Formula Junior, which ran from 1958 to 1963, was an entry-level series where young F1 drivers could earn their stripes. The cars had basic chassis designs with production-based engines (known as ‘screamers’)of no more than 1100cc. Many manufactuers built Formula Junior cars, including Saab, Melkus, DKW, Stanguellini…
With such an outstanding road and track reputation, it did not seem possible that SAAB could ignore the new trend and not produce a Formula Junior car. As early as 1961, the first news was heard from Sweden that Saab was working on the project Formula Junior and was testing a new experimental car with an 850cc engine and accompanying characteristics which conform to Formula Junior requirements. This was one of the first Sixten Sasonprojects he did for Saab.
The SAAB Formula Junior was an open single-seater. Most of the chassis and power train elements come from a single production type car model.
In order to keep the weight down and to meet the special function required of the car, certain departures from standard have been made. These concern the suspension, the gas tank and some of the controls. Apart from these, everything in the new Formula Junior was standard SAAB. This includes, naturally, the engine, transmission, rear axle, brakes and fuel system. The engine was specially tuned. In this case the tuning consisted of enlarging and slightly re-Iocating the ports and raising the compression ratio to give in the neighborhood of 70 hp.
The body was distinctly non-standard. There was no support load bearing structure such as the tubular framework which might be expected. As a Formula Junior, the new SAAB was unique in that it was built on the airplane structural system, being held together by a strong but light stressed skin structure of sheet steel.
The engine was located in a low fiberglass shell which forms the nose of the car, and the gas tank was in the fiberglass tail section. The engine used is the 3-cylinder 841cc SAAB with twin carburetors.
The over-all design of the car is interesting. It shows the methodical look-ahead attitude which SAAB engineers display towards their projects. To keep the front of the car low in accordance with aerodynamic principle, the SAAB engine has been mounted on its side and the gearbox has been turned over so that the gearshift mechanism is at the bottom. This helps to achieve a low center of gravity. The radiator has been moved from its usual position behind the engine and is located in the extreme front of the car. The fan has been abandoned and replaced by a circulating pump in the radiator. The 12-volt electrical system includes a self-starter.
At that time, in 1960-1961, one of these cars was in the process of testing and another one was in prototype production. No decision had been made at that time as to whether these cars will go into production.
SAAB has built these cars primarily to gain experience. How it will turn out later, The cars did not do very well in races, due to their cornering ability and their relatively low-powered engine (the later regulations allowed up to 1100 cc engines). Nonetheless, two first places and a track record (Stockholm) were achieved. Only two cars were built, as later regulations made them even less competitive. They were retired at the end of the 1961 racing season.