Many would argue that Saab, with the 99 Turbo of the 1970s, was the company that brought turbocharging to the masses, and we’d be inclined to agree. This Swedish speed machine was like nothing else, not least because of the way it looked. The Saab 99 was not what you’d call a pretty car, but nor was it ugly. Unique would be the best adjective to throw at it. But the looks didn’t actually matter, not when it had that 2.0 fuel-injected, turbocharged, 145bhp engine under the bonnet. Get it over 3,000rpm and you were hit with a dollop of power like nothing else. It was exhilarating, exciting and like nothing else that the common man could buy. The 99, then, changed Saab’s image. No longer was it a staid and safe brand, it was now a performance brand, too.
The 99’s replacement was the 900 of 1978. Longer and wider than the baby 99, the 900 was a car that the Swedes would use to bring the fight to Germany, and it worked. It still boasted those Saab qualities we had come to know and love, such as being built to be safe and of course, sporting a very unique look, but it was more than just a quirky offering. The 900 offered some real driver appeal, it was practical, and in might Turbo guise, it was a serious performer. The one to have was the 900 Turbo, in black, with the three-spoke alloys. Which, happily, is what we’re looking at here.
With 175bhp under that long bonnet, this old machine might be a proper classic, but don’t think that limits it to sedate Sunday drives. This is a car that wants to be pushed and pushed hard, and when you do, you’ll be in for a thrill. The 900 Turbo of this era was noted for its speed, and while it was let down by a bit of torque and understeer, it was still a brilliant machine to wind through fast, sweeping A roads. The key with a 900 Turbo is to push it to 80% and keep it there, it’s that last 20% where its weaknesses start to show through.
This car, a later 16-valve version, packs the 185bhp four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual ‘box. When you look at the engine, you might be a bit confused. It’s front-wheel drive, but the engine is mounted longitudinally. And what’s weirder is the fact the power is taken from the crank at the front end of the engine. It’s all very strange, but would you expect anything less from Saab?
This car, at £12,950 is strong money. But for a car in this condition, you can’t really argue. If you’re going to get one of these cars, you want one that has been looked after, and that has escaped the late ‘90s when they were at the bottom of the depreciation curve, and as such, bought by people who just flogged them with little concern for maintenance. It’s a fate this three-spoked beauty seems to have avoided, and now it lives as a shining example of what Saab could do at the top of its game.