Saab 99 Turbo Celebrating 40 Years

February 12th, 2017

I just realized as we pull in to 2017 it’s been 40 years since Saab introduced the Saab 99 Turbo! This article is my reflections on my experience with what is my one of favorite cars of all time.

Ten years ago I launched the Saab 99 Turbo Registry which also coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Saab 99 Turbo. The 99 Turbo remains my favorite Saab and in fact my favorite car I have ever owned. Astonishingly, I had been a Saab fan for over 20 years before I even knew about the Saab 99 Turbo. I first became familiar with Saabs in the early 80s, growing up in St. Louis, Missouri where they were popular.

Saab 99 Turbo

My 1978 Saab 99 Turbo. In this photo I had driven 3 hours through the beautiful Fall colors in the mountains of Northern California and vineyards of Napa Valley to be with family for Thanksgiving. One of my favorite memories of that car.

A few years later in 1985-1987 when I was in college in Boulder, Colorado, the Saab 900s – particularly the SPGs – were a coveted car to have. I was a bike racer and I also noticed on long training rides you’d see two kinds of cars in the small towns high up in the mountains: 4-wheel drive trucks and old Saabs.

However it wasn’t until 2000 that I bought my first Saab: a 1993 Saab 900 Turbo convertible. A year later I bought my 2nd Saab: a 1982 900 which I got for $800, so I now had two Saabs. I actually really loved the simplicity of the ’82 900, making it my daily driver and keeping the convertible for weekends. By 2005, with a baby in the house and another on the way, I had sold the convertible since it was no longer practical and was just driving the ’82 while I figured out my next car. My wife suggested I look at the newer, GM Saabs, which I resisted, considering myself a ‘classic Saab’ fan. However, I discovered the Saab Viggen and fell in love. In the Summer of 2005 I bought a gray 2001 Viggen and was absolutely crazy about that car. Yes it was a ‘GM’ Saab but I felt like they really did a lot to stay true to the classic Saab ethic and the Viggen felt like an SPG approach to the standard 9-3. My addiction to Saabs was really taking off at this point. The guy who sold me the Viggen – like many Saab owners – was so cool. He included a collection of Saab magazines, articles and books. An evening ritual became hunkering down with a glass of wine and delving into the old articles and especially the books to explore the history of this incredible car company. There was so much to love about the company, its people, its history and of course, its cars. I was in love with so many of the models, but the one that really found its way into my heart was the Saab 99 Turbo. It was similar to the 900 I was so familiar with, but had more of a snub nose and unique details that made it so close to the iconic 900 but also set it in a class of its own. A particular eye-catching detail was the Inca rims. There never was nor has been a wheel as uniquely cool as the Saab 99 Turbo’s Inca rims.

While I had my Viggen in the garage (which I loved) and the 1982 900 as well (which I also loved and drove regularly), I became obsessed with the 99 Turbo. While I continued to immerse myself in the history and details of the car, I also found myself regularly in the classifieds of Saabnet and eBay, drooling over the 99s. By later that year I had found “the one” and somehow convinced my wife to let me get it, in spite of having just brought our latest baby into the home. My 3-year-old son and I caught a flight from Redding, California to Seattle where we met the sellers that same day and started our trip home.

It was a great way to start my relationship with that incredible little car. We spent the first night right outside Seattle, then continued on down through Oregon. The 99 Turbo was such a fun car to drive. It did not have power steering so you really felt the steering and had to put some muscle into turning at times. The kick of the turbo was unique to the 99 Turbo as well: it had a very raw power in the way it kicked in that you really have to experience to understand how it is different from other turbos such as in the SPG.

Mainly I think because of its age, the Saab 99 Turbo just had a simplicity that made it feel simple, classic, raw. There were also a number of features that made the 99 Turbo unique.

It has a turbo boost gauge on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. It also had unique “Alligator Clip” seatbelt that did not have a clip. This always threw anybody off when they got in for the first time and started searching for the clip part of the belt. With these belts there was just a strap and you put into the Alligator Clip. You can see it in the video I produced which was another awesome day I spent with my 3 kids, again driving from Redding, spending some time in Clear Lake, California before winding through the mountains down through Napa into Sonoma County.

I sold the 1982 900 as part of my deal with my wife to be able to buy the 99 Turbo. Those were certainly incredible days with my two dream Saabs and to this day it would be hard to choose one over the other. That said, I have to conclude that the Saab 99 Turbo was my favorite of all the cars I owned. It uniquely captured the spirit and history of Saab and was a special pivot-point for such a cool company. It had the classic lines of the 900 but also had a raw edge and power that made it so damn fun to drive. Sadly I had to sell my 99 Turbo a few years back. Of all the cars I’ve owned, it’s the one I miss the most and I can’t help but hope I’ll find myself behind the wheel of one again someday.

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My Relationship with the Saab 99 Turbo

December 11th, 2011

By Saab 99 Turbo Registry Member Dennis Lin
View Dennis’ Registry Listing

Editor’s note: Dennis’ Saab 99 Turbo is the car that was used to create the Saab 99 Turbo in the Forza Motorsport XBox game. See details in the story below.

I was introduced to my first Saab at the age of ten, my dad bought a 1974 99 LE four door to teach my older brother and sister how to drive. A few years later my older brother acquired a 1979 900 Turbo 5-door. I was amazed by the difference in power with the addition of the turbocharger, but I still preferred the stubby look of the 99 over the stretched-out appearance of the 900. My dad sold me the 99 four-door and it took me through college all the way to my first professional job. After a few months at the new job I decided to give a gift to myself and I bought a brand new 1989 900 turbo four-door.

So where did I find the 99 Turbo? Through work I had met someone who had both a 1977 99 EMS and 1978 99 Turbo. We traded stories about the cars and their quirkiness. Years passed and on a whim I called him to see if he still had the EMS and if he was interested in selling the soccer ball wheels. He told me the EMS had been parted out and hauled off, but he still had the wheels. He told me they were not for sale, but he would give them to me if I bought the 99 turbo. I was not in the market for a 3rd Saab but the deal was too tempting and I had always wanted a 99 Turbo. I went to look at the car and although some of the trim and plastic bits were removed, everything was accounted for and in boxes. It started, drove pretty well, and it had been stored in his garage out of the weather and sun. We struck a deal for a $1000 and I drove the car and a bunch of spares home. I now owned three Saabs. It is a bit of a disease.

Intercooler Addition

Intercooler Addition

I spent the next year cleaning parts, performing general maintenance, and restoring the car back to its somewhat original condition. I say “somewhat original” due to preventative measures to save the B motor head. I installed a 900 intercooler with a modified headlight bucket and an Aquamist water/methanol injection system. To mitigate turbo compressor stall I added a turbo blow off valve.
Headlight Alterations

Headlight Alterations

One of the tasks was rebuilding the fragile air dam by combining the unbroken EMS air dam, making cutouts and adding the vents from the turbo air dam. All you purists need not fear, I still have all the parts needed to return it to factory configuration.

I was using the car as a daily driver and for the occasional track day, which brings me to my next saga. Two other Saab 99 enthusiasts – Gregg Cronn and Craig Richmond – and I decided it would be fun to join the local Alfa Romeo club in a driving school track day. On our way to the driving school I got rear ended by a Jeep while I was waiting for a pedestrian using the crosswalk.

Track Day Damage

Track Day Damage

We had already paid our money to attend the session, so we pressed on and headed to the track. My friends felt bad for me and they offered the use of their cars if I did not pass tech inspection. Ironically, I did pass tech inspection and Gregg ended up using my car in the afternoon session because his turbo charger was smoking too badly.

On the Track

On the Track

Craig Richmond and Gregg Cronn: "We are going to kick some Alfa ass!"


After a lengthy negotiation with the Jeep driver’s insurance company they agreed to repair my car. The problem with a unique 25-year-old car is that most comparison cars are in salvage yards and worth at the most $500. I figured it was a good time to have the rest of the car repainted at my expense. The car spent over six months at a Saab specialist body shop to receive a concours quality metal and paint restoration. With all the headaches I had with the insurance company and the additional money spent on repainting the whole car I decided to pursue car collector’s insurance. It is a wonderful arrangement: you and the insurance company agree upon a declared value for a very reasonable premium with only a few stipulations regarding what type of driving, annual mileage, and manner that the car is garaged. The Saab 99 Turbo’s track days were over.

The insurance agent asked me to take some pictures of the car for documentation, a great excuse to take my girlfriend (now wife) and car for a photo shoot and dinner down by the waterfront. Plus, I wanted to get this done so it would be covered for the 2004 Saab Owners Convention that our club was hosting in two weeks. More bad luck, on our way to take pictures we were sideswiped by some off-duty Navy boys trying to make it back to base on time. The car still made it to the convention, where the judges were generous enough to overlook the recent damage and award the car second place in the 99 class concours. Wonderful people, including Saab legend Erik Carlsson, and a great venue made it all worthwhile.

Back to the shop. After those two incidents, I should have enough karma points in the bank to last a very long time.

Dennis Lin and Erik Carlsson.

Me and Mr. Saab, Erik Carlsson.

The Good Times
At the annual Northwest Saab Owners Club picnic we get a chance to tell stories, swap parts, make new friends and catch up with old ones. One year Dan Wing introduced himself and mentioned he was the Service Manager at Saab Wilson Motors in Bellingham, Washington. I told him I thought my car might have been from there because of the Wilson Motors license plate frame I found with the car. He said “Maybe, lets take a look.” Apparently, after every 99 turbo dealer preparation he would sign the underside of the hood with a black permanent marker. If you look closely, even after 30 years you can still see his signature on the car.

Annual Northwest Saab Owners Picnic

Dan Wing and the Saab 99 Turbo from Wilson Motors

Getting a Saab 99 Turbo on XBox
Thirty years is a good run, but how do you make your Saab 99 Turbo last forever? Have it immortalized in a video game. I was contacted by a photographer from the Microsoft Game Studio by way of Kurt Hoffmann at the Saab 99 Turbo Registry. They wanted to shoot my car for 3D modeling to be featured in Forza Motorsport 3 as part of an available download. Detailed images were captured, from the dash mount turbo gauge to the unique Inca turbo wheels. He took the majority of the images in the driveway, but he needed some full car shots. We drove to a local elementary school to get a more open view. One of his first comments was that he loved the sound of the turbo spooling. He was done with the complete photo shoot in a couple hours. I was glad to help, because not everyone can have a complete 99 Turbo in their garage, but they can enjoy one on their XBox game console.

The XBox Photo Shoot

The XBox Photo Shoot: Capturing the Turbo Gauge

The beauty shot

There you have it, a brief history of my long and complicated relationship with Saab and the 99 Turbo. I still own the 900 Turbo I bought with money from my first job. The 1974 99 LE that I bought from my dad has since been totaled and replaced with a 1976 99 EMS project car. But the 99 turbo is my favorite, I enjoy the engineering, style, driving characteristics, and people associated with this iconic automobile.

To the Customs and the Classics

February 5th, 2011

I’ve always been more of a lover of the stock versions of vehicles. Saab did such a great job on the design table, I’ve always loved them as they came off the factory line and mostly cringe at custom versions. But I’ve come across this article a number of times and just love John Webber’s orange 1978 Saab 99 Turbo.

Let me know your comments. Classic or Custom? Which do you prefer? Send us your photos and I’ll append them to this story.

John Webber orange 1978 Saab 99 Turbo

John's Webber's orange 1978 Saab 99 Turbo

See the original article on Motormavens.

Saab 99 Turbo in the Digital World

February 3rd, 2011

Great image of a Saab 99 Turbo from the Forza Motorsport Xbox game. I have to give the development team credit – they did a beautiful job recreating the Saab 99 Turbo with beautiful attention to detail.

Beautiful Cardinal Red Saab 99 Turbo from Forza Motorsport Xbox game.

You can see the original, full-size image here.

Saab 99 Turbo in Human League “Don’t You Want Me” Video

January 19th, 2011

Look closely and you’ll see there is a black Saab 99 Turbo in the classic 80s music video “Don’t You Want Me, Baby” by the Human League.

Okay, I grew up in the MTV generation and remember this video clearly from my first summer of hours watching MTV, I believe it was around 1982 or 83. Same time frame Flock of Seagulls, U2, and Devo were frequently on. Best discovery of that era was the Clash. It was a trip down memory lane when I ran across a site that showed the Black Saab 99 Turbo was featured in the video.

Saab 99 Turbo now on XBox through Forza3 Classic Car Pack

December 16th, 2010

A 1978 Saab 99 Turbo is now available in a video game for Xbox. Registry Member Dennis Lin’s beautiful black 99 Turbo was used by the Microsoft team to photograph and create the digital version.

The 99 Turbo was one of 10 classics released on 12/14/2010 as part of the Forza Motorsport 3 Classics Car Pack available for purchasing on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

I welcome input from anyone who has greater insight into the Forza Motorsport 3 XBox game.

Here are some great videos showing the game:

The Billy Graham Story

April 19th, 2010

Billy Graham is the young man featured on the Saab99Turbo.com poster. You can also read about him on his Registry page.

What follows is a bit more about Billy’s story from conversations I had with his mom and dad, one of the many special experiences I’ve had running Saab99Turbo.com.

Not for Everyone. Essential to a Few.
Billy Graham’s father Dan remembers coming across his young son in the living room reading a giant SAAB repair manual of all things. The sight of his son absorbed in this thick document was particularly strange since it was hard to get Billy to read
anything.

“I want a SAAB,” Billy excitedly told his Dad. Dan quickly brought his son back to reality, suggesting it would be more realistic to get an old VW.

Dan described to me how Billy walked sullenly to his room, his Mom saying to Dan, “You just took away his dream.” He went into Billy’s room and sat down with his boy.

“Billy, this is America. You can have anything you want. But you have to be willing to work for it. If you want a SAAB, then I’m sure you can figure out a way to get one.”

Within a few weeks, Billy had a job in a burrito factory. His mom Karen remembers the smell of refried beans as soon as he’d walk through the door over the next year.

The day before his 16th birthday, Billy bought his first car: a 1978 SAAB 99 Turbo.

As with most SAAB owners, Billy’s love for this car went above the normal call of duty. He taught himself to work on the car, apprenticing with a local mechanic until he could perform most of the work himself. Eventually he earned a reputation as a decent SAAB mechanic, working on SAABs from around the Bay area. As for his own SAAB, Billy lowered his 99, rebuilt the engine, repainted it, and increased the boost. His 99 Turbo was chosen as the ‘Car of the Month’ in his high school newspaper in January 1988.

In 1992, Billy was diagnosed with malignant melanoma (skin cancer) at the age of 21. Billy – and his family – were determined to fight this disease. What had seemed like a pesky mole, however, unbelievably took its toll and Billy died on March 2nd, 1994 at the age of 22.

We at Saab99Turbo.com are grateful to carry on his spirit and the love of special things that make life worth living.

Dedicated to Billy Graham: August 5, 1971 – March 2, 1994

Saab99Turbo.com January Update

January 16th, 2010




Saab99Turbo.com January Update


logo-only.jpg


Just wanted send out and update from Saab99Turbo.com.

hemmings.jpgHemmings Article
Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey I sent out in early
December. With your help, Dave LaChance wrote a great article about the
Saab 99 Turbo. It is out in the February 2010 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine.
The nice 6-page article starts on page 80. You can find copies at most Borders and Barnes & Noble stores.

saab-addicted.jpgThe 39-Saab 99 Turbo Collection
I spent a good amount of time in December helping one of our members add his collection of 39 Saab 99 Turbos to our Registry. View the impressive collection on our site. I’ve also started a series of articles about this collection in the Saab 99 Turbo blog called the ‘Saab Addicted‘ series. More to come soon on these.

saab99turbo-tshirt.jpgSaab 99 Turbo Classifieds
Also want to remind everyone we have FREE classifieds. This is open to anything related to Saab 99 Turbos so please feel free to spread the word. I found a website that sells Saab 99 Turbo t-shirts, so I even put that on there.

Saab99turbo-video.jpgSaab 99 Turbo Videos
I added a Saab 99 Turbo Video section to the website. I just have a few on there for now, but feel free to send me any videos you think should be on there.

high-mileage-saab-99-turbo.jpgHigh Mileage Saab 99 Turbos
If you have a car on the Registry, please update your mileage and also please check to confirm you have correctly indicated if it is in miles or kilometers. If possible, anyone with high mileage cars, please add a photo of the odomoter like our high-mileage leader Jeff Henderson (510,000 miles) did. This helps add legitimacy to these listings.

on-the-road.jpgSaab 99 Turbos On The Road
Also wanted to remind everyone about the ‘On The Road’ page of the site. Anyone with a 99 Turbo registered on the site, just check the box ‘On the Road’ next to any images you upload that show your car ‘on the road’ and it will appear on this page.


Lastly, if anyone is interested in advertising to our members, please let me know, or pass along our site to anyone you think could benefit from advertising on Saab99Turbo.com.

As always I welcome your suggestions to make this website better. If you want to write an article about anything related to Saab 99 Turbos – restoration, history, an experience you had with your car, etc. – just send them to me and I will post them on the site.

Thank you,

Kurt Hoffmann
Webmaster
Saab99Turbo.com
Not for everone. Essential to a few.


Saab Addicted – Chapter 3: Thirty-Nine Saab 99 Turbos

December 31st, 2009

I noticed early on that Saab owners more than other auto fanatics are particularly known for liking to have multiple Saabs. I, for example, have 3 (I would have 4 but my wife made me sell my 1982 900 when I got my 99 – and actually I’d have even more, budget permitting).

Even among Saab owners, though we have a very special collection here. And finally, thanks to a serious effort by me and our member who prefers to be known only as “Saab 99 Turbo Heritage,” we now have all of his 39 (that’s thirty-nine!) Saab 99 Turbos on the Registry. Click here to see all 39 of our member Saab 99 Turbo Heritage’s Saab 99 Turbos.

Next on our list is to complete adding photos for every car and also to complete any missing information, mostly mileage. I appreciate everything this member has been teaching me about these cars. As I said to him, I only discovered the 99 Turbos in 2005, so I still have a lot to learn. Adding his cars has given me an opportunity to continue learning more and more about the nuances of the various 99 Turbos that are out there.

One of my favorite cars is the first Saab 99 Turbo he bought that started the bug of what is certainly the largest collection in the world. I’m especially looking forward to getting the photos of that special 99 Turbo on there.

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Saab Addicted – Chapter 2

December 23rd, 2009

Here is the latest addition to the collection of 30 Saab 99 Turbos in our Registry for a single owner: #13 of 30+ Saab 99 Turbo’s.

We also added a pretty image to one of the previous listings. It’s letter from the Saab marketing department about this Limited Edition, 5-door Saab 99 Turbo. Click here to view the listing.
Here is the letter’s content:
Dated: 13 October 1978
To: Turbo Dealers
From: SAAB marketing Department
Content:
Gentlemen,

99 Series – 5 Door Turbo – Limited Edition

We have now received the ‘Type Approval’ certificate for this model.

As most of you are aware from various ‘leaks’, we only have a limited number of just over 100 of these, therefore they are and will become “collectors pieces”.

The 5-door Turbo is:

In Cardinal Red Metallic

GLE specification, with the addition of:
Manual gearbox.
Turbo wheels.
Rear and front spoilers.
Stereo radio and stereo cassette player.
Sun Roof.

Retail price of £6,350

We are now awaiting your orders. These cars will receive no publicity or normal promotion but have been mentioned to the press.

Yours sincerely,

R.S. Clements
Marketing Manager