OPEN SEASON: THE SAAB CONVERTIBLE STORY
We celebrate the glorious history of a PH Open Season hero
In the beginning - the very first 900 Convertible prototype
Before 1983, associating a Scandinavian car company with soft-top motoring was a little bit like having a smooth-running railway network in the UK - a rather unusual state of affairs.
When the wraps came off, the reaction from the waiting press - and showgoing public - was so positive Saab couldn't help but put it into production.
That finally happened in 1986, and ever since then the four-seat Scandinavian has proved an enduringly popular alternative to more mainstream convertibles - and particularly for those who want something that isn't made by Mercedes, BMW or Audi.
In The Beginning:
As we've already mentioned, the Saab 900 convertible first basked in the public spotlight at the 1983 Frankfurt motor show, but its journey there was - appropriately for Saab - rather unconventional.
A team of Swedish engineers, with the soft-top help of the American Sunroof Company, duly turned Sinclair's idea into a prototype with a rumoured development budget of just $30,000.
The idea of a sun-seeking soft-top being built in a land of snow and ice proved to be a captivating idea and, after the positively white-hot reaction to the show car in the autumn of 1983, Saab management gave the go-ahead for production in the spring of 1984, and the first cars were ready in early 1986.
Saab had planned on building no more than 2000 cars a year, but by the time production ended in 1993 49,000 had been produced, well over three-and-a-half times the original planned build rate.
During its seven-year run, the 900 Convertible was barely changed, aside from a naturally aspirated motor joining the original 175bhp turbo model, and a slant-nose restyle early in its life.
A New Era:
But all was not necessarily rosy in Saab world. The so-called 'New Generation' Saab Convertible did feature some improvements, notably a flush-fitting 'Tonneau' cover for the soft-top and hydraulic as opposed to electronic hood operation, Saab was now under the stewardship of General Motors and the use of Opel/Vauxhall Vectra underpinnings alienated some hardcore fans, who felt it went against Saab's historical ethos of innovation.
...Which brings us up to date (almost):
The current generation is slated for the axe in 2012, when a new 9-3 comes on stream.