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Gotta stop Saabing now
December 19, 2009 5:25 AM   Subscribe

General Motors has decided that Saab has reached the end of the road.

Born from jets, some Saabs were great others not so much. Get some Saab history here.
posted by punkfloyd (98 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:33 AM on December 19, 2009


Sorry my Saab history link kinda sucks. Here's a better one. And here is my favorite quirky Saab model which featured a V4 endine.
posted by punkfloyd at 5:39 AM on December 19, 2009


Sad. I drive a 900. They're surprisingly heavy, solid cars, considering their size. They also have great road-feel - you're not insulated from the sensations of driving. Acceleration feels like acceleration, braking feels like braking, and a sharp turn feels like a sharp turn. I don't like the clunky way it the manual gearbox shifts into second, and I sometimes wish it had a bit more oomph when accelerating onto a freeway. All the same, I'll be selling it next year when I move, and will feel a bit sad that it'll probably be the last Saab I'll own.
posted by Ritchie at 5:39 AM on December 19, 2009


My Saab got stolen out of my garage last week, but enough about my saab story.
posted by anazgnos at 5:40 AM on December 19, 2009 [22 favorites]


.

Had a '70 Sonett III that was a miracle in snow, with a perfectly-working freewheel, no less, and a '72 96 sedan that just made you feel like driving forever in a kind of perfect trundly roll-y way.

Like everything GM touches, the alchemy was perfect, too--from gold to lead and then to overpriced Opels. Wish we'd never handed a dime of bailout to those imbeciles.
posted by sonascope at 5:50 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Kurt Vonnegut used to won a SAAB dealership. I read a funny excerpt about it once. I don't think I was able to find the one I remember, but I did find this one

The one I remember, he described the car as something designed by aircraft engineers who designed a car after reading about one in a book, or something like that.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 AM on December 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


More like GM has decided they couldn't possibly do any more damage to Saab.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:52 AM on December 19, 2009


It's the car equivalent of removing the feeding tube for someone who's really been dead for a while. Saabs without the oddness were nothing.

My uncle is a big Saab chap. He has one of those 92s mentioned in the second link. I'd come from Australia and hadn't seen him for 20 years - but I still didn't get a ride because (he intimated) I hadn't brought a costume. He and my aunt had a whole wardrobe full of clothes for those occasions when the apparently rather difficult task of taking it for a spin arose.

It was always an adventure getting in his Saabs. For a long time - until they produced a turbo that really gave it some squirt - he favoured the EMS versions of the various models. He told me why, but I didn't understand a word of it. It was all about the quirkiness: the ignition's in the middle? You put the seatbelts on how? They always felt datedly futuristic. Which was cool, of course.

He wasn't in the market for a new one though: "They aren't really Saabs at all". He didn't mean the "really".
posted by hawthorne at 6:08 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


(For second link, read third)
posted by hawthorne at 6:10 AM on December 19, 2009


'Nothing On Earth Comes Close' Classic Tony Scott ad (off the back of which he got the Top Gun gig)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:12 AM on December 19, 2009


It's strange how all these agreements to sell unwanted divisions keep falling through - first Saturn, then Opel/Vauxhall, now Saab. I wonder just what it is the prospective buyers are finding out that's causing them to back off.
posted by evilcolonel at 6:13 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


they can't get the financing, you won't be allowed to restructure the manufacturing and Saturn and Saab don't generate enough volume to function as stand alone businesses. Opel didn't fall through - GM (rightfully I think) decided not to sell it.

Yeah GM destroyed the quirkiness in Saab, but they would have been doomed much sooner had they not tried to turn them into badge engineered opels.
posted by JPD at 6:18 AM on December 19, 2009


It's strange how all these agreements to sell unwanted divisions keep falling through - first Saturn, then Opel/Vauxhall, now Saab. I wonder just what it is the prospective buyers are finding out that's causing them to back off.

there's too much car manufacturing capacity worldwide relative to current and projected demand.
posted by Catfry at 6:25 AM on December 19, 2009


Only ever a nightmare for most people. Like Citroens or Alfas, Saabs were cars for people who viewed car ownership as a form of masochism. And ugly? Oooh boy were Saabs ugly, always.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:34 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Volvo is next..... Ford has to keep up.

My wife swears she's going to be buried in her 1990 volvo shoebox
posted by HuronBob at 6:36 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Boxy, but good."
posted by goatdog at 6:37 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


A few years back someone described the later day Saabs as being Buicks with the ignition key in the console. GM had one game plan and played it for forty years, make one model and rebadge the thing eight different ways. Saab needs a mid-sized SUV? They slapped a different grill on the Chevy Equinox, put the key in the console and stuck a Saab badge on it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:40 AM on December 19, 2009


Were Saab 900s the ones with the ignition on the floor, between the seats? Everyone I knew who owned one eventually spilled coffee into the ignition. Say what you will about GM, but if you're going to sell cars in the U.S., you ought to know a thing or two about fast food, and design accordingly.
posted by nance at 6:50 AM on December 19, 2009


They suck for camping.
posted by Balisong at 7:13 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]




SAAD.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:38 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


.

My post-GM Saab 900S has 178,000 miles and counting. It's been a repair-headache since about 120,000 miles, but nothing beats the good mileage and great cargo space from a hatchback that feels like a nice car.

It's really true that Subaru is taking over the Saab niche. It's even more tragic that GM willingly gave up that niche -- the luxury hatchback -- to Subaru. Without that niche, why buy a Saab? Then you're just a low-end Audi with the ignition in the console.
posted by deanc at 8:02 AM on December 19, 2009


Fuck GM.
posted by mr.marx at 8:10 AM on December 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


They're awesome suck for camping.
posted by davejay at 8:11 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bad news for Trollhättan.
posted by pracowity at 8:17 AM on December 19, 2009


A high school acquaintance of mine was given a brand new Saab for his 16th birthday. He promptly wrapped it around a tree a week later in a street race (I know, right?). His parents dutifully supplied him with another one. It lasted until his senior year, when he totaled it in a traffic accident.

The third Saab - a 900, I think - survived most of college (I caught a couple rides home in it). We were never really close, maybe because the concept of someone having three cars in the same span of time I'd been driving a '75 Buick became increasingly irritating to me, and I lost touch with him around sophomore year. The last I heard, the third car suffered the same fate as the first two (just before graduation, which presumably meant he was entitled to another present from Dad).

I bored everyone with this because the first thing I thought of when reading the post was, "I guess Jim finally switched brands."
posted by total warfare frown at 8:19 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


They slapped a different grill on the Chevy Equinox, put the key in the console and stuck a Saab badge on it.

Actually it was based on the truck platform of the Trailblazer. The Equinox is a unibody crossover.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:19 AM on December 19, 2009


An '84 Saab 900 was my first (new) car. I loved that thing, though I regretted not having enough money for a peppier version, so I parted ways with it in '88.

Yes, the ignition was where the handbrake usually is, between the front seats. Spill something in it? No. There was really no place anywhere near there to stow a cup, so it was never an issue.
posted by e40 at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2009


My father spent so much money repairing his Saab in the eighties that finally after, seven years, in a fit of anguished outrage, signed it over to the receptionist at the mechanic shop. Thereby providing fodder for the classic: "The Time Your Father Gave His Car Away"

My favorite saab was a sporty little convertible model of early 90's vintage owned by a friend of mine's brother that wouldn't go in reverse for a whole summer, leading to some truly inventive parking maneuvers.


Saabs. They broke alot and they were really expensive to fix. They were sort of like your stoner little brother whose various accidents, scrapes with the law and expulsions for high schools really took a hit out of the family finances, but damn if he didn't have a winning smile and great sense of humor.

Oh, funny little cars, you will be missed (sort of).
posted by thivaia at 8:37 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Saabs. They broke alot and they were really expensive to fix. They were sort of like your stoner little brother whose various accidents, scrapes with the law and expulsions for high schools really took a hit out of the family finances, but damn if he didn't have a winning smile and great sense of humor.
I compare my Saab to a bad relationship: it gives you nothing but trouble, but you're convinced that this time once you invest one more lump of your time and money into it that, afterwards, everything will be wonderful. And the it betrays you again.
posted by deanc at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I loved my 92 Saab 900 convertible. It was the most fun car I ever owned. It was 10 years old when I bought it, and I drove it for over 3 years. I very well may buy another one some day.

Yes, it was quirky. And I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to figure out how to replace the alternator. But Saabs feel like no other car.
posted by The Deej at 8:44 AM on December 19, 2009


The first thing I thought when I read about the Saab closure was "wow, GM sucked the life out of Saab exactly the way they sucked it out of Saturn".

It's not economically realistic to have lots of different brands and types of cars (in the US anyway) because of the problems of manufacturing and distribution. On the other hand it's no surprise that if you buy or create a company that's known for a certain thing about its cars and then change the cars so they're no longer like that, the brand isn't going to be worth much when you try to sell it off.
posted by immlass at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's like what Apple did with Shake.
posted by juiceCake at 8:55 AM on December 19, 2009


In 1993 when I was twenty years old my boss thought it would be a good idea to let me house sit for her when she went on a two week trip to Italy. Inexplicably she also said I was free to use her car, a brand new Saab of some make or model, easily the nicest and fastest and best handling car I ever drove. This was also about the time I discovered mushrooms as a recreational drug. I musta put 300 miles on her car driving all around Seattle one evening tripping on mushrooms. And that's my entire Saab story.
posted by vito90 at 8:57 AM on December 19, 2009


I loved the old Saabs, but never bought one because of their reputation for needing a lot of (expensive) work. Around here, Subaru has definitely taken over for the people who ten or twenty years ago would have bought a Saab or a Volvo. Subarus have even more of the practicality, but not quite as much of the quirkiness of the older Saabs and Volvos; I don't think that people will be as passionate about them in twenty years time.
posted by Forktine at 9:06 AM on December 19, 2009


Fleebnork: "Actually it was based on the truck platform of the Trailblazer. The Equinox is a unibody crossover."

The 9-4x is the same platform as the Equinox.
posted by octothorpe at 9:17 AM on December 19, 2009


It's really true that Subaru is taking over the Saab niche. It's even more tragic that GM willingly gave up that niche -- the luxury hatchback -- to Subaru.

Which, imho, Subaru is fucking up too. They took the perfectly good for snow country Outback and grew it into just another awful crossover SUV. And don't even get me started on the hideous Forester.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:19 AM on December 19, 2009


My friends Saab was a 850cc Two-Stroke (doh!?) with a full bash-plate underneath. I spent the last half of my sisters wedding racing around the woods near the reception, drunk as a skunk. Good times.
posted by sfts2 at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2009


I drive a 2004 Saab wagon, bought new in late 2003, before GM totally jacked up the entire brand. Not a lot of miles on it, since I do mostly in-town driving, but when I do get it out on the highway ... man, it's easy to hit 85 in that thing without even thinking about it. Makes me feel a little less like a soccer mom.

It's paid off, and I've got another year of extended warranty on it, so I'll keep it until at least the end of 2010. My biggest problem with it has been getting warranty service done, since the dealership where we bought it closed their Saab division a couple years ago, severing their relationship with GM so they don't do warranty work anymore. Now I have to go to dealership much further away, which is a massive pain in the ass. That's really my only complaint about it. We'll see what it ends up costing to maintain after the warranty is up.

When the time comes to replace it, I'll probably look at Audi, which is what my husband drives now and loves, though before this, he spent several years driving a couple of different Saabs. It'll just depend on what kid/dog/stuff hauling capacity I need at the time, I guess.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:35 AM on December 19, 2009


Saabs. They broke alot and they were really expensive to fix.

As the present-tense owner of a 1986 Saab 9000 turbo, I sigh wistfully when I see people putting these statements in the past tense. Why just last month I had to drop $1,800 from a family member in order to get the hydraulic clutch master cylinder and pop-out bearing replaced.

It's a beautiful car, though. My dad takes full credit for keeping it in museum-quality condition for the first 21 years of its life. I've done the best I could to keep it that way since he gave it to me, but... yeah.

Every time I look at it, all I can think about is all the many ways in which I have failed it.
posted by ErikaB at 9:41 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


What It Drives Like: A small, roadgoing Cessna, or perhaps a BMW 3-series extruded through a jar of lingonberries.
What?! This is a car blog right? Could one compound sentence possibly do any less to describe the driving experience of a supposedly great car?

Let us not think too deeply on what a "small, roadgoing Cessna" would be, or how it would drive (presumably it would be deafeningly loud, have only three wheels, and require its operator to undergo a large amount specialized training before operating it even at a basic level), and instead just look at the fact that the author is saying this high point for an automotive marque drove either like an airplane... or like another similar type of car. And how, exactly, do you extrude something through a jar?

Lingonberries, ha! Swedish, get it? It's Swedish. Like lingonberries.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 10:04 AM on December 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Aw, this makes me sad! Years ago I had a Saab (well, boyfriend did) and it was the first car I'd ever been inside of that had butt warmers in the seats. I was amazed. It felt like we were driving a nautilus shell down the road; one that had been created by white-blonde Europeans whose favorite color was beige. I somehow pictured the men who designed it smoking Meerschaum pipes and winking inappropriately at their au pairs in the evening.

He was hit going head-on by a drunk driver about a year into owning the 99 turbo. Luckily there wasn't much physical damage to the boyfriend, but the car was, alas, a total loss.

I guess I'll never have another one... RIP, weird European butt-warming seashell. You were awesome yet inappropriate for Texas driving, which made me love you that much more.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:17 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Good. Maybe that'll teach those little S-Ã…-Bs.

(I am kidding of course. This is sad news. Now I only have Ikea, H&M and Volvo maintaining my faux-Swedish lifestyle, and if one of those should go, I shall have no choice but to convert to Lutheranism.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:18 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


My junior year of college, I spent most of my spring break in a 1984 Saab 900S. I had been planning to hang out at my parents' house and play video games, but this friend of mine from high school showed up in this Saab he had recently purchased and talked me into driving down to South Carolina to visit his dad. This was in 1996, and the car was definitely showing its age. My friend had bought it for something like $800. He didn't have any money to get the repairs it desperately needed. The key had somehow stuck in the ignition (yes, in the middle) and snapped off, so my friend had to jam a screwdriver in to start the car. I didn't know how to drive stick and my friend wouldn't teach me because the gears were delicate. We would later learn that the entire radiator was missing. All we knew was that he couldn't drive below a certain speed or the engine would overheat.

On the way back, we decided to stop off in DC and be tourists for a bit. Unfortunately, on the way out of the city we got stuck in a traffic jam on the interstate. Traffic was moving at about 5 mph. The engine started to overheat. There was only one solution. I got out and pushed, jogging to keep the car going as fast as the others, feeling totally ridiculous. I remember a driver going by in the other lane, rolling down his window and asking if there was anything he could do to help. What could I say? "No, not really. Huff, puff."

A couple months later, while driving around with other friends, the engine caught on fire, leaving it a smoldering wreck. Good times.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


I should add that the engine caught on fire because they were driving at a slow speed, so everyone was able to bail safely.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:26 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Top of the league
posted by mr.marx at 10:32 AM on December 19, 2009


I just spent another $700 to repair my 1998 Saab 900 s. It now has 175,000 miles on it. Every time it breaks down, I think to myself "I should sell it." But no one wants it when it's broken, and once I fix it, I think to myself, "you know, I really enjoy driving this car. I'll just drive it until it breaks down next time, and then sell it."

It really is a joy to drive. But it smells a bit moldy, on account of the water that leaked into the trunk compartment and never really dried out in rainy Oregon.
posted by Happydaz at 10:33 AM on December 19, 2009


I had a 900, I think an '82 or '83. It had seen better days, especially the upholstery, but it was cheap and it ran perfectly and I liked its oddball looks and that big ol' hatchback. Some previous owner had managed to bust off the key in the console ignition (I can easily see that happening, why was that such a popular design idea?) but rather than fix it had merely left one of those stubby little screwdrivers to insert in the remaining slot and turn. Worked great, and I think the only reason nobody ever broke in and made off with the car is because the shabby-lookin' thing just didn't seem worth it. I had it for 5 years and the only repair it ever needed was a new clutch at one point.

It felt heavy yet surprisingly nimble, and I agree with Lulu's Pink Converse that road trips were invitations to speeding tickets. I drove from Asheville NC to Foley AL one time to see a friend; I made the 570 mile trip in 7.5 hours which is an average of 75 mph for the whole trip. I actually spent a lot of time in the 80-85 mph range, and the Saab was perfectly happy and relaxed at that speed.

I finally had to let it go when something ridiculously expensive happened to the gearbox (I think it was my fault; I blew an aggressive downshift trying to pass someone...and yes I deeply regret that particular moment of frustration and impatience). I was really sorry to see it go.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:33 AM on December 19, 2009


Nice little write-up on the Saab Sonnet here. Perhaps the quirkiest of all SAABs.
posted by punkfloyd at 10:39 AM on December 19, 2009


A friend of mine on a remote island in the Shetlands had a Saab 66 that he repainted every year in surplus Northern Light Board exterior gloss paint that was left over from painting the lighthouse we worked in. The doors and sidepanels were very thick, and it was pleasingly muffled inside. It was also the only car that lasted more than a year in Shetland's damp, salty atmosphere.
posted by scruss at 10:47 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Greg_Ace, the sadly funny part is that the only speeding ticket I've gotten (so far, knock wood) was for doing 30 in a 20 school zone the first week I was driving my daughter to kindergarten. Apparently my little silver wagon doing 85 doesn't draw much attention on the freeway, but I sure got my ass nailed less than a mile from my house.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:19 AM on December 19, 2009


When I was 16 I used my savings to buy my first car -- a rare four-door hatchback 900 Turbo (with opera windows!). I think it was a '79 or 80. The previous owner had tuned it a little and it was somehow extremely fast for such a heavy car. Unfortunately I didn't get to enjoy it for very long.

I had arranged to drop off the car at a Saab mechanic a couple of towns away for some minor repairs and to have it inspected for registration. My mother was to meet me there and give me a lift home. The mechanic's small shop was located off a twisting rural highway that I was unfamiliar with, and I passed it twice before I finally spotted it, with my mother standing in front waving me down. Having driven past her, I quickly pulled to the side of the road and did a U-turn to turn back.

I was in the middle of the road when I heard a strange sound... a weird screeching that grew in volume... I remember thinking I'd have to ask the mechanic to figure out what the noise was... and then I looked up and saw an enormous "W" slam into my passenger window.

The Winnebago hit me at about 50 miles an hour and plowed me sideways about 200 feet into a tree directly across from the mechanic's garage -- and my mother, who watched it all happen. The Saab twisted around the tree. The Winnebago embedded into the passenger side, ending up about three feet from my face, and the car it was towing embedded itself into the rear of the Winnebago. The glass from the Saab's side windows had shattered and flown straight across into my face, and blood was pouring from me as I tried to figure out what had just happened and how I was going to get out of the car. There was a tree on my left and a Winnebago on my right. The windshield was a crumpled mess but mostly intact. The moonroof had crunched open in the collision so I crawled out of that. I slid off the roof to the ground and reeled around in shock before flopping down into the dust as the elderly driver of the Winnebago shouted at me, his wife pulling him back. My mother came running over, as did the mechanic, who was also a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder.

An ambulance took me to a hospital but my only injuries were superficial; some bits of glass embedded in my cheek, a few small gashes on my forehead. Nothing else. I went home about an hour later. The ambulance crew, after seeing the accident -- three cars smashed together so hard it took the wreckers hours to untangle them -- were astonished that I was still alive, much less only scratched up. The mechanic explained to them, and later to me, that I had been protected by safety reinforcement bars in the doors of the car and the vehicle's very solid, very heavy frame. Had I been driving anything lighter, like a Japanese car, I'd likely have been crunched into a pulp. Needless to say, my next car was also a pre-GM Saab.

A few years later my younger brother had an even worse accident in his Saab 99, running off the road at 60 mph into a maple. He still has a stainless steel bar in his leg, and also his life. I drive a Volvo now but only because I couldn't find an early generation Saab that I liked. And I'll never forgive GM for running Saab into the ground.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:23 AM on December 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


Mr. Anthropomorphism: do you also complain about the physical impossibility of a car being born from jets? It simply means that it has the attributes (as a car) that Cessnas are perceived to have (as aircraft): 'light, responsive, slow' and that it is like a 80's BMW 3-series (light, responsive) forced/deformed/distorted with uniquely Swedish attributes.
posted by theclaw at 11:34 AM on December 19, 2009


I'm an absolute sucker for weird european cars of the 50s and 60s and now I totally want an old (pre-900) SAAB. By the way, the key is between the seats so that it doesn't tear your knee up in a crash.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:37 AM on December 19, 2009


Oh sad, sad.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:38 AM on December 19, 2009


I remember meeting -t on his cross-country trip. He was driving a 60's era 95 similar to this. If I remember correctly he was limited to driving 55 miles an hour to prevent the car from overheating, since the radiator was built for the bone-chilling winters of Sweden and not the blazing heat of central Kansas.

I took one look at the car and thought "This man is from the internet."
posted by hellojed at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2009


my saab story happened while i was in high school. a friend of mine, who had graduated the year earlier left the area for a couple of weeks when the local police started looking for him due to a series of thefts related to keeping his old clunker car running. he disappeared for a month or so, until one night when he showed up at my place pretty late. he was pretty eager to show off his new car, which was a brand new saab 900 turbo ... which he started with a screwdriver. he gave me a detailed description on how to take out the ignition system with a dent puller on the way to the liquor store.

when we returned to campus, we got together with some other friends. we decided to use the stolen car to take a quick trip to new york where we could get some acid. we ended up driving all night through a snowstorm to get to the city.

the plan was to get the stuff and have our friend drive us back to vermont. but the acquisition stage took a bit longer then expected, and our friend ditched the saab in the middle of an intersection when he couldn't get it started because of the ignition damage. ended up making one of the most miserable hitchhikes back to vermont.

for years afterwards, i always wanted a saab 900 turbo.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 11:53 AM on December 19, 2009


When I was a kid I wanted a Saab due to James Bond driving one in a later book. No I don't remember which book and yes I was a shallow boy due to maintaining Saab lust well into my driving years. I was seduced by British sports cars however, but feel free to insert MGB into any post above referring to the difficulties of Saab ownership. (Except the ones referring to highway speeds, MGB ownership meant not having to worry about speeding tickets on a freeway.)
posted by Keith Talent at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2009


History of Bond and Saab.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:34 PM on December 19, 2009


Seinfeld drove one too!
posted by Sys Rq at 12:38 PM on December 19, 2009


I don't feel like such a loser now, for having bought a new Saturn in 2001.
posted by Danf at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2009


I never felt compelled by their cars, but the Saab Draken is on my list as one of the coolest looking jets ever. That thing was designed in the early 1950's but could still hold its own today if you gave it a modern avionics package.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:15 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Way to depress me MetaFilter / GM / America.

I wanted a SAAB 900 since I was a kid and my father test drove them a few times. First time I got to test drive one on my own, it was a first gen post-GM 900. It was one of the most disappointing things I've done in a car. And I used to own an Austin Allegro.

Strange to think that GM brought Vauxhall (and presumably Opel) back to life in the 70s, then killed SAAB buy making them Swedish Vauxhalls.

Whichever idiot thought that the 9-3 and 9-5 needed to look like a heavy-handed teenage goth with gift vouchers for eyeliner, deserves a pitbull to the testicles. The chromed version was even worse. The only SAABs I've lusted after for the last 10 years have been the rag tops - and even then I've been too pessimistic to go near one.

Give me an old 900 Aero convertible and I'll be a happy man. Or maybe a 99 (with or without a Cadbury's flake)...
posted by twine42 at 1:19 PM on December 19, 2009


In the early nineties, I was in college in Tucson. A friend drove this shitbox early-eighties Saab - it was a real heap, held together with duct tape and baling wire. He delivered sandwiches for a local deli in it. He had a vanity license plate on it:

SNAAB
posted by workerant at 1:36 PM on December 19, 2009


Sob.
posted by inconsequentialist at 1:55 PM on December 19, 2009


The 9-4x is the same platform as the Equinox.

Sorry about that, I thought you were referring to the 9-7x.
posted by Fleebnork at 3:17 PM on December 19, 2009


My favorite quirky SAAB model had canards and Volvo engine.

A while back someone at work was selling her 900S. A little part of me really wanted to buy it and paint it in splinter camouflage. The more sensible part of me said that would be a lot of money for a joke that almost no one would get.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:57 PM on December 19, 2009


SAAB's death knell sounded in '91 with GM's 50% stake. By '94 it was sadly apparent that GM was only looking for a place to stuff its abysmal parts locker. I dearly mourn the loss as part of the trufan cult.

  • 1974 99 EMS
  • 1978 99 Turbo
  • 1987 900 Turbo SPG

  • posted by ...possums at 4:03 PM on December 19, 2009


    SAAB's death knell sounded in '91 with GM's 50% stake. By '94 it was sadly apparent that GM was only looking for a place to stuff its abysmal parts locker. I dearly mourn the loss as part of the trufan cult.


    Agreed. I had a '94 900S V6 for a company car....yeah....a HORRID Opel V6. Car drove fine...was too heavy, but handled well, and was somewhat lively if I rowed the gears just right. Problem was, the company I worked for didn't believe in "preventative maintenance" and neglected my repeated pleas for a scheduled timing belt service.

    Yup. They paid for that, and a wrecker, and a rental car when it left me on the side of the road just this side of Memphis with 24 bent valves.
    posted by rhythim at 5:39 PM on December 19, 2009


    Being a lifelong owner of Japanese cars, I don't really understand why someone would seek out a quirky car that is more difficult to repair and maintain. Saabs certainly didn't offer much in the way of improved performance. If I were a Swede living in Sweeden I could see buying a Saab, but otherwise, not really. Any rational reason to have every bought and driven a Saab in the US beyond quirky taste?
    posted by Burhanistan at 5:44 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Any rational reason to have every bought and driven a Saab in the US beyond quirky taste?

    Saab, like Volvo and a couple other companies, was for a time out in front on safety, compared to most of the competition. A lot of what was innovative back then (like side impact protection, or front and rear crumple zones) are now required by law and taken for granted. Back in the 1980s, those things weren't standard, and safety-minded car buyers often ended up shopping Scandinavian.

    On top of that, the cars drove nicely, had great ergonomics, got good fuel economy, and had their own sort of unique style.

    Remember, back in the 1980s Chrysler was selling K-cars, and Ford was selling the first generation Escort. While not total steaming piles of shit, they help explain the appeal of Saabs and Volvos of that era.
    posted by Forktine at 6:10 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Any rational reason to have every bought and driven a Saab in the US beyond quirky taste

    Safety. Standard features that were extras in other, more expensive cars. Seat warmers are a godsend in winters and not often found in entry-level cars in the same price range. Safety. Controls are easy to manipulate without requiring a Windows operating system crashing on you, or taking your eyes off the road. Huge cargo space for a hatchback. Safety.

    Did I mention safety? My previous car was a Honda Civic that was backed into in a parking lot, and the rear axle bent in half. I can only imagine what would have happened in a road collision.

    Basically, pre-2005 Saabs just thoughtfully and well-constructed, with some people having bad luck in the reliability department.

    Fuck GM, though. Everything good that American car company touches turns to shit. Why we bailed them out I'll never know.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:23 PM on December 19, 2009


    My first boyfriend had a bandaid-colored 99 Turbo and it was just an awesome car. Ergonomically, it was incredible, everything was in the right place and easily reachable. Plus it had that crazy turbo gauge sticking up where it was plonked down on the dashboard, and a big curved bus windshield, and removable headrest cushions to make it look more "sporty" or something, and that weird ring you had to pull up on the gearshift to get into reverse. I love Saabs, what a fracking shame.
    posted by biscotti at 6:57 PM on December 19, 2009


    Will never forget my one day driving a Saab, which for some reason the dealership loaned me when my own Integra was being serviced. It was the first time I ever operated a turbo engine. It was like the first time you eat chocolate or ride a roller coaster . . . you just want to to repeat the experience. So long, Saab. I hardly knew you but you left me a lovely memory.
    posted by bearwife at 7:15 PM on December 19, 2009


    Several people here have mentioned SAAB fighter jets. They'll be relieved to hear that SAAB AB is a long-separate entity which is unaffected by this news. Their orders for Gripen fighters, mortar shells, and the like, remain unaffected.
    posted by kickingtheground at 7:38 PM on December 19, 2009


    .

    I do remember a time when this brand had cache, but it seems like it's been irrelevant for the past couple of decades.
    posted by ZenithNadir at 8:02 PM on December 19, 2009


    It was the first time I ever operated a turbo engine. It was like the first time you eat chocolate or ride a roller coaster

    Oh yes, the turbo kick. So incredibly satisfying when it spool up and the acceleration would jump -- in a nicely tuned Saab it would throw you back into the seats. I tried driving non-turbocharged Saabs but the experience was never the same. I was reminded of the feeling of the turbo kick the first time I came up on a tablet of ecstasy -- I'm sure I had the same huge grin spread across my face.
    posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:06 PM on December 19, 2009


    Burhanistan: Any rational reason to have every bought and driven a Saab in the US beyond quirky taste?

    I bought my first Saab (used 900 turbo, five speed, light brown) when I moved to Vermont in 1990. I'd seen Saabs used as police cruisers in Vail, CO, so they seemed like a good choice for a similarly cold and snowy environment. I liked the first car so much that when it died, I replaced it with another Saab. I sold my last one a few years ago to switch to car sharing, but...

    It's the car equivalent of removing the feeding tube for someone who's really been dead for a while.

    This.

    .
    posted by swerve at 9:53 PM on December 19, 2009


    93 900S here. Dearly miss it. The 24 valve (non-turbo) four is a sweet, sweet engine, even if it was put in backwards. 2 doors aren't so convenient for family of four though so away it went. Most comfortable seats ever. Best heating/air system design ever. I have never seen another car that let you have the heater on AND fresh outside air blowing on your face if you wanted it (short of old American iron with wing windows). In my part of Seattle, no exaggeration, there must be a classic Saab density of 1 for every 2 city blocks. Enough to support two Saab-only mechanics within a 10 mile radius.

    Oh yeah. It rattled like hell and the nose stuck out so far it would hit on any slope over 30 degrees or so. Still, it was the Mighty Mighty Saab Car, and served us well for many years.
    posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:14 PM on December 19, 2009


    The sad thing is that Saabs were getting better and better right up to when GM bought the company. I have a 92 900S (one of the last pre-GM models) and it's a delight, absolutely dependable and my favorite of all the cars I've ever had.

    For years, Saab's success was based on repeat buyers. When you're used to driving a Saab, other cars seem kind of boxy and dull. There's something about the classic Saab 900 that is so right ... it feels solid, honest, alive -- and yes, just a little bit like an airplane. You have to drive one to understand.

    GM never understood or cared about what made Saabs special, they just saw it as a luxury brand with a few styling cues they could slap onto whatever platform they had handy. The "Saabs" made by GM were, by and large, neither distinctive nor well-engineered. It's no wonder nobody wanted to buy them. The Saab customer base was largely made up of college professor types, who were not so easily fooled.

    Too bad ... the original, independent Saab company had much better ideas for the future.
    posted by dacoit at 2:29 AM on December 20, 2009


    My just-stolen Saab (mentioned above) was a 1999 9-5. Innumerable problems on that thing, with the most irksome being completely random, intractable eletrical problems. Motorized seat that decided to start spontaneously jerking back and forth at will while driving. Battery that spontaneously drained overnight due to a faulty interior light relay. Alarm that was designed to fail catastrophically when the battery started to die, by going off at random (though most often in the dead of night) and refusing to be shut off by any means available to the operator. I bought it cheap with a whole lot of miles on it, but probably put three times what I paid in repairs just in the 3+ years I had it. Having it jacked out from under me was no fun, but the thing worse now would be getting it back.
    posted by anazgnos at 2:39 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]




    Have to mention the late great George Carlin's take on it. "Some of these assholes have Saaaaaabs. 'We got a Saaaaaaab!' Well why the hell'd ya buy a Sweedish piece of Shit like that for? 'It's a safe caaaaaaar!' You see, some people think that buying a safe car somehow excuses them the responsibility of learning to DRIVE the FUCKING THING! FIRST you learn to drive THEN you buy your safe car!" (The death of both loveable legends makes me teary-eyed.)
    posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 10:58 AM on December 20, 2009


    I'm sure this comment will reveal my (frivolous) age, but saabs will always have a soft spot in my heart. When I was 15, I learned to drive in a saab 9-5. Some of my early driving experiences were terrifying. My parents had it for a few years and I remember it fondly. I think it needed to have its suspension adjusted because it wallowed around terribly. I test drove a saab 9-3 as my potential first car, and while my dad and I were both pleasantly surprised with how it drove, it just didn't feel the way it should have.

    Anyway, I'm sorry that GM drove this thing into the ground.
    posted by afterdark at 12:09 PM on December 20, 2009




    hmm, interesting how disappreciated Saab is, largely because of people's experiences with the post-1993 GM versions; when i was a child, my family had two early-70s 96s (plus a volvo); i'm now on my own 4th car, 3 of which have been non-GM Saabs; it's a 1992 900t which is banged up and has countless electrical problems, but which feels much better to drive than anything else i've been behind the wheel of (including a couple of Audi A4 1.8Ts and a GM Saab 9-5)

    i can only say the safety, the capacity of the hatchback, the non-twitchy but flingable handling, the incredible style (which i guess is an acquired taste, few cars are as pretty as a classic 900 to me, but my brother the Pratt design graduate sees the design as "an upturned nose") and the durability are what do it for me; i don't drive much any more (driving less, not more efficient vehicles, is the key to emitting less carbon), and i'm willing to put in $500 or $750 a year in repairs to keep my 900 running; it's only got 150,000 miles, so i can see driving it for another ten years

    oh, and i seriously think George Carlin missed the mark -- Saab drivers used to be a notably alert and considerate set; but that too degraded with GM's involvement -- the buyers of the GM Saabs as a group seemed less likely to think of others, which may say more about a generation than it does about marketing of a brand
    posted by sporobolus at 1:46 PM on December 20, 2009


    .
    posted by The pets.com Mascot at 3:22 PM on December 20, 2009


    "Being a lifelong owner of Japanese cars, I don't really understand why someone would seek out a quirky car that is more difficult to repair and maintain."

    Because your average Japanese car is about as exciting as oatmeal without raisins. I hate that modern cars are trending to essentially interchangeability and have been for decades (at least since '65 and the demise of the brilliant pushbutton transmission). Every single car drives the same, has the same layout, controls are all in the same place, etc. etc. Which is great if you fit the standard but really sucks if you might prefer something different.
    posted by Mitheral at 4:03 PM on December 20, 2009


    Maybe, but my Mazda hasn't cost a dime beyond oil changes in two years.
    posted by Burhanistan at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2009


    Stop the presses. This just in.
    posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 6:11 PM on December 20, 2009


    My 92 Saab hasn't cost a dime beyond oil changes in the four years since I bought it ... and every time I drive it, I'm grinning like a fool at the joyous and lovely way it soars down the road.

    There's nothing wrong with seeing a car as an appliance, as a means to an end ... but once upon a time, there were cars that were something more. Saabs were like that, until GM sucked the life out of them.
    posted by dacoit at 9:19 PM on December 20, 2009


    Our '87 900S was the best car we ever owned. We put over 230,000 miles on it in 8 years and it never let us down. If a brand new 900S were for sale right now in a show room, I'd buy it. Shame on GM for ruining such a great brand.
    posted by birdwatcher at 4:05 AM on December 21, 2009


    My second 900 Turbo was more reliable than my father's Mazda. I never had a single problem with it in the four years I owned it, and I didn't even maintain it properly. I think I may have changed the oil one time. It also dealt with the snow much better than other lighter FWD cars. Pre-GM Saabs were for drivers who see cars are more than just interchangeable appliances. Part of the appeal was that you knew you that some people would just never understand.
    posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:27 AM on December 21, 2009


    Because your average Japanese car is about as exciting as oatmeal without raisins. I hate that modern cars are trending to essentially interchangeability and have been for decades (at least since '65 and the demise of the brilliant pushbutton transmission). Every single car drives the same, has the same layout, controls are all in the same place, etc. etc. Which is great if you fit the standard but really sucks if you might prefer something different.

    This makes Saab's about as exciting as wearing a spring coat in -20 weather. And oatmeal without raisins is plenty better than oatmeal with. It's all rather subjective in all cases as must be our perceptions since every single car I drive, modern or otherwise, does not drive the same, have the same layout, have th controls in the same place (granted the steering wheel is always in front of the driver and the stick shift is to the right here in North America, and from right to left we have gas, brake, clutch, but many standards are standards for good reason. However, they each have different sorts of suspension, some cars, like Mazdas for example, have much stiffer suspensions than say Hondas, and you can heel and toe in them, etc. and so forth.
    posted by juiceCake at 1:57 PM on December 22, 2009


    Yep, my "appliance" Mazda 3 is probably as fun to drive as any chunky Saab. It's not a good ice car but I live in Texas so I don't need that. I could take your beloved quirky car in a race.
    posted by Burhanistan at 2:00 PM on December 22, 2009


    As someone who owns both a newer Mazda and an older Saab ...

    I don't understand people who would take time out of their busy schedules to piss on the grave of something they never knew about. Seems like there's always someone on the blue ready to jump up and criticize what they don't understand. It makes me imagine a 19th century Englishman hearing about spicy Indian curry for the first time: "Why, I eat a wide range of food already ... kippers, mutton, continental cuisine ... I know all there really is to know about food, why would I be interested in something people say is supposedly different?"

    It's pointless arguing, the only answer is to smile and say, "Yes, you're right. Everything is the same ... the homes, the cuisines, the people, the candidates ... there's no real difference, everything can be reduced to numbers and units, and compared on spreadsheets. There are no real surprises in the world, and you don't need to experience anything firsthand with your own senses to know all you need to know about it."
    posted by dacoit at 5:13 PM on December 23, 2009


    Asking questions does not equal "pissing on the grave", but good on you for trying to be smarmy.
    posted by Burhanistan at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2009


    The comments to which mine was a response contained no questions. Nor was it in reference to anything you wrote, Burhanistan. Thanks for your thoughtful and considered contribution. As for me, I'm done with this thread.
    posted by dacoit at 6:14 PM on December 23, 2009


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