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Driving impression SAAB 99 GL 5 Speed. Enchantment, originality and independence

ER Classics Desktop 2022

In November 1967, SAAB introduced the 99. He was revolutionary in design in a socially turbulent time, and would serve as the basis for the heart of the SAAB program for a quarter of a century. Today, the basis of the 99 still looks modern in a number of respects, and he combines that qualification with classical elements. At Gerard Kramer Klassiekers in Wolvega we found a pearl from the second to last year of the 99: a white GL 5 Speed ​​from 1983 with only 170.000 kilometers of life experience.

The SAAB impresses with its wedge-shaped and distinct lines. With its white color with black accents. It is a beautiful, tectyl and stainless specimen, which became even more appetizing thanks to the mounting of the alloy American Turbo rims. The SAAB shows us those typical gadgets, such as the cut-out sills, the electrically thermostatically controlled seat heating, and the wiping / washing installation on the headlights. The folding rear seat, not common in a two-door model. This 99 is equipped with the 45 degrees tilted 1.985 cc H engine with one horizontal Zenith Stromberg carburettor. It is a very reliable, fine and quiet four-cylinder block with two valves per cylinder and a power delivery of up to 100 HP. In addition, black sludge is largely out of the question in this early H variant.

Upright and rock solid

When we step into the SAAB, the very solid feeling of the construction immediately reveals itself. Immediately there is the recognition. The sit up straight, the excellent position in relation to the steering wheel, the experienced space, the perfect placement of knobs and levers, the all-round view, the position of the pedals and the excellent furniture (with safety seats) provide the necessary anticipation. In the same interior, the dashboard reveals that this SAAB was built long ago. The instrument panel, the clock shop, the narrow cut, the handchoke, the curiosity cabinet of buttons that are all different from each other and the patina wood strip: they are at odds with the body design of the SAAB and that gives the car that historic appearance, which is on the outside reinforced by the shock-absorbing bumpers, also children of their seventies and eighties.

Excellent service, strong feeling

We are going to drive. You search in vain for a key switch on the steering column, which is located between the front seats. The H power source is running, the operation of the perfectly functioning heating system is now child's play. We bring the gearbox in its first gear. Then it immediately appears that the long poker is perfectly within reach. The resistance can be - as it turns out - operated with pleasant long strokes and a pleasant form of counter-pressure. The combination with the feeling-giving link is flawless. And that applies to the entire operation of the car. The braking system is well-suited to its task, the steering system obediently follows the commands.

High degree of stability

The straightforward stability can even be called excellent, even on bad roads. The chassis superbly monitors the balance between firm damping and the smooth spring characteristic in that situation. This title also applies to crosswind sensitivity. The large track width, the chassis and the weight ensure this sharply windy Saturday before that considerable gusts of wind did not get a hold on the SAAB. Also nice: with the 99 GL 5 Speed ​​you can safely take a big turn at speed. In that situation, if you add gas when rounding a solid curve, you will notice that the front-wheel drive SAAB remains neutral for a long time before any understeer appears. The whole is accompanied by a carriage that tilts light late.

Safe and smart on all fronts

Not only the active safety impresses. The credentials in the field of passive safety are also recorded with the correct pen by the manufacturer. Wrinkle zones, reinforcement beams in the doors, a safety steering column, continuous A-pillars: it is just a selection of the features that the SAAB Elk proof to make. You can feel it in everything, the 99 is extremely well constructed and offers optimum protection against external calamities.

Calm engine

The non-blown power source in the SAAB appeals. He does not invite the driver to drive at the cutting edge. Apart from the fact that with a calm driving style a consumption of 1 can be achieved on 10, the car witness is a top of 165 kilometers per hour specified by the factory - no cockerel is the front. Not necessary. Adequate acceleration is possible from 3500 revolutions per minute, but in combination with the longer transmission ratios of the 5 gearbox, the 1985 cc H-engine especially calms down, while the torque reserve is waiting quietly to be addressed. When that happens, the SAAB will make itself heard, but it will not be a nuisance. No way.


We feel at home in the SAAB. The SAAB feels extremely comfortable both indoors and on the highway, especially at normal speeds. In that case there is certainly still some stretch in the performance curve, but we are not challenging the SAAB. That is not necessary. He offers autonomy without exhibiting the urge to manifest. No current left job hassle, but high level, dignity and class, lots of class. They are pure ingredients for the independent drivers' mind.


This late and matured 99 shows that the model is one of the better built and most original cars in history. A car that still has a number of timeless features. Nevertheless, a SAAB 99 in our maritime climate is ultimately not insensitive to rust formation (rear wheel arch edges, sills, underside of doors, chassis beam in the engine compartment, shock absorber mounting points). So cherish, maintain and conserve. When you do that, you will enjoy it for years to come. You'll love it anyway if you've driven it. Without a determination of time attached to that affection. If you are good for a SAAB then he will give you life. And that certainly applies to this beautiful 99 GL 5 Speed, which has now found a new home.

With many thanks to Gerard Kramer Klassiekers, Wolvega


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  1. As a large Saabist, I am extremely pleased with this excellent driving test of this non-turbocharged 99. Next time I would like a test with perhaps the most famous Saab, the first Saab turbo, the 99 Turbo!

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