Talladega III

I’m placing this one in the ‘Letters to GM’ category as it’s something I’d love to see happen again, and timing is just about perfect.  Not only is it another 10 years since the last Talladega run, there’s also a new 9-5 hitting the market and with the various engine options available in the car, this could be a promotional ball-burster once again for Saab.

But first, some history….

1986 – The Long Run

Saab’s first Talladega experience was in 1986.  They took three rock-standard 9000 Turbos from the factory and run them around the high-speed Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.  The cars covered 100,000 kilometers, stopping only for driver changes and routine servicing.

Saab set 23 different records during this run and confirmed for themselves a solid reputation for reliability. 

Starting October 7th, the three cars were driven for around 20 days straight.  The fastest of the three cars averaged 213.299 km/h during the run, the other two cars averaging around 210 km/h and 208 km/h (Saab Museum)

1996 – Saab 900 at Talladega

10 years after the first run, Saab decided to return to Talladega with the NG900.  In the first run, all the drivers were Saab factory people.  This time, Saab played the PR card and invited 100 journalists to participate in the run.

Six Saab 900’s with varying mechanical configurations were used in the run.  This time, there were 40 new records set and once again it proved to be a winner for Saab, with many of the automotive scribes writing about the experience in their employer’s magazines etc.

The fastest car on this run turned in an average speed of 226.450 km/h!!

Here’s what one of the participating journos had to say, from The Car Connection:

In the fall of 1996 Saab went back to Talladega, to try and break their own records with five 900 turbo’s, two 900 V6s and one 900 2.0I Coupe. Two of the turbos were driven by professional Saab-drivers, while automotive journalists from all over the world drove the other cars. That is, by those who owned an international competition license. And I was one of them.

In short, one of my early morning stints with the 900 turbo on the fastest racetrack in the world proved to be real quick. On the still damp oval I broke the one-hour speed record with an average of 229.212 km/h (or 142.426 mph), the fastest hour of my life – almost.

The Saab 900 turbo was completely standard and because of its honest character and its obedience under stressed circumstances, the car won a place in my heart, next to some other outstanding machines I raced with. Too bad, a week later the record was pinched away from me by one of my fellow Americans by 0.15 km/h (0.096 mph).

There’s another great write-up on the event by Tim Winker, available here.

Talladega 2006?

It’s been 10 years since the last run a Talladega.  Surely this campaign must be due for another run.  Take a quick look at the state of Saab and you’ll realise that there’s no better time to do something momentous.

Saab is trying to return to profitability after a dry run since GM took full ownership in 2000.  Right or wrong, it’s suffered some criticism over recent model introductions and taken some hits for continued flat sales in it’s biggest marketplace: the United States.

Added to this, Saab have just introduced a new, facelifted 9-5 and are looking to put out the feelers by displaying it’s e85 ‘Biopower’ engine at next year’s US auto shows.

Doesn’t anyone else (Jay?) see the stars aligning here?

Trollhattan’s plan: Invite another group of prominent motoring journalists to participate in another long run at Talladega.  Show the whole marketplace how reliable and quick Saab’s latest range can be.  My suggested lineup:

3 Gasoline Saab 9-5’s – Thanks cybo – all 2.3 HOT 9-5’s as will be the standard for 2006.

2 Biopower 9-5’s – one to be driven by the journos and one to be driven by Saab factory drivers.

2 Diesel 9-5’s – same as with the Biopower cars.

In 2007, legislation in the US will make the Saab 9-5 TiD a more viable sales possibility.  Why not use a big run at Talladega to give the press a solid introduction to the diesel model.  Let them see what this car can do.  Make the event into a combined speed/economy run.

This run would also provide a great, high-speed introduction to the Biopower 9-5 as well.  If Saab are serious about the possibility of bringing the Biopower 9-5 to the US, then what better way to prove it’s drivability and durability to the buying public than have a fleet of journalists hooning around at high speeds with grins from ear to ear.

C’mon Jay – Talladega 2006.  You know it makes sense!!

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  1. I agree its a great idea. Except that the 9-5 is only available in 2.3 HOT for 2006… so we only have 1 gasoline powered one here.

  2. Have always loved the talladega story, especially because not only did they use the V6 ( which is the little ugly duckling that I own ) in round 2 but they also used a silver one in the promo shots as pictured – and mines silver. Childish but somehow satisfying.

    You’re right swade, lets go again.

  3. I was kidding. I don’t actually know much about the 1990 run. I noted there was a smallish clip about it at Saab Videos, but I wasn’t able to find any details about it when I googled it. Happy for some info.

    Bill, the thought behind using the 9-5 was twofold. First, it’s traditionally been a 1-model event. Which leads to….Second, if you’re going to choose a model to run, perhaps the 9-5 would be most suited as it has the most to benefit in terms of flagging sales. Also the capabilities and durability of the new engine variants could be shown (although there’s plans to Biopower the 9-3 as well so that argument goes both ways).

    I’d be quite happy to see Saab do it however they see fit. I just want to see them do it.

  4. That’s one question I am making since months……we need another Talladega Challenge, and would be very pleasent to make it with the two models, 9-3 and 9-5.

    The 9-5 only is offered with one diesel, the 1.9TID with 150bhp. The 3.0 V6 diesel, was developed with Isuzu and since the begining was a disaster in reliability terms, now isn’t offered anymore. The first year it has some electronic and other issues, with accelerator module, EGR valve and with time it appeared some design issues of the engine as a bad design of the aluminium cylinder jackets that slides and that makes a lot of refrigeration liquid consumption.

    I think that the best cars to make the competition will be,

    Saab 9-5 Aero
    Saab 9-5 2.3t 185bhp
    Saab 9-5 2.0t Biopower
    Saab 9-3ss Aero(2.8V6t)
    Saab 9-3ss 210bhp
    Saab 9-3ss 1.9TID

  5. Talladega – Duel 2.3
    March 9, 1990

    Saab got 40 Participants to come and compare the new 9000 2.3 with the competition. They had several variants on the 9000 2.3 and competitor cars as well. The participants consisted of Saab Sales Representatives, Saab Owners, and Owners of Saab’s Competition cars.

    The cars were put through 4 Exercises which consisted of
    -Road Course
    -Braking While Cornering
    -Accident Avoidance
    -Merging Power

  6. Let Saab bring it on, but to show off the greatest range of powerplants – include 9-3’s. Besides Swade, the tradition is in the early stages methinks!

  7. I think Talladega has usually been massive proving event.

    Some carmakers have started to do these also, merc run 3 diesel cars, was it 30 days? But it got very little media publicity.

    If Saab would do it again, (that I heavily think they will do next year), they would get much better publicity because they have history to back up things. But there should be something what to proof for.

    E85 is very good idea because it is also environment thing that is marketing jackpot.

    Because they need something more than few new records in V4 and V6 class.

  8. For the ten year anniversary of The Saab 900 Talladega Challenge (2006), I wrote a story for a local newspaper about my experience at being a participant in breaking a world speed record. It is essentially a re-write of my original 1996 story, but adds a few details.


    At the post-event festivites in 1996, Saab officials insisted there would be another record attempt using the soon-to-be-introduced Saab 9-5. Unfortunately it never happened.

    — TW

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