My 9-1 thoughts

These are just my thoughts, nothing more.

When we first heard about a possible Saab smaller car emerging as a replacement for the 9-2x, there was specific mention of the car being a “spiritual descendant” of the classic Saab 900 of the 1980’s and early 90’s. There was a bit of excitement of that idea and a few eyebrows as well.

The 9-2x left a lot of people with a bitter taste regarding GM’s model development when it comes to Saab. It’s a hell of a shame actually, as all this would have happened only a year or two after GM would have won a lot of Saabisti over with the new 9-3 Sport Sedan. Talk about burning up your goodwill.

So here we are with a proposed replacement for the 9-2x on the table. What could they do with it? A relatively clean slate to play with just a shared basic platform to think about.

Well, if BMW can take this…


…and craft a modern interpretation like this to great success…..

Mini-Car 2.jpg

…..then what do you think a bunch of Aero-X proven, talented designers like Anthony Lo and Alex Daniel could do with this…..


OK, bear with me.

First up, this is not just a retro thing, this is a good design thing.

The classic Saab 900 is probably the most recognisable Saab image out there, because it is such a disctinctive, good design. A modern interpretation of this shape a-la the new Mini is a very entertaining prospect. It’d have to be a bit smaller than the original 900, which is entirely manageable.

Power it with a Biopower 2.0T or clean diesel, option it for AWD, include class leading interior design and materials, versatile storage and configuration (think 9-3x or 9x) and price it to compete sub-9-3 and you’re cooking with gas.

You get a modern take on a great design, along with all the practicality that it encompassed. Provided the vehicle drives like it should, you’re on a winner with the modern fuel conscious driver as well as all those college students from the 1980’s that are now in their 40’s, advancing, and can afford a nostalgic toy that drives like a go-kart with the practicality of a truck. I’m pretty sure that a high quality re-take of the classic 900 would attract plenty of interest from old-time Saabisti that have left for other brands.

OK, I’m dreaming, but isn’t that part of the process?

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  1. One thing that always surprises me when I’m reminded of it is how big my C900 really is. It’s a 3-door, but it’s pretty darned big. If you look at it from a distance it’s deceiving. I guess that’s why you can fit a motorcycle or sofa in the back of the thing.

    My wife’s 9-3 seems smaller, outside and in. There’s no way I could fit a motorcycle (or even a bicycle unless I maybe pull the front wheel off) or a sofa in there! Then there’s that dreaded bar on the floor that gets in the way. After looking at the specs I see that the C900 was a couple of inches longer, but the NG900/OG9-3 is actually wider!

    Here are the dimensions of a C900: 184.5″ long x 66.5″ wide x 56.1 high, 99.1″ wheelbase, 2770 lbs. Max cargo space 57 cu. ft.

    OG9-3: 182.3″ long x 67.4″ wide x 56.2 high, 102.6″ wheelbase, 3020 lbs. Max cargo space 46 cu. ft.

    The 9-1 should actually be smaller than the C900 as you mention, but I’d like to retain the utility and huge trunk from the C900 as much as possible. Maybe make the 9-1 around the size the 99 was? I mean the C900 was really a 99 with a stretched hood (bodywise).

    I really like the shape of the Aero-X. If they can make a car the size of the 99 or the 9-2X with the body shape of the Aero-X I think they’d have a winner. Obviously it goes w/o saying to ditch all the bells and whistles of the Aero-X (canopy, sliding tray thingy, 400 hp engine).

    9-2X: length 175.6″ x 66.7″ width x 57.7″ height, 99.4″ wheelbase, 3091 lb weight, Max cargo 62 cu. ft. (due to wagon shape)

    SAAB 99 “wagonback”: length 171″ x width 66″ x height 56.6″, 97.5″ wheelbase, 2500 lb weight, Max cargo 53 cu. ft

    Really, I’d like to see them just “SAABify” an Opel Astra for the short term (let me stress, I mean “SAABify” as in 9-7X, not “badge engineer” as in 9-2X) until they can get a homegrown version out there.

  2. This is an interesting direction but I beg to differ on one point. AWD. AWD consumes ( or a least modifies) torque and fuel. It also tends to be for utilitarian cars. Hence the approach from Volvo, VW, BMW et al. I feel that a small car with the approach you guys outline would be better off FWD. A-la Renault Megane hatch?

    AWD is an important direction byt unless you do a Subaru and do it accross the range, I’d stic to more utilitarian applications: A 95X wagon, A 93X Sprt combi.

    For me the most inspiring vehicle around in terms of small hatch performance & practicality is the Megane. (assuming we ignore the brilliant WRX……and don’t mention the war)

  3. It could happen (with the retro deisgn). Remember how one of the designer in the AMS article i June talked about how the classic 900 was _the_ Saab regarding design. Maybe a 9-4X hatchback with Aero-X styling?

  4. Now that’s EXACTLY what Saab (and GM) should be working on right now! With gas prices on the rise again, it’s the perfect time for a smaller model like that. The classic 900 design represents the best of Saab and should not be lost! I fear that GM just doesn’t have the bloody sense to see it. If such a project was completed successfully, it most certainly would be MY next Saab, and I think it could be a huge success for Saab!

  5. Your are right, Saab really needs a new small car- and has done for ages, but copying the 900 styling could be difficult.

    The 900 and the 99 that begat it, had a long tail both in hatch and booted forms. A small car could never have that long swoopy rear end- it would have to be a cut-off Kamm backed design.

    So yep, the 91 needs to be a Saab design icon- but it cannot be a retro-pastiche for the sake of it- Rover tried that with the 75 and that lasted 5 minutes in design terms.

    If you look at the new Opel/Vauxhall Astra -especially in 3 door form it could easily be reskinned very cheaply into a Saab design- without having to re tool a single major underskin panel. Way back in 1975, this is what Ford’s design chief Uwe Bahnsen did to the ‘coke’ bottle Granda mk1- he created a new, sharp edged car without altering the glass or any major body pressing-saving Ford hundred of millions in design and tooling costs incredible.

    Look at the new Opel Cosra 3 door for some Saabness at the rear too- a sort of 92 back end.

    I agree with Gripen- the new car has to be smaller than the C900 (and the GM93) otherwise the model range will compete with itself!

    Quite wht GM cannot use the new Corsa or Astra as a base for a very quick reskin is beyond me- naturally I have the desings drawn up here on my desk! Are you listening Bob Lutz – the same Bob Lutz I interviewed when in 1985 when the Ford Sierra was all the rage…

  6. Based on how late GM/Saab was to the SUV party, and how late GM/Saab was (well, is) to the AWD sports-sedan party, I don’t see them arriving on time for this one, either, regardless of how good an idea it might be.

  7. I’m probably a loner on this, but I think the classic 900 styling would work best on a new, larger, luxury car, more upscale than the 9-5. The 900 to me, looked like a large car, a very elegant, good looking one at that. I think the Aero-X look will work best on midsize and smaller.
    I kind of agree with Lance regarding a new 9-1.

  8. Nice graphic there Humvee. Not sure how it relates, but nice nonetheless. I’ve always enjoyed those silouhettes.

    I like all the thoughts on the 9-1 too. Important thing for Saab to realise is that there’s DEFINTELY a market for Saab in this segment.

    Do it right and it’s cashflow as well as an entry level for Saab.

  9. Swade,

    Also, if SAAB can sell this small car worldwide they should get much better sales numbers than the North America-only 9-2X.

    After reading all the comments above I sort of agree that a retro-style car based on the C900 should be a larger car as it would be difficult to scale down that body style too much.

    I’d much rather see a mini-Aero X shaped car as the small car. Is there any way to take an Opel Astra and reskin it as Lance suggested with an Aero-X styled body (whose profile looks very Aston-Martin-esque to me)?

    I also liked the utility of Mauer’s 9X design for a small car, but since he’s gone I know SAAB no longer wants to go in that direction. That was a pretty small car though. I saw it in person. I liked that you could convert it for cargo configurations. Maybe too radical of a design though.

    Lastly, I wholeheartedly agree with JimF’s comments above. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about SAAB is that they can sit on a good idea way too long and then be “late to the party” consistently. By the time they come out with a small car we’ll all be driving huge electric cars or something! 🙂

  10. As a 900 Turbo driver, I would LOVE to see them remake it, and when I say remake i don’t mean “rebadged/rebodied GM car”, I mean “something that’ll make the BMW 3-series quake in it’s boots. Also, I think it ought to be the same size as a classic 900, simply because it’s useful! My 900 Turbo can hold a twin matress quite comfortably. It can hold an entire apartment’s worth of IKEA boxes. It can hold a motorcycle and 7 large moving boxes.

    Also, it needs to have the power of the classic 900. Mine can haul about 300 pounds worth of stuff and still hit 60mph relatively quickly, and pass the M3 of the era with ease. If Saab wants to improve sales, they need to make the oldtime Saab drivers (myself included, I learned to drive in a 99 and a 96), they need to build cars that don’t just have a triport grille, they need to channel the spirit of the old Saabs, and not just make their aircraft heritage a marketing ploy like it is now.

  11. ironically enough, consumer reports has just named the Saab 9-2X as a recommended buy in the latest issue of the magazine. Of all the hatchbacks tested only the Mazda 3 also received a recommended pick.

  12. Design themes from the C900 should be used throughout the whole Saab range, period. No other model in their history embodies more of their sense of style than the C900, and the C900 can be confused with no other car. The current models suffer from a lack of design continuity; put them side by side and they don’t instantly feel like they were hewn from the same company, and we know why that is (because there weren’t).

    When I move house (which is often) I only need a trailer or flat try for my lounge suite, everything else the Saab can handle. I’ve moved so much big stuff in my 900 Aero it isn’t funny… once I bought some prepack item of furniture, which was about 100mm too long to fit into the 900 with the rear seat down. No matter, call her old man’s, borrow his LandCruiser…

    … that box ONLY JUST FIT into the ‘Cruiser with the rear seat down, I had to angle it across the car (the 4WD’s width saved it). Now I think few will disagree that the Landcruiser is quite a large vehicle… so the fact a C900 can swallow similarly sized items is pretty remarkable!

    Anyway, I digress. The 9-1 shouldn’t be sized alike to the 900.. that’s the 9-3’s job. The 9-1 should be a smaller, hatchback style car – think the rear of the SportCombi – designed more so for city use and “funkier” to appeal to the younger market who probably think 9-3s and 9-5s are for the Volvo crowd. We’re talking BMW 1 series, Audi A3, new Minis and VW Beetles.

    Saab have a much better chance of me buying one if I can get a hot-hatch variant with a 2L turbo through AWD, but the car should be Saab’s leader in the new breed of environmentally friendly city-centric vehicles… that means biofuel, hybrid and possibly even 100% electric plugin variants aswell.

    Actually, I’d be very happy if Saab were the first manufacturer to make all the fuel cars biofuel compatible, with fuel systems that can handle either fuel and engine management that adjusts accordingly, automatically.

    I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t by a Prius if you held a gun to my head, but being the sort of person who lives in the middle suburbs and drives 5km in and out of town each day (i’d rather cycle but my other half can’t/won’t), I could see myself very happy with two Saabs in the garage; one pure biofuel 2L turbo 4 for longer distance and sports driving, and one smaller engined (660cc turbo’d 3-cylinder) biofuel+plug in electric for tooting around the city. I would buy those cars, if I could and could get the fuel (pull your finger out, Howard). I can’t see why everyone else within 20km of the city centre wouldn’t either.

    The other alternative: take the exact same body shape as the C900 but stiffer, put in a B205i Trionic 8 engine with a biggish turbo about 350-400hp, a strong 6 speed gearbox and AWD, big brakes, interior based on the 1st gen 9-3 and a rear wiper that works, make a few hundred of them then give me a call – I’ll have one in titanium silver thanks. 😉

  13. being a SAAB lover and saab mechanic for many years now, I have loved the c900, loathed the 9000, and cried at the GM direction (especially since I am rather fond of ford, and many saab innovations that led to the 900 came with help from ford)I must ask the question, could they not dust off the old dies, and start making the mono-body of the old 900, and upgrade everything that attaches to it?I have never seen a better automotive superstructure than the c900, and it seems to me that the “retro” cars make a massive hit these days, at least here in the U.S. but maybe I am just a fool for longing for the old days, afterall, if it didn’t have a SAAB badge on it, I would think the 9-3 aero was a very hot car, but the SAAB badge on a GM product fills me with anger, you would think having the saab name on a nice car, would only make me like it more, who knows? but it doesn’t matter, because my black 91 vert runs great, and I know how to fix it;)

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