Originally (and still) an aircraft and fighter-jet manufacturer, Saab as a car company rightly put a premium on occupant safety, designing incredibly strong and effective safety features when other manufacturers were simply paying lip service to it. The 1977 Saab 99 Turbo was evolution of the 99 model, which had been in production since 1967. While the car was generally appreciated for its muscular, unconventional design and great interior (particularly the dashboard), what grated was the engine. Originally borrowed from Triumph and reworked by Saab engineers, it was as clunky and unreliable as could be. Something had to be done.
Turbocharging was the solution: Per Gillibrand, Saab’s turbocharging guru, developed a wastegate that contributed to reducing turbo lag, and the reworked engine, an in-line 2-liter four-cylinder producing 145 horsepower was a great success. The Saab 99 Turbo’s top speed was 123 miles per hour, and it accelerated to 60 in less than ten seconds.
Thanks to the new engine and to subtle but distinctive styling changes and adjustments, including the subtle air dams and alloy wheels, the 1977 Saab 99 Turbo became an instant classic; every one forgot about its flawed forebears!