Saab has a relatively short automotive history. The company was founded in Trolhattan as Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget to manufacture high-performance aircraft before World War 2. Only after the war would the company make its first foray into automobile
manufacture. The first prototype vehicle, the 92001, would be hand built by 17 aeronautical engineers – amazingly only one having a driver’s license.
As you would expect, the lessons learned from aircraft manufacture were applied to the car; the first Saab boasted clean, aerodynamic
lines while maintaining the typical Swedish traits of being both efficient and functional. In 1949 came the Saab 92, a car that would prove immensely popular and remain in production until 1956, with some 20,000 being manufactured. In 1955 came the radically different Saab 93, which used a 3 cylinder engine, new transmission
and tubeless tyres. The Sonett followed in 1956, the first sports car manufactured by Saab and capable of an impressive 160 km/h.
Arguably too advanced, and certainly too expensive, only six would be produced. In 1962 came the Saab sport, a car that would help Erik Carlsson win many major rally victories; in recognition of Carlsson’s achievements, the car would be renamed the Monte Carlo 850. Always at the forefront of safety innovation, every Saab manufactured from 1962 onward came fitted with seat belts as standard equipment.
As time marched on, the Saab’s would continue to grow in size, and by 1968 the company had manufactured their first large car, the Saab 99. The new Saab featured the now signature wraparound windscreen, and would provide the basis for much technological innovation over the ensuing years, although the car was actually so good the engineers were hard pressed to find ways of improving it. In 1970 came self cleaning headlamps, in ’71 came self-repairing bumpers, and 1972 would see the introduction of side-impact door beams. But it was in 1976 that the engineers really went to town on the 99, fitting a turbocharger
and making the 99 one of the first ever “everyday” cars to offer this kind of technology. From 1990 Saab became part of the GM global empire.
Also see: The SAAB Story (USA Edition)