With the threat of war looming, the Swedish government pledged support for military aircraft production; and eventually SAAB was incorporated in 1937. The company name - also written “Saab” - is an acronym for “Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget” - which translates as “Swedish Airplane AB” where “AB” (Aktiebolaget or “share company”) is the Swedish equivalent of “Inc.” By the end of WWII, the company had produced over 300 airplanes and started to develop civilian aircraft. However, their prospects in the postwar aviation market would need time to develop, so Saab decided to diversify and produce automobiles. With no experience making cars, Gunnar Ljungström-an airframe and wing specialist-managed a small team that led the effort. Their first car, the Saab 92, went into full production near the end of 1949.
The idea of aviation engineers bringing their expertise to bear on the design of an automobile appealed to Saab customers. The elegant simplicity of the technology, performance, safety and economy garnered respect for Saab, and by the time the Granturismo 850 was introduced, Saab had successes and wins at nearly a dozen road rallies. The Granturismo 850 was based on the Saab 96 and promoted by the company as a 4-passenger sports car-“a special breed of Swedish SAAB” claiming “20% greater engine output than any Saab before it” delivering “over 1 hp per cubic inch of piston displacement.” Known as the “Saab Sport” outside the North American market-introduced in 1962 as the successor to the Saab GT750-it could be easily distinguished from a standard Saab 96 by its twin chrome strips along the rocker panels. Unlike its other two-stroke engine kin, the 850’s engine had its own lubrication design where the oil did not go in the gas tank, but in a reservoir where oil would be pumped directly to all cylinders, rods, and bearings. While configured with a 57 bhp 3-cylinder engine, each cylinder had its own Solex carburetor. The front wheel drive GT850 also had front disc brakes and heavy drum brakes in the rear. The brakes were connected by twin hydraulic diagonal systems. The company also promoted this model’s interior appointments that included a large tachometer and speedometer, wooden racing wheel, seats that could adjust to any position, and seat belts… only a radio was extra.
“There, whether driving on turnpikes or twisting mountain roads, the car is a pleasure to operate. There is a sure-footedness about the Saab that has to be experienced to be appreciated, the braking is sure and positive, and the handling can't be faulted under any conditions.”SAAB 850 GT Road Test | Road & Track, April 1964
The current owner of this Granturismo 850 purchased the car from the Tom Donney collection. Mr. Donney is not only a Saab enthusiast and collector—he purchased half of the Saab museum when they disbanded in 2011 and is developing the “Saab Heritage Museum USA” to “preserve the Saab automobiles for future generations to enjoy and inspire the Spirit of Saab through repair education, parts production and a library of Saab literature.” Mr. Donney restored this car and it comes with all its correct components.
This Saab Granturismo 850 represents a rare opportunity to acquire an example of a premium model from a marque with a respected heritage in innovative engineering, as well as competition successes. This car is further distinguished by its restoration by a Saab specialist. This combination of factors makes this car an attractive addition to its next owner’s collection, as well as an ideal candidate to use as designed: for performance driving.