Saab History

Saab 90: The Iconic Finnish-Made Model that Defined an Era!

The Legacy of Finland's Beloved Saab 90 and Its Impact on Automotive History

Saab 90

The 1986 Saab 90 stands as a unique chapter in automotive history, representing the closest Finland ever came to having its own car brand. This model, produced exclusively in Finland by Valmet Automotive, epitomizes a successful Nordic collaboration and holds a special place in the hearts of Finnish car enthusiasts.

As discussed in detail on Saab Planet, the Saab 90 was an ingenious blend of the Saab 99 and Saab 900, creating a car that was uniquely Finnish in spirit and design. Let’s dive into the intriguing story of the Saab 90 and its significance in the automotive world, enriched by insights from the Finnish Car Guys’ video.

The Birth of the Saab 90

The Saab 90 emerged from a strategic decision by Saab to utilize existing components and designs from its other models, specifically the Saab 99 and Saab 900. Introduced in 1984, the Saab 90 was designed to be a practical, affordable, and reliable car that could thrive in the harsh Finnish climate. It featured the front section of the Saab 99 and the rear of the Saab 900, creating a distinctive blend that was both familiar and unique.

Insights from Finnish Car Guys

The video by Finnish Car Guys provides a rich narrative about the Saab 90 and its place in Finnish automotive history. The hosts highlight how nearly every family or their neighbors had a Saab, making it an integral part of Finnish culture. This connection was so strong that despite Saab not being originally Finnish, it was embraced as if it were a local brand.

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A Finnish Pride

Finland’s role in the production of the Saab 90 cannot be overstated. The model was manufactured at the Valmet Automotive plant in Uusikaupunki, a facility known for its high standards and innovative approach to car production. This plant, which has produced a variety of cars over the years, from Talbots to Mercedes-Benz models, found a special place in the hearts of Finns with the Saab 90.

The pride associated with the Saab 90 stemmed not only from its local production but also from its embodiment of Finnish craftsmanship and resilience. The car was marketed with a sticker proclaiming “Saab from Finland,” symbolizing its national significance.

Petteri Virtanen’s Contributions

Petteri Virtanen, President of the Saab Club of Finland, provides a profound insight into this relationship. He emphasizes the pride and emotional connection Finns have with their Saabs, noting how the club, with over 4000 members, is the largest Saab owners’ club globally. The club’s activities, including the publication of the Saabisti magazine and organizing international events, keep this legacy alive.

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The Unique Features of the Saab 90

The Saab 90 was renowned for its robustness and adaptability to Finnish road conditions. Key features included:

  • Front-Wheel Drive: This provided superior handling and stability on icy and snowy roads, a common challenge in Finland.
  • Durability: Built to withstand the Finnish climate, the Saab 90 was known for its longevity and reliability.
  • Safety Innovations: Saab’s commitment to safety was evident in features like the ignition switch located between the front seats, a design meant to reduce knee injuries during collisions.

One of the most interesting quirks of the Saab 90 was its handbrake, which was connected to the front wheels instead of the rear. This unique feature often surprised drivers but was a testament to Saab’s innovative engineering.

Finnish Car Guys’ Perspective

The Finnish Car Guys delve into these quirks and features, explaining how they contributed to the car’s charm and practicality. They share anecdotes about the car’s unique handbrake and ignition switch, which were both safety features and conversation starters. These stories bring the technical details to life, highlighting the everyday experiences of Saab 90 owners.

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The Legacy of the Saab 90

Despite being produced in limited numbers, with only about 25,000 units made, the Saab 90 left a lasting legacy. It was a favorite among Finnish drivers, often seen as a symbol of national pride. The car’s popularity was driven by its practicality, affordability, and the emotional connection Finns had with their locally made vehicle.

Saab 90 - A car made up of two halves of two other Saab cars
Saab 90 – A car made up of two halves of two other Saab cars

The Saab 90 also played a significant role in the larger narrative of Saab’s history. It represented a period when Saab was expanding its production capabilities and experimenting with new markets and designs. The collaboration with Valmet Automotive was a crucial part of this strategy, highlighting the benefits of cross-border industrial partnerships.

The Saab Club of Finland

The love for the Saab 90 and other Saab models is best exemplified by the Saab Club of Finland. With over 4000 members, it is the largest Saab owners’ club in the world. The club, led by President Petteri Virtanen, plays a vital role in preserving the heritage of Saab cars in Finland.

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The club’s activities include the publication of the Saabisti magazine, organizing local gatherings, and hosting international events. These events attract Saab enthusiasts from around the world, creating a vibrant community of fans dedicated to celebrating and preserving Saab’s legacy.

Upcoming Events and Engagement

Petteri Virtanen also mentions the upcoming international gathering, set to bring together Saab enthusiasts from nearly 20 countries. These events are a testament to the strong community and enduring passion for Saab vehicles.

A Symbol of National Pride

The story of the Saab 90 is intertwined with the national pride of Finland. It represents more than just a car; it is a symbol of Finnish innovation, craftsmanship, and resilience. The Saab 90’s production at Valmet Automotive’s Uusikaupunki plant was a milestone in Finland’s industrial history, showcasing the country’s ability to produce high-quality, reliable vehicles.

The last Saab 90 to come off the production line at the Valment Automotive plant in Finland
The last Saab 90 to come off the production line at the Valment Automotive plant in Finland

This pride is further reflected in the emotional connections Finns have with their Saabs. The phrase “Saab is miestä,” which translates to “Saab is a man’s disease,” captures the deep-rooted affection and loyalty Finnish drivers have for their Saab vehicles. This sentiment, though originating as a light-hearted jab at Saab drivers’ enthusiasm, has evolved into a badge of honor for the community.

Finnish Car Guys’ Reflections

In their video, the Finnish Car Guys reflect on this sentiment, noting how driving a Saab in Finland is seen as a unique trait, almost a part of one’s identity. This cultural connection is a significant part of why the Saab 90 remains beloved by many.

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The Future of Finnish Automotive Innovation

While the Saab 90 remains a nostalgic favorite, Finland’s automotive industry continues to evolve. Valmet Automotive has diversified its production, building modern vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the Porsche Boxster. However, the legacy of the Saab 90 endures, reminding us of a time when a small Nordic country left its mark on the global automotive stage.

Looking Ahead

Petteri Virtanen mentions his own experiences, planning to retire his daily driver Saab 9-3 and possibly considering modern vehicles produced in the same factory. This continuity highlights how the spirit of innovation and quality persists in Finnish automotive manufacturing.

A Testament to Finnish Ingenuity and Collaboration

The Saab 90 is more than just a car; it is a testament to Finnish ingenuity and the spirit of collaboration. Its story, from its inception in the Valmet Automotive plant to its lasting impact on Finnish culture, is a fascinating chapter in the history of automotive engineering. The Saab 90 continues to be celebrated by enthusiasts around the world, a symbol of what can be achieved when passion and innovation come together.

For more stories about Saab’s history and the legacy of models like the Saab 90, visit the Saab Club of Finland’s website and follow their activities on Instagram. The spirit of Saab lives on through the dedicated community of enthusiasts who keep the brand’s legacy alive.

Watch the Full Story

For a deeper dive into the Saab 90, watch the Finnish Car Guys’ video here. Their engaging storytelling and detailed insights provide a captivating look at this iconic model and its place in Finnish automotive history.

Post Scriptum: What in the World is a Saab 90?

Goran Aničić
the authorGoran Aničić
For over 10 years, Goran Aničić has been passionately focused on Saab automobiles and everything related to them. His initial encounter with Saab cars took place back in 2003 when the first Saab 9-3 and sedan version were introduced. At that moment, he was captivated by the car's Scandinavian design logic and top-notch engineering, and everything that followed stemmed from that first encounter. Later on, through his work at the editorial team of the Serbian automotive magazines "Autostart" and later "AutoBild," he had the opportunity to engage more closely with Saab vehicles. In 2008, he tested the latest Saab cars of that time, such as the Saab 9-3 TTiD Aero and Saab 9-3 Turbo X. In 2010, as the sole blogger from the region, he participated in the Saab 9-5ng presentation in Trollhättan, Sweden. Alongside journalists from around the world, he got a firsthand experience of the pinnacle of technological offerings from Saab at that time. Currently, Goran owns two Saabs: a 2008 Saab 9-3 Vector Sportcombi with a manual transmission, and a Saab 9-3 Aero Griffin Sport Sedan from the last generation, which rolled off the production line in Trollhättan in December 2011.

13 Comments

  • Hell yes! It’s time for the humble 90 to get some love! me and my brother had a blue one between 1997 and 2002. 🙂

  • The finns Saabs where built by high quality! Because finns works hard and drink hard ♥️

  • My first Saab was a 1970 99E. Since then I had 4 more Saabs. Now they are all gone, and I wish I had another one.

  • I`m from Finland and from my opinion the saab 90 was nothing special, it was besides a carburetor equipped low power model. It was Saab 900 that defined the Era of scandinavian cars in the 80`s in addition to volvo 240 and 740 if anything. Saab 900 i, 900 turbo and both in sedan and coupe was the hot ones, and finnish banks, military high ranks and goverment people used them. I myself have on army days personally opened a road beam to a black Saab 900 limousine with finnish defense commander as a passenger.

  • A safe and practical car that should still be in Production rather than the over priced junk they are producing today .

  • Kimmo Pakkala, speaking about Saab limousines, I own one 1986 built 900 CD, which was originally used by CEO of ”Valmet Työstökoneet”.
    This CD model had all the options available during the time, including extended wheelbase, AC, cruise control, special inclined carpets, reading lights on the C-pillars, stabilizer bars both front and rear axle etc.
    The automatic transmission and roof hatch were not available for this body with 16 valve turbocharged 175 horsepowers version.

  • Do you know is it stretched ? Because i cant tell from the photo, but i know that saab 900`s were stretched both sedan and coupe, about 12 centimeters, and here in Finland they called them with additional title ; Finlandia. I have been on one that was in use of person that was Valmet CEO, paper machinery. The defence minister limo I told at begin, was stretched with almost a meter and had additional side window.

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