(Engine roaring) – It’s the handsome Swede that
took the car world by storm. And no, I’m not talking
about Alexander Skarsgard. Its older brother is a freakin’ jet. They were always the
underdog but they made cars that revolutionized the entire industry. And if you drive one,
you’re either a dentist, an architect, or Jesse. (Tires squealing) This is everything you need to know to get up to speed on Saab. – Sob? What the hell is that? – It’s Swedish, it’s sporty,
it’s got a key in the middle. (upbeat retro music) – Saab had been making
planes in Trollhättan, Sweden since the 1930s. But after WW2 ended, nobody
needed anymore planes. So, Saab was all, No one is buying any of our
planes, what are we gonna do? What if we made planes for the road? You mean cars? Yup. Saab’s head designer,
Sixten Sason got to work, and the whole thing was thrown
together in only six months. The result was an aerodynamic family sedan with a two-stroke engine
and suicide doors. You could get the 92
in any color you liked, as long as it was green. In World War 2, the Swedish
military bought a lot of green paint to
camouflage their vehicles, but, it was the wrong shade,
and Saab bought it all at discount and used it on the 92. A little green airplane, without wings, with a dirt bike engine sounds insane, but against the odds, Saab
had successfully transformed into a real car brand. Over the years, Saab
updated the 92 to the 93. – [Announcer] Arthur Band in number 14, is also making a gallant try. – [James] As sales grew, the
expanded into other models. Like, the Sonett sports
car, which we will cover in another episode,
because it is legit tight. But it was the release
of the Saab 99 in 1968 that launched the company
onto the world stage. The 99 was Sixten Sason’s
final project with Saab. He used it to pass the torch
to a new, young designer named Björn Envall. Together, they created an
awesome-looking compact sedan that was comfortable,
affordable and dependable. Just like my son, Nolan. And true to its badge, not
without its own quirks. For one thing, the ignition
was moved from the side of the steering wheel,
down by the handbrake. Why? Because they don’t want
you to damage your knee on the key during a crash. In addition, Saab installed
the engine backwards. This saved room in the cabin because the clutch is now towards
the front of the car. It’s something that no other car company would even think of, but
Saab didn’t think like a car company, because
they were a plane company. In 1978 Saab made an even
better 99, called the 99 Turbo. This was the first time
a car company committed to putting a turbo charger in their car. Ya, I know, before you comment,
a lot of other companies did it first, but for them,
it was more of an experiment. Saab was the first company to be like, “From here on out, we’re
puttin’ turbos in our cars.” In 1979, Saab released their
most iconic car of all. The 900. It was a continuation of the
99, but better in every way. The body was restyled to
make it more aerodynamic, the engine was updated with more power, it had new safety features,
like a steering column that collapsed in a crash. And you can’t forget the turbo. The 1900 redefined what
an everyman’s could be. Finally, you could seat five, keep your knees safe from the keys, and have a frickin’ turbo. The result was a sensation. The Saab 900 went on to become the company’s best-selling car. Today, almost every OEM
offers a turbo-charged model, and it’s all because of Saab. So, Saab is making jet
fighters for the road just like they were for the military. And with the 900 taking off, business had never been better. In 1989, General Motors
purchased a fifty-percent share of Saab for six hundred million dollars. Sales of the 900 remain strong, and in 1997, the new Saab 9-5
was presented to the world. And the three-millionth Saab
was produced that summer. Until recently, three different insurers listed the 9-5 as the safest
car in the (bleep) world. Saab rolled out the 9-3 in 1998. The 9-3 becomes something of an icon, particularly, for Seinfeld fans. – Black Saab rules. – Like the 900 before it, Saab offered an even better version of their new ride. A car so cool, it shared a name with a frickin’ combat jet. (Jet engine) The 9-3 Viggen. Swedish for thunderbolt. 252 pounds of torque,
and 20 pounds of boost. The Viggen was a front wheel drive monster aimed at the BMW M3. It was Saab’s version of
the European sport sedan, but it was still uniquely Saab. The ignition was still between the seats, and the dash still
looked like it was ripped out of an airplane. Try as they might, Saab
could never quite get out from under the shadow of other
“preferred” European cars. So, the Swedes were forced to sell the remaining stake in the company to GM. And with the Americans in full control, the suites in Detroit
decided that it was time for the big ideas at Saab to end. Sorry Saab, no more big ideas. GM shoved Saab’s operation
together with Opel, and pretty much everything
they put out after that was just a rebadged version
of an Opel or a Chevy, and at one point, even a Subaru. The Saab 92x Aero, affectionately
known as, the “Saabaru”, it was basically a WRX
wagon with a different face. Jesse owns one of those, too (tires screeching) And his insurance is cheaper than a WRX. Sales fell way off. And GM went into bankruptcy in 2008. They sold Saab to a new company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden, which hopes to electric
versions of the 9-3 for sale in China, but
they won’t be called Saabs. The original aircraft
company has reclaimed the rights to that name. At least for now, we will
never see another Saab car again. The story of Saab is the story
of an independent spirit. A bunch of Swedish aeronautical engineers who decided to make a jet for the road. (engine roaring) There’s not great way to
say what makes a Saab great, except that, they were Saabs. This is everything you need to know to get up to speed on Saab, the second best Swedish car company ever. As always, like,
subscribe, comment, share. Go hit that sub button. We have a show page now. Follow the show page for Up to Speed. We recently just launched
a Tesla into space. Please Tweet at Elon Musk,
I really want him to see it. Follow Donut on Instagram, @donutmedia. Follow me on Instagram, @jamespumphrey. Go to shop.donut.media,
you can get a shirt, you can get a sticker,
new merch comin’ soon. I love you. (burps)