It is with no small amount of shame that I have to admit being a Saab blogger for over two and half years and never writing a review on one of the most useful and readable Saab books that an enthusiast could ever add to their collection.
That book, of course, is Lance Cole’s Saab 99 and 900 – The Complete Story.
I actually thought that I had written about it, and was poised to write a note here about the fact that it’s gone into a reprint this year. When I searched for what would have been my original review, I was stunned to find that I hadn’t actually done one.
And then I figured it out – do you know why I haven’t done one?
It’s because Lance lurks here 🙂
He does. And it’s a little scarier to review a book that you admire by a person you admire, have swapped emails with and regard as a friend, when you know there’s a chance they’ll be looking. So I put it off. And somewhere along the line my subconscious mind managed to convince the rest of me that it had been done.
So, to make up for lost time and my own tragic oversight….
First published back in 2001, this book should be regarded as the quintessential reference for 99 and 900 owners, and all other Saab enthusiasts interested in that period of the company’s history.
Packed with facts, anecdotes and rare photography, this book traces the origins of Saab’s major models of the late 60s, 70s and 80s.
It’s appropriate that these two landmark models in Saab’s history have been covered together. The Saab 900 is regarded by a majority of Saab enthusiasts as the Saabiest Saab, but without the 99, there wouldn’t have been a 900.
The documentation covering the history of the Saab 99 is comprehensive, and was particularly pleasing for me as a former owner of several 99s. Chapters on the 99 cover the car right back to its conceptual days back in the early 1960s and include several of Sixten Sason’s initial sketches. It’s interesting to look through these and see that the rear of the car was largely settled well before the front end design.
The book also gives a good insight into the personalities involved. The great thing about a car company like Saab is that it’s small enough to feel like you get to know these personalities. Many of them are still alive today and should you get to Sweden for a Saab Festival in the future, there’s a chance you could meet some of them. I was fortunate enough to do just that earlier this year and my chance meeting with Bjorn Envall is something I’ll never forget. That brief meeting was enhanced by knowing a little more about what he did through the stories recorded in books like this.
There’s only one chapter specifically on the Saab 900 as a model, but it’s far and away the longest chapter of the book. Those of you who have read Lance’s comments here know that he’s a big advocate of vehicle safety and naturally, the book provides great coverage of Saab’s safety development for both the 99 and it’s evolution in the 900.
There’s also a record of all the styling changes made to the 900 throughout the years and attention is paid to a number of special editions produced by Saab throughout the 900’s life. The buyer’s guide is a very handy resource as well, with tips on engine condition, the turbo, gearbox, suspension, tyres, brakes, electrics, steering, bodywork, accident damage and interior – all with the assistance of the technical director of the Saab Owners Club UK.
The book is 160 pages from front to back and is divided into 10 chapters. In terms of content, it’s slightly more weighted toward the 99 but has plenty of 900 detail in there as well.
The chapters are as follows:
1 – Saab before the 99
2 – Project Gudmund
3 – Saab 99 – Styling Standpoint
4 – Strength and Safety
5 – The 99 Unveiled
6 – Turbo Years
7 – Reincarnation – The 900
8 – Competition Cars
9 – Buying a classic Saab
10 – Finale
There’s also several appendices covering production figures, plant output, drawing, details and a summarised buyer’s guide.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s very, very readable and comes with great, rare pictures from the vehicles’ development and building phases.
If you count the 99-900-9000 as Saab’s “middle period” then this is a fantastic record covering two-thirds of that chapter in Saab’s history.
As mentioned earlier, Saab 99 and 900 – The Complete Story, is now in a second printing and should be readily available.
Elkparts have the book listed in their catalog and I imagine have good stocks, though the book is also available elsewhere as well.