Every decade or so, one car comes along that overhauls accepted wisdom. In 1978, the British automotive magazine Autocar wrote, “this car was so unpredictably thrilling that the adrenalin started to course again, even in our hardened arteries.” They had just road tested a Saab 99 Turbo. Saab took all other car manufacturers by surprise when they announced the world’s first turbocharged family car, which promptly went on to be the first “blown” car to win a World Championship rally.
Developed from the fuel-injected EMS model, the Turbo had Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, a strengthened gearbox, and a Garrett turbocharger. A hundred prototypes were built, and between them they covered 2.9 million miles (4.8 million km) before Saab was happy with its prodigy. Although it was expensive, there was nothing to equal its urge. Rare, esoteric, and historically significant, the mold-breaking 99 Turbo is an undisputed card-carrying classic.
The body has a certain businesslike presence, helped by specially made Inca alloys designed to mimic the shape of turbocharger blades, front and rear spoilers, and a sliding steel sunroof.
Dead beam-axle at the rear and the usual wishbone and coil spring setup at the front.
Seventies interior looks a little tacky now, with red velour seats and imitation wood.
The turbo was reliable, but its Achilles’ heel was a couple of seconds’ lag on hard acceleration.
99 Turbos were poised. Crisp turn-in came from front-wheel drive, with prodigious adhesion courtesy of 195/60 Pirelli P6s.
The five-bearing, chain-driven single overhead cam engine was an 1985cc eight-valve, water-cooled, four cylinder unit, with low-compression pistons.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Saab 99 Turbo (1978–80)
BODY STYLES Two/three/five-door, four-seater sports sedan.
CONSTRUCTION Monocoque steel bodyshell.
ENGINE 1985cc four-cylinder turbo.
POWER OUTPUT 145 bhp at 5000 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Front-wheel drive four/five-speed manual with auto option.
SUSPENSION Independent front double wishbone and coil springs, rear beam axle, coil springs, and Bilstein shock absorbers.
BRAKES Four-wheel servo discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 122 mph (196 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8.2 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 19.8 sec
A.F.C. 26 mpg (9.3 km/l)