The Introduction Of The Saab 99 Turbo – 1978

Posted on 19. Aug, 2008 by in 2000-2009, 99



This year marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the first Saab 99 Turbo in 1978, so I believe it is necessary to provide us with as much information about this important milestone for the Saab Automobile brand.

I will begin by providing you summaries from the original press kit here at Saab History that includes content such as photographs, press summaries and drawings of how a Saab Turbo works and what the inspiration was behind it.

Saab Introduces the Power of the Future. The Turbo.

turbopress.jpgThe Saab Turbo is an engineering masterpiece. Saab has taken the turbo power that dominates the big trucks – Le Mans and Indianapolis — and harnessed it to work at speeds you drive at everyday.

The Saab Turbo breakthrough is its ability to deliver 34% more torque at low 3500 rpm’s. More torque at low rpm’s means more power at your command in daily situations. When you have to pass, feel that surge of power shoot you ahead. Feel the take-off thrust of turbo power move you on to a highway. That’s power!

Yet, the Saab Turbo isn’t merely cold, engineering innovations. Its performance as definite psychic compensations. Here’s ow a few of the car experts have responded to driving one.

“Saab now has fetched up a model that’ll get second gear rubber and double the double-nickel any day of the week…Saab’s Turbo installation offers more pleasure per dollar than any other on the market” – Pat Bedard, Car & Driver

“One heroic blast down the highway is enough to convert anybody” – David E. Davis Jr., Car & Driver

“Saab Turbo… a genuine Fourth-of-July driving experience, full of sudden pleasure and high spirit..” – Steve Thompson, Car & Driver

“The Saab Turbo is exhiliarating to’s so much fun, the price is irrelevant…” – Road & Track

Yet, the Saab Turbo is a Lot More Than a Power Machine. Like Every Saab, it is a Consummate Road Machine.

engine.jpgFour-cylinder 2-liter turbocharged fuel injection engine. Te turbo-charging process captures energy normally passed out through the exhaust pipe and puts it back into the work process to obtain extra engine power.


guages.jpgComprehensive instrumentation including tachometer and Turbo boost guage which lets you monitor and control the turbocharger.


wheels.jpgCoil springs combined with Bilstein gas shock absorbers all around to keep more tire on the road.


spoiler.jpgThe rear spoiler improves stability and reduces fuel consumption at high speeds.


brakes.jpg4-wheel power-assisted disc brakes. Braking application is uniformly firm and brake fade is virtually eliminated.



The Saab Turbo, An Exciting New Dimension In Driving.

Turbocharged engines have traditionally been reserved for powering very fast and expensive spors cars. Cars which were usually outside the reach of the average motorist.


A Turbocharged Engine Matched To a New Energy Approach

The turbocharging of engines has been known for many years. The first turbocharged engine — a diesel engine for stationary applications appeared during the 1930’s. By the 1950’s, turbocharging had matured sufficiently to be introduced into trucks and buses. The first turbo-charged car was not launched until 1961. The primary aim in the turbocharging of car engines has been to attain as high a top speed as possible.

The aim of the development of the Saab Turbo was entirely different. Our primary goal was to match the turbocharged engine to present-day demands for better fuel economy, better environment through low exhaust gas emissions, and reduced noise levels. But without compromising the performance. High performance is obviously important for safe passing — and for the joy of driving, which is the ultimate proof of the general quality of this car.

A further goal was to attain a high level of power even at low engine speeds. The Saab fuel-injected engine is designed to provide excellent low speed performance. By incorporating a turbocharger which works at relatively low engine speeds, we’ve further improved the performance of our fuel-injected engine.

The result of years of development work: our unique turbocharged engine. The singular accomplishment of our turbocharger is its ability to start delivering its extra power at low speeds. But only wheen that extra power is needed. Like when you accelerate. Or want to pass. Or Climb a speed grade. Much of the time, the turbocharger is inactive. In about 80% of normal driving situations, the engine runs as a conventional fuel injection engine – at its acknowledged low fuel consumption. But when you need power, the Saab Turbo is a your command.

The Saab Turbo represents an Entirely New Approach in Turbocharging.

We have long searched for new ways to increase the performance of the conventional fuel injection engine. But we were not prepared to accept the disadvantages of the traditional approach.

If the maximum output of an engine is raised by increasing the number of cylinders or the displacement, the weight of the engine will increase with the efficiency under normal driving or part-throttle operation will be reduced. The fuel consumptioon of, say, a six-cylinder or eight-cylinder engine is thus high under all conditions. After all, the additional pistons are always running and consuming fuel, regardless of the actual power demand.

“Tuning is another common means of increasing the performance of an engine. BUt tuning usually raises te peak engine speed and thus causes increased wear. A higher compression ratio, optimized valve timing, etc. improved the peak performance. But our main aim was to produce an engine with high torque and power at lower engine speeds, since this offers appreciably improved acceleration and, in our opinion, is a more sensible approach for today’s driving needs.

This is how a traditional turbocharger works: The turbocharger consists of a turbine and a compressor, mounted on the same shaft. The turbine is driven by the exhaust gases from the engine. The larger the throttle opening and the higher the engine speed, the larger the flow of exhaust gases. And the higher the speed of the turbine.


At Idling speeds and normal driving speeds, a certain amount of air flows through the compressor section of the turbocharger. The air is then mixed with the correct quantity of fuel and flows into the cylinders, where it is burned. The exhaust gases thus produced flow through the turbine which will rotate at a relatively low speed. The gases are then discharged through the exhaust system. At idling speeds and part-throttle, the engine runs as a conventional engine – without turbocharging. The charging pressure valve is then closed.

At exactly the same rate, the compressor delivers fresh air to the cylinders at a higher pressure than normally. The quantity of air is thus larger tan when the engine draws the air itself. This extra air and a suitably matched additional supply of fuel, generates more energy during every piston stroke. The torque will be higher and this, in turn, results in greater engine power.

We have matched the turbocharged engine to everyday needs — ahead of all other car manufacturers. We owe this primarily to the sturdiness of the standard Saab engine. Since its basic components already incorporate extra reserves of strength, turbocharging involved relatively modest modifications.

The engine of the Saab Turbo is different than other turbocharged engines. Significantly different. With high-performance sports cars, high output at high speeds is crucial. What we wanted to accomplish was to achieve high torque output at low speeds to make turbocharging effective in the range of road speeds where extra power is particularly important. So, our turbocharger comes in at engine speeds, around 1500-2000 rpm and produces maximum toruqe at 3500 rpm. This way, the excitement and joy of driving a turbocharged engine is well within the reach of the average driver. And how successful were we? Just listen to what David Abrahamson of Car & Driver has to say: “The new Saab Turbo is a genuine performance car, strong, supple, good off the line, fast through the corners, whisper smooth, and lovingly screwed together”


During acceleration and at full throttle, the gas flow through the engine increases appreciability. The speed of the turbine also increases, and the compressor raises the charging pressure. When the engine reaches 1500-2000 rpm the turbocharger begins to charge smoothly without sudden surges up to the maximum charge pressure which occurs at 3000 rpm. At this point, the charging pressure valve opens and excess exhaust gases are by-passed around the turbine.

The charging pressure valve has an important function. One a turbo engine, the turbocharging pressure must be carefully controlled. If the charging pressure is too high, the combustion temperature may also be too high, and this may result in pre-ignition and damage to the engine. The Saab Turbo is therefore equipped with a unique charging pressure valve which effectively controls the charging pressure. When the turbocharging pressure valve is open, excess exhaust gases by-pass the turbine. This ensures that the charging pressure will be maintained at the correct level throughout the engine speed and load range.

A Stunning Combination: Big Car Comfort and Sports Car Performance:


The Saab Turbo has much more to offer in terms of comfort than most other cars. An interior that gives ample comfort for five adults. Well insulated and silent, even at high speeds. Front seats which are among the most comfortable available today. And with extra adjustments for the driver’s seat . A back seat which is comfortable with a broad 60″ wide at the elbow level. A heating and ventilation system with extra capacity. A luggage compartment with a capacity of 15.4 cu ft. and which can easily be converted to a cargo space of 53 cu ft.

Add to this the sports car performance and at a top speed of over 110 mph and you have a car which is unique and pace-setting.

interior.jpgAn interior tailored in elegant bordeaux red.


seats.jpg The back seats. Exceptionally spacious. Plenty of elbow room. And, thanks to front wheel drive, no awkward hump to push one’s legs into one’s chest.


sunroof.jpgThe sliding steel sunroof is standard equipment.


trunk.jpgWhen you fold down the back seat of the Saab turbo, you’ll have an enormous amount of spac. Ideal for luggage, skis, camping gear, etc.



Our preliminary work on turbocharging began back in the early 1970’s. WHen the 1974 oil crisis hit, and with it, the increased demand for moderate fuel consumption even for high-performance cars, we were prepared. By that time, we already had a big leg up on a turbocharger solution.

Bench tests in a sophisticated engine laboratory. We have obtained ample proof that the mechanical stresses ave not been significantly increased by turbocharging. On the contrary, the turbocharger engine has become more reliable, due to the reduced compression ratio and the waste gate concept.

High-speed tests in Germany. The characteristics of the engine have also been tested under the conditions often prevailing on te European continent. Some of the tests have been run by Swedish rally drivers, Stig Blomqvist and Per Eklund, who covered nearly 75,000 miles at speeds around 100-110 mph.

Winter tests in Canada. One of our test cars was driven over a 14-day period at Whive River, at temperatures below -40F. The tests were focused mainly on road behavior, starting, performance of the crankcase ventilation and the air preheating.

High-temperature tests in Death Valley in the USA. We chose Death Valley – one of the hottest places in the USA – to run our high-temperature tests to check the cooling system and test the general performance of the engine under extremely hot conditions. The series included testing the Saab Turbo on mountain passes at an altitude of over 6500 feet – while towing a fully loaded trailer. In other words, under extremely difficult conditions.

HIgh-altitude tests in the Rocky Mountains. Tests at very high altitudes in the Rocky Mountains revealed that the loss of power normally occuring at high altitudes is less pronounced on the Saab Turbo.

General tests on the road. Our testing has not been confined to high-speed tests on fast motorways. We have also run long-term tests on particularly difficult roads in Sweden. Test cars powered by turbocharged engines have covered a total distance of more than 930,000 miles. This corresponds to 37.5 times the circumference of the earth.

Broad tests by 100 test drivers, most of them “private motorists”. For a period of six months, 100 private individuals and profesional drivers in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the USA have each been given a Saab Turbo to use. The reactions have eben very favorable throughout. Not only regarding the performance of the turbocharged engine, but also the general character of the car.

Impartial, comparative tests have more to tell about the Saab Turbo

Many of the world’s leading motoring periodicals have had their say about the Saab Turbo. Many have also undertaken more comprehensive tests, which reinforce further the image of the Saab Turbo as a very lively, safe, roomy and practical car.

The Saab Turbo. The Power Of the Future.


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One Response to “The Introduction Of The Saab 99 Turbo – 1978”

  1. luis ceberg

    26. Nov, 2009

    Is possible put the B202 head into the B201 head, or I need some mods?

    Reply to this comment

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