Wanting to produce larger and better cars, Saab recognized that the market was also looking for something new, at the same time, American collision safety requirement were high on everyone's priorities. Evolving from the Saab 99, the Saab 900 was introduced in 1978 as the new 1979 model. With a strong link to its predecessors, many of the same basic features from the 1946 models were still apparent on the vehicle. A model that spanned the entire 1980's, the Saab 900 was produced for more than fifteen years. More than 900,000 units were produced during the lifetime of the Saab 900, with almost 50,000 of which were the stylish 900 convertible. Saab enjoyed five years of increased sales, month on month, without fail from 1982.
Along with the unique innovations that Saab had developed over the year, the Saab 900 also featured front wheel drive, large wheels, and active and passive safety systems. The 900 had a deeply curved front windshield that immediately drew attention to the marque's aircraft legacy. Exceptionally spacious, the hatchback cars were enjoyed for their aesthetics. Also highlighting Saab's aircraft lineage, the 900 also showcased a curved dashboard that enabled easy access to all controls, and featured back-lit gauges. All controls and gauges were placed according to their frequency of use and/or importance as designated by Saab engineers.
Available to order with different options, one highly sought-after option is the called the Aero. Depending on the market and model year, the Aero incorporated a body skirt, a sport-suspension that included shorter, stiffer springs, stiffer shocks and sway-bars, 175PS 16-valve turbocharged engine (though power output varied by model year and market), AC, premium sterio and leather seats. From Saab's Accessories Catalog for fitment to standard models, these options could all be ordered independently. Marketed as the SPG (Special Performance Group), the ‘Aero' version was available in the US.
The engine was installed ‘backwards' with power that was delivered from the crank at the front of the vehicle. Equipped with self-repairing bumpers, headlight wiper washers, electrically heated seats and the Turbo charged engine with Automatic Performance Control APC, these new models had many all-encompassing options with a distinct identity through design that was all its own. In 1978 few major cosmetic design changes were underwent. The sheet-metal body parts were unchanged, while the front-end and bumpers were restyled. The undercarriage of the 900 was kept basically the same during its production run, due to Saab being a small car factory.
Very few vehicles utilized a double wishbone suspension design; the Saab 900 did, and provided excellent handling and road feel. The Saab 900 had a drag coefficient of 0.34. The transmission, which was technically a transaxle, was bolted directly to the bottom of the engine. Power was delivered out of the engine at the front, before being transferred down and back to the transmission below, by a set of chain-driven primary gears. The Saab 900 gearboxes contained a separate sump for engine oil.
Engines options were single and twin carburetor, fuel-injection and turbocharged engines that included both full pressure (FPT) and low pressure turbo engines (LPT) in European models during the early 1990s. Meeting American collision requirements without a hitch, the Saab 900 was introduced in both 3 and 5 door versions. Available with several engines, these included a 145hp Turbo model 100hp single carburetor GL, 108hp twin carburetor GLS, 118hp injection EMS/GLE. A front-engined, front-wheel-drive compact vehicle with a longitudinally-mounted, 45-degree slanted, inline 4-cylinder engine, double wishbone front suspension and beam-axle rear suspension, the Saab 900 was popular with drivers who enjoyed comfort, safety and practicality. A turbocharger was introduced by Saab in 1978, with the B engine, based on the Triumph Salnt-4 engine which was designed for Saab by Triumph. Used on the early 900 Turbo models, this engine made Saab a household brand in export markets.
Stabilized with a Panhard rod, the rear suspension was comprised of a typical axle design. Early models did not have sway bars; these began appearing on certain models in 1985. By the late 1980's sway bars became standard on all trim levels in the U.S., and possibly other markets. These bars were responsible for decreasing body roll, at the expense of some ride comfort. Throughout the model's run, the front and rear bars' diameters remained unchanged.
The newest feature that was a whole new Saab invention, an air filter which removed all forms of pollen, dust and even some bacteria from the air was featured on the Saab 900. This newest option was very popular with allergen sufferers.
With very few cars every having been developed as much along the way as the Saab 900, there were large variations between the first and final models. Produced for nearly fifteen years, the 'Classic' Saab 900 was the first original model. Introduced as a complement to the already existing Saab 95/96 and Saab 99, the Saab 900 was unveiled in May 1978. Based on the Saab 99 Hatchback, with a front section was entirely new with a longer wheelbase then the 99.
A 5 speed gearbox for both the EMS and Turbo models was introduced in 1980. Made adjustable and given a new shape, the front seats and backrests were updated, while the rear lights were enlarged. The Saab 900 was presented as a four door saloon version with a conventional boot for the first time at the Geneva car show in 1980.
Newly available as a saloon in 1981, many various minor improvements were made during this year. The Turbo received a front spoiler made of rubber, inside adjustable new wing mirrors, a new steering wheel, and electric windows. A new spacious interior was showcased when the floor tunnel was now made flatter, along with remodeling the back seat. To provide more luggage space, the spare wheel was relocated. Other updates included a bigger fuel tank and a whole new front axle.
Without losing any power, a new H-engine was added to the 81 Saab that had an increase in engine compression. The maximum power output wasn't affected and fuel consumption was actually improved when the intake channels in the engine were made narrower. The 900 sedan was also introduced in 1981.
The new and unique APC boost controller, Saab's Automatic Performance Control system was the big change that was introduced in 1982. The APC system utilized a knock sensor, automatically adjusted the engine to variations in the fuel quality. In this same year, central locking doors became standard on the GLE and Turbo. Also new were tires with low-rolling resistance, and the driver's side door mirror received wide-angle wide angle glass.
Newly introduced as an industry first in 1983, asbestos free long-life brake pads were the newest updates. Fitted as standard on more models, the choice of available equipment was widened with central locking and electric windows. The Turbo models now had available leather upholstery. The GLi, a new model which utilized the fuel injected engine, appeared in Sweden.
New available features were showcased in 1984 and included a brakeless ignition system, newly designed sports 3-spoke steering wheel, a new grille, lower front seats, a black rear number plate panel, cruise control and a delayed shutoff interior lights. A new engine was presented in the spring of 1983, a 160hp 2-liter engine with dual overhead camshafts, four-valves per cylinder, dome-shaped combustion chambers and centrally-located spark plugs. The new 16-valve DOHC B202 engine came with a turbocharger and intercooler, and could produce 175 hp/129 kW in the Turbo 16 model. Equipped with Saab APC, and a body kit which allowed it to reach 210 km/h (130 mph), this new engine was produced for the Saab 900 Aero which was launched in the spring of 1984.
The dual-carburetor and GL nomenclature model was gone in 1985; the 900 model range was reduced at the same time that the Saab 9000 was introduced. The model range now consisted of the 900 carburetor engine, 900i, 900 Turbo-carburetor engine and the 900 Turbo 16v. These were all available as 3, 4, or 5-door models, while the 900i was also featured as a 2-door. In 1985 the 900i also received a much quieter exhaust system. Featuring larger brake pads up front, all 900 models now had a more powerful starter along with an extra protective strip that along the sides of the body. Offering a higher resistance to body surface corrosion, Saab introduced its 'reversed' electro-dip technique in 1985.
Both improving the torque as well as preheating the air intake, the Saab 900 and 900i were equipped with an all-new exhaust manifold in 1986. In this same year, a new two-door Turbo model was introduced to the public. With an increase in power to 155hp, the 8-valve Turbo engine now had an intercooler.
Arousing enormous interest at the Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA) in Frankfurt during the fall of 1983, the classic Saab 900 Aero convertible began production during the spring of 1986. In 1986 the first Saab 900 T16 Convertible was assembled, and the first 400 units were shipped to the USA. The president of Saab-Scania of America, Robert J.Sincair had suggested the introduction of a convertible version to increase sales in the mid 1980's.
Prior to the official 1986 launch, the first prototype was created by ASC, American Sunroof Corporation, while Lynx Motors International produced two ‘convertible' models. Headed by Björn Envall, the Trollhäattan design department based its version on the 3-door hatchback. The Finnish plant used the sturdier 2-door version, which was selected for production because it had a better look. As orders kept coming in, the original idea to keep production small was disregarded as a classic was born.
Using a 16-valve turbocharged engine, some models came with intercooler, while t was only available in certain markets with a fuel-injected 2.1 L naturally-aspirated engine from 91 on.
In 1987, to improve aerodynamics by 5%, all Saab 900's (except the basic 900 model) were given a freshened look that included new front end, new bumpers on both the front and rear, which were slimmer, 33% lighter, and offered more protection than previous ones. The Saab 900 Turbo had available adjustable heating of the driver's seat, and the 900 T8 now had oil-filled engine mounts similar to the ones in the 900 T16. A new inside center console and Servo assisted steering became standard on the Saab 900i.
The following year the Saab 900 Turbo received a water-cooled turbo unit that significantly increased its lifespan. Brakes from the Saab 9000 were installed in the Turbo and boosted braking capacity. Various common parts for the 900 and 9000 were introduced for this model year that included brakes and wheel hubs. In 1988 the handbrake now locked the rear wheels, and front ventilated disc were introduced.
Replacing the older oil-cooled unit, a water and oil cooled turbocharger was introduced to improve the unit's durability. At a rate of 20 units produced per day, the Saab 900 Convertible was being assembled at the Nystad Plant in Finland.
In each of the seasons 1987 and 1988, there was a special 'one-make' race series, in the UK, called the Saab Turbo Mobil Challenge, sponsored by Saab Great Britain and Mobil. It was run by the BARC.
In 1989, the 10,000th Saab 900 Convertible was assembled. Equipped with the 2-liter injection engine with 4 valves per cylinder, the Saab was now introduced with the climate-adjustable exhaust cleaning system. The 8 valve Turbo and Carburetor models were removed from almost every market. The turbo versions had been removed from the North American market by the end 1984. By 1986, North American 900S models had received the non-turbo 16-valve engines. Carburetor engines were dropped, and a non-turbo 16-valve engine replaced the 8-valve FI units in the 900i, or 900S in the United States. High level brake lights were added to the Saab 900 to enhance safety. In this year the anti-lock braking system ABS+3 became available for the first time.
A whole new engine innovation for the new Saab 900S was introduced in 1990. Available in European markets, with exceptional smoothness, the engine was a light pressure turbo. Producing 69hp in comparison the previous 58hp for the equivalent injection engine, it was a 19% increase at a speed of 90km/h and in fifth gear. It was a 20% increase at a speed of 105km/h and produced 86hp compared to 72hp. Saab 900 no longer offered the mesh wheels by 1990.
Now only equipped with 16 valve engine, all 91 Saab models, both 900 and 9000 received these in 1991. In some markets, a 2.1 liter 140 hp injection engine was introduced. Available in the U.S. until the end of the original 900, this engine was replaced a year later in most of Europe with the earlier B202 due to tax regulations, with a displacement of more than 2000 cc
The Aero was unveiled in various markets, and was an entirely new version of the Saab 900 Turbo 16S Convertible. Equipped with factory mounted body panels, it was a Saab 900 Convertible with Aero wheels and the same design as the three-door Saab 900 Turbo 16S Aero. A 128hp injection was introduced on the Convertible version.
A new air filter like the Saab 9000's was installed in the Saab 900 for 1991, along with seats from the 9000. An available option was an electrically adjustable driver's seat. A comfort modification as well as a safety enhancement, the back seat belt attachment were relocated 52mm upwards in the three-door Saab 900. This new modification reduced the risk of passenger 'twisting' out of the belts' grip in the instance of a collision. In this same year, the headlight wiper washers from 71 were made 10% more efficient.
In the Nordic market, Saab introduced the 2.1 liter engine in 1992. More basic equipment was made available for all Saab 900's. Standard features were now anti-lock brakes and an available airbag. In 92 the 40,000th Saab 900 Convertible was assembled. Final classic convertible were sold as 1994 models, and the Special Edition commanded the top dollar in the resale market even today. The New Generation 900 SE, a new Opel Vectra-based 900 began production very soon after production ended on September 26, 1993 of the 'Classic' 900. This was influenced by General Motors in 1994. Fundamentally a different vehicle, the new design contained styling cues that were reminiscent of the classic 900.
A design classic in the automotive world, the Saab 900 carried an elite distinction. In 1992 the Saab 900 was being produced in both 3 and 5 door models, as well as an exclusive convertible. Ranging in power from 128 to 175hp, engine alternatives for the Saab 900 included 2 liter injection, 2 liter Turbo and the S LPT engine in either the 2-liter or 1-liter version. Several Cabriolets were produced and sold as 1994 models. Affectionately dubbed 'The Goose' on some markets, the cabriolet/convertible was called this because the emblem on the rear of the SE version read 'Saab 900 SE' which looks a bit like 'GOOSE'.
Various special models were introduced during the production run of the Saab 900. Built in Uusikaupunki, Finland, the 900C was a late 1980s carbureted model that utilized an eight-valve B201 engine with a single carburetor that produced 100 BHP. For the Italian market, the 900 EP was a special Eco-power model that used a 16V low pressure turbo engine and had a pre-heated catalysor.
The 900 CD was produced at the Valmet factory in Uusikaupunki, Finland, measured 20 cm (7.9 inches) longer than standard models. This length was made by adding 10 cm (3.9 inches) to both front and rear doors, though only adding rear leg room. The CD had optional extras that included a leather interior, reading lights, rear blinds, footrests and an in-car telephone. An even longer VIP limousine version was also available.
Assembled in Saab Australia, the 900 Enduro was a special version of the 900 Turbo, only a total of 12 were ever produced. The package included large, flared fiberglass fenders, improved suspension, big wheels and tires, and extra gauges mounted were the radio normally was. The waste-gate was set at 17 psi (1.2 bar) to increase performance. Water injection was a standard on the 900 Enduro.
Available only from 1983 until 1984, the 900 Lux
was a special model that came in two-tone paint, normally Slate Blue metallic on the top, with silver below. In honor of Erik Carlsson, a special model 900 Carlsson was introduced. Fitted with twin chrome exhausts, the Carlsson was a three-door 900 model that was powered by a 1985 cc turbocharged engine with APC that gave 185 BHP.
A total of 908,817 Saab 900s were produced, including 48,888 convertibles.
The vehicle of choice, the Saab 900 Turbo was James Bond's most often featured vehicle in numerous John Gardner Bond novels of the 1980's.By Jessica Donaldson