For a car powered with a transversely-mounted, water-cooled, thermo-syphon, two-cylinder, two-stroke engine of modest proportions, the Saab 92 was influential beyond any reasonable expectation.
It was not the sort of offering anticipated from a Scandinavian company that had never made a car before and was developing jet fighters for the Swedish Air Force — although the 92 certainly had a slithery shape, with an aerodynamic coefficient that was better than that of (to name but one) a Ferrari F40. Although it looked futuristic in its day, this eye-catching machine can be claimed by the 1940s — production began in December 1949.
It proved to be an immediate winner (not quite literally) when finishing second in its Swedish Rally class weeks later. This was the starting point for several years of competition success, albeit with the help of a highly tuned engine. This compact two-door coupe was also a huge hit with the Swedish car-buying public. Just 1,246 were produced in the first year, all offered with no choice of color (dark green it had to be). But there was a waiting list of 30,000 because these sturdy machines were solid, reliable and capable of dealing with the harsh Swedish winters for which they had been designed.
There were various mechanical enhancements and the 92B arrived in 1953 with a larger rear window and increased luggage space — plus a choice of colors, a box that converted the car into a small van and a bed kit that transformed the interior into a double bed. Buoyed by continued demand, production built up and laid the foundations for the most successful car company to start from scratch after World War II. The Saab 93 arrived to supersede the 92B in 1955, but the two models were produced side by side until early 1957.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1949 (until 1957)
764 cc Flat Twin
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 65 mph (105 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 26.6 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: When America’s mighty General Motors made a list of their all-time great cars in 2008 the humble Saab 92 finished (wait for it) … in first place.