For the most fervent members of car club Saabstance, Swede dreams are made of these turbocharged numbers. This story was published a few years ago by magazine Torque – Singapore’s number 1 monthly car magazine.
The Saab car brand isn’t dead and buried, but it isn’t alive and kicking either. Currently, it’s in a financially induced coma, after resuscitation efforts by Dutch “nurses” (Victor Muller and Spyker) and mainland Chinese “doctors” (Hawtai, Youngman and the current “physician”, Mr Kai).
The prognosis doesn’t look good. But Saab’s griffin is still cruising in Singapore, thanks to the 800-odd units still on the road and also these guys in Saabstance (“substance”), a local car club devoted to the marque.
It is said to have over 2300 members, with about 40 of them almost religious in their devotion to Saab cars – especially their own, of course. I talk to three of them here – lawyer Amos Tan, 25; pilot Sparks Ng, 47 (“call sign” SaaB777); and IT director Stephen Lim, 53.
WHAT ARE YOUR PASTIMES?
AMOS TAN (AT): Photography, automobiles and tinkering under the bonnet.
SPARKS NG (SN): Driving my “jet” and keeping it in tip-top condition.
STEPHEN LIM (SL): Music, motoring and fooling around with electronics gadgets.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR SAAB.
AT: I currently drive a model year 2008 Saab9-3 Aero. My family has been through four Saabs over a span of 14 years – a MY01 Saab 9-5 Linear 2.0T, a MY00 Saab 9-5 Aero 2.3T, a MY07 Saab 9-3 SportCombi Vector 2.0T and a MY06 Saab 9-5 SportCombi Linear 2.0T. I also have a Saab bicycle, which is believed to be the only one imported into Singapore.
SN: January 2009 Saab 9-3. I chose it because of its new facelift and the performance enhancement that came with it. I’m a bit sad because I won’t be able to buy my third Saab when my present one is deregistered in 2019.
SL: 2012 Saab 9-5 NG, no longer in production.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT SAAB?
AT: Its distinctive character, turbocharged history and aviation-inspired cockpit designs.
SN: I like the everlasting linear power that my car delivers, and the performance enhancement options readily available in the market. I love the look of my “jet”, it just has that ideal and correct stance.
SL: Performance without fuss.
ANY INTEREST IN OTHER “SAABS” SUCH AS TRUCKS, BUSES AND PLANES?
AT: I love how Saab jets and Scania trucks are so visually distinctive.
SN: The Saab 37 Viggen combat aircraft.
SL: Scania trucks look awesome!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SAAB CAR OF ALL TIME?
AT: The Saab 9-5 Aero I used to own. The way it pulls, the relentless torque during overtaking, the boost needle shooting past the red zone… It makes every drive so rewarding.
SN: The Saab 9-5 NG, with its “commercial jet windows” and HUD-equipped cabin dashboard design.
SL: The Saab 900. To me, it was the defining moment for Saab.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS SAAB’S GREATEST AUTOMOTIVE CONTRIBUTION?
AT: Turbocharging for the masses. Saab’s concept of “rightsizing” engines was implemented over 40 years ago, long before every car manufacturer today jumped on the bandwagon.
SN: The turbo rush.
SL: Development of the turbo.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IKEA, ABBA AND SWEDISH FOOD?
AT: I like anything Scandinavian – simple, elegant and logical without ever going over the top.
SN: The Swedes make nice, unique stuff . Great songs by Abba, and to this day, I still watch Mamma Mia! once in a while. Wonderful movie.
SL: Ikea, good ideas. Abba, my era of light music. Swedish food, not to my liking.
HAVE MANAGED THE SAAB BUSINESS DIFFERENTLY?
AT: Saab doesn’t have good brand recall, and it should have been more visible on the roads during the corporate restart, so as to build confidence in the brand again.
SN: Since Saab is so closely associated with airplanes, I’ll give the brand a big push among pilots, who can relate to the turbo surge that’s like a fighter jet taking off and the dashboard layout that’s similar to an aircraft cockpit.
ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE OTHER WELL-KNOWN SWEDISH CAR BRAND?
SN: I used to associate Volvo with “old uncle”, but these days, I can see that it has moved away from that image. New-age Volvos look good externally and internally (performance) as well.
SL: Volvos really look ugly.