A Brief History of the Development of the NG 900

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Original 900

The original SAAB 900 has become a true classic and Saab sold more than 900,000 of them before the last one rolled off of the production lines in Trollhättan. Its distinctive appearance and unique driving qualities were what set it apart from other cars of its time. But all things have to change and after years of continued development and refinement it was time for the original 900 to be replaced.

Project X67

The replacement for the Saab 900 came up for formal discussions in 1985 and the first idea was to build a Saab 900 based on the Saab 9000 platform. A prototype was presented to the management in 1986 but this just proved that the car would look strange if you reduced its size and it would also be far too expensive to produce.

Project 102

The next idea was called Project 102. It was also based on components from the Saab 9000. But the total dimensions were smaller and the body structure was changed radically. The project wanted to capture the look of the original Saab 900: the curved windscreen, the bow shaped waistline that curves upwards into the back window pillar and the three or five door concept. But unfortunately the Saab 102 still looked too large and the cost to produce it was too close to that of the 9000. It was suggested to try and build a new car based on existing Saab 900 components and the idea of collaborating with another major manufacturer - as had been done with Fiat-Lancia for the Saab 9000 - was put forward. In 1989 this idea was realised when Saab-Scania placed its car division into a new company, Saab Automobile AB, of which General Motors took control of 50%. A replacement for the Saab 900 became a top priority and Project 104 was started.

Project 104

It was realised that components from Opel - a GM product line - would get the project off to a quick start and, if used correctly, would make a perfect basis for the new car. Rapid development was key to the project's success and in December 1989 it was decided that the new Saab should be introduced in 1993. A lot of the design work required had already been done during Project 102 and could be carried forward into Project 104.

Since the primary target group for the new car was existing Saab 900 owners there was a requirement to carry over and enhance the existing qualities of the Saab 900 into the new car. So it was decided that:

  • All visible metal and glass surfaces had to be clearly related to the Saab 900
  • The basic visual characteristics of the Saab 900 were to be carried over into the bumpers, the grille, the headlights, rear lights, wheel rims etc.
  • The car had to be easily spotted in traffic and when parked from a distance of 100 meters

A graphic example of how the distinctive Saab styling cues were carried forward can be seen in this picture

The interior also had to function the Saab way and particular attention was paid to:

  • The driver's seat
  • The dashboard, with the logical layout of controls with emphasis on basic functions
  • Easy to read, analogue instruments
  • Practicality

The car was built on a modified Opel Vectra floor pan but it was certainly not a case of building the complete car from bits from the GM parts bins! The engine, gearbox, suspension, electrics and electronics were all developed by Saab for the new vehicle and after 4 short years of development and testing the new Saab 900 was shown to the world in Trollhättan in July 1993 and it continued in production till 1998 when it was replaced by the Saab 9-3.