The flagship of the Saab 900 Classic series, the 900 Turbo Classic demonstrated just how effectively Saab shared the automotive and aviation experience within the company. Though it derived, like all 900s, from the Saab 99, the 900 Turbo Classic was a revelation. According to what you wanted it to be, it was a four-star luxury car, a fast and spacious family car, or a sporty executive saloon.
Two, three, four or five doors, the shell was essentially the same —a big but aerodynamic oddity which could look sleek or clunky depending on the viewing angle. Its beauty grew in direct proportion to familiarity with the details of its design, engineering, finish and performance. Like most major manufacturers, Saab habitually borrowed from other companies — but the 900 Turbo Classic is the most purely Swedish car it made, before or since its takeover by General Motors in 1993.
The car’s aviation heritage was evident in its wind tunnel-tested, swooping aerodynamics: the longer nose, the deep, wraparound windscreen curve, and the endless dashboard with its instruments sited like an ergonomically refined aircraft cockpit to minimize driver distraction. Saab applied the same, stringent notions of safety required for aircraft to the car’s unseen engineering, too, as it had for the 99 Turbo. The 900’s floor was reinforced by box-section steel beams.
It had the world’s first side-impact bars and super-strong rolled steel windscreen pillars; energy-absorbent bumpers and (low) front and rear spoilers made of resilient thermoplastic rubber; and the first pollen and pollution air filter ever created for a car cabin. Even the seats were orthopaedic! The Saab 900 Turbo Classic brought rally-standard handling and supercar performance to a mass market. Now, its styling looks timeless, and the durability of its innovative engineering continues to make it one of the world’s most enjoyable cars to drive.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Sweden
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1979 (until 1993)
ENGINE: 1,985 cc turbocharged Slant Four
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The extent of the Saab 900 Turbo Classic’s ‘boat-shaped’ cool is demonstrated by its selection as James Bond (007)’s car in the 1981 Bond novel Licence Renewed. Crucially different as always, Bond’sversion gets a staggering 175 bhp from the same 1,985 cc engine allowed to mere mortals; a top speed of 145 mph (233 km/h); and 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs. And pigs fly.