Rare Rides: The 1989 Saab 900 SPG, it’s Sporty, Personal, and Good
Today we return once more to the Saab 900. You may recall our first featured 900, a very early green on green example from 1979. Today’s refreshed and sportified 900 is substantially different from its older brother to warrant another look.
Introduced for 1978, the original 900 was a heavy rework of Saab’s prior family car offering, the 99. Built atop the same basic bones, the 900 grew larger, safer, more modern, and was specifically designed to comply with U.S. crash regulations. It also appealed to a much broader market, as Saab took its volume model a bit more “mainstream,” though the company’s offerings were still well off the beaten path of the average consumer.
Over the years Saab lightly reworked and refined their bread and butter 900, necessary as the model lived from 1978 through 1994 before its GM-influenced replacement. Trim options and engine tweaks varied substantially by market, as Saab wove a complex history for the internet to document later. Engines were four in number for the 900 and included three 2.0-liter models and a single 2.1-liter. All engines were developments of the basic B series engine which started its life in 1972 in the 99. Four- and five-speed manuals were available, and the only automatic on offer all the way through 1994 was a three-speed Borg-Warner unit.
As Saab added things like turbochargers, more valves, and special trims to the 900, one desirable performance package appeared in 1984. Called Aero in most markets (later a North American trim), north Americans knew it as SPG or Special Performance Group. GM owned a trademark on the name Aero within North America which forced the change.
In ’84 Saab prepared 28 SPG prototypes and handed them over to the media to rave reviews. The original plan for SPG was a pearl white paint job with a red leather interior and a red dashboard, but the paint proved too difficult to color match upon repairs and was not put into standard production.
The SPG was the first 900 to arrive with the turbocharged 16-valve engine, good for 160 horsepower. Visual changes included a special body kit, a three-spoke steering wheel, and three-spoke wheels unique to the trim. The aerodynamic body kit and additional power meant a higher claimed top speed of 130 miles per hour.
The 900 remained in its original visual guise through 1986 before a refreshed version arrived for the ’87 model year. Though the metal was unchanged, bumpers and lamps took on a more modern look. The SPG remained in production through the visual update and was sold only in two or three colors per model year. 1991 was the last year of the SPG and made for a total of 7,625 North American examples.
Now a collector’s item, today’s SPG is a 1989 example. That year the SPG was offered only in grey and black. Its excellent condition doesn’t indicate its 286,000 odometer reading, but the 900 is a car known for longevity. Yours in Denver for $6,500.
H/t to our own Chris Tonn for finding this on the Craigslist.