Pigs, Ponchielli, and the Saab 9000

Remember when Saabs roamed the streets? Sure, there's plenty still out there today but they're mostly the GM Saabs. You know what I'm talking about. Badge-engineered late models like the 9-3 or 9-5, or that horrendous mutation known as the 9-2X...a Subaru WRX that pretended it was Swedish. There's no excuse for what GM did to Saab. That's all the reason why more vintage Saabs should make a comeback, including the first of the badge-engineered Saabs.

Ah, the 9000 SPG, or Sport Performance Group. Fast is fun. 
Many enthusiasts love the timeless look of the Saab 900's, and there's a bevy of that body style to choose from. The sporty Sonnetts are also fun, and several of those appear at car shows from time to time. Even the oddball early two-stroke Saabs have enjoyed a resurgence thanks to its rich rally car history overseas. The one Saab that seems to escape fame is the 1984 to 1998 executive car. We're talking about the Saab 9000.

Climb every mountain: A Saab 9000 in Germany takes a breather.
Photo: Flickr / Mok24

Introduced in 1984 as part of a joint venture with Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Fiat, the Saab 9000 was the classiest of the "Type Four" venture. With design cues from the talented Giorgetto Giugiaro and Bjorn Envall, the cars sold fairly well. They relied on Saab's tried and true 2.3 liter 4 cylinder for power, and came in turbo variants to help get global commuters from A to B in a flash. They also looked somewhat like a Playmobil toy from the same era. Lots of squared-off lines and a large greenhouse.

Ignition switch on the floor? Not in the Saab 9000.
Photo Credit: Smartcarofamerica.com
Because they happened to share underpinnings with other European friends, the Saabs lost some of the Scandinavian quirkiness that made previous Swedish people-movers like the 99 and 900 such a blast. Features like the center console ignition switch. The 9000 moved it to the steering column as God intended. They were also larger than the earlier models inside and out. They were the first Saab to be classified as a large car by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Less jelly bean, and more brick. Exterior design followed Volvo's lead of modern, angular lines.

Photo: Saabcarmuseum.com
The Swedes did allegedly leave one of their unique touches in the 9000 platform. According to Wikipedia and a couple of Saab websites, designer Bjorn Envall was a fan of The Muppet Show. Swedish Chef jokes aside, he apparently was inspired by the second season sketch, Pigs in Space. The swine astronauts had really large, supple captain's chairs with a rounded top and lots of ribbing. Envall took a cue and created some massively over-sized buckets for the 9000's front passengers and added some ribbed side-stitching for effect. I don't know how accurate this statement is, but its certainly fun to imagine Miss Piggy riding around in a Swedish luxo-barge.

Oink vey! I dunno, its seems like a stretch to me.
Photo: YouTube / Saab vs Skepticism / Saab 
Besides having ground-breaking design, ample room, and an alleged porcine-inspired interior, Saab 9000s were also light on their feet. The large sedans performed ballet to the music of Ponchielli with precision. Sound engineering, turbocharged engines and snow tires allowed an entire fleet of 9000s to dance for this promotional film used through 1991 at auto show kiosks around the world.

Enjoy the show.

What happened to Saab post-9000?  The 9000 gave way to the 9-5 after 1998 and the later cars blended into the rest of the field of mid-sized global cars with similar dimensions and features. 
Plain vanilla after years of cinnamon and cardamom. 
We know that Saab puttered along until being acquired by General Motors in 2000. They pillaged the company for innovations and platforms it would later use to develop the Epsilon chassis used on the Chevrolet Malibu, Opel Vectra, and even some Cadillacs. GM found it easier to build on the work of another, and the Swedes certainly did good work. Saab as a whole, was further neutered after being told to slap their name on models like the 9-7x / GMT360 SUV in order to compete with Volvo's X70. Sales figures went into the toilet. After failed attempts to sell the company, it declared bankruptcy in 2011 and remains inactive today. A sad compromise from the company that claimed it "didn't make compromises". 
The world didn't need a Saab Trailblazer. It needed another trailblazing Saab. 
In the end, the Saab 9000 could be considered the "beginning of the end" for the car built by trolls. A model that was historically significant for what it wasn't, and what it would become. That's why you should snap one up before they all return to the earth. One thing's for certain, they definitely don't make them like this anymore...because they don't make Saabs anymore. 

Needs a fuel pump, but it runs. Got $400?
Photo: Craigslist Kenosha-Racine 
Will Saab ever make a comeback? 
Maybe when pigs fly. 

Wocka Wocka Wocka!


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