The sportier 900 models had a somewhat more aggressive face than the GL and GLE versions. The main difference on the outside were the grills. In the US all 900 except the Turbo had the more discrete grill design. US and Canada models may seem a little bit hollow eyed, since glass covering outside the headlights are forbidden.
Manufacturing of Saab 900 began in stages and incorporated new techniques in many areas. Some variants had to wait awhile; the right-hand-drive ones were the last. Where the 900 was not yet ready, there were some 99 models that were not planned for the ultimate 1979 line up available as replacements. The plan was for the 900 series to include three- and five-door models in all luxuary and performance levels, while the 99 was to be restricted to 100-hp GL sedans. But there had to be some deviations from this plan: left-hand drive 99s with the Super engine were requested by some markets; the 99s for America had to use the fuel injected engine, and to fill the gap created by the demise of the 95, a special three-door 99 combi coupe was produced.
There were still four basic engines: single carburetor and 100 hp; twin carburetors and 108 hp; fuel injection and 118 hp (115/110); and fuel injection and turbo charging and 145 hp (135). Figures in parentheses refer to the output of engines made for USA/California.
The 100 hp engine was not too common in the 900 line, only appearing on some markets in the three-door model. Generally it said GLs or GLi on the back of the GL cars, meaning that they had either super or injection engine. The super alternative was most common in Europe. EMS and GLE models, now three- and five-door 900 respectively, only came with injection engines.
900 GL was made in two versions, 3-and 5-door combi coupe. Here is a 3-door GLi with USA equipment.
Black trim and sporty grill on Turbos. The 5-door had GLE interior, and alloy wheels in turbo design.
The Saab 900 wasn't just a lengthened 99 with a new front end. So many parts had been changed and the character had been altered so much that 900 could be considered a new car.
All 900s had the same outside measurements (US versions were a bit longer than the others). The wheel base was 50 mm longer than in the 99, and total length 210 mm (2 in.) more than 99 combi coupe. The new bumpers accounted for 80 mm (8.25 in.) of the extra length, the rest was for the longer front end. The extra millimeters were utilized to allow better front leg room, a more balanced overall design; redesign of the engine compartment; and improved energy absorption at collisions.
The driver of the 900 was even better off than he had been in the 99. The driving position was more comfortable, the instrument panel easier to read, the passenger compartment air was cleaner, and the heating and ventilation system more effective. On top of all this the car's road characteristics had been refined through either redesign, or completely new construction of a number of chassis components, for example, wheels, springs, rear axle. Six of the 10 colors were new for 1979. Remaining from 1978 were Black, Dorado Brown, Solar Red and Carmine metallic. The whitest color had a slightly green tint and was called Marble White, and then there was Alabaster Yellow, and in the middle of the scale Chamotte Brown. In the darker register Midnight Blue had been added. Also new were two metallic colors: Acacia Green and Aquamarine Blue, both relatively light. The green metallic was used over the entire line, from 96 to 900 Turbo, while the blue was reserved for the top grades of the 900.
99s were assembled in Arlov and -Uusikaupunki, but body panels were pressed in Trollhattan. All were called GL and featured new wheels. (After the first of the year, the four-door came with 900 bumpers).
All 96 cars were assembled in Finland. The most elegant version featured Acacia Green metallic paint. Reseda Green upholstery and black hubcaps. As of March all 96s had the same exterior trim.
All four versions of the 900 above the GL range had separate wheel and tire specifications. EMS retained its characteristic alloy wheels with 175/70 HR tires; the GLE had the same conventional 165 tires, on redesigned steel wheels, as the GL, but the wheels were hidden by wheel discs of a Bugatti-like design. Three-door Turbo had the same 'Inca' design alloy wheels as the 1978s, with low profile 195/60 HR tires. And five-door Turbo was carried on new alloy wheels with rims especially designed to take Michelin TRX tires, 180/65 HR 390.
The most important thing to happen on the 99 for Model year '79 was, besides a reduction of the number of models and variations, the incorporation of a new rear axle, improved suspension and new wheels. Besides that, a batch of metallic Green and Marble White 99 Turbos were produced during spring 1979. One of them, a competition equipped and specially tuned 99 Turbo was driven by Stig Blomqvist in the Swedish Rally. It won.
Another special Turbo, this one of the 900 model, was displayed at the Geneva Auto Show in March, and was the subject of a lot of publicity. It was painted in silver and featured a 170 hp engine with water injection for cooling of the fuelmixture.
Saab 96 for 1979 had black framed side windows, a black stripe under the side moldings and a black section between the tail lights.
The Saab 900 was very well accepted, especially the Turbo. Sales figures rose and production had to be increased. Export sales during the first half of 1979 were 24 percent higher than for 1978; in Sweden sales rose by 14 percent. Total Saab production during 1979: 83,758 units.
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