Saab 92001

Saab 92001

The first SAAB automobile was the SAAB 92001, the Ursaab.

As the Second World War was drawing to a close, the SAAB company, a manufacturer of warplanes, realised that it needed to enter a different market. An automobile project was envisaged codenamed XP92, meaning "experiment-personbil 92" (experimental car 92). What they aimed for was a replacement for small German cars like Opel Kadett, DKW and Adler. The target consumer price was 3200 SEK in 1942 value. The final decision to start the automobile project was made in the fall of 1945. Bror Bjurströmer, who was then head of the design department, developed a 1:25 scale sketch and the overall design specifications, which included the following:
* A wheelbase of convert|2.75|m|in|1 and total length of convert|4.5|m|in|1
* Employment of a monocoque design
* 50% less drag than other cars
* 800 kilogram maximum weight
* Power from a transverse-mounted two-stroke engine
* Front-wheel-drive

The choice of suicide doors was made by Gunnar Ljungström (head of the development team) as he wanted to lessen the risk of damaging doors whilst driving out of a garage.

Development was started in Linköping by a 20-person team led by Ljungström. The immediately-preceding Saab production code was for an aeroplane - the Saab 91 Safir. It was for this reason that the first car project was called the Saab 92 (92001). Normally the development would have been handled by the testing workshop, but it was busy with the Saab 91 Safir and the Saab 90 Scandia. Thus the tool workshop, which had a lighter workload at that juncture, was given the assignment.

The engineers responsible for making the prototype had no prior experience in making cars, and out of the 16 engineers only two had a driving license. They needed information about the car manufacturing process, but had to simultaneously keep the project secret. A few visits were made to Nyköpings Automobilfabrik (later ANA), but as the extent of their work involved the simple installation of bodies on imported ladder frame chassis, the engineers were not able to gather as much information as they had hoped. Also, since all available literature only described how cars were made before the war, they realised that much of the manufacturing process would have to be learned on their own. Close to SAAB's factory was, and still is,a junkyard where the engineers found both parts and inspiration. [] They also purchased a number of cars to study, including a DKW, a Hanomag, an Opel Kadett and a Volkswagen.

Structural integrity concerns led to other design decisions. The team tasked with that portion of the project was used to building aircraft where every opening was covered with a load bearing hatch. Since this was not viable on an automobile, it was decided that the body structure should be strengthened through the use of a rear window that was as small as possible and which used a split-window design, and omission of a rear bootlid.

Because the car had to have a very low drag coefficient, aerodynamic tests were part of the early evaluations. Thus, the body was of novel design and, with safety in mind, it provided damage-resistance in the event of an accident. Winter driving capability was enhanced via front-wheel-drive and wide wheel arches which allowed for snow accumulation without obstruction of the wheels.

Using some carpenters from Motala, a full size mock-up in alder wood was built in the spring of 1946. The model was coloured black using shoe polish. Some extra workers were recruited from Thorells Kylarfabrik in Linköping for building the steel body. Hand-shaping the 1.2 mm thick thick steel sheets proved to be difficult work. By summer 1946 the first prototype body was ready, hand beaten on a wooden jig.

The colour was a problem - the Managing Director wanted it painted black, but the vice MD wanted it blue. But the workshop had already purchased black paint, making it a moot point. The SAAB paint workshop did not have the capacity to handle the paint job so the builders contacted "Aktiebolaget Svenska Järnvägsverkstäderna" (ASJ), the Swedish railroad works in Arlöv. The firm was experienced in painting railway cars and buses. Having been told that their assistance was needed in painting a car, the company was initially reluctant to help since it was thought that the vehicle was a management car such as a DeSoto or something that would take a lot of time. However, when it was learned that the vehicle was a prototype of a new car, ASJ quickly took the job.

The prototype had a borrowed 13 kW (18 hp) two-cylinder two-stroke engine, which was placed transversely in the front of the vehicle. The first engine and gearbox came from a DKW vehicle, but they were later replaced with an engine and gearbox designed by Gunnar Ljungström. The prototype engine blocks were made by Albinmotor. The head of the firm, Albin Larsson, was hesitant to take work since the cooling pipes in the engine block were considered to be complicated. After test driving the prototype, however, Larsson changed his mind.

The original 1946 Saab 92001 was driven over km to mi|530000, typically in utter secrecy, and usually on narrow and muddy forest roads and in early mornings or late nights. Today it is in the Saab museum in Trollhättan, with a cleaned grille and more roadworthy headlights. It is called "Ursaab", meaning 'original SAAB'.

The 92001 design was improved by Sixten Sason in 1947, resulting in another prototype: the 92002. The most remarkable difference between 92001 and 92002 is the hood. The earlier hood design and the use of a hood mechanism from an Opel Kadett made removal of the engine difficult, as one would have to turn it 90 degrees and bring out the drive package with the gearbox first. Inspired by American cars that had cascading front-ends, the redesigned hood allowed for improved access to the engine bay. After an additional four prototypes the design was ready for production as the Saab 92. The aerofoil shape of 92001 was echoed in that and later Saab models, up to and including the Saab 96.


* "The SAAB Way", by Gunnar A. Sjögren
* "Några personliga minnen från tillverkningen av första bilen", by Sigvard Lenngren in "Bakrutan" 4-2006
* "En katt bland hermelinerna eller Hurledes grunden lades till SAABs bilproduktion vid flygmaskinfabriken", by Hans Osquar Gustavsson and Sigvard Lenngren in "Bakrutan" 4-2006
* [ Grattis Saab 60 år!]

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