Sixten Sason's concept Saab – Catharina

We had a poll recently, on Twitter and Facebook. It posed the Saab Catharina against the Saab 9x concept car. The voters wish was for detailed photos of Catharina. Here she is…..

The story of Catharina is pretty well known, but for those who don’t know…..

In the early 1960s, Saab’s legendary designer, Sixten Sason, penned his ideas for a personal project vehicle – a two seat sports coupe. Swedish company, ASJ, took an interest in the project and manufactured this fibreglass bodied vehicle based on Sason’s design and using the engine, gearbox and floorpan of the Saab 96. It was made in Katrineholm and accordingly, it was christened Catharina.

Saab also wanted a sports coupe after their fledgling plans for the Saab 94 faltered in the 1950s. They considered Sason’s design, along with another design from a company called Malmö Flygindustri (MFI). MFI’s design won the day and the Saab Sonett II was born.

Catharina now resides at the Saab Museum in Trollhattan, which is where I photographed it earlier this week.

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Click any of the photos to enlarge…..

Sason’s design included a removable Targa top, which was pretty uncommon at the time. The top clips out easily and it is stored in the trunk of the car, which has special little carpeted brackets in place just for this purpose.

There is a support for the trunk lid on one side only, which is why it hangs a little lop-sided in this image.

A closer look at the rear pillar…..

There is a small rear window that is held in place with a pin, rearwards of the door. You have to lower this window in order to remove the roof. Photo with the small window lowered…..

And with the small window raised once again…..

This catch is on the underside of the rear pillar and holds the roof in place…..

A few more angles…..

Notice the similarities here between the rear lines of the Catharina and the rear of the original Saab 99 2-door that Sason also designed.

There are some records, though I’ve not seen any drawings, suggesting that Sason’s original plans included headlights mounted on the roof of the car for greater visibility. The concept that was build had more conventional lamps, covered with plastic.

The wheels are painted black, with a metal trim between the wheel nuts for effect.

The hood of the car tilts forward, allowing access to the engine bay….

We’re a little unsure as to which engine is in this car (and our Museum director is on vacation at the moment!). We think it’s the same 841cc 2-stroke that appeared in the GT850 but there is some confusion about the year. The Catharina was made in the early 1960s and first shown in 1965, but we think this engine might be from 1966. We’ll sort that out and update this story accordingly.

To the interior……

I can confirm that the seats are wonderfully comfortable. Much of the interior comes from the Saab 96, of course, and looks fantastic.

Some more views from the outside, focusing on the rear view of the car. You can see just how concave the trunk is from this view, an impression that would carry through in more subtle ways to the rear of the Saab 99 some years later.

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I hope you enjoyed this tour around Catharina. It’s a wonderful little piece of Saab’s history and was a joy to photograph.

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11 Comments

  1. You know, you wondered aloud about the similarity of Saab and Alfa people recently.  It just occurred to me that this car could have been either.  Truly, it is the intersection of Saab and Alfa in the 1960’s.  Check me on that.

  2. Absolutely fantastic pics, Swade !!  I think this car is a chopped up and customized 1965 96 Sport.
    I have always thought that this car was a really cool custom 96, and that a lot of it’s design elements showed up on later cars. If you take a look at the cars Sason designed you will see some great lines.  I wonder what the prototype budget for this car was – short time and very little money?

  3. Always loved the Catharina! Although I read that Sason wanted the car to have a wrap-around windscreen like the 99 later got, but was forced by management to make use of stock parts instead. Reckon it would look even cooler with the wrap-around 🙂

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