Design, Innovation, Quirkiness and Saab


Drag coefficient: 0.30. all images from

Mike is away so the rest of us get to play with cars. I find them generally boring, and very much alike, variations on a theme. Now that they are on the brink of extinction, it is worth noting that Saab was always a bit different and a bit weird and wonderful, and often a bit greener than the rest. Core 77 reminds us that they were the first to use wind tunnels to reduce drag and fuel consumption (but then they also made jet fighters and were familiar with them). They were the first to offer seat belts and shock absorbing bumpers. They even were the first to offer CFC free air conditioners and catalytic converters.

They could also be smoky and awfully noisy; this popular model from the late fifties had a three cylinder, two stroke engine with a chain drive. It was so slow you could smell it coming.


But the Saab 900 just went on and on, dependable, efficient and fun, if you could find the ignition and get it going. Then GM bought the company in 1989 and they just got more boring by the year.

There may not be much of a future for the automobile, but it has a fascinating past. Saab succeeded when they had great design, constant innovation and an appealing quirkiness. When it got big and corporate it got progressively less interesting to where now it is on the verge of being closed down. That's a shame, and a lesson: Design matters.

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