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How Saab tamed the turbo

ER Classics Desktop 2022

Turbo compressors provide artificial ventilation. Things are surprisingly simple in essence. The exhaust fumes turn a paddle wheel. On the shaft of that fan on the other side is a paddle wheel that pushes the air inwards to the combustion chamber. Some forty years ago, the owner of a Fiat 850, who mounted a turbo on his pride, noticed that it was a little less simple. That turbo came from a diesel truck. And the 850 cc block just didn't have enough 'breath' to get things going.

Some more professional tuners achieved impressive power increases with a solid 'but'. Because when the turbo came into its working area, the increase in power was so sudden and strong that less talented riders often found themselves backwards on the verge in a corner.


And it was Saab that tamed the turbo

Because with a controlled Turbo incoming at low revs, you had the benefits of a much larger engine without the explosive power card of an untamed turbo. And the market asked for more power. The call for more powerful engines was answered by Saab with the introduction of the Turbo version, which really put the brand on the car map. The first Saab 99 Turbo was sold as a 1978 model. This particular Turbo was very successful in the Swedish Rally with Stig Blomquist at the wheel. Turbo engines were available in the Saab 1977 from 99 and a year later in the new Saab 900. Saab was not the first manufacturer to use turbo technology in passenger cars: Porsche, BMW and Chevrolet preceded the Swedes.

Not the first, but possibly the best

However, the Saab 99 was the first family model with turbo. A minor drawback is that compressed air tends to heat up and can therefore contain less oxygen. By placing an intercooler between the turbo and intake, the heating of the intake air is more than halved, which in turn leads to more efficient combustion, better cylinder filling, lower fuel consumption and better pulling power over the entire rev range.

The engine and turbo of a Low-pressure Turbo (LPT) and Full-pressure Turbo (FPT) are basically exactly the same, only the waste gate operation of the 900 LPT differs due to the lack of the APC and is immediately (as in the 900 turbo 8V from '82) activated by the inlet part of the turbo, without the intervention of electronics. The vacuum regulator of the waste gate has a spring with a different opening characteristic than that in the 900 turbo 16S. This leads to a lower power for the LPT (145 hp) than the FPT (175 - 190 hp).

The low-pressure turbo was a completely new application of the turbo principle

This offered an interesting alternative to the conventional injection engine. Torque has been improved by reducing the turbo's boost pressure capacity to reasonable proportions. The result is a smoother, more powerful engine with a lower noise level. Moreover
the low-pressure turbo system ensured that the emission of exhaust gases was reduced even further.

Currently, such a Saab turbo is a sought-after, highly deployable, heart-conquering classic

Because the last early turbos were made a while ago and the production numbers at Saab have never been enormous, the availability of a number of specific turbo components is no longer optimal. Fortunately, there are a few specialists who can provide a solution.

 

Turbo tinkering is not given to everyone

A turbo compressor. That simple. So effective

 

14 Comments

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  1. My first car was a '78 99-turbo combi coupe. 4-speed, with orange trim and characteristic turbo / vacuum gauge on the dashboard. The thing was right and the fuel gauge moved with the horizontal position of the car -> you entered a tunnel: tank full, tunnel out: half empty. Release bearing clutch screeched, sheet metal was bad and I was told that Saab also assembled in Belgium, where the quality was less. I told my girl to always pay attention to the turbo gauge because 'orange' was the famous turbo end shot: waahw !!!! The turbo broke down a few months later, the clutch broke well (only replacing the plate is easy with such a Saab, but the complete clutch…). Finally a ruptured K-jetronic hose was the suicide that ended the 7th life of my Saab.

  2. business in a Vauxhall Vectra GTS 3 ltr. V6 diesel driven. which has the bottom plate of the SAAB 96
    and the engines are the same. Diesel was an Izuzu (GM) with an injection from Korea with an intercooled turbo.
    ran 250 km / h and raced nicely to my German customers. you couldn't handle the racing the injection pump. Having to change twice (2x from warranty) € 1, - was not nice.
    now BMW 5 series after retirement, driving like an old dick.
    relaxed.
    Fri gr Anthony.

  3. Wonderful thing that 99 Turbo.
    There was also a water injection kit for sale.
    Result,
    Curved drive shafts and cracked cylinder heads.
    Pioneers in the turbo era.

  4. Dear Dolf, it is great that my Silver Arrow from 1985 can show off! For the readers, see AMK nr 2 from 2016. Then I immediately became an AMK subscriber! After 27 years in possession, still investing in this Character car. With heart and soul I am buddies with this 900 2-door Turbo 8V which is also very reliable. Indeed what you wrote Dolf, to me silver is worth gold! Today my SA is attracting more attention and even respect along the way.

  5. It is not correct that the Saab 99 turbo was the first family car with a turbo in '78. As early as 74, BMW launched a turbo version of the 2002, also a family car. This legendary car was de facto the first blown production car.

  6. I drove Saab 1982 turbo from 85-900. Pleasantly comfortable car to drive, but not really sporty and not reliable either. Exhaust system was a weak point and especially in bad weather (heavy rain) on the highway I stopped several times and looked up the first best hotel on the autobahn. Fuel supply and ignition were sensitive and the maintenance of the car was quite expensive (own business car, so I didn't pay much attention to the costs). I think they filtered out those problems in later years.
    Eventually switched to a Volvo 740GL. Ridden it for over 7 years.

  7. OPEL is a bit forgotten in this story, with the turbo Manta from 1973. Although this did not become a production model, this car was more powerful than standard Manta and Ascona 400 about 10 years later. The fact that this project saw no production was due to the oil crisis, the high fuel consumption and high costs. Where the BMW 2002 Turbo did go into production (but also suffered heavily from the oil crisis), the Manta did not make it.

  8. An intercooler is a heavy tool for preserving the engine. It reduces the thermal load on the power source immeasurably. Very strong first intervention to limit detonation. And indeed with cooler air you get more kilos of air and thus more oxygen, so that you can inject more and thus generate more power.
    My late ex graduate had a 900 turbo. He experienced the waste gate hanging shut when he stepped on the 'lollipop'. He has never forgotten that pulling power. The name 'beautiful car' is the only correct one, just as the name beautiful fellow applied to my study buddy in all respects.

  9. Hi Dof,
    For a while I drove a Saab 9000 with such a low-pressure turbo, often with a tandem axle. There was 2000 kg behind the car. Very nice and very practical car. The Volvo 945 that I had afterwards was a bit more practical but lumbering.

  10. Nice brand that Saab. Become known for uniqueness and turbo technology. I do miss Renault in this story. Also one of the pioneers. In fact, Louis Renault has already patented the system in 1902 (!). In the early 70s, Renault sent the Alpine A110 into the rallies. And at Le Mans and in F1. And in the Renault 18. And the legendary 5 Turbo.

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