Saabs of the Century: The five best cars ever to emerge from Trollhattan
The passing of Saab is lamented by many a car enthusiasts. Here are five of the company’s finest offerings
The demise of Saab is one of the more painful episodes in the collective memory of car enthusiasts worldwide.
Saab was always a manufacturer that did things its own way – and that sense of principle and engineering purity has left it with many a fan. But in 2011, production at the company’s Trollhattan headquarters ceased, and so it has more or less remained ever since, despite several attempts by successive owners to resuscitate it.
So perhaps it’s time to grab slice of Saab pie before the marque slides completely into the annals of history. We’ve gathered here our five favourites from the Saab back catalogue; the best Saabs ever made, in other words, and the ones to buy now while you still can.
- Saab Sonett III
The purists will cry out that the Sonett I of 1955 is prettier and, as Saab’s first sports car, more important. But with only six examples ever made, the chances of you finding one are slim-to-none. You’re better off with the Sonett III, whose wedgy styling, light-footed handling and raucous V4 engine note make it an utterly joyful little thing. They’re left-hand-drive only, but do come up for sale in the UK now and then – expect to pay upwards of £15,000 for a decent example.
- Saab 9000
Saab’s first foray into the murky world of the platform share was this, the 9000. And while today it’s a little forgotten, in its time it was a force to be reckoned with; the 9000 Turbo 16 even won the coveted What Car? Car of the Year trophy in 1986. After the 1991 facelift, almost the entire range became turbocharged; lesser 9000s are therefore surprisingly efficient, while the Aero is blisteringly quick. All 9000s offer acres of space and fabulous build quality, too. Happily, a decent facelift car can now be had for less than £1000, while a clean Aero will cost around £5000, making it quite the performance bargain.
- Saab 96
The 96 was Saab’s longest-lived creation, and more than any other, the car that put Saab on the map. Its wind-cheating design and characterful two-stroke engine – later substituted for the equally fun Ford V4 – made it beloved of quirky motoring enthusiasts everywhere, while its pillow-soft ride and plentiful space made it an excellent family car. Excellent traction and balance made it a force to be reckoned with on the rally stage, too, and despite having just 55bhp, it triumphed at the Monte Carlo Rally, two years running – leaving far more potent competition in its wake. These days, prices for a 96 start at around £5000, though a fully prepared rally example will set you back closer to £20,000.
- Saab 99 Turbo
Instead of fitting a larger engine to its 99 – the 96’s replacement – when more power was required, Saab opted for the then-new technology of turbocharging – and so, the legendary Saab Turbo was born. The 99 Turbo’s 135hp sounds measly today, but it was shockingly fast in its time; more than that, though, it was seriously technologically advanced, with electronically-controlled fuel injection at a time when most production turbo cars still used carburettors. In the 99 Turbo, Saab created a car that helped bring turbocharging into the mainstream – not to mention a legend. Expect to pay upwards of £8000 today.
- Saab 900
Why does the Saab 900 deserve first place here? Well, as with the 99, there’s an iconic turbocharged version – but the 900 offers so much more besides. A more practical, more modern interior, for example; an achingly cool convertible body style; and a host of low-pressure turbo models that combined pace with fuel efficiency. The best part? A sound example is today yours for a grand, and relatively easy to find; what with its more modern engineering that makes it the perfect, attainable modern classic.
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