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