I got this in via email on Monday morning and I think it presents some pretty good ideas wth regard to future design. I mentioned my own Ovlov C30 sighting on Sunday and expressed a hope that Saab’s designers would do their compact car better in the future.
Picking up on that, Mark S wrote to me and he’s in a pretty good position to make some points. Whilst I’ve been out of a 900 for some time, Mark drove 900s for 18 years before updating recently.
So here’s his thoughts:
Your recent comment that Saab should build the kind of cars which made it famous really made sense to me. I was thinking about this and wanted to make a few comments.
Until I bought my current 9-3 (a 2001 3 door) I had been driving classic 900’s for 18 years. I never tired of driving my 900’s, and if Saab still produced the classic 900 I’d be driving another one today! The 900 was everything I ever wanted in a car. It was a blast to drive (the first time I heard the jet-engine whine from that silky smooth engine, I was in love!), remarkably comfortable, safe, utilitarian, and superb in winter. The climate control was simple to use and had features that my current 9-3 does not have (remember the setting which allowed you to keep the heat on high but directed cool, fresh air through the center vent toward your face? Simple, smart, and practical).
Much has been made of Saabs design future moving in the direction of the Aero X, and that’s an interesting prospect. There are however, a few innovations which were unique to the 99 and classic 900 which should be, in my humble opinion, re-examined and perhaps re-introduced on future Saab models. And in all honesty, while the Aero X is dead sexy (I’d still vote for the SPG in a beauty contest between the two!), it doesn’t showcase many “real world” virtues that any practical New Englander would give a rip about (other than all-wheel-drive I suppose). Having driven classic 900’s for the past 20 years, I may have taken a few of these things for granted until the purchase of my 9-3 last year.
For your consideration:
1.) The protected door sill – This feature made entry/exit of the vehicle very easy, and kept the sill clean! The first time I smeared road salt across the back of my pant legs exiting the 9-3, I realized my last Saab had a design feature that my new one lacked!
2.) Integrated car jack “brackets” – I’m sure Saab had a term for these, but I’m referring to the jack “holders” found in all four jack locations on the 99/900. This was a safety feature I completely took for granted until the first time out with my GM supplied suicide jack. Unless you’re on perfectly level ground, watch out! And even then! On the 900, the jack actually slides into a brace in the proper jack position, eliminating the chance of the jack rolling over once the car has been hoisted up.
3.) “Exposed” wipers – Okay, this might sound crazy, but hear me out. Here in New England, we spend alot of time brushing snow and scraping ice off our cars. As you will recall, the hood of the classic 900 consisted of one unbroken plane running all the way to the base of the windshield. Unlike most other cars, the wipers were not buried in a channel at the base of the hood. With the 9-3, ice and snow tend to pack into this space around the wipers, and it’s a pain to clear out. This was never an issue with the 900.
4.) Flat cargo area – Remember folding the back seat of your classic 900 in order to transport stuff that only station wagons or pickup trucks would normally be able to carry? I can recall how easy it was to load a full size clothes dryer into my 900, by myself. Since the floor was completely flat from the rear bumper all the way to the seats, it was quite easy to load and unload such cargo. My 9-3 also has a large cargo area, but the floor is not flat and a bit more difficult to load and unload.
5.) Lower “waistline” – The trend seems to be toward a higher and higher posterior, which makes visibility a bit more of a challenge. The 900/99 had much better rear visibility.
6.) The curved windshield – Okay, this might be more of an aesthetic point but the curved windshield contributed to the cars character and exciting appearance, and also brought the glass far away from the passenger’s face. This was safer, and created a greater sense of space in the cabin.
I could go on, but these are just a few which come to mind (and believe me, I know I’m preaching to the choir here). I hope Saab’s current design team(s) keep these things in mind, and never forget what made their designs so great in the first place!