July 07, 2010

Saab 96

JDMike, as I know you’re around this morning, here is something for you! ;)

A little history

Following the success of its first two cars, the 92 and 93 models (from 1949 and 1955, respectively), Saab had no intention of changing the concept of its popular car. Therefore the new 96, unveiled in 1960, as its two predecessors was a compact fastback coupe powered by an unusual two-stroke inline three. Though this little 750cc was rated at only 38 hp, performances were excellent due to the very light weight of the car and its near perfect aerodynamics – thanks to its long experience as an aircraft manufacturer, Saab developed a car as sleek as most modern vehicles. As most Swedish cars the 96 had a justified reputation for being dependable and tough, nothing less than what it takes to tackle the harsh Scandinavian winter’s conditions. To make things even better, handling was excellent. All this combined made the 96, and its two-door estate variant the 95, tremendous offers on both domestic and export markets. Regarding the latter, though the Saab 96 (and, as a matter of fact, the other Swedish car of the time the Volvo 544) was still regarded as “exotic”, its enviable records in rally racing greatly helped boosting its sales.

By the mid-Sixties, two-stroke engines were rapidly losing popularity, bringing Saab to reconsider its car’s powerplant. For model year 1965, the front of the car was redesigned. Not only Saab’s designers gave it a squarer, more modern look, they also extended it in anticipation for the new engine. It finally appeared in 1967 as a four-stroke, 1.5-litre V4 engine provided by Ford’s Taunus. Power was still a modest 55 hp but, once again, the 96’s light weight allowed performances well above its class.

At age ten the Saab 96 was among these few cars (Volkswagen Beetle or Citroën 2CV for example) that, though designed long before, have so well succeeded in creating a style of their own that they don’t even look old anymore. In 1968, a Saab 99, up-to-date but unmistakeably Saab in appearance, had been introduced, but it was a larger vehicle aiming higher in the market. Consequently, the 96 carried on for a second decade, receiving only minor modifications along the way. The very last car was produced shortly after New Year 1980, and left without a direct successor.

About the model

Model: Saab 96 V4
Year: 1972
Event: 1972 Swedish Rally, driven by Stig Blomqvist, navigator Arne Hertz (overall winners)
Maker: Ixo
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Altaya as no.46 of its Voitures de Rallye de Collection press series
Acquired: brand new, in November 2005, in Souillac, France

A very correct model by Ixo, though the front turn signals are rather symbolic. My rating is 12/20.





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