75 years of Saab 1945-2020

By: Unique Cars magazine

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Saab Automobile was established as part of the worldwide post-war optimism that was 1945, though the origins of the company dated back to 1937

In 1948, the company transformed its Trollhättan factory into an automotive plant and set out to build a car designed around aeronautical principles. Launched in 1949, the Model 92 (Model 91 was a trainer aircraft) with its twin-cylinder two-stroke engine and wind-cheating shape scored some remarkable successes and has become a much-loved classic.

During the 1950s, and as other manufacturers moved away from two-stroke engines, Saab reveled in the curiosity value of its cars and their incredible durability. Despite being pushed relentlessly to maintain speed, the front-wheel drive Saabs driven by Erik Carlsson and others defied logic to win prestigious events including the Monte Carlo, RAC and Acropolis rallies.

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A Ford-supplied V4 engine introduced in 1967 carried Saab into the automotive mainstream. It even broached the sporty car market with a V4-engined Sonnet coupe.

| Read next: 1955 Saab 92B & Sonett III

Well before seat belts and side-intrusion bars became mandatory; owners of Saabs with these features stood a better chance of surviving a serious crash than those driving other brands.

After almost three decades of building cars that directly drew their shape from the 1940s-designed 92, Saab’s styling and image underwent some radical modernisation. The 99 that appeared in 1974 was squat and broad, with slim pillars and huge windows belying an immensely strong structure. It was to become the long-term styling signature for the firm, and the models that followed paid at least a nod to the shape.

The company was bought by GM in 2000 and then sold to Spyker in 2010. Tragically, by 2011-12 it was in bankruptcy.

 

From Unique Cars #445 Oct 2020

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