OK, this is a big undertaking, but 1965Gripen’s a guy who likes a big undertaking every now and then.
I watched the special features section of the DVD of the film Who Killed the Electric Car and one of the EV advocates was urging people to let the automobile manufacturers know exactly what you want in a vehicle.
Then a subsequent discussion with Jan-Willem Vester of SAAB Communications had me openly wondering what a SAAB in 2014 will look like, because he owns a 1984, 1994, and just bought a 2004 SAAB.
Lastly there was that thread/wish list for the 9-5 Aero Replacement that had me thinking of features.
So instead of limiting myself to technology which could be produced in the next two years for a car I’ll likely never be able to afford (the 9-5) I figured I should make a wish list for a car at least 7 years away, giving time for technologies to get ironed-out. Then I figured if I’m going to fantasize, why do it half-way and limit myself to the 9-3 or 9-5? Why not fantasize all the way and tell exactly what I’d like to see as my ultimate SAAB: a two-seater convertible.
I have a particular love for small ‘verts (the 9-3 ‘vert seems so big to me), as my first car was a 1976 FIAT 124 Sport Spider 1800. That car was a maintenance and reliability nightmare, but it was so much fun to drive. Fun I had forgotten until I got to ride in a Sonett 1 from the SAAB USA Heritage Collection. That made me miss my little convertible more.
So here’s my take on a small SAAB convertible. Enjoy. I had a lot of fun dreaming it up.
My ultimate SAAB of the future would be very loosely-based on the Sonett 1 roadster, but updated in technology, safety, and styling. Unlike the Sonett 1, my SAAB would have a retractable soft top.
It would feature a manually-actuated soft top with a glass rear window with integrated electric defroster elements. The manually-actuated roof would reduce the cost-of-manufacture, reduce overall weight, and increase reliability by omitting any motors from the design. Special work would have to be done to increase aerodynamics of a car with a soft top and to ensure lack of any water leaks when it’s raining. Work would also need to be done to decrease wind noise.
It would have the pop-up rollbars found in the 9³ convertible.
The windshield frame would be reinforced in case of rollover but the A-pillars are perforated to provide better visibility. This sounds impossible, but with carbon fiber or possibly new alloys or other materials perhaps structural rigidity can be increased even with perforations.
The windshield itself would be curved like the C900 and have small electric elements (like in the rear window defroster) under where the windshield wipers would rest so if the car is started in the morning after a freezing night the heaters will defrost the windshield wipers should they be frozen to the windshield. I first saw this idea on a Subaru Outback wagon I rented. The windshield washers would also be heated. The windshield would also have integrated into it a thin wire to act as an antenna for AM radio.
All glass on the car would have electrically-variable chemical tinting. You’ve seen those “Polaroid” sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses that chemically adjust the level of tint from dark outdoors to clear indoors, right? In the movie Blade Runner the rich CEO of the Tyrell Corporation has a huge window in his huge office that he can adjust the tint on.
This now exists. There are windows where you can chemically vary the tint on the window through an electrical charge. I’d like to have car windows where in the middle of the day in summer I can make them really dark and at night make them totally clear.
There is a new type of this technology which not only changes the tint level, but the colors as well! So one day I could have blue windows, another day red, another day green, and vary the shades thereof depending on whim. You can also combine colors to get black (which is probably the least gaudy of the bunch when we’re talking about car windows anyway). There might be color combinations which aid in visibility as well.
The car would be a two-seater and a tonneau top would be available as an accessory, with a cut-out for the driver. The purpose of this (other than that it just looks cool and classic) is to keep bird poop and other debris off of your passenger seat while you’re driving with the top down. If you don’t like this idea, don’t worry, because I haven’t completely sold myself on it either! 🙂
The soft top would retract into a panel in the rear you lift to stow it away, like on current SAAB convertibles, the difference being that instead of motors doing it automatically, on my ultimate SAAB I just lift the panel by hand, drop the top, then close the panel down on top of it.
The front end would feature sleek styling, with a low CdA. Lighting would be all LED, with the headlight elements being the LED units found on the Aero-X concept car. The housing for the headlights would be squarish in shape, with the round lenses inset into the squarish housing, meant to evoke the styling of Sixten Sason’s 99 Turbo but with modern LEDs and lenses. The outer lamps would be the headlights, the inner lamps would be the infrared projectors for the night vision system, and the bezel area would be the LED daytime running lights.
The grille would utilize as much actual metal and as little plastic as possible while keeping in mind weight reduction, crash performance, pedestrian safety, and aerodynamic needs. For example, Acura uses actual metal in their grilles. The grille metal, as with all exposed metal trim on the car would be gunmetal-color (or “black pearl” like the grille below).
The front and rear directional indicators (“blinkers”) would be wrap-around style to ensure the widest possible viewing angle. Like the classic 900 the reverse indicators would light up very brightly to aid in visibility.
There would of course be side marker blinkers on the front fenders which would be clear with amber LEDs. Just above the side markers on each front fender (where the Viggen logo was on Viggen models) will be a dark gray tri-Kronor symbol (the symbol of Sweden, where my car would be manufactured in the Trollhattan plant). These, combined with the Dolphin Gray “launch color” of this model would be reminiscent of a Gripen fighter plane.
Note the tri-Kronor symbol on the door of the car below. Mine would be smaller and on the fenders.
Other colors available would include (but are not limited to) such SAAB classics (and new colors) as Lightning Blue Metallic, Imola Red, Talladega Red, Chili Red, Odoardo Gray, Monte Carlo Yellow, Swedish Army (“Watermelon”) Green, Lime Yellow Metallic, Steel Gray Metallic, Rose Quartz Metallic, Olive Drab, Beryl Green, Forest Green, Polar White, and Dolomite Sand.
Front and rear fog lights would come standard.
The headlight assemblies would have some sort of wiper/washer system (not solely washer). The washer jets would have heater elements as well.
The car’s overall Cd would be as low as possible to increase fuel economy and decrease wind noise.
The frame of the car would be aluminum or other lightweight alloy. The body panels would use plastics as much as possible without risking adversely affecting crash safety. Many of the body panels (not just the doors) would be polymer like the old Saturn cars’ doors were, which resisted damage from dents and dings in parking garages but looked just like painted steel. Frame elements and internal cross-braces would ensure structural rigidity.
The car is front-wheel-drive with ReAxs rear suspension.
The suspension would be tuned for sportiness, but not so much that the ride feels rough and uncomfortable. This is not to be a “track car”.
All four wheels would have huge vented, cross-drilled brake disks and huge multi-piston calipers. Brake-by-wire technology would be used rather than hydraulics. Sometimes safety means stopping very quickly.
ABS, LSD, TCS, ESP, all those safety systems would come standard, of course.
The design of the door handles would lean more on the side of favoring ergonomics, even at risk of decreasing aerodynamics slightly. Opening the door should feel natural, not requiring an unnatural inversion of the hand to actuate or lift at an unnatural angle.
Ergonomicists would be hired to re-think how many mundane things are done. It seems very unnatural to me to invert one’s hand and lift upward with the wrist as many door handles which favor aerodynamics over function require. Even the door handles in the OG9³ have the right idea in that it’s natural to grip them the way they’re set-up, but the lifting motion out and up seems odd to me personally. I think some sort of design where one grips the handle and pulls toward him/her somehow (not up or down) would be most comfortable and natural.
The rear of the car should taper both vertically and horizontally for aerodynamic efficiency, but not be too long (for an example, see below). The overall size of the car should be kept as short as possible, both vertically and horizontally, except in its stance. It should have a very wide track for best handling and a low center of gravity. Wheels should be pushed out toward the corners as best as possible. I’m thinking a car around the same size as a FIAT 124 Spyder or old MG. The length of the current Kappa cars (Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky) are okay, but the height is a bit too much for my taste. I don’t want to feel like I’m sitting in a bathtub. Also, those cars’ dashes are much too high, IMHO. Plus, I want my ultimate SAAB FWD, not RWD, so the Kappa platform won’t do.
The wheels would be the 17” x 7” “Five Spoke Turbine” SAAB wheels. Not the multi-vane turbine wheels found on the concept cars, but the ones you could buy for a 9³ or 9⁵ from the SAAB accessories catalog (02 79 729) a few years ago with much bigger (and fewer) spokes (or “blades”). Instead of being exposed aluminum color mine would be painted to match the body color (Dolphin Gray), gunmetal, or perhaps dark gray to match the tri-Kronor symbol on the fenders.
Run-flat low-rolling-resistance all-season radial tires with decent sidewall height would ensure comfort. A tire pressure monitor system would be installed and report to a multi-function display in the instrument panel for both safety and fuel economy considerations. Or perhaps the tires will be airless altogether (like the Michelin Tweel) and dispense with the tire pressure monitors.
The side mirrors would be dark gray/gunmetal (not body color) just as the door handles (a SAAB “quirk” I miss). The side mirror would be low-profile but wide enough to have a wide field of view. They should be aerodynamically designed to reduce wind noise. Embedded in the bottom of the mirror is an integrated blinker/floodlight assembly. When the door is opened at night (determined by a light sensor on the dash which also tells the automatic headlights when to switch on) the floodlight will illuminate the ground outside the car. This light is LED, like all the car’s lighting. The side mirrors automatically fold upon shutdown of the car. As with all SAABs the side mirrors are heated with integrated defrosters and feature an auto-dim feature.
They also would have SAAB’s version of Volvo’s BLISS system to warn if cars are in my “blind spot” in case I forgot to adjust my mirrors properly.
The inside of both doors feature a long, spring-loaded umbrella like in the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
The instrument panel is essentially a wide trapezoid-shaped LCD display. There are no “real” gauges, just digital simulations of analog gauges. There’d be an anti-reflection coating on the display.
The interior of the car features a “glass cockpit”, like most modern aircraft have integrated, in which multifunction displays show all information the driver chooses to monitor. This helps eliminate information overload and reduces the need for numerous switches and buttons.
If the driver feels s/he doesn’t need a particular instrument they can choose to remove that instrument from the display. If attention is needed to the part of the car that removed instrument displays it can pop-up, like when you have the Night Panel turned on in a current-gen SAAB and you run low on gas the gas gauge illuminates.
I wish I’d thought of it, but I read a great idea in comments at TrollhattanSAAB.net that one could download from SAAB’s website their choice of gauge style for the virtual instrument cluster. If they want gauges that look like the 99 or the C900 or the Aero-X or whatever, they install that software into my “ultimate SAAB”. Like downloading “skins” or “wallpaper”. And they can be switched depending on whim.
The icons on all buttons/switches would be designed by a professional icon designer to be simple but easy to figure out what the function is, regardless of the owner’s spoken language. I remember reading about a very early employee of Apple who designed all the great icons for the Macintosh. They were all simple and conveyed their functionality perfectly. Human Interface is something Apple still does better than just about anyone else.
Because GM’s preferred electronics supplier can’t seem to keep up with the latest technology, SAAB would partner with Swedish Ericsson, who designed most of the electronics in the SAAB Gripen fighter to develop the glass cockpit in my SAAB.
The “cockpit” of my SAAB would feature the usual driver-oriented dash, with it slightly wrapping-around and facing the driver. The ignition would of course be in the center console, but is actually built-into the top of the gear shift knob and consists of only a backlit button with a clear spring-loaded cover (like James Bond’s ejection seat button in his Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger but with a clear cover and backlit button). To start the car, the RFID tag (or perhaps Bluetooth) in the key fob in the driver’s pocket would enable the start button to actuate. You lift the cover and press the button. This placement of the ignition switch avoids the damage from spills and dirt and leaves more space in the center console for a couple of heated/chilled Peltier-effect cupholders.
The cupholders have layers of removable silicone inserts in them. The inner one can be removed when one is drinking from a larger-based drink container such as a 20 ounce plastic bottle of soda or a large coffee mug. The outer base can be removed for cleaning spills. The silicone liners are perforated on the sides to allow the heated or chilled air from the Peltier element to transfer to the drink container via use of small, quiet fans.
The steering wheel would be very much like the three-spoke MOMO leather wheel found in the Carlsson models of SAABs, but a tad bit bulkier (due to the airbag) and would feature the yoke-style metal inlays like on newer SAABs. There would be only cruise control buttons on the steering wheel. Any stereo controls have been eliminated in favor of voice activation to reduce button overload on the steering wheel.
There is, of course, a head-up display (HUD). The way the image is displayed on the windshield is selectable by the driver. Either it can be projected at the bottom of the windshield, along the side of the windshield, or right in front of the driver’s field of view so that s/he can look through the image while driving (like in a fighter plane). All illumination and instrumentation in the interior is either green in color, or full color (such as on the navigation system). The parameters displayed on the HUD are of course the speed and fuel level, but other parameters can be displayed at the driver’s option (tach, coolant temp, etc.). If something to be attended to immediately pops-up (as in the SID) it will display on the HUD.
The instrumentation/HUD are programmable so that one can set a speed and get visual warning feedback if that speed is exceeded. For example, if you program the system for 65 mph the speedometer and speed display on the HUD will be green up until you get to 65. At 66 mph the speedometer and speed reading on the HUD turn amber. At 75 mph they turn red.
The dual-mode night vision system works with either infrared projectors in the grille or by detecting heat (thermal) and projects the image to a separate HUD.
The dash inlays are optionally wood (different types and shades), carbon fiber, aluminum. I choose bamboo in my car, with a leather dash kit like the one Hirsch offers for the 9³.
The interior would have ambient lighting like that found on the 9ˣ, 9³ˣ, and Aero-X, but rather than just that indigo blue color, the color is selectable by the owner and can be switched at any time to suit taste at the time.
The seats would start with the leather sport seat exclusively found in the 60th Anniversary Edition SAABs:
But would add perforated leather and integrate heater element coils (like on SAAB’s traditional heated seats) and add to that seat fans like in the ventilated seats option in the 9⁵. On top of that there would be a Peltier-effect system with ducting to provide heated or chilled air.
Both the driver and passenger seat would be fully-electric and have memory settings. What setting to use would be chosen automatically by determining whose key is in the driver’s seat area. In the case that both the driver and the passenger have a key to the car (as a husband/wife tandem would) the system would detect the signal strength stronger on the driver’s side to determine which memory settings to use. The seats would also be fully-adjustable with lumbar support.
The tops of the seats have audio speakers integrated (as part of the surround sound system).
The seats also include four-point restraints for additional safety.
The seats would be available in a variety of colors to match the interior. Personally I would choose a light color as I live in an area where it gets pretty hot in summertime and lighter color reflects light and heat rather than absorbing it.
The climate control system in the car would consist of three large knobs, operable even with mittens on. The system would alternately be able to be controlled by voice command. Being a convertible car, an automatic climate control system would not make sense. However, both air conditioning and heating would be available through the climate control system. No dual-zone here.
The soft top would have flexible solar panels installed in a section of it. These solar panels would power the air recirculation system so when the car is parked on a hot day the interior doesn’t heat-up like an oven. SAAB innovated this idea (though flexible solar cells didn’t exist then like they do now) in the 1985 SAAB EV-1 concept car. Today it’s an option in AUDI A6 and A8 automobiles. Hopefully this system doesn’t encourage mothers to leave their children unattended or old women to leave their little dogs in the car. 😛
There are many cars on the road with automatic transmissions which have an electronic manual override. My ultimate SAAB would have a not-yet-designed transmission which is the opposite. The default is manual mode, which allows one to shift in the typical 6-speed H-type shift pattern with a clutch pedal and everything, but if one’s stuck in stop-and-go traffic or just doesn’t feel like shifting a manual transmission the stick can be moved into a branch of the shift pattern for automatic mode. Basically it’s not a “real” manual transmission/clutch system. It’s an automatic transmission with manual transmission simulation for drivers who still like the feel of a gearshift and pedal and to “feel like they’re driving the car”. There’s not many things better than winding up the tach to redline and then punching the stick into the next higher gear. Or downshifting a gear for extra power. This transmission simulates that in manual mode. There’s also tactile (force feedback) feedback from both the pedal (to feel hydraulic) and the gearshift.
Funny thing is my ultimate SAAB would have to simulate a lot from the “old days” when it was still fun to drive. The brake pedals would have to have a tactile feedback as if the car has hydraulic brakes as well.
There isn’t really even a “redline” at all in reality: This car wouldn’t even have an internal combustion engine! It’d be pure electric. Battery technology would be so good that it’d no longer be necessary to have an internal combustion engine, though SAAB would offer a version based on GM’s E-Flex platform which does have a turbo-biodiesel IC engine mated to the battery bank for those people who want to drive a longer range than the EV version can go and don’t have time to wait for the batteries to recharge. Gone would be SAAB’s excellent SVC/SCC-equipped cars by the time my ultimate SAAB is created in favor of a much less-polluting powertrain. While I’d opt for the FWD version, there would be a AWD “Draken” version available (only with the E-Flex system as the additional weight drains the batteries in the pure-EV version too quickly). The Draken would have a faster 0-60 mph time due to being able to transfer power to the ground better than the FWD version, though the FWD version is no slouch either, covering the 0 to 60 range faster than any of the IC-powered SAABs which came before it. More importantly all the new SAABs would cover 40 to 70 mph (the speed most people drive the majority of the time in the “real world”) faster than any other car on the market, including exotics.
Thank goodness for EV owners (and everyone else sharing this planet) the power grid got a whole lot cleaner with the phaseout of most coal and natural gas-powered power plants by the time my “ultimate SAAB” came out. What? I’m being optimistic!
The audio system control is totally integrated into the navigation system screen. While you can use the two solid, chunky rotary knobs (machined aluminum with rubberized grip around the outside edge and “notchy” feel and tactile feedback while rotating) to control the volume and tuning and such, all functionality can be accomplished through voice commands as well. All info in the radio display (touchscreen nav system, really) is also displayed on the HUD so the driver need not take his/her eyes off the road to adjust the audio.
The audio system would be a surround sound system with RDS, high-definition AM/FM radio, satellite radio, USB ports, SACD and DVD-audio-capable, and capable of playing common audio formats such as .WAV, .AIFF, and .AU, lossy audio formats like .MP3, Vorbis, WMA, and AAC, and lossless formats like Apple Lossless, Lossless WMA, and others.
I really want a great audio system in my car. I’ve never really had that. The SAAB audio in all my SAABs (1981 900T, 1985 900T, and 2001 9-3 Linear) has always been sub-par. I don’t have a great audio system at home either and I miss going to a club and hearing the music I love on a really great sound system. In the early 90’s I’d go to clubs like Helter Skelter and Kontrol Faktory in Hollywood and hear great music from bands I liked like Bauhaus, Front 242, Einstürzende Neubauten, or my absolute favorite to this day Nine Inch Nails thumping from a great sound system. You could hear all the little hidden high notes like cymbals and vocal whispering, along with the gut vibrating low bass notes. There is so much of the music you don’t hear in a typical sound system and especially not FM radio!
An integrated wireless data modem working on the cellular telephone network (maybe even OnStar) would allow me to listen to any internet radio station anywhere in the world which broadcasts an internet stream. Here is one of my favorites I can’t get over the air in L.A. because it’s out of signal range of the station. I could listen through internet radio through the head unit in my “ultimate SAAB” though wherever I am.
The AM radio antenna would be sandwiched in the windshield glass as I mentioned earlier, but the motorized FM antenna would be quite unique in that its length would vary depending upon the wavelength of the radio station tuned-to. The optimum length of an antenna is ½ or ¼ of the wavelength. For example, if the stereo were tuned to 100 Mhz, the wavelength is 3 meters, so the antenna should be 75 centimeters long (if figuring ¼ wave), which is much too long for a car. So my system would use ⅛ wavelength. As one tunes the FM radio stations the antenna will extend or retract accordingly to match ⅛ wavelength. This should optimize FM radio reception. There would also be an internal FM signal “booster” (amplifier) in the system.
The system would only lack CB (Citizens’ Band) and police/aviation band radio (like Bond had in The Living Daylights)!
The navigation system would have an option of either traditional map view or hybrid satellite/map view, such as can be found at Google Maps.
The navigation system would also keep an eye on traffic for you, with map overlays containing traffic info. This system already exists today. Pioneer’s AVIC line of navigation systems can receive traffic info from XM Traffic (satellite radio) and overlay the info on your map, much like Google Maps can do on your home or office computer:
If there is a traffic jam along the route you’re planning to travel, the system will look at alternate routes and reroute you the fastest way (depending on traffic flows and taking stop lights and speed limits into account) to your destination.
Like the system found in current Acura automobiles which show you where gas stations are located, biodiesel fueling stations (if you have the E-Flex version) and electric charging stations appear as icons on the maps where they’re located. Each icon is the logo of the type of station it is. If it’s an Exxon station the icon will be an Exxon logo. Touch the icon to get directions to that station.
Also like current Acura navigation systems, you can find out at any time not only your current GPS coordinate but also what street address you’re in front of with a mere touch of an icon.
I would also have installed a hard-wired cradle for my mobile phone which automatically mutes music or the nav system should I answer the phone or dial a call. Dialing would be accomplished through voice activation either using a pre-programmed address book or by speaking the number to dial. The advantage of having it hard-wired rather than Bluetooth would be that I’d have somewhere to store the phone while I’m charging it.
Also, there would be a wire to an amplified external mobile phone antenna on the car for better reception.
Just for fun there’d be a high density LED matrix display on the rear of the car you can program to scroll whatever text you want from one of the multifunction displays in the car. So you can type “see ya!” or something like that so the guy you just dusted at a stoplight can read that as a parting shot! ;-P