Saab Design: Evolution of Saab’s Design Language

This is Part 2 in a three-part short series on Saab design.

Click here for Part 1 – Saab Design: An Icon Right From the Start



1946 – 1968 – One single design theme

Saab design standards were set in 1946, with the original 92001: a Saab must be functional, pure, aerodynamically efficient. And it can only look like a Saab. The design theme was so strong that Sixten Sason was able to develop it for more than 20 years, until he created the 1968 Saab 99.

Saab evolutions

Saab 99, early sketch

Sixten Sason – Saab’s historical designer – and his assistant, Björn Envall, developed new design themes for the Saab 99. This early sketch drawn on the letterhead of a famous hotel in Trollhättan already shows the typical hockey-stick C-pillar, connecting the roof with the luggage compartment.



1968 – Saab 99

Whereas the style of the 1950 Saab 92 was influenced by the bulbous airplanes of the time, the lines of the car which became the 99 were inspired by modern supersonic aircrafts. The 99 also featured a typical “Saabism”: The ignition key was located between the front seats.

Saab 99

1969 – Björn Envall becomes Saab chief designer

A former assistant of Sixten Sason, Björn Envall spent two years at Opel Styling – at that time the leader in Europe – before he was appointed Saab chief designer in 1969. Holding this function until 1992, he created Saab’s sole concept car in the XXth century: the 1985 EV-1.

Bjorn Envall

1970 – The surprising Saab Sonett III

Between Sixten Sason’s death in early 1967 and Björn Envall’s return from Opel Styling in 1969, Saab had no chief designer. The talented Italian designer Sergio Coggiola was commissioned to give shape to the twoseater sports coupe Sonett III, built between 1970-1974. Its success contributed to Coggiola’s fame.


1977 – Birth of the Saab 99 Turbo

In 1977, Saab unveiled the 99 Turbo at the Frankfurt Motor Show, setting a milestone in its history. The 99 Turbo established Saab as a manufacturer of exclusive cars with sporty accents. It was the first car to integrate high-performance turbo technology in a family sedan, a new approach that was expressed poignantly in its legendary design features.

Saab 99T

1977 – The Saab 99 Turbo’s legendary design features

The design of the famous Saab 99 Turbo “Inca” wheels was inspired by the turbine of the turbocharger. Despite Saab design’s natural tendency to organically integrate components, the charging pressure counter protruded from the dashboard. This extroverted design made Saab’s unique technology visible.

Saab 99T

1983 – Saab 900 Convertible

The prototype of the Saab 900 Convertible was first shown at the 1983 IAA. To come to terms with air circulation in the car when the roof was down, Envall designed an ingenious rear wrap-around integrated spoiler that provided downforce as well as minimising the wind buffeting. The Saab 900 Convertible was first launched on the American market in early 1986. Its design is a Saab classic.


1984 – Saab 9000

Saab exterior designs are unique. And so are their cockpits, especially due to their aircraft inspired dashboards. The shape of the 1984 Saab 9000 created by Giugiaro is complemented by an interior design which is pure Saab in terms of individuality, atmosphere and ergonomics.


1985 – Saab EV-1

The Saab EV-1 was fully roadworthy. Technology and styling were tightly linked in this sporty four-seater. Its upper part was entirely of glass. The integrated bumpers were of aramid fibre reinforced plastic, an aeronautical material which can absorb impacts and resume its original shape.


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