The Saab 99 was introduced as a new model in the autumn of 1967 & production ended in 1984 (USA 1978), 15 years after the inception of Saab automobiles. The engine in the 99 was an inline 4 stroke that produced 80 horse power. Saab continued to focus on practicality by utilizing disc brakes on all 4 wheels. Saab Cars continued to lead the market with safety innovations such as headlight wipers which would eventually become a requirement in Sweden. Other innovations would include self-repairing bumpers and heated seats. As the economy began to change so did Saabs theory on fuel consumption and performance. This led to the advent of the very First production Turbocharged vehicle in 1976. Turbochargers would set the stage for Saab for many years to come as it would place the stamp of "Performance car" on these automobiles for the next 20 years. The Saab 99 era evolved into the production of the "Saab 90" in 1985 but the entire car line was scraped in early 1987.
On April 2, 1965, Gudmund's day in Sweden, the Saab board started Project Gudmund to develop a new and larger car to replace the Saab 96. This new car became the Saab 99, designed by Sixten Sason and unveiled in Stockholm on November 22, 1967.
The first 99 prototypes were built by cutting a 96 lengthwise and widening it by 20 CM - this created the so called Paddan.
As a disguise, the first 99 was badged 'daihatsu' as that name could be made up out of letters available for other Saab models.
Although Saab engineers liked the two stroke engine it was decided that a four stroke engine was necessary and the choice was a 1.5 L (later 1.7 and 1.85 L) engine from Triumph, the same Triumph Slant-4 engine used in the Triumph Dolomite, but with a Zenith-Stromberg CD carburetor developed specially for Saab. 48 Saab 99s were equipped with a V8 from Triumph, but the idea to use a V8 was dropped in favor of a turbocharged engine. The engine ultimately used in 99 was a four-cylinder in-line engine that was tilted at 45 degrees, basically half of a V8. The engine produced 87 hp DIN (64 kW) at 5500 rpm. The engine was watercooled, but unlike most cars of the time it had an electric cooling fan. Due to a trade restriction the USA models had a special front facia with two round headlights instead of the single rectangular unit it had in other markets. The "US front" then became a popular item for car customisers in Europe.
Early 99s carried over the freewheel transmission from the Saab 96, but the freewheel was removed with the introduction of the 1.85 L engine.
The car was wide and low and the suspension gave it handling that was very good for the time. The drag co-efficient was 0.37 while other cars of the time had 0.4 to 0.5. The chassis was also designed for safety.
Wheels magazine wrote in a July, 1978 road test of the 99 turbo "Compare the top gear times and you'll see that the Turbo is almost as fast between 60 km/h and 160 km/h in fourth gear as any five-seater in the world." and Modern Motor of August 1978 wrote "It is necessary to drive the car to believe that such a seemingly endless surge of strong acceleration is possible from a 2.0 litre engine in a far from lightweight car."
A police version 99 is shown on a Swedish postage stamp. The hood/bonnet of the 99 (and also the 900) caused problems for the police. Since it wraps around the paint had to be extended up on the hood and not restricted to just the fenders as on other cars.
EMS - Introduced in 1972, the EMS (Electronic Manual Special) was a sportier model that was only available in a two door version. It had a stiffer suspension and was sold in a silver colored metallic paint. The engine had 1985 cc displacement giving 110 hp DIN (81 kW) and a top speed of 170 km/h (106 mph).
SSE - Sold in the USA to satisfy demand while the EMS was not yet available there. The SSE had a black vinyl roof cover and an automatic transmission built by Borg-Warner.
X7 - Introduced in 1973. A very basic model only sold in Sweden. The car had no self-repairing bumpers and it also had the same seats as the V4 Saabs, only with no heat. A simpler climate control system was also added. The clock, cigarette lighter, glove compartment and the rear window defogger were also dropped.
GLE - Introduced in 1976.
L - Luxe. A budget model introduced in 1973 that came with the 1.8L Triumph engine.
GL - Grand Luxe.
GLE - Grand Luxe Elegant/Extra. The top model, equipped with fuel injection, power steering and an automatic transmission.
GLs - Grand Luxe Super. It is the same as a GL but with two carburetors instead of one.
Turbo - Introduced in 1978. The Turbo S was a special model with factory mounted water injection, giving an extra 15-20 hp. In 1978 there was a very limited edition of a little over 100 five door 99 turbos. They were only available in cardinal red metallic.
Finlandia - A limousine version of the Saab 99 GLE combi-coupé with a 25 cm longer wheelbase was introduced in 1977 by Valmet in Uusikaupunki (Nystad), Finland and was called the "Finlandia". It was only sold in Finland. The first year had a short extension piece between the front and rear doors. In 1978 the wheelbase was only 20 cm longer than in the standard model and all doors were stretched by 10 cm. Two late 99 Finlandias were fitted with a turbocharged engine at the factory. The tradition continued with the Saab 900 Finlandia in 1979.
1967 was the first Saab 99 was first shown on November 22. The first production cars came in autumn 1968.
In 1970 the interior was given a face lift and became more luxurious. The exhaust system was now made of aluminum. In March, the 99E Automatic was introduced. It had a 1.7 L engine with electronically controlled fuel injection, giving 95 hp (70 kW). A four-door version was also introduced.
In 1971 the 99 got a larger and stronger engine, a 1.8 L engine giving 86 hp DIN (63 kW) on the carbureted model and 95 hp (70 kW) for the fuel injected model. The 1.7 L engine was now only available with a carburetor. Saab also introduced headlight wipers. The dashboard was given a redesign along with new instruments.
In 1972 the 1.7 L engine was no longer available. The power of the engine was increased to 88 hp (65 kW) for carbureted models and 97 hp (71 kW) for fuel injected models. The major change this year were new plastic bumpers that could take impacts up to 8 km/h (5 mph) and still retain their shape. The suspension was stiffened and got stronger dampers. An electrically heated driver's seat was also introduced.
In January the 99 EMS (Electronic-Manual-Special) was introduced. It was a sportier model that was only available in a two door version. It had stiffer suspension and was sold in a silver-colored metallic paint. The engine had 1985 cc displacement giving 110 hp DIN(81 kW) and a top speed of 170 km/h.
In the USA, a special 99 SSE was available to satisfy demand while the EMS was not yet available there. The SSE had a black vinyl roof cover and an automatic transmission (by Borg-Warner).
In 1973 a low cost model called the 99L was introduced. It was a two door with an 1.85 L engine giving 88 hp (65 kW). All other models had the 2.0 L engine. The LE model had electronic fuel injection giving 110 hp (81 kW). The LE model was mainly made for export.
In 1974 the 3-door hatchback combi coupe (wagonback in the USA) was introduced. It was 10 cm (3.9 in) longer than the sedan.
In 1975 the brakes were improved and the hand brake now worked directly on the brake discs instead of on separate brake drums. The 99 was now available in two versions, one with a carburetor with 100 hp DIN (74 kW) and a fuel injected version using Bosch's CI-system giving 118 hp DIN (87 kW). In February a model using Zenith-Stromberg 150CDS(E) dual carburetors was introduced. It was only available for the combi coupé.
In 1976 nothing major was changed, but a self adjusting clutch was introduced. The engines were adapted for tougher emissions requirements and several models with an electrically heated rear window were introduced. An luxurious 4 door sedan model was available, the 99GLE: it came with power steering, an automatic transmission, a fuel-injected engine, luxurious upholstery on the seats, and an armrest in the rear seat.
In 1977, the headlights and the sedan's taillights were enlarged.
In 1978 a turbocharged version of the car, the 99 Turbo, was introduced. It was only available as a combi coupe until the next year.
In 1979 the 99 Turbo came in a four door version and the Turbo also came in a metallic green two-door coupe.
In 1980 the 99 came in many different models. It also got the new and safer seats from the Saab 900. Later in the year the gearboxes on all models were the same as in the four speed turbos. This was also the last year for the 99 in the United States.
In 1981 the 99 was available in two engine options, the 99GL with 100 hp DIN (74 kW) and the 99GLi with 118 hp DIN (887nbsp;kW), both with a four-speed manual gearbox. The GLi was a bit more luxurious and had power side mirrors.
In 1982 came the H engine, making it possible for all cars to run on 93 octane gasoline. The two and four door 99GLs came with a five-speed gearbox and low profile tires. All models except the Turbo and EMS came with a single carburetor, manual gearbox and the grille from the EMS and the Turbo.
In 1983 a number of smaller technical and cosmetic changes were made.
In 1984 some minor changes were made. 1984 was the final year for the 99. It was replaced by the Saab 90 and the Saab 900.
A total of 588,643 were made.