The One and Only Finnish / Swedish SAunaAB

Posted on 17. Apr, 2008 by in 2000-2009

Film Credit: Technical World / Teknikens Värld

With the cold winter season just about over for all of those in the Northern Hemisphere, the thought of a warm Sauna sounds is a bit overkill. However, on the topic of a Sauna, here’s a great story that I must share with you.

The first one and only Finnish / Swedish SAUNAAB. This SAUNAAB or “Sauna” (“Bastu” in Swedish) as we commonly would refer to it as , is the first known conversion of a classic Saab 900 into a full-blown Sauna.

In 2002, Magnus B. of France decided to take on this project by converting his 1980 SAAB 900 5-door into what you see above. His story has had some recent coverage in a Finnish Newspaper as well as in the Winding RoadTeknikens Värld in Sweden.

I will leave the rest of the story in his own words, enjoy:


The first official SAUNAAB tests in Farges, France.

1.jpgOn this page you will find a little story about some (crazy?) nordic people, an old SAAB 900 Classic 5-door and a common desire to have a sauna.
This is not the first sauna in a SAAB, I know of at least one SAAB 96 made into a sauna in Finland. However, this is probably the only sauna built into a Classic 900…

For quite some time ago Magnus B. aquired a 1980 SAAB 900 5-door from a swedish friend, Jakob W. He left CERN and could not bring his old SAAB with him back to Sweden. So as usual Magnus B. took the opportunity and adopted the SAAB. But one fine day in May 2002 Magnus B. found himself running out of space in his SAAB hangar (as usual). Something had to be done. The “Jakob’s old SAAB” was, well, quite rusty and Magnus B. had anyway taken it to pieces and saved all the usable parts. There was the chassis and some odd pieces here and there left on the car.

2.jpgBeing a little bit sentimental and reluctant in scrapping an old trusty SAAB Magnus B. tried to come up with some kind of use for the almost-stripped-out chassis… Then suddenly Magnus B. thought of a (crazy?) idea; Building a sauna inside the SAAB! This idea was verified with some other sauna-loving fiends, and of course, this was a good idea. The SAUNAAB construction team was formed! Since this team has members from both Finland and Sweden, the appropriate project names for the car are of course “SAUNAAB” and “SAABASTU”…!

The most important part, however, was not the name, but the work! Now started a ever-increasing rush to beat all odds and have a sauna in a SAAB before autumn! Why this deadline? Because everyone wanted to have a sauna as soon as possible and because the “standard sauna place in Geneva -Bains des Paquis” opened for the season on the 04.10.2002…

3.jpgThe SAUNAAB team had frequent lunch discussions in the planning of the work. The general idea was to get something that worked as soon as possible and fine-tune the details as the project evolved. The interior was of course chosen to be made from real wooden panels. The floor was made from normal boards that were sanded smooth. The stove was for a long time planned to be wood-heated, but over here, (in the region of Geneva) wood is not exactly cheap. And one other little problem with the wooden-heated stove was that it would in any configuration be perhaps a little too high. Another problem from this may be that we could not (perhaps) equip the stove with a sufficient amount of stones. As well as the “risk” of cracking the windshield if the heater would be too high up…

4.jpgThe choice of heating had to be gas. This would allow us to make a low and wide heater to hold a maximum amount of stones to hold the heat for the löyly. (löyly is finnish and means “the throwing of water on the stove”) To design a gas stove then we found a suitable stainless “box” that was modified and polished to suit our needs. For the actual heating element, we are currently (05.12.2002) using a burner element that is actually made for a normal gas barbeque. This works quite well but we still need to improve on this area. Another high-power version will be fabricated after the christmas holidays. The goal is to have a “saunable SAAB” in about 15 – 30 minutes max. And this calls for some good heating power! And also it needs to be a cleanly burning flame to not get carbonmonoxide poisoning…! We are not making a gas chamber here even if some “funny” friends advised us to write our last will before we fired up the SAUNAAB for the first time… 😉

5.jpgSome finishing touches were made, some have to be finished later and some were skipped during the final phase of the construction of the marvellous SAUNAAB. It is a project that is -more or less- constantly being improved.

6.jpgAfter some big efforts that were really accelereated in the finishing stages of the construction we finally had the SAAB ready for the first official sauna bathing in the end of September! The SAAB must be transported on a trailer for obvious reasons. But this is no problem since Magnus B. has a car-transporting trailer for some strange reason… 😉

The SAUNAAB was moved to Michael K.’s place for the first tests, here we also may get a nice view if it does not get too dark before we start bathing… We were prepared with some sausages for the barbecue and some baguettes so that we could start by making some hotdogs while the SAUNAAB was heating up. And sure, we had some inaguration champagne. And lots of Lapin Kulta! -Finnish beer. But the sauna itself was of course the most important thing.

So, how was it? -In one word; Excellent!

…Sure, the SAUNAAB may need some minor improvements here and there but the concept works and it is one of the most carismatic saunas ever…! Probably one of the hottest SAABs too… 😉

You can see lots of pictures below the specifications.

SAUNAAB – SAABASTU specifications;

-1980 SAAB 900 5-door Classic
-Black, originally jade green colour.
-No engine =0 horsepower / 0 Nm (previously 8v H engine -that replaced the 8v B engine.)
-Working steering and handbrake on the front wheels.
-Wooden interior, panels on the sides and roof, sanded board floor.
-3 Halogen spotlights, 12V, 20W/light.
-Stainless steel stove, gas heated with propane, normal nature rocks.
-Gas Barbeque on the right front fender, with lava rocks.
-2 opening “doors” =The front right door and the trunk. -“Pushbutton escape button” on the front passenger door.
-4 original SAAB steel wheels.
-Gislaved nord frost (ex-studded) winter tires, illegal thread depth. 😉
-Yellow rockwool insulation in (almost) all hollow parts of the chassis and the doors.
-Seats four people very nicely, can probably seat seven people if needed.
-Cupholder “boards” under the windows and by the rear bench. =The laude.
-Outside temperature -> 65 degrees in approximately 1,5 hours.
-Valmet sauna thermometer. (Valmet!)
-Löyly heat transfer factor; Excellent.
-Bathing athmosphere; Absolutely excellent.

Source: Magnus Bjork

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One Response to “The One and Only Finnish / Swedish SAunaAB”

  1. Golfhunter

    21. Apr, 2008

    Magnus is a really nice guy . I met him last year .He’s also the chairman of the GASE : The Geneva Area Saab Enthusiasts .
    Here’s their home page on the web :

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