In Licence Renewed Bond drives a Saab 900 Turbo. For some editions of the book, the car is shown as black or red on the book cover; however, in the book the car’s colour is not mentioned. It only became silver and took on the nickname the “Silver Beast” (this is the first book in which the car’s colour is mentioned and it is referred to by its more popular nickname) in the follow-up Gardner novel, For Special Services.
The car is Bond’s personal vehicle, updated on his own expense by Communication Control Systems Ltd (CCS), a real life company (now known as Security Intelligence Technology Group) that advised author John Gardner with ideas about feasible gadgets to be used. Consequently, Gardner gave them the credit in the book and not Q Branch.
With the release of Licence Renewed Saab Automobile took the opportunity to launch a Bond themed promotional campaign complete with an actual car outfitted like the one in the book (but using smoke instead of tear gas).
The 1979 Saab 900 was available in three versions: The GL had the single-carb 99 hp/73.5 kW engine, the GLS had twin carburetors for 106 hp/79.5 kW, the EMS and GLE had fuel injection for 116 hp/87 kW, and the 900 Turbo produced 143 hp/107 kW. A five-speed transmission was introduced in the EMS and Turbo for 1980.
The only bodywork originally available was the three or five-door hatchback style, which was seen as more modern at the time. The vehicle also had an aviation-inspired curved windscreen for better visibility and an aircraft style dashboard. The dashboard itself had been arranged according to the frequency of use and/or importance of the various controls and gauges.
James Bond’s SAAB 900 Turbo Gadgets
Bond’s Saab 900 Turbo, 3-door version, was equipped with the following features:
- Water-cooled turbo engine modification per Saab Law Enforcement specs, producing a top speed in excess of 170 MPH
- Modified fuel system capable of running on petrol or gasohol
- Halon 12 fire extinguishing system and fire-proofing
- Digital Head-Up Display
- Remote text-messaging system via black box phone hook up to landline Mobile phone
- Four external tear gas ducts
- A filter to neutralise deadly gas entering the car’s passenger cabin
- Oxygen masks under the seats in CO2-operated compartment
- Several hidden compartments in dashboard containing TH70 Nitefinder goggles (for driving without headlights), grenades, one unauthorized Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum revolver and one Browning automatic handgun
- Fully armor-plated body Bulletproof glass
- Steel-reinforced ramming bumpers back and front
- Heavy-duty Dunlop Denovos tires, self-sealing even after being hit by bullets
- Black leather upholstery
- Side gunport Remote starter kit Rotating license plates
- Air Conditioning Cruise Control Two halogen fog lamps
- A fully built in sound system
- Aircraft headlight hidden behind front license plate.
Clip from a 1981 ATV interview of John Gardner featuring the promotional 007 Saab turbo for his book – Licence Renewed: