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Dave's Garage

Dave Sander [ June 2013 ]

Why I Like Saabs

Every month I like to take a particular topic pertaining to automotive restoration or maintenance and discuss it. I could not think of a topic to discuss this month, and have not received any questions to answer. I am going to move the column in a different direction this month.


Why I like Saab.
I have always liked the styling of the classic Saab 900, especially the 3-door hatchback. With a unique, aircraft inspired shape and a nod to safety, comfort and practicality, there was never another car with the look of a C900.


Saab had some unique features, lets take a look at a few of these.
The ignition key in Saabs were mounted in the center console, between the two front seats. The reason for this was that the engineers at Saab felt the ignition key was unsafe mounted next to the steering wheel, and found that a number of people had their knee caps shattered by the ignition key in frontal crashes.

Saab also realized that the locking steering column was potentially dangerous with the unlikely, but possible locking of the steering column while driving. In a Saab, the gear shift has to be in reverse to take the ignition key out. The ignition key also has to be inserted and turned to take the vehicle out of reverse. This was a successful theft deterrent. You know that annoying steering wheel lock cars have? You have to twist the wheel and jiggle the key to get it to unlock sometimes, not in a Saab! No steering wheel locks.


The engines in the c900 were in "backwards" and tilted at a 45' angle, mounted on top of the transmission with the clutch next to the radiator and the belts and pulleys next to the firewall. The bullet proof Saab in line 2 liter engine is actually a Triumph designed engine. Think TR7. When Saab gave up on two stroke engines, they did not have the resources to tool for a new engine. They were buying engines from Triumph, but had some quality control issues. Again, think TR7. Saab bought the tooling rights to the engine and began to manufacture it in house. Saab later added a 16 valve twin cam head of their own design.


There is a three chain transfer case to bring engine power down to the transmission. The engine was mounted this way for several reasons. First, it delivered exceptional handling, achieving a near perfect 48/52 weight distribution. Second, it delivered outstanding traction. Third, the angle of the engine allowed the hood to slope down sharply creating both excellent visibility and a lower center of gravity. Fourth, the engine was mounted in such a way that it actually dropped down and under the passenger compartment in the event of a massive frontal collision. Lastly, with most front wheel drive cars the eventual clutch replacement is a major operation. Not so on a Saab. A clutch replacement is an easy job, that can be done in less than an hour.

The side doors on the Saab 900 curve inward toward the floorpan at the bottom, resulting in a door opening without the usual rocker panel/sill obstruction. The sunroof motor is mounted in the rear of the car, near the rear door lock where it is easy to service.

The Saab 900 has a curved wrap around windscreen. It makes you appear far more forward in the car than you actually are, and results in amazing visibility, creating the illusion the car was built around the driver. The driver's side windscreen pillar (A Pillar) is angled so it's slimmest section faces the driver creating the smallest blind spot I've ever seen in a car- yet is reinforced for some of the best rollover protection in it's day (and probably since). You can also happily mow down large moose with confidence, as the reinforced windshield frame was actually designed to deflect the impact of an adult moose at highway speed.


I love the little things on my Saab that make it practical, the way they thought about things was just incredible, all for driver and occupant safety
- The green lights in the glovebox and ashtray etc - they're green so if you open them at night they don't over expose your eyes which could increase the chance of you having an accident.
- The vents on the side of the car are to allow a constant movement of air, the center vent always blows cold air to keep the driver alert even when the heater is on as heat makes the driver drowsy
It might seem a little odd to commemorate a vehicle’s air vents, but when they’re as distinctive as those fitted to Saabs then it’s understandable. With square holes and a round adjustment joystick knob, the airstream can literally be pin pointed to precisely where you want it.

The rest of the typical Saab interior was intelligently laid out, the heated seats were comfortable and the dashboard, while novel and unique, was easy to read.

All of the controls were placed in such a way so the driver could easily reach them without taking their eyes off the road.

They're a solid car, they handle well, they're comfortable, unique, interest-ing, quirky, intelligently designed, and fun to work on!


Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

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