The Saab 900 SPG: A Closer Look at the Swedish Classic
When talking about classic cars, Swedish manufacturer Saab often comes to mind. With a rich history that extends back to its founding in 1945, Saab has been producing innovative and unique automobiles that captivated drivers around the world. Among these vehicles, the Saab 900 remains one of the most iconic, particularly the high-performance variant known as the Saab 900 SPG (Special Performance Group). In this comprehensive exploration of the Saab 900 SPG, we will dive into its history, performance, design elements, and what it takes to own and maintain one of these Swedish classics.
I. The Saab 900 SPG: Evolution and Key Features
A. Evolution of the Saab 900 SPG
- Origins in the Late 1980s
The Saab 900 model range first appeared in 1978, succeeding the Saab 99. With its unique design and engineering, the Saab 900 quickly gained a reputation as a reliable, practical, and safe automobile. In the mid-1980s, Saab decided to create a performance-oriented version of the 900, leading to the birth of the Saab 900 SPG.
Introduced in the United States in 1985, the Saab 900 SPG was initially known as the 900 Turbo 16 Aero in Europe. The model gained the SPG designation for the American market, representing Special Performance Group, and highlighting the car’s enhanced capabilities.
- Development and Iterations Through the 1990s
The Saab 900 SPG enjoyed a production run that lasted until 1991, during which several revisions and improvements were made to the model. The 1987 model year saw the introduction of the 16-valve turbocharged engine, which increased power output and solidified the Saab 900 SPG’s position as a serious performance car. Further refinements to the suspension and handling capabilities followed, resulting in an overall improved driving experience.
B. Key Features and Improvements
- Turbocharged Engine and Performance Upgrades
At the heart of the Saab 900 SPG is a 2.0-liter, 16-valve, turbocharged inline-four engine, capable of producing 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant offered drivers significant power and responsiveness compared to the standard Saab 900 models. With a 0-60 mph time of approximately 8 seconds, the Saab 900 SPG was a true performer in its time.
- Unique Exterior Design Elements
The Saab 900 SPG featured several exterior enhancements that set it apart from its standard counterparts. These included a factory-fitted body kit that reduced drag and improved aerodynamics, as well as a rear spoiler and unique side skirts. The three-spoke alloy wheels, exclusive to the SPG, further distinguished the model from other 900s.
- Enhanced Suspension and Handling
To complement the increased power output, Saab engineers focused on improving the 900 SPG’s suspension and handling. Upgraded springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars provided a firmer, more responsive ride, while the addition of a limited-slip differential in later models helped to optimize traction and stability during spirited driving.
- Distinctive Interior Styling
The Saab 900 SPG’s interior was designed to reflect its sporty nature, with unique upholstery and trim options. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport seats with additional bolstering, and special instrumentation were just a few of the features that made the cabin of the 900 SPG a more engaging place for drivers.
II. Performance and Specifications
A. Engine and Powertrain
The Saab 900 SPG’s engine and powertrain were designed to deliver a spirited driving experience. The 2.0-liter, 16-valve, turbocharged inline-four engine provided ample power, thanks to its advanced turbocharging technology. Mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, the engine’s power was efficiently transferred to the front wheels, a signature feature of Saab’s engineering philosophy.
B. Acceleration and Top Speed
When it came to acceleration, the Saab 900 SPG held its own against competitors of its time. With a 0-60 mph time of approximately 8 seconds, it was considered a quick car in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The top speed of the 900 SPG was equally impressive, reaching approximately 130 mph, which was quite respectable for a front-wheel-drive car in its day.
C. Fuel Economy
Despite its performance capabilities, the Saab 900 SPG did not compromise on fuel efficiency. With an estimated combined fuel economy of around 20-22 mpg, the SPG offered drivers a balance between performance and practicality. This was particularly important during a time when gas prices were a significant concern for many motorists.
D. Handling and Braking Capabilities
Handling and braking were crucial aspects of the Saab 900 SPG’s performance. The upgraded suspension components, including the springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars, provided a more responsive and nimble driving experience. The addition of a limited-slip differential in later models further enhanced stability and traction during cornering.
Braking capabilities were also improved in the Saab 900 SPG, with the implementation of vented front disc brakes and upgraded rear discs. These upgrades allowed the SPG to stop more efficiently and with better control, making it a well-rounded performance machine.
III. Iconic Design Elements of the Saab 900 SPG
A. Exterior Styling
- Aerodynamic Body Kit
The Saab 900 SPG featured a distinctive aerodynamic body kit, which set it apart from the standard 900 models. This included a front air dam, side skirts, and a rear spoiler, all designed to reduce drag and improve the vehicle’s overall aerodynamic performance. The body kit not only enhanced the car’s capabilities but also gave it a more aggressive and sporty appearance.
- Three-Spoke Alloy Wheels
Another iconic design element of the Saab 900 SPG was its three-spoke alloy wheels. These lightweight wheels were exclusive to the SPG and added to the car’s performance-oriented aesthetic. The wheels also provided improved handling, thanks to their reduced weight compared to the standard Saab 900 wheels.
- Unique Badging and Color Options
The Saab 900 SPG featured unique badging, with the “SPG” designation prominently displayed on the rear of the vehicle. Additionally, the 900 SPG was available in a limited selection of colors, including the iconic Edwardian Grey, which remains a sought-after color option among collectors and enthusiasts.
B. Interior Features
- Sporty Upholstery and Trim
The Saab 900 SPG’s interior was designed to reflect its performance-oriented nature. This included sport seats with additional bolstering for improved lateral support, as well as unique upholstery options, such as leather or a combination of leather and velour. The door panels and dashboard were also adorned with matching trim, giving the cabin a cohesive and sporty appearance.
- Instrumentation and Controls
To provide drivers with the necessary information and control during spirited driving, the Saab 900 SPG featured special instrumentation, including a boost gauge to monitor turbocharger performance. The leather-wrapped steering wheel offered a more engaging driving experience, while the well-placed controls ensured that all essential functions were easily accessible.
- Comfort and Convenience Options
Despite its performance focus, the Saab 900 SPG did not skimp on comfort and convenience features. Standard equipment included power windows, power mirrors, and a power sunroof, offering drivers and passengers a comfortable and well-appointed cabin. Optional extras, such as heated seats and an upgraded audio system, added further refinement to the 900 SPG’s interior.
IV. Collector’s Guide: Buying and Owning a Saab 900 SPG
A. What to Look for When Purchasing
- Condition and Maintenance History
When considering the purchase of a Saab 900 SPG, it is crucial to inspect the overall condition of the vehicle and its maintenance history. Look for signs of rust, particularly in areas prone to corrosion, such as the wheel arches, floor pans, and door sills. Additionally, check the maintenance records to ensure that the car has been properly cared for, including regular oil changes, timing chain replacement, and other essential services.
- Originality and Modifications
Originality is often a significant factor in determining the value of a classic car. When evaluating a Saab 900 SPG, ensure that the vehicle has not been modified in ways that detract from its originality. Examples include aftermarket body kits, wheels, or significant changes to the engine or suspension. While some modifications may improve performance, they can also negatively impact the vehicle’s value and collectability.
- Rarity and Production Numbers
The Saab 900 SPG is a relatively rare vehicle, with limited production numbers during its run from 1985 to 1991. When purchasing a 900 SPG, consider factors such as the production year, color, and any unique features that may increase its rarity and desirability among collectors.
B. Maintenance and Upkeep
- Common Issues and Repairs
Like any classic car, the Saab 900 SPG can experience certain issues that require attention and repair. Some common problems include oil leaks, worn suspension components, and electrical gremlins. It is essential to address these issues promptly to prevent further damage and maintain the vehicle’s performance and reliability.
- Availability of Parts and Specialists
Fortunately, many parts for the Saab 900 SPG are still available, either as new old stock (NOS) or aftermarket replacements. Additionally, several Saab specialists can offer expert advice and service to keep your 900 SPG running smoothly. Online forums and clubs can be invaluable resources for sourcing parts and connecting with other Saab enthusiasts.
Reputable sources for Saab parts
- eEuroparts (www.eeuroparts.com): Offers a wide selection of genuine, OEM, and aftermarket Saab parts.
- Saab Parts Counter (www.saabpartscounter.com): An online store for genuine Saab parts and accessories.
- Genuine Saab (www.genuinesaab.com): Specializes in performance parts and accessories for Saab vehicles.
- Saab USA Parts (www.saabusaparts.com): Offers genuine Saab parts and accessories at discounted prices.
- Swedish Motors (www.swedishmotors.com): Provides new, used, and remanufactured parts for Saab vehicles.
C. Investment Potential and Appreciation
- Market Trends and Demand
The Saab 900 SPG has experienced a resurgence in popularity and appreciation in recent years, as enthusiasts and collectors rediscover the unique appeal of these Swedish classics. As a result, values for well-maintained and original examples have been steadily rising.
- Factors Affecting Value
Several factors can impact the value of a Saab 900 SPG, including its overall condition, originality, rarity, and maintenance history. Vehicles with a documented history of proper care and maintenance tend to command higher prices, as do examples that are largely original and unmodified.
V. Personal Stories: Saab 900 SPG Owners and Enthusiasts
A. Interviews with long-Time Owners
- Reasons for Choosing the 900 SPG
Long-time Saab 900 SPG owners often cite the car’s unique combination of performance, practicality, and distinctive styling as the primary reasons for their choice. The 900 SPG’s reputation for reliability and safety also make it a popular choice among enthusiasts.
- Experiences and Memories
Many Saab 900 SPG owners share fond memories of road trips, track days, and other adventures in their vehicles. The car’s engaging driving experience, coupled with its practicality and comfort, has created lasting impressions for those who have owned and driven these Swedish classics.
B. Saab Clubs and Online Communities
- Networking and Resources for Owners
Saab clubs and online communities offer invaluable resources for Saab 900 SPG owners and enthusiasts. These groups provide opportunities for networking, sharing knowledge, and sourcing parts and services. Additionally, they help to preserve the legacy of the Saab 900 SPG and foster a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals.
- Events and Gatherings
Saab clubs and online communities often organize events and gatherings, such as car shows, track days, and road trips. These events provide an opportunity for Saab 900 SPG owners to showcase their vehicles, exchange ideas, and enjoy the company of fellow enthusiasts.
A. Legacy of the Saab 900 SPG
The Saab 900 SPG holds a unique place in automotive history and Saab’s heritage. As a high-performance variant of the iconic Saab 900, the SPG represents a fusion of Swedish engineering, practicality, and performance. With its distinctive styling, impressive capabilities, and enduring appeal, the Saab 900 SPG remains a beloved classic among car enthusiasts and collectors alike.
B. Its place in automotive history and Saab’s heritage
The Saab 900 SPG serves as a testament to Saab’s commitment to innovation and its ability to create vehicles that were both practical and engaging to drive. As a high point in Saab’s history, the 900 SPG stands as a shining example of what made the brand unique and admired among car enthusiasts.
C. Continued enthusiasm for the model among collectors and enthusiasts
Despite the passage of time, interest in the Saab 900 SPG remains strong among collectors and enthusiasts. The car’s combination of performance, distinctive styling, and practicality continues to captivate those who appreciate the unique character of these Swedish classics. As values for well-preserved examples continue to rise, the Saab 900 SPG cements its status as a desirable and cherished classic.