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Saab 9000 V8: Rediscovering an Automotive Legend After 30 Years

Saab 9000 V8: A Journey Through Time with an Automotive Icon

Saab 9000 V8: "Beneath the hood, the source of the captivating sound is revealed: the V8 engineSaab 9000 V8: "Beneath the hood, the source of the captivating sound is revealed: the V8 engine

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.

Table of Contents

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.

V8 team members inspecting a partially completed V8 engine in the spring of 1989. The second from the left is Saab Valmet's contact person Simo Vuorio regarding the new V8 engine project for the Saab 9000 car. Fourth from the left is Mauno Ylivakeri from Valmet Oy Linnavuori Factory.
V8 team members inspecting a partially completed V8 engine in the spring of 1989. The second from the left is Saab Valmet’s contact person Simo Vuorio regarding the new V8 engine project for the Saab 9000 car. Fourth from the left is Mauno Ylivakeri from Valmet Oy Linnavuori Factory.

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.

Mauno Ylivakeri returns to the driver's seat after over 30 years.
Mauno Ylivakeri returns to the driver’s seat after over 30 years.

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.


Saab V8 engine = 2x B202
Saab V8 engine = 2x B202

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.

Saab 9000 V8
Saab 9000 V8

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.

V8 anecdote

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.

Valmet Automotive V8 engine for Saab 9000

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.

"Instrumentation in the V8 Saab 9000 showcasing unique features not found in standard models.
“Instrumentation in the V8 Saab 9000 showcasing unique features not found in standard models.

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.

12 Comments

  • I wanted to see, but don’t think that I did, whose V8 that was in origin (who built that engine)?
    I wondered at first, if it was Lancia’s : Ducati / Ferrari eight (as that would’ve been quite straightforward to fit … for a bent eight motor!)
    The heads looked like home grown covers.
    The capacity at just under 4.0 litre, could mean that it’s two x 2.0 litre fours, would that be two regular SAAB fours, siamesed together as an eight?
    Is that what this is?
    Keith in Derbyshire UK.

  • Pretty low figures for a V8
    As mentioned the Lancia/Ferrari engine which gave us the Lancia 8:32 would have been the obvious choice. A more developed/mature solution.
    Especially as the Lancia was on a shared platform with the 9000
    The 4 pot Aero developed the same numbers, was lighter and arguably probably better to drive.
    Had they gone down the Volvo S80/XC90 route and developed a V8 AWD for the 9000 it might have been seen as a nice comfortable limousine especially with an auto.
    That’s wasn’t Saab though, it had a sporting heitage.
    Would have been nice to see a turbo/supercharged 9000Viggen aka Lancia Volumex

  • Seeing as the Saab 4 cylinder was developed from the Triumph slant engine which was also developed into a V8 for the Stag it’s highly plausible that it’s siamesed

  • Those figures are quite leisurely compared with a later tweaked aero. With a maptun stage 3 ECU and 3″ exhaust it becomes 300hp and 450nm.
    Amazing cars

  • Didn’t know this v8 ever existed. I owned a 89′ Saab 9000 CSE Turbo 5spd & man was it a joy to drive! Unfortunately it was involved in an accident off of I-95 here in South Carolina after breaking down because of an oil leak that I was preparing to fix the very next day after my mechanic friend actually found the oil leak but unfortunately the engine was starved for oil on my 45min trip heading back home & destroyed the engine & subsequently was hit when left on the interstate! Boy I miss that car!

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