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bertandnairobi

Joined:

Feb 07

Posts: 5360

1968 Saab 99

From "Mass Motorist" (Dec 1968)
The new Saab 99 reviewed by Archibald Vicar M.Dip
Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere

Intoduction
When people think of Sweden and Swedish cars, they often think of Volvo who make sturdy machines capable of withstanding the horrors of the Scandinavia climate. But it´s worth remembering that Sweden has a second car maker, Saab, who also make fighter jets. Like our friends at Bristol, Saab use the experience they gain in aerospace to inform the design of their cars. This rare combination of aerospace expertise and the tradition of Swedish quality means that Saab is in the very fortunate position of having some great strengths to play to when fighting in the export market. It also means their cars are expensive and strange. In these increasingly competitive times, such advantages are of no small significance.

"...mundane world of Austins..."

It was thus with a sizeable sense of anticipation that we packed our suitcases and travelled north to Sweden to examine the new 99, which for this journalist is a far call from the mundane world of Austins, Hillmans, Triumphs and Wolseleys that constitutes our routine work. Most of the drivers of such cars don´t even know that Sweden makes cars, much less know that of the two makers, one is an exciting, lively and original firm and the other is Volvo.

“….exciting but rust prone…”
I always say that a good motor car is the product of the conditions from which it has risen. Italian cars are designed for fiery people who live in a dry climate so their cars are exciting but rust-prone. German cars are designed for a serious but romantic people meaning they drive machines that balance practicality with humorous over-engineering. The Irish like to drink and sing songs so they don´t make cars at all. The same goes for the Welsh. For the life of me I can´t determine how the awful weather and dreary mode of life of the Swedes can give rise to such a thing as a Saab. But then again, the Swedes aren´t noted warriors so why do they make a warplane? I shall ask an academic about this one day.

“…in September…”
The 99 was first shown in 1967 but it is only now in September we have had a chance to find out how startling the car is. First, the bodywork. The little 99 has been given a striking and wholly rational appearance. It gives the flavour of an aeroplane on four wheels. For anyone used to the upright shapes from Morris, Talbot and even MG, this will be a refreshing alternative. The windscreen is wrapped around, reminiscent of that other aerodynamic car, the Citroen DS. Sitting in the car one feels very much as if the view out is unimpeded and this car surely presages better and better forward visibility if other manufacturers take note, as they surely will. The lines of the car are neat and there is little exterior decoration. The bodywork shows some subtlety of sculpting that the men at Volvo could only dream of. A nicely shaped clam-shell bonnet opens forward and serves to avoid creating the kinds of rust traps which bedeville the cars from other makers (especially Vauxhall who seem to specialise in this area). A jaunty little vent adorns the otherwise spare flanks of the car, sitting just under the rear pillar. It looks like an aerodynamic car and indeed it is, according to scientific measurements of this by the company itself.
 

[Continued below]

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bertandnairobi

Joined:

Feb 07

Posts: 5360

Re: 1968 Saab 99

[Continued from page 12]

“…chances of injury…”
Inside the car, nothing has been left to convention other than the roundness of the steering wheel. The ignition key is located between the front seats so as to reduce the chances of injury. A small light illuminates the ignition itself, which is a remarkable idea. The seats are of an novel design (they recline and have extra height to allow the driver to rest his head) and the ventilation system is cunningly conceived and very effective. It is also quite simple. Again, it brings to mind the kind of cleverness deployed at Citroen but built to a much higher standard. A spacious rear seat trimmed in hard-wearing velour leaves space for three. The luggage compartment was commodious and we were able to force Land-Windermere inside to prove the point. None of his photos came out as it was too dark.

"...regrettable arrangement..."
Under the bonnet we find Saab has swapped their lawn-mower two-stroke for an in-line four banger on the classic Otto cycle. The four strokes refer to intake, compression, combustion (power), and exhaust strokes that usually occur during two crankshaft rotations per working cycle. It appears to be essentially half a V8. This is mated to a four-speed gearbox. Since Saab is the opposite of Volvo, the power goes to the front wheels. This otherwise regrettable arrangement suits the snowy conditions that prevail in Sweden. When it is not snowy, the Swedes are of course not driving but writhing about in various states of undress in the few brief moments that constitute their short summer. The car runs on a 12 volt system. A diagonal split braking system (with disc brakes) is another sign of Saab´s innovative approach to safety. The fuel tank holds a reasonable 10 gallons or so, enough for a touring range of about 300 miles.

To drive, the Saab is a light and adaptable machine. At speed the steering lightens somewhat and it yields much information to the driver. Being so aerodymanic and so light, the car makes good use of the engine´s modest horsepower. The Saab 99 shows tremendous potential for development and is very different in flavour to offerings from Lancia, Alfa and Citroen those other cars for men with exotic tastes. The general engineering set-up of disc brakes and front-wheel drive in a monococque chassis has been honed to good effect. The empty roads around Trollhattan afford numerous opportunities to assess the modest understeer, excellent grip and high level of comfort afforded by the 99. It should be noted that it took a fair amount of provocation to unbalance the car meaning that the performance can be enjoyed up to speeds well above the norm prevalent in England.

Summarising conclusion

That the 99 is comfortable, well-made, satisfying to drive and well-equipped ought to mean that other makers should take heed. The Bavarians at BMW and Alfa Romeo of Milan also offer small and agile saloons. I would contend here that Saab has the advantage of them, and should Saab choose to fit an even more powerful motor, the 99 could be a class leader in a short space of time.

 Deliveries to the United Kingdom begin next year. Rear floor-mats will be available in 1970.

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Batty

Joined:

Mar 08

Posts: 5084

Batty says:

Re: 1968 Saab 99

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

My favourite author has, through the genius and dedication of Mr Andnairobi, given us another gem of motoring journalism. What a wonderful style, what an excellent review. The "The Irish like to drink and sing songs so they don´t make cars at all." is a defamatory delight, which could only be written in Vicar's time. Wonderful.

Thank you Bert, once again you have made my day so much better. You are marvellous.

Imagine if we had our reproductive organs on our face, wouldn't that make blowing your nose interesting?

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bertandnairobi

Joined:

Feb 07

Posts: 5360

Re: 1968 Saab 99

You are welcome. It was handy that of all days I had the article to hand, given Saab´s new bad news. As an Irish person I regret Vicar´s carelessness with his prejudices but that was 1968 for you.  The Ro80 article is generating no interest at all. I wonder why.

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morepowerigor

Joined:

Dec 07

Posts: 1317

Re: 1968 Saab 99

 

Nice to see that Mr Vicar did get to grips with the Saab; I was afraid that the poor climate, no doubt outrageous SAS and BEA pricing and Saab's no doubt dismally small press budget would have contrived to prevent such test from being possible.

So it is a delight to read that Archie managed to get his testing done in-context near Trollhatten.

Perhaps there is an article or indeed articles in the archives where he revisited such cars in the British market and their day to day life a few months after their launch to see how they match up to the Italian, French, German, British and Anglo-American products in Shakespeare's country?

We loved our 99, especially as it did have a few of those extra horsepower from Canley, though not the load of extra Turbo horses that must have caused Archie a missed heartbeat or two.

Talking Turbos, did he perchance expose himself to the Bonkers Motor Workshop 2002tii turbo (the one with the backwards writing on the front spoiler - maybe this is where the Somerset Ambulance and Fire & Rescue services signwriters got their ideas from)?

 

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Her butt looks like a couple of badly parked VW Beetles in those slacks

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bertandnairobi

Joined:

Feb 07

Posts: 5360

Re: 1968 Saab 99

Archie did try the 1602. His review is here somewhere. He tested the Saab 99 in Britain in 1971 for The Driver magazine. It was tested against the Triumph Toledo and Lancia 2000 (neé Flavia). The Saab lost due to its odd styling and strange interior arrangements. The Lancia was given a poor second due to its Italian-labelled controls. The Triumph won for its agile handling, English-language controls and classic and traditional appearance. His view was that the Saab needed to have some of its odd characteristics ironed out before it could be considered as a viable product "in these increasingly competitive times." He summed up by writing "Triumph have produced a well-engineered sporting saloon which ought to show others how it´s done. BMW and Alfa take note."

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bertandnairobi

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Feb 07

Posts: 5360

Re: 1968 Saab 99

Coming soon, the 1975 Triumph Dolomite
 

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bertandnairobi

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Posts: 5360

Re: 1968 Saab 99

Housecleaning
 

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bertandnairobi

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Feb 07

Posts: 5360

Re: 1968 Saab 99

Tidying up to move junk out of sight
 

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