At Saab, they always had a special view of things. Anyone who bought one of the cars from Trollhättan got a lot more than from other manufacturers. A Saab could be many things. An athlete and a van or a family car and company car in one. The creations were almost always surprisingly versatile if you got involved with them.
This is exactly where the 2001X Concept started in 9.
It came about in a contradicting time. Saab had got a new boss who had previously been a manager at Volvo. GM had more and more influence on the brand. Layoffs and strict cost controls shook the company to its foundations. At the same time, expensive in-house developments and studies were made. The 9X Concept was born.
Up until the Saab 9-5 OG in its original form, design was a very internal affair. The department was manageable, the entire project of the old 9-5 was done by just 10 employees, only 2 of whom were permanent employees.
The rest worked on demand. All that changed with the takeover of all shares in Saab Automobile AB in 2000. Foreign designers brought new ideas - and studies.
The Saab Advanced Styling Center
Under the direction of chief designer Anthony Lo, 10 designers went to work in Trollhättan. The team also included today's Porsche designer Michael Mauer, who stayed in Sweden until 2004. The Saab Advanced Styling Center was founded for the concept cars. A hall on Göta Älv, which NOHAB had previously used as an engine workshop, was rented for this purpose. NOHAB goes back to Trollhättans Mekaniska Verkstadt, which was founded in 1847, and is one of Saab's roots as a manufacturer of turbines, locomotives and aircraft engines.
Significant for the events was the departure from the factory, in the following years more and more design competence was shifted, and what happened in 2001 was only the prologue.
The start of a series of studies
The Saab 9X Concept became the first study in a series of exciting designs. Unfortunately, it is the least noticed in the present day, but it is so surprising. Building on the brand's self-image that a Saab should be more than just a vehicle, the team designed a four-in-one car.
Four cars in one, how is that supposed to work? A lot is possible with the freedom of study behind you. If the need for everyday usability also falls, then a very wild thing is possible. The same thing happened in the historic NOHAB halls. A coupe, a roadster, a pickup and a station wagon were created in one concept.
The loading area was extendable, it then offered the utility value of a station wagon or pickup. As with the American pickups, the lower part of the tailgate could also be folded down as a tailgate and used as an extended transport area. Or as a party area for mild mid-summer nights. With the roof open, the 9X became a Swedish roadster; if it stayed closed, you drove a coupe.
The aircraft cockpit as a design object
In order to emphasize the aircraft manufacturer's roots, the windscreen was curved in a wide arc. The impression of an airplane cockpit was created. The aircraft DNA was completed by extreme bucket seats, which took up the design of pilot seats. A supercharged V6 engine with a displacement of 3 liters and an output of 300 hp was responsible for the drive.
All-wheel drive provided traction. If the Saab 9X had gone into production, it would have been a wild sports car.
Innovative lighting technology in the headlights and in the interior reinforced the futuristic impression. The 9X Concept was designed in Trollhättan. It was made by hand at Bertone in Italy. It is unclear why they did not commission their own prototype construction. One more question mark regarding the time.
The concept was presented to the public at the IAA and the Tokyo Motor Show. It anticipated the front of the new 9-3, bringing the design symbol of the cockpit back to the brand.
The Saab 9X Concept book
At the time, Saab published an elaborately designed book for journalists and friends of the brand. The cover is made of real tire tread, the pages are made out of different materials at extremely expensive prices. The costs for this must have been immense.
The book is still in the Saab Museum shop today orderable. For a shockingly small amount of money. Which can probably be explained by the fact that the 9X concept, in contrast to other studies, is largely forgotten.