The following article is based on content from Moottori Magazine by Sini Ylivakeri, featuring photos by Sini Ylivakeri and Kalevi Salmen.
In a unique and highly-anticipated event, the opportunity arose to revisit the Saab 9000 V8, the first and only of its kind, after three decades. Located in the Uusikaupunki area, home to the Valmet Automotive factory, where Saab vehicles have been crafted from the model 96 to the 900 Convertible, and even the V8 prototype, this remarkable project car has kept its mystique alive.
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The Saab V8 project
The Saab V8 project, ordered by Saab but never mass-produced, has been preserved, continuing to astound and impress automotive enthusiasts. This unassuming yet extraordinary vehicle had left a lasting impact on the car community years ago. It may appear as an ordinary 9000 series Saab on the outside, but this masterpiece of Finnish design had been somewhat overshadowed by unforeseen circumstances, slowly fading into obscurity.
For a significant period, the project car has been an exhibit in the Uusikaupunki Automobile Museum, silently waiting for the day it would once again roam the open road. The idea of a test drive took root when a visit was paid to the car during winter, accompanied by Mauno Ylivakeri, who played a pivotal role during the project’s era as the head of the prototype workshop at Linnavuoren Motor Factory.
The actual test drive, however, was meticulously planned for the summertime. Mauno Ylivakeri, the one who last controlled the Saab’s wheel at the end of 1990, was ready to embark on this unique journey. Although the car had seen little use since those early days, he reassured, “The car has been stationary for quite some time, so there might be some maintenance required before the test drive. However, cars are meant to be driven.”
The journey to Uusikaupunki was a multi-generational affair, as interest in the project car transcended generations, and a hands-on experience with this remarkable vehicle was a rare and exciting opportunity.
Preparing The Saab 9000 V8 for a new test drive
The Saab 9000 V8 had spent a significant amount of time in the Uusikaupunki Automobile Museum. Ilkka Ruohonen, the museum’s director, together with his assistant, ensured that the car was meticulously prepared for the upcoming test drive. The car was now in impeccable condition, ready for its day in the sun, with a full tank of fuel.
As the key was turned in the ignition, the V8 engine burst to life, its distinctive growl hinting at the power that lay within. While the engine’s idle was initially somewhat irregular, it soon steadied. The group left the museum, the engine’s roar leaving smiles on their faces.
Though the car had felt a bit stiff after its prolonged inactivity, it quickly regained its agility. The warmth of the sun and the effectiveness of the air conditioning dispelled any initial discomfort.
The test drive itself did not include the opportunity to explore the car’s full potential on a test track, but the Saab 9000 V8’s efficiency was clearly evident. It responded promptly to the throttle, and its low-end torque was genuinely impressive. In fifth gear, the vehicle maintained a steady pace, comfortably cruising at around 40 mph.
While recollecting experiences from years past, Mauno Ylivakeri shared an amusing anecdote from a time when he was behind the wheel. Decades ago, a spirited acceleration to 180 km/h had earned him a memorable 1500 Mark fine. Despite the allure of the open road, their approach was notably more restrained this time.
On winding, undulating roads, the Saab showcased remarkable handling. Irregularities in the road surface and bumps barely registered in the car’s smooth ride. Ylivakeri, an experienced hand, adeptly guided this automotive masterpiece as it glided effortlessly over the terrain, seeming to momentarily lose himself in the memories of the past.
When asked how the car felt after all these years, Ylivakeri reflected, “It’s just as it was, but the engine settings aren’t quite right; the engine occasionally stutters. It could benefit from an automatic transmission.”
The vehicle has retained its original appearance, with only minor changes, such as the engine bay and a few additional gauges. The interior, with its distinctive wine-red design, evokes the ’80s era.
Surprisingly, the seats, while comfortable, may not be ideally adjusted for taller individuals. Nonetheless, the Saab 9000 V8 offered impressive interior space, comfortably accommodating three adults in the rear seats.
Saab 9000 CD V8
Mileage at the time of the test drive: 67,500 km.
Model Year: 1989
Engine: Gasoline engine, 3970 cm3, 8 cylinders, 5-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
Power and Torque: 230 hp, 5200 rpm, 330 Nm, below 2000 rpm
Acceleration 0–100 km/h: 8 seconds
Top Speed: 250 km/h
Fuel Consumption (l/100km): 10 liters
Dimensions: Length: 4794 mm, Width: 1764 mm, Height: 1420 mm
Curb Weight: Approx. 1400 kg
Cargo Space: 675 liters
This remarkable test drive, a journey through automotive history, has rekindled memories and admiration for the Saab 9000 V8. Its distinctive charm and performance remain as captivating as ever. The Finnish team behind this unique experience is to be commended for bringing this iconic car back to life, even if only for a short time.