War of the Noses – Saab 96

Previous nose-battles:

It’s now time for the Saab 96, which is as far back as we’ll go in the Saab model catalogue.

I’m going to do things a little different here, too. Because the Saab 96 was available for 20 years and with three distinctly different noses, I’m going to offer an early, middle and late option for you to vote on.

The first Saab 96 was essentially an evolution of the Saab 93 so the looks are quite similar. This is often referred to as the ‘bullnose 96’.


The ‘middle’ version came in 1965 and featured a slightly longer nose designed to cope with the V4 engine that was planned for the car in the near future. This middle version only lasted a few years but it’s quite desirable and well known thanks to some of the hotter MC850 engines that were put in before the V4 came.

1967 Saab 96

And finally, the late version, which brought the 96 into the corporate design language being led by the bigger, newer Saab 99. The plasticised grille, bigger indicators and rectangular headlamps being the big changes.


OK, there’s also an earlier version of the late nose. As pointed out by Ian Brade in comments, I’ve featured the latest of the late versions. Here’s an earlier iteration out of fairness to this generation.



Here’s your poll and comments are open, of course.

[poll id=”18″]

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  1. That last version you illustrated was only available in the final year of production in 1978, if I remember correctly. I think those big indicator models were all made in Finland and they didn’t make it to all markets.

    I’ve only ever seen one: Would have been in the late 80’s in Walsall, England. Took my first SAAB to Highgate Saabparts Ltd for a job that needed doing. There was one parked on the road outside identical to the one in your photo, it was LHD. The funny thing was I walked straight past an old man tinkering with a type 35 Bugatti to look at this rare SAAB and when hi turned back to see the Bugatti, it had disappeared!

    1. Noted, Ian. I’ve added an earlier version of this late nose to the picture, out of a sense of fairness. I chose the latest one for the initial image as I think it’s probably the best of the later iterations and I don’t want to delve into ‘facelifts’ (I could have done so with the 99, but you bog things down and make what should be a simple poll a little bit tougher).

      But, you have a point.

  2. May I interject one more variation on the bullnose 96? Just before the nose was extended for 1965, the SAAB airplane was cast into the original style grille. I like it best of all, and have owned most of the options!

    1. Sadly, no.

      The point of the exercise is a general one, not seeing exactly which minor variation people prefer. Everyone will have their favourite and with Saab changing so many details (sometimes without notice in the same model year) the permutations are too numerous.

  3. BULLNOSE! It’s the coolest face on a car ever, and it is so simple and clean. If you forget to latch the hood it lifts in the back at about 50 mph– really exciting at night because it makes your headlamps point in the dirt. I wonder how many pressings it took to make that work of art hood….
    Nothing in the world like a bullnose Saab, maybe thats why I have 3 of them.

  4. The bullnose is the classiest look (especially as I’ve never liked the egg crate middle model), but the only Finnish-made 1978-80 models with their big indicators just look so happy like excited puppies that I had to vote for the late model.

  5. Anyone ever noticed the similarity between the front end of a Subaru Tribeca and the nose of the SAAB 96 2 stroke?

  6. Bullnose, easy.

    Eggcrate one I like too, but it’s not nearly as pretty.

    By comparison, the late 70s version of the 96 is an example of excessive plastic surgery on an ageing beauty. It’s nickname should be ‘the trout’.

    Unlike the 99, which has the body shape and bulk to handle the 70s additions, the late 96 (and 95) is only an attractive car to look at if you are unaware of how beautiful the original 60s design was, and you are also absolutely smashed on Finnish vodka.

  7. This one is difficult, as i like all three. But if I must choose one, I’d go for the middle one. The eggcrate as some describes it. Why? I like that it is a little more aggressive than the others. It’s a good face for a world beating rallye car.
    But, as I’ve said, I love the cuddly bullnose as well (I have two). And the late V4. Just not the ones with the black bumpers. Those bumpers take away all style and make the car look like a “bumper-car”. But they are very effective as bumpers. Just not good style. 🙂

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