Friday June 16, 2017
For June’s Car of the Month we’ll take a look at the Saab 99 Turbo. Unveiled at the 1977 Frankfurt Motor Show, this was arguably the world's first successful turbocharged production car.
Saab were certainly not the first to fit a turbo to a car, Porsche were already doing it with their 911 and who could forget BMW’s 2002 with the reverse lettered ‘turbo’ logo on the front spoiler. What Saab did was change the way the turbo engine propelled the car. The 99 used a broad swath of turbo power across most of the engine’s rev band, rather than the conventional boost of peak horsepower at the top of the rev range. Using a relatively small Garret T3 turbo the new engine produced 23 percent more horsepower and, even more impressively, 45 percent more torque.
With the 70’s oil crisis, fuel prices were on the rise… there was an increasing demand for greater fuel economy, even from high performance cars. The 99 Turbo certainly came up trumps here, with a range of over 300 miles from its 14 gallon fuel tank
Automotive journalists adored the 99 Turbo; Road & Track advised its readers, "It's so much fun to drive, the price is irrelevant!"
Offered in a limited colour range - Black, Cardinal Red, Grey and Silver, the Turbo initially had chrome trim on the window surrounds and bumpers, which was soon changed to black. The Turbo wore special ‘Inca’ alloy wheels and had velour upholstery, a sliding steel sunroof, a heated driver's seat, a centre console and a special three-spoke steering wheel, with a large triangular padded hub.
The four-cylinder, eight valve, 2 litre turbocharged fuel injection engine produced 145bhp and could propel the 99 from 0-60mph in just 8.9 seconds. This may not sound particularly impressive by today’s standards but you have to remember this was 1977, Britain’s top selling car of that year was the Mk IV Ford Cortina, the 2.0 version of this taking 11 seconds to reach 60mph!
The Saab’s real strength came from mid-range overtaking ability - "Between 40 and 100 MPH, the Saab accelerates faster than just about any four-seater saloon in the world," Motor magazine reported.
10,607 99 Turbo’s were produced before production of the 99 ceased which makes it somewhat of a rarity. Rust was the enemy to the 99 so, if you can find a good one, it’s sure to be a worthy investment that can give great pleasure as an appreciating classic!