Saab 99

The 99 is an automobile produced by Saab from 1968 to 1984.


On April 2, 1965, Gudmund's day in Sweden, after several years of planning, the Saab board started Project Gudmund. This was a project to develop a new and larger car to take the manufacturer beyond the market for the smaller Saab 96. This new car became the Saab 99, designed by Sixten Sason and unveiled in Stockholm on November 22, 1967.

The first prototypes of the 99 were built by cutting a Saab 96 lengthwise and widening it by - this created the so called Paddan (Toad), which was a disguise for the new project.

After that phase, also as a disguise, the first 99 body shell was badged 'daihatsu' as that name could be made up out of letters available for other Saab models.

The 99 was built in the Finnish Valmet factory, 5 years of this production (from 1979) was alongside the Finnish built version of the Talbot Horizon, which shared a similar high quality velour upholstery to the 99.

Although Saab engineers liked the two stroke engine it was decided that a four stroke engine was necessary and the choice was a 1.5 L (later 1.75 and 1.85 L) engine from Triumph, the same Triumph Slant-4 engine used in the Triumph Dolomite, but the Saab version was fitted with a Zenith-Stromberg CD carburetor developed specially for Saab. 48 Saab 99s were equipped with a Stag V8 from Triumph, but the idea to use a V8 was later dropped in favour of a turbocharged engine.

A three-door station wagon (estate) version was planned from the start, but never made it into production. In 1971 (with the thoughts about the combi coupé) the work on a station wagon was restarted. This time as a five door.


The first engine used in the original 99 was a four-cylinder in-line engine that was tilted at 45 degrees, basically half of a V8. The 1.7L Triumph-sourced engine produced at 5500 rpm. The engine was water-cooled, but unlike most cars of the time it had an electric cooling fan. Triumph soon upgraded the engine to 1.85L but Saab experienced reliability problems and decided to bring the design home. From 1972 the 2.0L Saab B engine was used and during the lifetime of the 99 model, several later engine developments took place.

The bonnet (hood) was forward-hinged and the panel extended over the front wheel arches. The windscreen (windshield) was wrap-around and very deep for the era. The A-pillar has a steep angle, providing excellent driver visibility.

Due to the American sealed beam headlight requirement in place at the time the USA models had a special front fascia with two round headlights instead of the single rectangular unit it had in other markets. The "US front" then became a popular item for car customisers in Europe.

Early 99s carried over the freewheel transmission from the Saab 96, but the freewheel was removed with the introduction of the 1.85 L engine, likely on account of the extra power that the apparatus would have to transmit, and to allow the driver the option of engine braking.

The handbrake was on the front wheels.

The car was wide and low and the suspension gave it handling that was very good for the time. The Cw value was 0.37 while other cars of the time had 0.4 to 0.5. The chassis was also designed for secondary safety.

The 99 was Saab's last rally car, first in EMS guise and later as the Turbo version. The Saab 99 turbo was one of the first 'family cars' to be fitted with a turbo after the 1963-64 Oldsmobile Turbo Jetfire; other contemporary turbocharged automobiles were very 'specialised' vehicles and were difficult to drive.

Wheels magazine wrote in a July 1978 road test of the 99 Turbo "Compare the top gear times and you'll see that the Turbo is almost as fast between and in fourth gear as any five-seater in the world." and Modern Motor of August 1978 wrote "It is necessary to drive the car to believe that such a seemingly endless surge of strong acceleration is possible from a 2.0 L engine in a far from lightweight car."

A police version 99 was also built. The hood/bonnet of the 99 (and also the 900) caused problems for the police livery team. Since it wraps around, covering the wheel arches, the paint had to be extended up onto the hood panel and not restricted to just the fenders as on other cars.

An interesting detail on Saab 99 (sedan model) was that it had a heating duct leading to the rear window. With a lever between the front seats the airflow could be controlled to help defogging the rear window. Another Saab-feature that has been used even on later models is that the ignition lock is on the floor. Unlike most cars, where the steering wheel is locked by ignition key, this car locks the gear stick. It has the side effect that you always have to park the car with reverse gear activated (except for automatic versions). It was supposed to be safer, since the anti-theft lock would not affect safety if forced or at malfunction. However, the car thieves discovered that it was very easy to force the lock and for that reason Saab was a very popular brand for car-thieves. The system has been improved on later models (Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5), and nowadays an electronic lock is included.


  • EMS - Introduced in 1972, the EMS (Electronic Manual Special) was a sportier model that was only available in a two door version. It had a stiffer suspension and was sold in a silver colored metallic paint. The engine had 1985 cc displacement giving and a top speed of . The grille badge differed from the more basic models.
  • SSE - Sold in the US to satisfy demand while the EMS was not yet available there. The SSE had a black vinyl roof cover and a BorgWarner automatic transmission.
  • X7 - Introduced in 1973. A very basic model only sold in Sweden. The car had no self-repairing bumpers and it also had the same seats as the V4 Saabs, only with no heat. A simpler climate control system was also added. The clock, cigarette lighter, glove compartment and the rear window defogger were also dropped.
  • L - Luxe. A budget model introduced in 1973 that came with the 1.85 L engine.
  • GL - Grand Luxe.
  • GLE - Grand Luxe Elegant/Extra, introduced in 1976. The top model, equipped with fuel injection, power steering and an automatic transmission.
  • GLs - Grand Luxe Super. It is the same as a GL but with two carburetors instead of one. It had compared to the in the single-carburetor version.
  • Turbo - Introduced in 1978. It was fitted with a turbocharged version of the 2-litre engine. The body was originally a 3-door Combi coupé version but later the company produced a two-door model, which was a limited homologation exercise, to enable the production of a rally car. It was available in red, silver, and black. The Turbo S was a special model with factory-mounted water injection, giving an extra 15–20 hp. In 1978 there was a very limited edition of a little over 100 five-door 99 Turbos. They were only available in cardinal red metallic.
  • Finlandia - A limousine version of the Saab 99 GLE combi-coupé with a longer wheelbase was introduced in 1977 by Valmet in Uusikaupunki (Nystad), Finland and was called the "Finlandia". It was only sold in Finland. The first year had a short extension piece between the front and rear doors. In 1978 the wheelbase was only longer than in the standard model and all doors were stretched by . Two late 99 Finlandias were fitted with a turbocharged engine at the factory. The tradition continued with the Saab 900 Finlandia in 1979.


The 99 was first shown on November 22, 1967. The first production cars came in autumn 1968.

In 1970 the interior was given a facelift and became more luxurious, with a new dashboard. The exhaust system was now made of aluminum. In March, the 99E Automatic was introduced. It had a 1.75 l engine with electronically controlled fuel injection, giving 95 hp (70 kW). A four-door version was also introduced.

In 1971 the 99 was given a larger and stronger engine, a 1.85 l engine giving on the carbureted model and 95 hp (70 kW) for the fuel injected model. The 1.75 l engine was now only available with a carburetor. Saab also introduced headlight wipers. The dashboard was given a redesign along with new instruments.

In 1972 the 1.75 l engine was no longer available. The power of the engine was increased to 88 hp (65 kW) for carbureted models and 97 hp (71 kW) for fuel injected models. The 2.0 l engine became available. The major change this year were new plastic bumpers that could take impacts up to 8 km/h (5 mph) and still retain their shape. The suspension was stiffened and received stronger dampers. An electrically heated driver's seat was also introduced.

In January the 99 EMS (Electronic-Manual-Special) was introduced. It was a sportier model that was only available in a two door version. It had stiffer suspension and also silver-colored metallic paint as option. The engine had 1985 cc displacement and Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection giving and a top speed of .

In the USA, a special 99 SSE was available to satisfy demand while the EMS was not yet available there. The SSE had a black vinyl roof cover and an automatic transmission (by Borg-Warner).

In 1973 a low cost model called the 99L was introduced. It was a two door with a 1.85 l engine giving 88 hp (65 kW). All other models had the 2.0 l engine. The LE model had electronic fuel injection giving 110 hp (81 kW). The LE model was mainly made for export.

In 1974 the 3-door hatchback combi coupé (wagonback in the USA) was introduced. It was 10 cm (3.9 in) longer than the sedan.

In 1975 the brakes were improved and the hand brake now worked directly on the primary brake pads instead of on separate pads acting as drum brakes inside the brake rotor. The 99 was now available in two versions, one with a carburetor with and a fuel injected version using Bosch K-Jetronic injection system giving . In February a model using Zenith-Stromberg 150CDS(E) dual carburetors was introduced. It was only available for the combi coupé.

In 1976 nothing major was changed, but a self adjusting clutch was introduced. The engines were adapted for tougher emissions requirements and several models with an electrically heated rear window were introduced. A luxurious 4-door sedan model was available, the 99 GLE. it came with power steering, an automatic transmission, a fuel-injected engine, luxurious upholstery on the seats and an armrest in the rear seat.

In 1977, the front lights and the sedan's tail lights were enlarged.

In 1978 a turbocharged version of the car, the 99 Turbo, was introduced. It was only available as a combi coupé until the next year. Turbocharged engine produced giving the car top speed of .

In 1979 the 99 Turbo came in a four door version and the Turbo also came in a metallic green two-door coupe.

In 1980 the 99 came in many different models. It was also given the new and safer seats from the Saab 900. Later in the year the transmissions on all models were the same as in the four-speed turbos. This was also the last year for the 99 in the United States.

In 1981 the 99 was available in only two engine options, the 99GL with and the 99 GLi with , both with a four-speed manual transmission. The GLi was a bit more luxurious and had power side mirrors.

In 1982 came the H engine, built by Scania at Södertälje, making it possible for all cars to run on 93 octane gasoline. The two and four door 99GLs came with a five-speed manual transmission and low profile tires. All models except the Turbo and EMS came with a single carburetor, manual transmission and the grille from the EMS and the Turbo.

In 1983 a number of smaller technical and cosmetic changes were made.

In 1984 some minor changes were made. 1984 was the final year for the 99. It was replaced by the Saab 90 and the Saab 900.

A total of 588,643 were made.

See also


External links

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