SAAB is one of those brands you either love or rarely notice at all. As many of you know by now, it’s also a dead brand. The simple fact that there won’t be any new SAABs makes the existing ones more interesting. If there’s one model that stands out, it’s the SAAB 900. This car represents everything SAAB was known for and what this brand stood for until the very end. Today we’ll try to give you a quick rundown of what 900 has to offer, how it evolved over the years, and how it became a classic.
The Last of the Mohicans
Swedish automotive industry was always a world of its own. While Italians, Americans, and Germans raced to build the fastest, sleekest looking cars possible, Swedes were into innovation. Both Volvo and SAAB were continually rolling out new technologies that often changed the entire industry.
Over time, SAAB became known as a highly reliable brand whose cars are built to last, made of top-notch Swedish steel. Unfortunately, as globalization entered its peak stage, it became apparent that major automotive players such as GM, FIAT, and others will swallow the smaller, independent manufacturers.
That’s precisely what happened to SAAB. GM got its paws all over the Swedish lion in 1990, which is generally seen as the start of the end for SAAB. Being the last uniquely SAABs car, the 900 stands as a beacon of what this company was all about while it was independent.
The 9-3 that followed was alright for a GM car, but it was no 900. You could tell by the way the car felt that one too many corners were cut somewhere along the way. As a result, the 9-3 was an empty shell of a once-mighty Swedish sedan.
The Story Behind the SAAB 900
To say that SAAB 900 is simply a car model would have been an understatement of a century. This car represents a saga that captured the golden age of the automotive industry as a whole. The chassis itself is one of those unique, timeless designs that will never go out of style.
SAAB was and still is an aircraft manufacturer. Back in the day when they started making cars, they introduced many aerospace solutions to their automotive designs. Case in point, the curved windshield that wraps around the driver pushing the A-pillar out of the way. After all, a pilot needs a good field of view.
What makes the 900 even more interesting is that it was produced from 1978 all the way to 1998. The first, classic generation was made up until 1994, only to be replaced by a facelifted newer gen. The classic version was produced for so long that it went from carbureted, through fuel injected and naturally aspirated engines, all the way to modern turbocharged engines – all in the same car.
The Quintessential Convertible
A highlight of 900’s existence is the 900 convertible. We’ve covered the story behind this particular car in a separate article, but we’ll go over the basics. It was designed on a whim by Robert “Uncle Bob” Sinclair – the president of SAAB-Scania of America. What makes this convertible so special is that it legitimately brought back the convertible chassis to the world’s automotive menu. In short, it was a phenomenon.
Even today, in 2020, you’ll have a tough time finding one of these for cheap. They are slowly but surely becoming a collector’s item. It doesn’t help that Sinclair ordered these convertibles to be specced out to the nines, making them even more a hot item these days.
The Evolution of a 900 – Little Bit of 99 and Magic Dust
Remember how we mentioned that the first generation of the 900 was produced from 1978 to 1994? As true as that may be, the 1994 car and the 1978 car weren’t exactly the same. Here are some of the interesting upgrades that happened over the years.
The very first series of cars was based partially on the SAAB 99 that preceded it. Actually, SAAB borrowed a lot from the older model following that good old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ formula. Those first cars came with the 8 valve “B” engine that had its quirks. Some owners might remember the semi notorious chain-driven water pump and the dual carburetor setup on select trims.
Even the interior was partially a 99. Seats were definitely inspired by the predecessor, and so was the center console in the sense that there wasn’t one.
As the year 1980 rolled by, the car had received a brand new 5-speed transmission. Until then, SAAB had shipped the 900 with a 4 speed that was slowly proving insufficient. Granted, the new gearboxes were only fitted to the Turbo and EMS versions of the car. This is also the year where SAAB ditched a lot of the 99 inspired styling solutions. It’s almost as if the vehicle that was first released served as a placeholder of sorts.
The following year, in 1981, they’ve introduced the brand new “H” engines. Additionally, the car went from a 5-door layout to a 4-door sedan design. In 1982 we’ve seen the introduction of SAAB’s legendary APC system – a device designed to regulate engine knock with the boost.
By 1987, SAAB had introduced a 16V head for the turbocharged “H” engines. A brand new 16V naturally aspirated B202 engine in addition to various cosmetic changes. Most importantly, they rolled out the convertible in 1986, changing the automotive world for the better.
1987 marks the year when 900 received its first actual facelift. It’s not that the car poorly aged or anything, but it was time for a fresh look. They’ve done this by integrating the front bumpers into the body, among others, making the whole design ready for the next decade.
The following year the 900 received a brake system upgrade that meant ventilated rotors in the front with all new wheel hubs. From 1990 to 1993, SAAB had introduced airbags and ABS but also started winding down the production. The first to go was the SPG in 1991, followed by the hatchback and sedan in 1993. The last Classic 900 series to leave the factory was the convertibles.
SAAB had marked this event by releasing 500 “Commemorative Edition” cars of this type for the hardcore fans.
The New Generation
What came next was a redesigned car based on a GM2900 platform. The new generation of 900 was no longer Swedish. Ever since they took over in 1990, General Motors was itching to throw the 900 into their melting pot and centralize the development of future cars, hence the GM2900 platform.
In other words, the new 900 shared its DNA with Opel, who came up with this platform all the way back in 1988. Interestingly enough, SAAB stayed on a version of GM2900 up until 2010 with the 9-5.
With the new platform came the new B204, B234, and B258 engines, offering 2.0, 2.3, and 2.5-liter displacement, respectively. By 1999 the car was rebadged into 9-3, marking an end of an era.
The SAAB 900 Legacy
From 1999 to 2011, when SAAB officially went belly up, it became apparent that these new cars weren’t cutting it. The 9-3 and 9-5 were just another rebadge of GM sedans that had lost the SAAB character. Not only that, but GM started cutting corners left and right.
An interior of a SAAB was always a place of innovation and quality. Every detail was there or wasn’t there for a reason. It’s that fighter jet utilitarianism that was unique to this brand. The GM era cars had none of that. They were packed with cheap plastics, cheap leather and would see interior trim falling apart, not even 10 years of use on some cars.
All of this had made the classic 900 a wanted memento of times long gone. Even today, in 2020, there’s a strong demand for this car. Collectors and SAAB fans are out there combing the ads for a decent specimen that hasn’t been neglected over the years.
The fact that the company is long gone makes it hard to source parts, adding to the steeplechase that is owning a SAAB 900 in 2020. However, it’s not an impossible task!
Where to Find Genuine SAAB Parts?
Here at eEuroparts.com, we’re doing our part in keeping classic SAABs on the road. If you’re looking for parts for your 900, head over to our online store and select your year model. Our navigation tool will show you all of the parts that match your input, including Genuine SAAB parts, aftermarket products, OEM, and more.
Additionally, if you have any questions regarding a specific product and whether or not it will fit your car, feel free to get in touch with us. Our customer support is standing by to answer any questions you might have!