Volkswagen in the 80s. Do you have compact V6 engines for transverse installation in the program? And do you want to sell them to an equally aspiring competitor? “Not really” will now be the answer. And it shows how wrong you can be. Because Volkswagen delivers engines to Saab. Engines that don't actually exist yet and that no customer can buy at the time. Interesting, unthinkable today. But at that time VW was very ambitious and always looking for new partnerships.
Volkswagen VR6 engine for Saab
The VR6 concept from Volkswagen is a story in itself. In order to fit a six-cylinder into a compact car like the VW Golf, an old idea was remembered on the Mittelland Canal. Lancia had its first aircraft engine for the Aeroplani Caproni in VR shape built. The advantage of the design was a reduction in the cylinder angle and an associated saving of 10 centimeters in width. Volkswagen introduced the engine to series production for the first time in 1991 - and Saab tested it in 1988.
Which could lead to the interesting question of how deep the relationships between the executive floor on the Götaland Canal and that of the Mittelland Canal could have been. They must have been quite good, because the trials in Trollhättan received an engine and an engine housing from Wolfsburg at a very early prototype stage. The housing itself was installed in a 9000 for crash test testing, but this never happened.
The complete engine was used for driving tests, and the developers in the Stallbacka attested that the machine from Lower Saxony ran well and was comfortable to drive. Installation in the engine compartment of the large Saab 9000 was easy due to its compact dimensions. Because of the height, the use in the series would have led to further modifications. The adaptation to the ZF transmissions used by Saab and the company's own 5-speed gearbox would also have required new clutch and torque converter housings. So the decision was made against the VR6 solution, and today we are welcome to speculate what would have happened if both companies had come closer to each other. Saab would probably have been taken over at some point and is now a brand in the realm of VW. Maybe as successful as Skoda. Kissed awake and built up by Volkswagen with long-term investments.
Mazda JE-ZE engine for Saab
Mazda was seen as a prospect for the Saab takeover in the late 80s. In 1989, around the time when it was debated on the executive board floors, a JE-ZE engine was bought from the Japanese. A well-behaved, classically unspectacular V6 with a displacement of 3 liters, as used in the Mazda 929. The Swedes doubted the promised 205 hp, the installation of a Japanese engine in the Scandinavian housing required improvisation.
After all, the developers saw a pleasant driving behavior. That was it with the Mazda engine in the Saab 9000.
Alfa Romeo engine for Saab
Oh yes, if I had a wish, it would have been the wonderful engine from Alfa Romeo. The legendary Italian V6, for which you do everything. Because he sings such a beautiful song that electric car drivers of the present and future will never hear. Yes, but for that they save the world, it couldn't be any smaller.
In 1988 and 89, the climate crisis was not yet an issue, one could still be disinterested and pay homage to beautiful things. In Sweden they tested the Alfa V6 and installing it in the 9000 was a breeze. No wonder, the Alfa 164 was related to the 9k through the platform, so the modifications were hardly worth mentioning. You could even have taken over the manual Fiat-C530 gearbox and thus the entire drive train.
A stylish engine with an unbelievable sound, that's how the technicians noted at the time. Which still had a long way to go and was expanded to 24 valves and 3.2 liter displacement. Why not choose Alfa Romeo? Because GM got in the way and suddenly V6 engines were on the shelf. Or also because the Alfa V6 was a little too thirsty.
None of the test engines described came into series production. The signs changed - suddenly everything was very simple.
Motors from Ellesmere Port for Saab
With the entry of the Americans in 1989, the English V6 engines were suddenly available. All other options were off the table. Too bad, because there were options with charm that would have suited Saab well. I personally would have voted for the Alfa V6 in the Saab, but the Saab technicians had quite clearly the Yamaha Ford engine (see part 1) prefers. It was the most modern unit and also met all emissions standards with a view to the future. The fact that Ford did not want to deliver engines is another issue that was anyway off the table with the 50% takeover by GM.
As a result, Saab adapted the transmission interfaces to the Opel / GM standard and was therefore able to adapt the V6 engines without any problems. After the 9000 they came in the 9-5 and 900 II. They became a success and are one of the reasons why the brand was able to master the 90s with flying colors.