The classic Saab 900 1978-1994
A fine example of a classic T16S which has gone to a good home in Scotland
Why it's my favourite
individual (a) single characteristic of single person or thing; distinctive
individualism (b) principle of asserting one's independence
Collins English Dictionary 1990
Since its inception in 1978 the Saab 900 has held my undivided attention as one of the most individual and distinctive cars in the world and its market sector. Put simply, nothing looks anything like it. You can see a Saab 900 coming a mile off and that is probably half the story as far as I'm concerned. From the tip of its front bumper to the tip of its rear, the Saab 900 has always been (in design terms) one of the most cohesive and yet enthralling pieces of automotive sculpture ever to grace the upper executive car market.
It has a real style to it that says so much about the person behind the wheel. It's not as quick as its rivals. It's not as fuel efficient and it has to be said that the styling of both the exterior and interior are an acquired taste. Saying that, it's alarming how quickly you acquire it! So why has it captured the hearts of me and thousands like me.
When Saab first produced the 900 in 1978 it's almost like they looked at what every car company was doing, ie. angular, square, fat, over-engined barges and decided to do the opposite. With the hatchback 99 as a base, they elongated the wheel base and the nose, toned down and elongated the bonnet (getting rid of the 99 bonnet's drastic curves), reworked the headlamps and grille and then designed, what has to be considered as a real bench. Mark it automotive design, one of the most clever dashboards to ever grace an automobile. The result was something that looked beautifully built, striking and yet really different.
To add insult to BMW's injuries, they skillfully gave the Saab 900 Turbo a professional image through its advertising and its product placements in film and television, giving it an instant kudos with the trendy set. Not that the Saab 900 was ever the car just to be seen in but it had something almost undefinable about it that generated respect when anyone was told what car said professional drove.
Another thing that caused quite a stir when the 900 was launched was the way all the side windows formed a progressive line toward the tip of the bonnet. In 1978 square boxes ruled, so anything as avanguard as this would have really stood out in the traffic and on the suburban driveway. The fact that the rear spoiler finished off that side window line so perfectly was merely the icing on the cake. (Incidentally most manufacturers now have copied this). But all of this pales slightly when you first drive a Saab 900. The first thing you notice is the weight of the car. It feels so heavy to drive. Not the steering, the steering weighted perfectly, but the fact that this is a very heavy car is obvious as it glides its way down any road you point it. And it's that sense of weight that becomes re-assuring and relaxing. It's that sense of weight that adds to the feeling that you're driving something with real class and breeding that, previously to its existence, you would have had to pay through the nose to get.
Finally, after you've started to really appreciate all the refinements, the poise, the road manners, and the really beautiful lines of the thing, you actually start to feel a bit sorry for all the tasteless drivers in their even more tasteless Dagenham dustbins and the Luton leftovers. Which is when it strikes you, and it makes you feel really good about yourself. The stark realisation of: my God I've got really good taste!
That is why I love the SAAB 900.