The Saab 99


Practically any category of persons, although Saabs seem to attract individualists. Saab offered a broad variety of different 99 models to cater for various needs. It’s a very reliable and troublefree car. In basic trim they’re cheap to buy, and running costs are low. All spares (almost) are available new at the dealer. Prices are humane. My best source of spares is the scrapyard. Prices there are even more humane.
Not everyone has the stummac to cope with the Saab’s styling, though. You either love it or hate it. There is no inbetween.


A typical Saab owner:
The dedicated car nut.
– A plethora of performance parts available makes it easy to custom build a 99.
The well-to-do engineer.
– Saabs offer intriguing engineering solutions to marvel over.
The not-so-well-to-do student.
– Plenty of cheap, reliable runabouts are available.
The old man with a hat.
– He’s probably had his 99 from new…
The kid with a fresh driver’s license.
– A perfect first car. Safe and not too fast. Do NOT give this kid a turbo!


The Saab 99 was unveiled on November 22. 1967, at a press conferance in Stockholm. Production started a year later, so the first customer cars were delivered in 1968, as 1969 models. This habit of introducing “next-year’s news, this autumn” seems to be a Saab thing. It explains why there is some confusion about what was introduced which year.
The only bodystyle available was a two-door saloon. The engine was an inline four, bought from Triumph, but developed by consulting company Ricardo (UK). Displacement was 1709 cc, with 80 Hp. The four speed gearbox featured a free-wheel hub, inherited from the two-stroke days. Totally unnecessary, but the die hard Saab customers demanded it. Only the 1,7 Litre engine had this free-wheel hub. Front wheel drive had by then become a Saab trademark. It still is.
Like the Saab 96, the new 99 did not have an ignition-key steering-wheel-lock. Instead there was a gear-lever-lock. Apparently, the Saab aviation-engineers were afraid a steering-wheel-lock would engage while the car was being driven? The Saab 96 had a coloumn mounted gear lever, but in the 99 they put it on the floor. Consequently, the ignition key lock ended up on the floor too. The side effect was that the ignition key no longer represented a potential hazard to the driver’s knee, in the event of a head-on impact. Ironically, this is the one safety feature pioneered by Saab that was not adopted by other car companies.


1970. Four door saloon body available. Automatic gearbox introduced, only in combination with electronic fuel injection with 86 Hp. The gearbox was a standard Borg Warner BW35 three-speed, albeit in a special housing.


1971. Headlight washer/wiper invented by Saab. Later it became compulsary for all cars in Sweden. Did I hear anyone say “protectionisme”?
New facia, which carried on unaltered up to -87. A new, larger version of the engine was optional. 1854 cc, with 86 Hp (carburettor) or 95 Hp (electronic injection). The autobox still with injection only.


1972. New rubber bumpers, designed to escape undamaget from impacts up to 8 Kmh. (5Mph)
This came in handy when the american housewifes missed the garage gate…
New front indicator/parklight units repositioned under the bonnet’s leading edge. Electric heated driver seat as standard on all Saabs.
The Triumph engines received a small boost in power. 88hp (1.85 carb) and 97hp (1.85 injection).
Saab’s own 2,0 Litre B-engine was introduced. First with electronic injection and 110 Hp (EMS only), and later this year with 95 Hp (carburettor) for the other 99 models. How much this actually was “Saab’s own” engine, is subject to discussion. They redesigned the head, enlarged the capacity, moved the alternator, and built it in Sweden. But it has the same mechanical layout as the Triumph engine. At the end of the year, the 1,7 l engine is discontinued. No more free-wheeling.
EMS model introduced. See “bootlid badges“.


1973. Door mounted side impact bars became standard equipment. Headlights were now H4. What took so long?
The front coil spring’s lower seats were now pivoted. A pressed fibreglass headlining, clad with fabric replaced the old vinyl liner.


1974. New bodyshell available: 3-door combi coupe (Hatchback). Instead of shortening the rear overhang, like most others do, (see VW Golf/Jetta) they made it 11 cm longer than the saloon body. New front seats. (Doughnut style) At the end of the year, the 1,85 l engine is discontinued.


1975. New front brakes with a revised handbrake. Instead of using tiny drumbrakes inside the front discs (that never worked properly anyway), the handbrake cable now directly engaged the caliper. On EMS and LE models, the Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection is replaced by the Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection
GLs model introduced. See “bootlid badges“.


1976.New bodyshell available: 5-door combi coupe. All 5-door bodys were GLs or GLE. (or RHD turbos)
GLE model introduced. See “bootlid badges“.


1977. New larger front indicator/parklights unit. New larger taillights on the saloon.


1978. Last year of the 5-door combi coupe. Some interior revisions.
TURBO model introduced. See “bootlid badges“.


1979. This year Saab introduced the 900 (as a 5-door only), and everything focused on this model. The 99 was mostly living in a vacuum. Some of the new features developed for the 900 rubbed off on the 99, though. A 63 litre plastic fuel tank replaced the old 58 litre steel tank. New larger rubber bumpers. Last year of the 3-door combi coupe.
To create the new 900, Saab simply took a 5-door 99, and crafted a new front onto it. The front axle was moved ahead, and the overhang was increased. The bulkhead was also redesigned, to accomodate a more modern facia. The windscreen has the same shape as the 99, but the lower mid-section goes 3 cm further down. This improved visibility and allowed larger wipers, which park at the opposite side. (LHD only)


1980. New front seats. (bread-loaf style) This was the last year the 99 was exported to USA.
Bodystyles now available: 2-door or 4-door saloon only.
GLi model introduced. See “bootlid badges“.


1981. The seat anchor points and brackets, on both the 900 and the 99 were changed.
There is some confusion about changes introduced this year. According to the workshop manuals 99’s and 900’s got everything listed below, this year. All 900’s got the H-engine, and revised suspension in -81, but every m81 99’s I’ve ever seen has had a B-engine and the old suspension set up.
(New bodyshell available for the Saab 900; 4-door saloon)


1982. The 99 program was heavily revised. It received the new H-engine which was 15 Kg lighter than the B-engine. The new full-floating front wheel hubs were 2 Kg lighter (each side). And while they were at it, they rationalized away the 99 rear axle. They gave the 99 a 900 rear axle, resulting in a wider track and shorter wheelbase. Mirrors were attached to the window frame, and adjustable from inside. New four-spoke steering wheel. The instruments “look” was changed, to match the 900’s. The wiring harness was simplified, some relays were rationalized away. The model lineup was rationalized away too. No injection, no twin carburettors, no powersteering, no autobox, no turbo, no hatchback, no sunroof, no nothing.The good news was a five speed gearbox, previously available on the 900 only.
Models available: GL or GL 5sp, 2- or 4-door saloon.


1983. New grille. New gear lever console. New wider trim for the bumper.


1984. The H-engine gets a (much needed) upgrade. Timing chain tensioner is revised, and retrofitted on older H-engines who has not yet self-destructed. (Not passed 120 000 Km that is!) Electronic ignition is now standard. Starter motor moved to the opposite side of the engine.
(900 AERO introduced. Stateside called SPG)


1985. The Saab 99 changes name to Saab 90, and gets a redesigned boot. The steering wheel angle is less bus-like (now 33 degrees, instead of 29 degrees). New four-spoke steering wheel. Exterior door handles and widow trim are now matte black. Both front seats were heated, and 2 cm. lower. The bonnet got a recessed “griffin” badge. Two versions available only; Saab 90, or Saab 90 5sp. The latter had intermittent wipers, a rev-counter, and a front spoiler. Both were 2-door only.
Why the namechange? Well, this year Saab introduced a third model: The Saab 9000. They now had, starting from top: SAAB 9000, SAAB 900, and SAAB 99. (!?)
SAAB 9000, SAAB 900, and SAAB 90, sounded much better.
Why the redesigned boot ? Production cost. Until now they made two different saloon tails (the 900, and the 99). It’s cheaper to make only one tail for both cars.


1987. At the end of the year, the Saab 99/90 is discontinued.
(The 900 receives a facelift. New wrap-around bumpers, and sloping headlights/grille)


1988. (The Saab 900 suspension and brakes receives a makeover. Front and rear calipers are borrowed from the 9000. This means that the handbrake now operates the rear wheels.)


1993. At the end of the year, the Saab 900 is replaced by a Vauxhall Calibra / Opel Vectra based car. The 900 cabriolet soldiers on for another year.


A few shots of normal and oddball Saabs. Expect coffe-break download-time.