Featured: Why You Should Respect The Saab 96

Why You Should Respect The Saab 96

By Alan Franklin
March 14, 2013
8 comments

The Saab 96 was essentially the 2nd revision of their first production car, the 92. Built from 1960 to 1980, the 96 was Saab’s first car exported in significant numbers, and it served to cement Saab’s reputation as a maker of safe, economic, fun-to-drive cars. School teachers, engineers and architects loved the 96 and found its practical, quirky nature very appealing.

Like its predecessors, the 96 was equipped with a rorty, smoke-belching screamer of a two-stroke engine, specifically an 840cc three cylinder, which was later superseded by a Ford-sourced, four-stroke V4. Though fittingly unconventional, the Ford-sourced four was quite gruff and reluctant to rev—though it did retain Saab’s traditional and super-cool freewheeling feature, originally fitted to their two–stroke cars to ensure adequate lubrication during deceleration.

The 96 racked up win after win in international rally racing, frequently with the legendary Erik Carlsson behind the wheel. Carlsson piloted the little teardrop-shaped cars to first place victories at the 1960, 1961 and 1962 RAC rallies, as well as the 1962 and 1963 Monte Carlo events. Erik’s 1962 RAC victory came in thanks to a rear suspension component which he surreptitiously “borrowed” from a spectator’s car after the same piece fitted to his race car was damaged—the owner was reportedly furious when he turned up to drive home and found his car immobile, but the two later became good friends.

We love the 96 for all its engineering madness, its idiosyncratic style, and most of all, its wailing, off-beat, two-stroke, three-cylinder soundtrack. As you know, Saab was lost to history last year, the fault of decades of inept and neglectful GM management, changing marketplace dynamics, and the ever increasing sanitization of modern cars. We miss them like crazy.

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Click here to save the Saab 96 cutaway image as a wallpaper.

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Thanos123
Thanos123
3 years ago

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John Vanlandingham
John Vanlandingham
6 years ago

As for the 96s remarkable rally pedigree..It won in 2 eras…In the late 50s to mid 60s with the mighty 850 2 stroke (tuned by my friend Bengt-Erik Strom) and then again with the V4 with several wins at Swedish and RAC beating in hard conditions everything. Last win was Swedish Rally in 1976 with Per Eklund from Arvika taking his only ever World Rally Championship win in what really was his “home” event, and future World Champion Stig Blomqvist from Orebro taking second….The last WRC outing was 26 years after 96 came along and also the last WRC event of the Group B era: Olympus WRC in Olympia, Washington in December 1986.. The 96 had an auspcious start number, as one sage put it “Proof! that the Saab 96 is the answer to all of lifes important questions of Life, The UNIVERSE and EVERYTHING” It’s start number was 42…I was the sage, and that was—and is my car.

John Vanlandingham
John Vanlandingham
6 years ago

Having owned over 125 Saab 96s between 1980 and 2000 and worked on more and more than full time between 1984 and 1999 I have to take issue with the odd comment about the V4 being “unwilling to rev”… The normal on all markets 1500 V4 had a bore of 90mm and a stroke of a whopping 58.8mm and rod center to center of 130.5mm….that give a rod/stroke ratio of about 2.2. If there is any “unwillingness” to rev stock its down to the very small V4 valve and very small poers..However Ford was nice enough to use very thick iron in a lot of places and the 90mm bore leaves pleanty of room for much much larger valves than the 37mm intakes and 31mm exhausts…and they can be conveniently found in later V6 Cologne engines, especially easily in the 2,9 which has 42mm intakes and 36mm exhaust..And which I used exclusively after the 2,9 was introduced in mid 80s…Very nice 1 piece valves, too. No problems revving past 7000 then…On personal car the thick cyliders have been bore to 94mm and the 1700 V4 crank offset ground for a stroke of 70,8mm which gives about 1965cc…and 44.5 intakes and 38mm exhausts are used…Car weight is used 1950lbs stock, mine is about 2020lbs (cage and sump guard and manifolding for 2 x 45 DCOEs, Saabs own (actually Bengt-Erik Strom’s own) dual exhaust port heads and the motor makes modestly in excess of 165 hp… Reliably…

Filip Ericsson
Filip Ericsson
8 years ago
haig
haig
9 years ago

THIS QUIET LITTLE AERODYNAMIC SAAB………………MEETS THE HAIG APPROVAL..
MY NEXT TARGA CAR…

John Wiley
John Wiley
9 years ago

I think the Ford V4 is a 4-stroke.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

Saw this very cool Saab 96 Wagon at Brooklands a couple of months ago. Love the Porsche Fuchs wheels.

Kyle Howe
Kyle Howe
9 years ago

I’ve always liked those cars. My mom used to drive one.