Saab 99: Evolution

Following on with the unofficial month of 99 lovin, here’s a look at the car as it began as well as how it evolved over the course of its lifetime.

This is a long one, but a pretty good insight into the evolution of the car. The importance of this car shouldn’t be underemphasised. I’m relying on somewhat dated statistics here, but I think I’m right in saying that it’s still the second-highest Saab produced by volume behind only the C900.


Saab 99 – 1969

4 cylinder overhead valve engine with overhead cam, longitudinal mount, watercooled.
Capacity: 1709cc
Bore: 83.5mm
Stroke: 78mm
Compression: 9.0:1
Power: 80hp (64kW)
Torque: 127Nm
Carburettor: Zenith Stromberg
Fuel pump: Mechanical, AC Delco

Front wheel drive.
Single dry plate clutch.
4-speed fully synchro gearbox with freewheel
Floor-mounted shift

Coil springs and hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers to all four wheels
Front – individual wheel suspension
Rear – rigid axle with transverse Panhard rod.

Dual circuit diagonally divided brake system with disc brakes front and rear.
Handbrake acting mechanically on the front wheels thru separate drum brakes.

Rack and pinion steering.
3.33 turns lock to lock
Turning radius 5.1m

Wheels and Tyres:
Pressed steel rims
4.5″ x 15″

Wheelbase – 2473mm
Length – 4354mm
Width – 1676mm
Height – 1450mm

Top speed – 153kph
0-100kmh – 18.0 seconds
Economy: 9.3litres per 100kms

Colors – Red, White, Blue, Green, Black, Light Beige.

Price: 18,385 SEK


Saab 99 – 1970


– clock added
– cigarette lighter added
– ash trays in rear
– improved interior lighting
– seat belts added in rear as standard
– mew steering wheel with double horn button

– three-point engine suspension
– new inner uni joints
– aluminium exhaust
– Automatic transmission added (Borg Warner 35)
– Bosch EFI (95hp)

– 4-door model added in March


Polar White (Red)
Silversand (Black)
Toreador Red (Black)
Savannah Beige (Golden Brown)
Sea Green (Golden brown)
Black (Golden brown)
Medium Blue (Dark Blue)


Saab 99 – 1971


– Headlight washers and wipers (standard)
– New instrument panel
– Anti-glare fitting on rear view mirror
– larger external mirrors
– Two external lower grilles for improved cooling
– larger 1854cc engine (93hp – carb version and 103hp EFI)

– Electrodipped body
– Better brake servos

New Colors:

Tyrolese Green


Saab 99 – 1972


– electrically heated driver’s seat
– energy absorbing bumpers
– larger flashers and parking lamps
– new wheels
– 1.7 litre engine ceased
– freewheel ceased

January 1972 – EMS model unveiled
– copper coral metallic
– light-metal wheels
– steel cord tyres
– halogen lamps
– leather-covered steering wheel
– tachometer
– Swedish-built 2.0 litre engine (Bosch Jetronic – 110hp)
– 0-100 in 11.6 seconds
– 170kph top speed
– Price: 27,500 SEK

New colors for non-EMS range:

Verona Green
Amber Yellow

Ceased colors:

Savannah Beige



Saab 99 – 1973

– 99L model (1.85)
– Door protection beams
– compression moulded fibreglass headliner mould
– pivot-mounted front springs
– instrument modifications
– halogen headlamps for non-EMS models too

X7 model introduced for Nordic market
– lower cost model in basic trim
– no chrome trims
– seats from V4
– rubber mats
– plain wheels

New colors:

Brilliant Yellow
Caroline Blue
Silver Crystal Metallic (EMS)

Ceased colors:

Tyrolese Green
Medium Blue



Saab 99 – 1974

January 1974 – Saab Combi Coupe starts sales.

– Primary development by Bjorn Envall.
– 184cm load space
– electrically heated rear window
– improved aerodynamics

– New higher front seats with integrated head restraints
– New steering wheel
– rel type seat belts
– improved interior heating and ventilation
– improved door locks

– More luxurious interior on EMS
– armrest built in to rear seat
– improved inner door mouldings

New color:

Sunset Orange



Saab 99 – 1975


– Improved brakes
– Improved steering gear
– Improved uni joints
– Improved exhaust
– Bigger fuel tank
– Standard power raised to 100hp
– Double-carb model introduced – 108hp
– X7 name for base model dropped

– EMS model moves to mechanical continuous injection (118hp)
– central grille received extra frame trim

– May 1975 saw the introduction of a goods fan for Denmark

New colors:

Solar Red
Emerald Green
Coral White


Saab 99 – 1976


– Improved clutch
– wider rims
– improved instruments
– electrically heated rear window for sedan
– new boot interior
– improved dip lights

GLE model introduced at Belgium Motor Show
– 118hp engine from EMS
– power steering
– automatic transmission
– EMS wheels with gold tones
– tinted windows
– power adjusted mirrors
– heated passenger seat

5-door CombiCoupe introduced at Geneva Motor Show

New colors:
Opal Green
Mustard Yellow

Ceased colors:
Emerald Green
Sunset Orange


Saab 99 – 1977


– Turbo model unveiled!! Test series vehicles numbered 900-999 based on EMS hatch

– New larger front lamp cluster
– larger tail lamps on sedans
– New bumper decor
– larger outside rear view mirror with black casing
– speaker inserts in doors for EMS (standard on previous year’s GLE)
– New steering wheel for L and GL

New colors:
Astral Blue
Antelope Brown
Dorado Brown
Cardinal Red (EMS and GLE)
Anthracite Grey (EMS and GLE)

Ceased colors:
Mustard Yellow
Caroline Blue
Brilliant Yellow
Verona Green
Amber Yellow


Saab 99 – 1978

Saab 99 Turbo for sale!

– special Inca rims
– 2.0l turbocharged four cylinder
– 4 speed gearbox
– top speed around 200kph
– 0-100kph in 8.9 seconds
– Black or Cardinal Red three door hatch


Other models:

– Automatic preheating of induction air
– new shift lever
– oil cooler for automatics
– daylight driving lights wired to starter in Sweden
– catalytic converter for certain markets
– sunroof availability on certain models

– interior redesign for GLE
– gold tone on wheels changed to black
– EMS available as a 3-door in certain markets

New colors:
Jade Green
Laguna Blue

Ceased colors:
Opal Green
Astral Blue


Saab 99 – 1979

Number of model variants declines due to Saab 900 becoming available.

– Reinforced rear axle
– modified front suspension
– semimetallic brake linings
– Bigger fuel tank made from polyethelyne
– more legroom in the rear

A small number of 2-door turbos was made for certain European markets

New Colors:
Alabaster Yellow
Chamotte Brown
Midnight Blue
Marble White
Acacia Green

Ceased Colors:
Jade Green
Laguna Blue
Antelope Brown


Saab 99 – 1980


– seats upgraded to the same as those used in the 900
– Lower side mouldings to alter appearance
– Bumpers from 900 fitted
– black moulings around wheel wells

New colors:
Carmine Red metallic
Aquamarine Blue metallic


Saab 99 – 1981


– limited numbers of 2-door turbos in UK only
– same front and rear seats as 900
– new steering wheel and powered rear mirrors (previously GLE)
– single-carb version in base model

– 1,600 GLi units were made for the Nordic markets
– 2-door abnd 4-door
– electric mirrors
– tinted windows
– decor rings on wheels
– upholstery in blue, red or green
– white cars given black mouldings on windows and black door handles
– econometer installed in dash

– Saab 99 Petro released in Finland
– designed to run on kerosene.

New colors:
Cirrus White
Cameo Beige
Terracotta Red
Indigo Blue Metallic


Saab 99 – 1982

– All models receive the ‘H’ engine
– New grille
– black window surrounds for two door
– Nordic market received 2 and 4 door 99s with 5-speed gearboxes and low-profile tyres


Saab 99 – 1983

– New bumper moulding on all models
– New 900-style grille
– Black decor on windows of 2-door models
– Asbestos-free brake linings
– Oil filler repositioned so that dipstick could act as filler cap
– separate econometer removed with economy markings placed on tachometer
– Rear fog lamps
– New centre console
– sunroof option on 5-speed cars


Saab 99 – 1984

– final year of manufacture for the Saab 99
– breakerless electronic ignition system
– seats lowered 20mm in the front
– seat heating for passenger seat is made standard

New colors:
Azure Blue
Platinum Blue Metallic

You may also like


  1. Thanks for the 99 time-line. I think I’ll bookmark/print this as a reference.
    Nitpicking: This may have depended on market, but all the USA 75 99s that I know of had continuous mechanical injection at 118hp, including my LE model Wagonback (combi). Here’s a GLE brochure showing that it had it:
    I can’t find any references anymore, but my dealer referred to a new tougher version of the 4-speed as a King Kong transmission. This was either in 73 or 75, but I can’t find anything to back that up.

  2. Understand, Ted. The book I used as a reference had some differentiated market info, but it wasn’t consistent enough to do for every year.

    If I can find something comprehensive on that I’ll try and work it in.

  3. There is just something right about the first 99. Very simple and a lot of fun – everything the 9-1 should be.
    I am surprised to see the longtitudinal engine – FWD set up though. I wonder were many cars of this era set up this way? Audi is the only manufacturer that I know of who use this drive train layout did anybody else?

    BMW are often seen as creating the premium small saloon market with the 2002, but I think this was another SAAB first!

  4. hi
    you wrote a new color at 76 are called “opal green”. well, i have an dec 74 saab 99 GL in “opal green”. the car is great. it has only one owner before me. but at the moment he is still staning around at my house, because of no time for the mom, and he was standing more than 7 years by the last owner. so i have to renew a lot of things. but i really want the whole time to drive this lovely car (except my old sommer car 900 cabrio) and i know that i, ähm we, can go for a drive in the nearest future…
    here some pics of my dec 74 saab 99 GL in “opal green”

    hejhej to all saab-lovers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *