Wednesday 2nd August 1967
The Saab 96 V4, with a four-cylinder four-stroke engine, was introduced. Launched in 1960, Saab’s technically advanced and long-lived 96 originally featured a two-stroke three-cylinder engine under the bonnet. The aerodynamically superior bodyshell proved immensely strong thanks to reinforced crash pillars and pioneered the use of many safety features, including a dual circuit braking system and collapsible steering column. The model sold well initially, but the limitations of two-stroke technology saw the 96’s popularity steadily decline until Saab made the decision to revamp the model with a Ford V4 engine in 1967. Sourced from Ford’s European arm, the compact V4 developed a healthy 65 horsepower and boosted the 96’s top speed to an impressive 90mph, with 0-60 coming up in 16.6 seconds – all with outstanding fuel economy thanks to the slippery shape. The interior was kept simple but functional, complete with a column-change manual gearbox (earlier cars made do with three-speeds), while a De Luxe model was added to the range in 1968, along with an estate model badged the 95. Saab answered criticism of the rather heavy steering by adding a lower-geared rack in 1969, along with a brake servo and revised rectangular headlamp design. The 96 enjoyed a long and successful career in International rallying, most notably with Erik Carlsson who won the famous Monte Carlo event in 1962 and 1963. Originally intended as something of a stopgap until the new 99 arrived, the 96 ultimately remained in production until 1979, a quite remarkable run lasting two decades, and the final batch of 300 cars were all sold in Aquamarine. Although later cars benefited from various improvements over the years, collectors prefer the early chrome-grille models for their purity of design. With individualistic styling, rarity and a remarkable ability to comfortably cruise at the Australian speed limit, the Saab 96 makes for a wonderful first classic.