C900 month – 1985 900 Brochure

It’s the month of classic Saab 900 loving. I’m still waiting for you C900 pictures and stories. I’ve gotta say, I was expecting a fair bit of interest in the classic 900, given that it is the Saabiest Saab of them all (according to popular opinion). So far, it’s been a trickle. So if you’ve got, or had, a C900 and you want to share a little of the love, then email me.

One of the things that got me right into Saabs was reading about these amazing cars that I’d just discovered in their own press material. Compared to their contemporaries here in Australia at the time, they were rather amazing. Combine the facts and figures with their astonishingly different looks and it’s no wonder I was hooked, big time.

Thanks to 1985 Gripen and his scanner, here’s the pictures and text for one such brochure – in full. It’s for the Saab 900 range way back in 1985.

I can’t believe how long this has taken. Sorry for the lack of entries tonight, but this has been about a 3-hour project.


Good, enthusiastic drivers need cars that answer both emotional and practical needs.

That’s why the idea of the sports sedan has been so popular in America and why Saab sales have climbed so dramatically here in recent years. The sports sedan, as it’s embodied in the Saab, delivers the power and roadholding performance of a true sports car, along with the comfort and passenger capacity of a family sedan.

Saab 900When you’ve combined those virtues with Saab’s reliability and attention to safety, you have an eminently practical performance machine. Or a brilliantly performing family sedan, depending entirely on your own point of view.

For 1985, Saab has developed exciting new engine technology and applied it to a thoroughly proven design to create the 16-valve Turbo. Throughout the rest of the model line, both performance and practicality have been steadily improved, so that this year’s Saab is one of the finest sports sedans that the world has ever seen.


The typical car customer test drives a car in nice weather, by taking it around a few blocks and maybe up on a short stretch of highway. That shows him how comfortable the car is, how easily it pulls away from a stoplight, how it feels.

Saab 900 But if the car is a Saab, it doesn’t tell him any of the important things about the car. It doesn’t tell him what the Saab is really made for. The perfect course for test driving a Saab should include a few bumps, a stretch of dirt or gravel roadway, some snow or rain, with maybe a few icy patches, and a series of sweeping curves.

When you finish driving a course like that in a Saab, you’ll know something about good handling. For one thing, you’ll understand Saab’s devotion to front-wheel drive. With most of the car’s weight resting on them, the driving wheels are pressed firmly against the surface for a firm grip and sure footing in mud, snow, gravel or ice. The Saab’s utter indifference to bad weather is due largely to that steady grip.

The aerodynamic body shape helps, too, by shedding the side winds that make roadholding a chore in other cars. And it will take only a couple of bumps to show you how well-designed the front suspension is. The front springs are mounted on pivots, so that even on rough surfaces, they deflect and return in a straight line, keeping the wheel firmly in contact with the road surface. So when you hit an unexpected bump, you don’t lose control.

Take a series of sweeping turns at speed in the Saab and you’ll appreciate the predictability of the car. There is always a slight normal understeer. A slight degree of understeer lets the driver feel what’s happening as the car moves gradually into a turn. Oversteer, the tendency of a car to move toward the inside of a turn, makes a car behave abruptly and less predictably.

Saab 900 No matter how you load the Saab, it will retain that slight understeer because of the weight distribution that’s built into the Saab. When there’s only a driver on board and a full tank of gas, 60% of the car’s weight is on the front wheels. Even at full load, though, with much more weight toward the back of the car, more than half of it still rests in the front. If the weight distribution were further to the rear, the car would oversteer and behave less predictably.

Ever since the first Saabs were introduced, the cars have had consistently excellent handling. The quick, controlled responsiveness of today’s Saab reflects more than 30 years concern with active safety.

Sometime during your road test, try some hard braking. You’ll be impressed with the controlled power that pulls your Saab down from highway speeds to a full stop. The Saab 900 is fitted with large l5-inch wheels, which provide plenty of room for larger-than-usual disc brakes on all four wheels. The brake pads on the front are made of an asbestos-free, metallic material. This material lasts longer than most other brake pad materials, resists high temperatures better, and is quieter and less likely to fade during heavy braking.

The rear pads are also made of an asbestos-free material. The hydraulic system that operates the brakes is split diagonally, so that if one braking system is inoperative, the other will work one front brake and the opposite rear brake. The Saab’s hand brake manually operates the front brakes, so that it functions as a real emergency brake.


A wonderful thing happens when you turn on your Saab’s ignition on a cold morning. In fact, a lot of people who buy Saabs look forward to that first cold day so they can experience it firsthand. What happens is that your seat warms up. Electric heating elements warm the front seats of the car long before the rest of the passenger compartment as time to reach a comfortable temperature.

Anytime the temperature of the seat cushions drops below 57F the heaters automatically turn on and heat the seats to 82F before shutting off again. A nice luxury touch, you say? Not at all. Saab didn’t make this seat just to coddle you. It was built to make you a better driver.

Think about how you feel in a cold seat on a winter’s morning. You’re tensed against the cold, maybe even shivering a bit. Your shoulders are tight and your hands are clenched. Even after the car’s interior warms up, you still feel chilled and tense. When you’re that uncomfortable your attention is distracted and your reaction times are down. You’re not in the best shape to deal with a sudden emergency.

The heater in your seat only stays on for a few minutes but trouble can arise in those first few minutes just as easily as it can four hours later. The design of the Saab driver’s seat, from the heating element to the shape and density of the foam rubber, is to keep you relaxed and alert for all of the time you spend in your car.

The padding in the seat is firm, almost hard. It doesn’t feel soft and yielding the way some expensive car seats do. But hours after you start out, you’ll still feel comfortable in the Saab. Extra foam behind the shoulders and lumbar region prevent fatigue. The dished shape of the seat and the back gives the driver strong lateral support, helping him maintain a comfortable and effective driving position for hours.

Saab 900Long before the heating elements in the seat shut down, the Saab’s heating and ventilating system will have warmed the passenger compartment. The same system will keep a steady flow of fresh air moving through the car. This system is remarkable for its range of control. The driver can select any combination of fan speed, temperature and air inlets to keep the cockpit comfortable and fresh. At maximum fan speed, the system can pull 100 liters per second of fresh air through the car’s interior.

Thick glassfiber insulation in the roof helps both to control the interior temperature and to keep down the amount of noise you hear inside the Saab. Long exposure to excessive noise can wear down a driver’s energy reserves. So can eyestrain. So the Saab is fitted with glare-reducing exterior mirrors and a day-night interior mirror, comfortable green lighting for the instrument panel, and large, easy-to-read instruments.


If Saab engineers were in the habit of following the conventional wisdom, they’d have built a high-performance engine the way most carmakers do. They’d have made a big engine.

The nice thing about a big engine is that it’s easy to get quick acceleration and high top speed. The bad thing is that it doesn’t work so well in real driving situations. Even the most enthusiastic driver spends most of his driving time cruising
in traffic, negotiating back country roads and suburban streets, and driving in the middle of his engine’s speed range. Very
little time is really spent anywhere near a car’s top speed or accelerating from a stop.

So the traditional “high-performance” engine is really performing for a tiny portion of its working life. The rest of the time, it’s a fuel guzzling dinosaur. It’s bigger, heavier, thirstier and more expensive than it needs to be.


The engine in the 1985 Saab Turbo is one of the most efficient turbocharged engines available in a passenger car today. It produces more power without increased fuel consumption and needs less maintenance than earlier Saab Turbos. One of the most technologically advanced engines in the world, it uses four valves per cylinder instead of two.

This represents Saab’s third generation of turbocharging, an area of technology where other carmakers have only recently begun to follow us. The new engine produces 80.0 horsepower per liter(HP/l), far more than any other engine in its class. The Volvo Turbo, for example, produces only 74.8 HP/l and the Audi Turbo only 63.6 HP/l. Even the powerful Nissan 300ZXTurbo is relatively inefficient at 66.7 HP/L.

ln 1977, Saab introduced its first turbocharged gasoline engine for use in a passenger car. The new technology uses the engine’s exhaust gases to drive a tiny compressor. The compressor forces larger amounts of air into the cylinders, so the car could burn more fuel and produce additional power on demand. In that way, the Saab driver can have plenty of power available whenever he wants it, without paying a huge penalty in fuel consumption the rest of the time.

Gradually, other manufacturers followed Saab’s lead and began offering turbochargers on some of their englnes. In 1981, Saab introduced the Automatic Performance Control (APC) system, the first really effective method of monitoring turbo boost as a function of gasoline octane.

The new microprocessor-based system allowed more efficient turbo-charged engines to be built, with much higher compression ratios. That’s because the APC system provided a reliable and instantaneous way of protecting the engine from damaging knock. For the same reason. It enabled the Saab driver to use whatever fuel was available to him, low-octane or high-octane.

The third generation.

An automobile engine has three major tasks to perform. It has to take a mixture of fuel and air into the cylinders when the intake valves are open. It has to burn the mixture by firing its sparkplugs. And it has to get rid of the burned gases when the exhaust valves are open.

Saab 900 The 16-valve engine in the 1985 Turbo does each of those things more efficiently than any Saab engine ever has. Using four valves per cylinder instead of two improves the engines efficiency in two ways. It improves the volumetric efficiency, the way the engine breathes.
And it improves the thermal efficiency, the way it burns the fuel-air mixture.

An engine’s volumetric efficiency depends mainly on the valve area. The larger the intake valve, the more easily the engine pulls the fuel-air mixture into the cylinders. The larger the exhaust valve, the more effectively the cylinder is cleared after ignition. An engine’s thermal efficiency depends on how quickly and evenly the fuel-air mixture is burned in the cylinder.

The closer the spark plug is to the center of the combustion chamber, the more thoroughly the mixture is burned. Most engines have one intake valve and one exhaust valve mounted above each cylinder. Because there’s a limited amount of space, the size of the circular
valve openings is very limited. To make valves large enough for reasonable efficiency, most engines have to locate the spark plug somewhere off to the side of the combustion chamber.

Saab engineers gained more total valve area by providing two intake valves and two exhaust valves. Although each individual valve is smaller than those used in a two-valve-per-cylinder engine, the total area is substantially larger. The four valves are spaced around the edge of the cylinder, so the spark plug can be located in the center of the combustion chamber.

C900 The result of this new efficiency is not only more power, but good fuel efficiency as well. And to make the engine more reliable, Saab engineers used self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifters, so the maintenance requirements are reduced, too.

The new engine is equipped with an intercooler, a heat exchanger that cools the air going into the engine. The intercooler increases the air density which produces better acceleration and top speed in the Turbo. At the same time, it protects the engine from knock and allows a higher compression ratio of 9.0:1.

It’s also equipped with a new electronic fuel injection system, the Bosch LH system. The system’s unique mass flow air meter and integrated Lambda system combine to provide optimum fuel metering under all conditions.

For over 30 years, Saab has been reinventing the automobile, defying the conventional wisdom and going in new directions. The 16-valve Turbo engine is just one more piece of evidence that a new direction can produce dramatic results.


Saab designers spend a lot of time thinking about accidents. They think about how to avoid them, which is why Saabs handle so beautifully. And they think about what happens when you can’t avoid them, which is why Saabs are so strong.

The unhappy fact is that accidents happen even to good, cautious drivers in good, agile cars. Of course the safety of any car depends far more on the prudence and good sense of the driver than any other factor. It doesn’t really matter how good your brakes are if you aren’t paying attention to the road. And the best seat belts in the world won’t help you if you don’t fasten them.

With all of that in mind, Saab built the safest and most protective car we could build. The Saab 900 surrounds the passenger compartment with a steel safety cage. Strong steel uprights alongside the windshield and windows support steel reinforcement around the edge of the car’s roof.

The cage is supported by the doorsills, the crossmembers in the Saab’s floor and by the front bulkheads. Steel beams inside the doors help to protect passengers from the force of a collision and help the doors retain their shape, so they can be opened after a crash but won’t open during a crash.

The safety cage helps to keep the force of a collision from intruding into the passenger compartment. Some of the force is absorbed, too, by “crumple” zones, areas of designed weakness in the front and back of the car. These areas control the way metal is bent when the Saab is hit at either end, so that the middle of the car suffers the least possible damage.

But strength alone isn’t enough. To be as safe as possible a car has to be gentle as well as strong. When a car crashes in to something, it stops cold. But the driver and passengers don’t stop. They keep moving at the car’s original speed until they hit something and stop.

The first line of defense, obviously, is the seat belt. The Saab 900 has three point restraints for both front seat passengers and for two rear seat passengers. The middle position in the rear seat has a lap belt. If you’re wearing your seatbelt when you have an accident your chances of escaping injury are enormously improved.

If you aren’t wearing your seatbelt, it isn’t going to do you any good at all. The most dangerous part of the car’s interior, at least from the driver’s point of view, is the steering wheel. Because of that, Saab paid a lot of attention to the steering wheel and steering column. The result is one of the safest designs in the world. The center of the wheel is heavily padded to help protect the driver from serious head, neck or chest injury.

The column itself will gradually collapse in three sections, under a heavy enough impact, and absorb most of the force of the driver’s body. Switches and handles are recessed and there’s heavy padding in the roof, roof pillars and windshield supports. The backs of the front seats and the bottom of the dashboard are well cushioned.

Saab designers have tried to anticipate all of the ways in which you might get hurt. They just hope that you never have to enjoy the full benefit of their work.


A sports sedan should give you high performance coupled with a high degree of creature comforts. The Saab 900 gives you that. It also gives you something that no other sports sedan gives you. Enormous cargo capacity.

The 3-door hatchback models have 56.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded. The BMW 733i, the Volvo GLT
Turbo and the Audi 5000 together have 52.4 cubic feet of combined cargo capacity. Even the Saab 900 sedans have 53.0 cubic feet.

Of course, that’s with the back seat lowered to make a cargo deck. With the back seat up, the sedan has 21.8 cubic feet, or 14.2 cubic feet SAE, which reflects the amount of standard-size luggage that can fit into the space. The 3-door with the rear seat up has 21.3 cubic feet, or 14.9 cubic feet SAE.

That extra space in the Saab is very handy when you want to pack a lot of sporting gear for a long weekend. Or when you want to provision your boat. Or make an impulsive purchase at a tag sale.

It’s a lot harder to do those things in any of those other cars. Of course only the Saab has a rear seat that folds down, so the others may claim that it has an unfair advantage. That’s right. It does have an unfair advantage.

Saab 900

I’ll copy the rest as Jpegs as the typing stuff is killing me…..

Click to enlarge.

Saab 900 Accessories

Saab 900 Specs

Saab 900 Specs

Saab 900 range

Saab 900

Saab 900

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  1. Very cool Swade…makes me want to start combing the used car listings. And I just bought a 2007!

    It’s amazing how much more wordy the marketers were then. In the US at least, it’s rare to have more than a few words printed on each page. I like the old approach much better — some actual explanation of why Saab used certain features.

  2. Swade I tip my hat to you sir. That kind of text copying was used as a punishement in my school. I can assure you it was worth it.

    I hate saying the old days were better but I think this brochure is a better advert for the car than the current efforts. Saabs pride in the car really comes through.

    Great stuff.

  3. I saw some ads for Saab from the Swedish version of Reader’s Digest from way back (like 1965 or something). They were cool and to the point. Think I will scan them later on and send them to you, Swade. There was a fun one with “på taket” as well, advertising a wrist watch.

  4. Jon,

    It wasn’t pure text copying. Gripen scanned it as a PDF so it was a copy and paste, but the character recognition doesn’t always work fully, so there was a lot of proof reading and correction (guesstimate about every 7th word on average).

    Regardless, it was well worth it. As people are saying, these old brochures were really well done and give a lot of reasons behind why something is done a certain way.

  5. Thanks for providing that for everyone, Swade. The pictures in this brochure were beautiful. Any chance you can make the images clickable to full-size, or would that take too much bandwidth?
    Great job on the post. Thanks.

    BTW, that SAAB fighter plane is a Viggen.

  6. Sorry, I see some of the pics are clickable. There were some other pictures I really like, such as the very American picture of the car on a desolate desert road with a “Last Chance Gas” sign with bullet holes in it in the foreground.

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