The Saab 96 is an automobile made by Saab. It was introduced in 1960 and was produced until January 1980, a run of 20 years. Like the 93 it replaced, the 96 was a development from the old Saab 92 chassis and, on account of its improvements and modernisation, it opened new markets for the company. It was the car for which the marque Saab became internationally known, not least because of its safety innovations and its motor sport successes. It was the first Saab model officially imported to the UK.
The front suspension used independent wishbones and coil springs, while the rear suspension was a trailing U-beam axle with coil springs. Telescopic dampers were used for all four wheels. Earlier models had drum brakes all around. Later models were fitted with front disc brakes. Alloy wheels became standard on the last models & are now available again from Compomotive.
The bodywork differed little from that of the Saab 93, but the rear had undergone improvements in 1960, providing more trunk space, a larger trunk opening, and a much larger rear window with better visibility. The original 'bull-nose' front section of the 96 was lengthened for 1965 models, in preparation for a new engine, and the radiator was placed ahead of the engine, rather than above and behind, a leftover from the thermosiphon cooling days. Both front and rear windows were again enlarged slightly for 1968 models. In 1969, the Saab 99 appeared, which was a much more modern concept that was designed to replace the 96. However, the latter continued until 1980, by which time the new, longer 900 had appeared in 1979, which eventually replaced the 99 in 1984. Saab's still-larger car, the 9000 appeared in 1985.
As first designed, the 96 had a 750 cc, 38 hp (28 kW) three-cylinder Saab two-stroke engine. By 1963 this was increased to 841 cc, . An optional version of the engine, with triple carburetors and oil injection, was used in the Sport and Monte Carlo models. In 1967 the 96V4 appeared, with the Ford Taunus V4 engine, a four-stroke 1498 cc V4 engine, originally developed for the 1962 Ford Taunus 12M. Saab's project to source a four-stroke engine was dubbed 'Operation Kajsa'. The first V4 engines produced 55 hp (48 kW) and from 1977-1980). The car made 0-100 km/h in 16 seconds. The two-stroke option continued into 1968. In the USA, the two-stroke engine was called the 'Shrike' at that time. Its displacement was reduced slightly, to 819 cc to avoid emission regulations which exempted engines under 50 in³
Throughout its life span, the Saab 96 and its station wagon sibling, the Saab 95, had the gear lever mounted on the steering column. This became an increasing rarity in the auto industry during the 1960s and '70s, but was an appreciated feature among rally drivers who could change gears faster than with a floor-mounted lever.
The gearbox originally had three gears, the first unsynchronised. Later, a four-speed option was offered and the three-speed was phased out. In order to overcome the problems of overrun for the two-stroke engine, a freewheel device was fitted. This was retained in the four-stroke variant, until the end of production.
The Saab 96 was driven most famously by Erik Carlsson, in many international rallies. His most famous successes were first in the 1960, 1961 and 1962 RAC Rallies and first in the 1962 and 1963 Monte Carlo Rallies. It was these successive, top-level victories that put the Saab 96 'on the map' and established its reputation for reliability and toughness. Carlsson also competed in the East African Safari rally. Famous rallying names such as Simo Lampinen, Per Eklund, Pat Moss-Carlsson, Tom Trana, Stig Blomqvist and Carl Orrenius have also been connected with the Saab 96.
The last production date for the Saab 96 was January 11, 1980 (VIN 96806002814), the last VIN (96806002820) was produced on January 3, 1980 These cars were built by Valmet in Uusikaupunki, Finland. The Saab 96 was outlived by the Saab 99 and ultimately replaced by the Saab 900, introduced the previous year. A total of 547,221 were made.
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