June 10, 2005

Today in Automotive History

1947 Say Hello To Saab

Saab introduced its first car, the model 92 prototype. Saab had been primarily a supplier of military aircraft before and during World War II. With the end of the war, company executives realized the need to diversify the company's production capabilities.

After an exhaustive planning campaign that at one point led to the suggestion that Saab manufacture toasters, company executives decided to start building motor cars. Saab director Sven Otterbeck placed aircraft engineer Gunnar Ljungstrom in charge of creating the company's first car. Ljungstrom sketched his ideas for an aerodynamic, light-framed, safe automobile and then enlisted the skills of noted industrial designer Sixten Sason to translate the sketches into an automobile ready for production.

In search of a name for their new car, Saab executives elected to stay with their existing numbering system. As numbers one through 89 were taken up by military aviation projects, and 90 and 91 by commercial aircraft projects, the first Saab car became the Model 92. Saab ran a series of prototype 92s with German-engineered DKW engines until the Saab engine was ready in the summer of 1947.

Not surprisingly, the car received rave reviews from the Swedish press after its unveiling. The first 92s didn't hit Swedish showrooms until December of 1949. The 92 came equipped with a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine that provided 25hp and propelled the car at a top speed of 62mph. All Saab 92s came in the standard color of aircraft green. Only a month into production, Saab began its distinguished history of rally-car racing by entering the 92 in the Monte Carlo Rally.

Between 1950 and 1980, Saab cars were a force in the world of rally car racing, due in large part to their durability, handling, and mid-range acceleration. Saab reentered rally racing in 1996, after a 16-year hiatus from the circuit. Rally races are held on long, arduous off-road courses, and they test the stamina of both car and driver.

Posted by Quality Weenie at June 10, 2005 07:16 AM