a happy ending: a SAAB 9-5 NG 🙂! Have fun and accident-free driving with this, indeed, special automobile. A nice story in Advent.
    Thank you.

  • Thanks for the story and congratulations on the 9-5NG. From 95 to 9-5NG

  • Class written. Thanks to the author.

  • Well written, thank you very much !!
    And the author has a good taste of the car.
    If I boll across the country with my verona green 96iger, Bj. 1972, original condition, in good weather, that's a great driving experience.
    And you experience incredible sympathy ...
    So again, thanks and it was fun to read.

  • @ Ebasli

    The way BMW designs the front of its cars is now called 'soft nose', because the front is made entirely of relatively soft plastic and the significantly less easy-to-repair sheet metal only begins behind it. If done well, it offers advantages for pedestrian protection and insurance classification.

    We don't have to argue about the design, I'm also not a fan of newer BMW models, especially the very current ones with the swollen kidneys. Depending on who is in charge of the specific project, or of the group in general, the designers sometimes have to swallow toads that technicians or business people have brought in.

    Ultimately, the board of directors nods off a new model in every large car company, in which there is usually no position specifically for design. Therefore, I believe that blaming a designer for a vehicle appearance that is not considered successful is a bit too short.

    Otherwise, I completely agree with your opinion on the appearance of the 9-3 III, even if for me the convertible only comes behind the station wagon.

  • @Tom - teaser
    A very successful teaser for 2020 🙂 - hopefully at the beginning of the year !!? I fidget with curiosity! 🙂

    • Perhaps! There are a lot of exciting topics in the works for January and February. And beyond that, if we can secure a budget for 2020. A lot of work for the Christmas holidays and the time between the years 😉

  • @ Ebasil & Teaser-Tom,

    me too. I fidget with curiosity and look forward to the unknown survivor…

    @ StF,

    Thank you for the expertise in BMW design. But isn't it the case that plastic is an old hat for vehicle fronts and pedestrian protection is required anyway? So that BMW designers and board members have been in the same boat with the rest of the industry for many years? That there are still different designs?

    And since you yourself like to react very sensitively and verbatim to third-party comments, I am also interested in where and with what words Ebasil should have gripped "a little too short" and "blamed a (!) Designer alone"? And if so, which designer by name?

    Incidentally, I followed your advice, grabbed my nose and asked myself whether I, as a laptop user, should critically question e-mobility in general and Tesla in particular. The AW is clearly YES ...

    Even the long-since, "old" and relatively light roadster was explicitly advertised with the fact that it already contained almost 7.000 batteries for laptops. In the meantime, Tesla has a battery capacity of around 11.500 laptops per vehicle.
    Seriously, if that is the present and the future, why should anyone critically examine their cell phone or laptop?

    If a factor above the 10.000 is at every front door, you can no longer convey to anyone that you may have to use your laptop or cell phone for a year or two longer and that there is still measurably some positive effect on the environment and our resources.

    And that's not just for you. The media and politics also have to explain this balancing act to us mentally underprivileged. On the one hand, we will save the world if we reduce the currently low demand by 25%, but on the other hand, by screwing it up to unimagined heights by a factor of at least 10.000 ...

    Yes, what now?

  • I frankly agree: the 9-3s after the facelift were not only mature, they were also really nice and successful cars with a nice selection of limousine, convertible and SportCombi. The 9-5 NG really hit my heart. In the end, Saab was really well positioned and it could have been a bright future ...

  • @ Herbert Hürsch

    In fact, this is not just a pedestrian protection issue, but a combination problem with the insurance classification. As you can see, there are a lot of vehicles with the front flap pulled far forward, which can be assumed to comply with the EU Pedestrian Protection Directive. For this purpose, the front edge of the front flap must be designed to be flexible enough. So far so good.
    If the front flap is pulled far forward and relatively compliant, it will be damaged in the attempts to classify the insurance and will have to be replaced and painted, which is more expensive than just replacing and painting the bumper trim further back. Some manufacturers just live with it and others don't want it.
    This must not only have been a design decision, but can also have other reasons. And I just pointed out that “the designer” (quote Ebasli) may not have forgotten that he somehow has to finish the front flap, but that he had the requirement that it should look like this.

    As far as I can see, I have not forbidden anyone who uses a cell phone, laptop, digital camera, MP3 player or similar to question electromobility. I only raised the question of whether the buyers of these products had the same thoughts as when evaluating electromobility.

    Of course, a laptop battery is small and a cell phone battery is tiny compared to an e-car battery, but it really does matter. The at least momentarily small number of e-cars compared to the number of cell phones, laptops, etc. ensures that 90% or more of the lithium-ion batteries are currently installed in these small devices and these are therefore also responsible for 90% of the lithium and cobalt used for batteries.
    Of course, the relationship shifts when e-mobility gets going, but if you don't like the current situation, you can't blame e-mobility if the majority of the batteries are in cell phones and laptops ,

    And now? Shouldn't it get worse, or maybe better? I would be for the latter, but depending on your personal focus, it also looks different for everyone. The statement that you just have to die is probably appropriate to the situation.

    In any case, I will try to express my opinion with fewer words in the future, because if I can reduce the power requirements of the Internet, we will probably have enough charging current for all the e-mobiles that are yet to come 😉

    @ All

    Merry Christmas!

  • Oh yes, I still wanted to answer the question about the years of my 96 and 95. The 96 was built in 1977, obviously there were problems with rust more often, not just mine. The 95 that I bought afterwards was built in 1974. I upgraded the chrome grill, which you can see in one of the photos, because the 74 already had the plastic grill. And with chrome, I thought it was chic.

  • Years of construction

    @ Jochen Gewecke,
    thank you for the addendum. Always fascinating how long the two have held on the market. I also feel that I find older model years more coherent inside and out ...

    Nevertheless, I understand every Saab friend who likes to confront his environment with a “modern” 95 or 96. A number of messages are manifested in the optical contradictions and breaks.

    At least there is hardly a more blatant statement against hectic model changes than a young Saab 96. But of course it is really hard tobacco for every esthete.


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