Saab, how we miss you. New cars today are certainly safer, more reliable, and more capable than ever, but they all seem so…similar. Different takes on the same theme, filling well-identified niches and sub-categories in the market. SUV, Crossovers, compact sedans, mid-size sedans, etc. Each category with well-defined sizes, configurations, even engine sizes.
Earlier periods saw interesting and sometimes even wacky solutions to the question of how to transport people and their stuff. National quirks and environmental challenges were often reflected in the answers that manufacturers chose. Big V-8s and soft suspensions made sense for crossing vast American highways with cheap gas. Small air-cooled engines for post-war Europe. Front-wheel drive for space efficiency in the British Mini.
Then there was Swedish carmaker Saab. How about a hugely useful hatchback design for a luxury sedan? Why not? Front-wheel drive teamed with turbocharged four-cylinder engines when everyone else had six cylinders and rear-wheel drive in their luxury cars? Ja!
Never more than a niche player in the U.S., the brand nevertheless had a faithful following. Saabs offered great performance, particularly in the winter, thanks to that FWD and its, well, Swedish-ness. The cars also featured thoughtful ergonomics and seats seemingly designed by orthopedic specialists at a time that Detroit was focusing on upholstery buttons as a symbol of luxury. These were cars for pragmatists and engineers. Alas, that proved to be a relatively small target audience. I’ve owned two of them.
Early Saabs, like this week’s eBay find, featured two-stroke engines (more power, less weight, and fewer moving parts, they promised) combined with to front-wheel drive with aerospace-inspired bodywork. The one-year-only 93F, featured here as a titled 1959 model although it is officially a 1960, was the first such example with front-hinged doors replacing the “suicide doors” of earlier 93s (pronounced “ninety three,” as opposed to the more recent 9-3). The model was redesigned as the 96.
Show-condition examples of these early two-stroke Saabs don’t appear too often. They weren’t sold in huge volume to begin with, plus they were working cars when new and never valuable enough to justify real restorations. Fortunately, we have this one to admire, the result of a full restoration in Poland before it was brought to the U.S.
The seller included photos from an extensive rotisserie restoration and an interior said to be the original. The engine is a slightly larger 850cc later unit (the original 38-hp 750cc comes with the car) and upgraded front disc brakes to better accommodate modern traffic.