The challenge of the Saab 9000 - a long Saab film

In the spring of 1974, work began on the 9000 in Trollhättan. A completely new car and the way to a higher class. Behind the project was nothing less than the future positioning of the brand. Exciting, groundbreaking, and by no means easy.

Saab 9000 in the wind and climate tunnel
Saab 9000 in the wind and climate tunnel

Challenge

Because Saab had previously only launched two completely new developments. The 92 and 99. Everything else were just derivatives of these models. The challenge was accordingly big. The project took 10 years to be presented to the public. That was an unusually long period of time for development back then, too.

Even in Stuttgart, where Daimler worked on new generations with typical meticulousness, people were on the road faster. In fact, there was no straight path between 1974 and 1984. The development was characterized by trial, error and new ideas. Every now and then you made a wrong turn and started again. In the end, the result was correct and the result was an exceptional car.

The Saab 9000 was a surprise coup, it ensured the continued existence of the brand for a long time. But with the 9000, much more than just a new car came to the Stallbacka. The future moved in, and the Swedes benefited enormously from the cooperation with Turin. At that time, the Fiat Group was a technological leader in terms of automation.

Automation

While at Lancia, Alfa and Fiat the robot colleague had already taken on more and more work, at Saab the 99 and 900 were still screwed together with a lot of manual work. That sounds nostalgic today, but threatened the existence of the brand. What came off the production line in the Saab factories has long ceased to cover costs.

The 900 and its cost structure remained a problem until the end of production. But with the start of production of the Saab 9000, the factory in Stallbacka had been thoroughly modernized and now met the most modern standards. The engine production also benefited, the production of turbo engines was considered to be the most advanced in Northern Europe. The show of strength of the small brand made a decisive contribution to the fact that Saab survived the coming decades.

Nostalgia

It is even likely that without the innovative strength and ingenuity of the engineers at the time, the lights in the Stallbacka would have gone out much earlier.

The film is now 36 years old. The recordings of the automated factory already seem tainted with nostalgia, especially when one has the factories of the present in mind that are compliant with Industry 4.0. The story of the Saab 9000 is told by the makers of the film, and they take a lot of time for it. Around 50 minutes are a testimony to a small, ingenious brand.

Which didn't always take the straight path, sometimes skidded, but always delivered great cars.

6 thoughts on "The challenge of the Saab 9000 - a long Saab film"

  • the film is awesome. since i have been restoring a 12 from 9000 for about 1990 months i have looked at it several times. where you can always find something like that, thanks tom !! I'm curious how it will go with new bearings, rubber springs, shock absorbers and so on. the comparison with my 2003 3,0 V6 with 70000 km will be interesting.
    I want to briefly suggest to you how crazy I am. the best of all wives owns a 9-4 TurboX and a dark blue convertible with blue top and bar stage 1 + intercooler from bar, a 2,8 v6 is nothing against it!
    until now i have only read and supported tom monthly.
    nu is nauch with the gibberish !! (now you also know where I live, northeast is correct!)

  • What a nice movie. I have never seen it before. I didn't know that it took the 9000 ten years of development. The 9000 was my first Saab and I loved driving the 9000 CS. What a great and safe car it was. Still pissed off that I sold the 9000 CS Anniversary. But I still have the nice moments in my head.

  • 10 years of development that have paid off. The result is an incredibly well thought-out and versatile exceptional car that is second to none. At that time, SAAB was still a group with versatile products and corresponding internal cross-connections that were also used. During a lecture on the 9000 project in 2013 in Trollhättan, it was subtly pointed out that a drive train in a car is designed for 5.000 hours, that of a truck for 50.000 hours - Scania!
    Control units and digital displays are very robust and still work today - aircraft construction?
    This is exactly what distinguishes the 9000 from its three Italian brothers, it is built sustainably. The fact that most of the 9000 fall victim to the brown plague today is solely due to the negligence of their owners. If you want to use a steel product for a long time, you have to maintain the corrosion protection at an early stage and not only start at an advanced age.

    Without the 9000, I would not have come to SAAB. Sorry, but the 900 I never spoke to me, it was already too out of date for me then.

  • Wow! What a document of the times - thank you very much!

  • I found the time today. It's worth it. Thanks Tom.

    Mystery:
    In the opening credits a car appears that is assigned to Scania, but clearly looks more modern than the officially last “motorized carriage” built by Scania in 1929.

    What's this? What's it all about?

    @ Ebasil (tradition),

    Saab has a hard time in this area anyway, I think.
    The roots in aircraft construction have been upheld and the car has been noted in more or less different ways.

    There is the classic streamline that has been known in automotive engineering since the 1930s. Mainly from smaller brands until the end of the 1950s. Saab built the 96, which on the one hand, in line with its predecessors, on the other hand, had recently fallen badly out of time, until 1980. That was certainly also a tradition - but also one that could no longer be marketed as an innovation and urgently needed to be broken ...

    Saab engines are also a constant topic here. The question of whether they are traditional or atypical (because they are bought in). Again and again readers justify themselves for a V6 or diesel.
    The joke is that the bought-in drive in aircraft construction is without exception (traditional per se) and at least the actual tradition for Saab cars.

    Up to and including the 96, only third-party engines were installed. Such were also found in the 99 and already found their way back into the 9000. Saab built its own engines and they were really, really good, but strictly speaking it wasn't enough for a tradition. You tend to have that as a buyer and optimizer. I think the 900 (1) is the only one of all Saab ever built that was exclusively available with its own engines. To try to derive a tradition from a single model seems to me quite bold and factually simply wrong.

    This or something similar is the case with many other aspects of the Saab story, some of which you address. The ignition lock in the center console had no tradition either, but (once it was there) it was loved dearly - as was the company's first own engines, the turbos and the 900.

    And if you wanted to, then the Saab 9-5 SC would have a long tradition. From 1960 to 1978 Saab had a station wagon with the 95 (station wagon version of the 96) - even one with a similar type designation.

    But it is probably the 20 years between the 96 and the 9-5 in which Saab has established a myth and positive unique selling points on the market with turbos, its own engines, hatchbacks, good seats, indestructible leather and convertibles suitable for winter. No wonder that many Saab enthusiasts measure all later models and their variants on this example and GM on whether they knew how to maintain myths and unique selling points or even deepen them ...

    By then, at the latest, all Saab drivers will agree again. Ignition locks, engines or not, GM never understood the brand and its potential.

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  • Another 9000 vs. 9-5

    Unfortunately, I have not yet seen the film, which is bound to be extremely interesting, I am looking forward to it when I have more time!

    Since the 9000, whose outstanding qualities (at least nowadays) are undisputed, is always referred to as the last “real Saab” in retrospectives, I wonder whether that was the case when it was introduced?

    Wasn't it rather the case that he was dismissed as a Fiat or as an Italian (where there was something to it) - and with the sacrilege of the ignition lock in the dashboard? Wasn't that why the 9000 was later spurned as a used and youngtimer?

    Or to put it another way, was there more GM in the 9-5 than in the 9000 Fiat (or Lancia and Alfa)? And didn't the 9-3 III Griffin and maybe the 9-5 NG even have more “real Saab genes” at the very end?

    The lack of variety of models was certainly crucial for all series. On the one hand, that there were “real” station wagons far too late (not until 1999 with the 9-5 and even as the 9-3 in 2006) and that the new trend could not win any new customers - and on the other hand, the ingenious hatchback bodies were let to die and so that it scared off the real Saab fans. Very serious and decisive mistakes! 🙁

    May you consider yourself lucky who can now call a 9000 their own!

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