Alan Cesar
Alan Cesar Dork
12/15/08 12:28 p.m.

The original Saab 900 Turbo’s 111 mph top speed may not seem so fast today, but when the car was released nearly 30 years ago that figure was impressive. As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s and eventually the ’90s, the 900 Turbo kept pace with the times and remained a favorite. The cars have aged well, making them a great option for experiencing one of Europe’s finest machines for mere pennies on the dollar.

The classic shape of an old-school Saab 900 Turbo is still unmistakable. When the car was first introduced, its long nose, curved windshield and sloping hatchback shape even made the often-jaded journalists of the time call the car sexy. Not since the days of the Italian-penned Sonett III could Saab claim to have something so stunning to look at.

Unlike the Sonett, whose diminutive two-seat frame didn’t prove practical for most buyers, the 1979-’93 900 Turbo offered those sexy looks with railcar-like utility, battle-ready ruggedness, and a pressure-boosted turbo engine that gave its passengers a swift kick in the butt. However, the 900 Turbo was still somewhat odd looking compared to its contemporaries.

Saabs have always been quirky cars—what’s true today was true back then. Since the introduction of their 92 model back in 1950, Saab cars have been known more by their odd styling and practicality than for any sporting car nature.

The happenings during the end of the 1970s changed that general opinion. The Saab 99, a car known for hauling people while keeping them safe, eventually gained a turbocharged engine option in time for the 1978 model year.

Just a year later, Saab debuted the 900 model line. The high point was the 900 Turbo. The look of the first Saab 900 Turbo was an evolution of the 99 Turbo; from the A-pillar back, the two cars were almost identical. In producing the 900, Saab added 2 inches to the wheelbase and almost 9 inches to the overall length, measures that helped to better offset the stubby look that the 99 model adopted in its later years. This lengthening also provided more room in the engine bay, which had suffered from a lack of space since the turbo was added.

The additional inches allowed for revised looks, and the 900 Turbo was available in four body styles during its model run. The three- and five-door hatchback versions were sold from 1979 to 1980. In 1981, a new, more conventional four-door sedan replaced the five-door hatchback and stayed in the Turbo lineup through 1985.

A convertible first saw U.S. shores in late 1986, sold incredibly well and, in fact, continued into the 1994 model year after the new generation GM-platform 900 was released.

Despite all of these options, by far the most popular body was the classic three-door hatchback; it was sold every year that the car was offered.

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