Saab 99 turbo.

To understand how the 99 Turbo range came to being, it is necessary to look back at what had come before. It is fair to say that when the production 99s left Trollhattan in late 1968, they were seen as a quality medium-sized saloon, embodying much of the quirky design that Saab was well known for, but perhaps not really exciting the car buying public to any great degree. These early cars were powered by a unit derived from the Triumph four cylinder unit, although re-worked by Saab before being used in their new car.

The 99 EMS of 1972 suggested that Saab were keen to inject a little sportiness into the 99 range - after all, Saab were renowned for their rallying exploits so having a performance-oriented version in the range made a lot of sense. The EMS' suspension was beefed up, and was available only in the 2dr bodyshell, powered by Saab's own 1985cc engine, known as the B engine.

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In 1978, Saab introduced the now legendary 99 turbo model. Performance for a 2 litre 4/5 seater road car was little short of amazing. Power was reported at 145bhp from the blown 4 cylinder (injected) engine, but perhaps more important was the torque, which gave the car superb mid-range punch. Initially the 99 Turbo was available in the 3dr combi-coupe hatchback body only, painted black and looking very purposeful. A limited run of Cardinal Red turbocharged 99s were produced in 1978 using the 5dr combi-coupe body, and these are now the rarest of all. I have only ever seen two of these on the road, and they were both some years ago. One was parked in Conway, North Wales, and the other in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

The most common, if you can call any 99 Turbo that, is the 2dr version, which was available in the UK painted either black, or red. These were built for homologation purposes, so that Saab could take the 99T rallying. An unusual factory option was that of water injection, that enabled the engine to produce around 160-170bhp, not far short of the 16v 900 Turbo of later years.

The 99 Turbo is special because it was perhaps the first mass-produced turbocharged saloon, certainly in Europe, sold to the general public. BMW had dallied with its 2002 turbo, but this was really a competition car. Saab managed to tame the worst traits of turbo engines, mostly the lag that turbo engines can suffer from when the throttle is opened quickly, and tailor it to a daily-use car that has to work in all conditions, traffic, the shopping run, and the autobahn blast. This is why the 99 Turbo was special, and it being one of the first hot versions of a standard saloon before every manufacturer followed down the same path, offering turbocharged versions of its own cars.

A complete website, which will cover the 99 Turbo in its various guises, will be put here soon.
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Saab 99 Turbo 3dr press photograph

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