It's sad to see a good car brand end. Saab was just one of those. Okay, so we're not referring to the ignominious GM Saab days and models like this one. But the 1997 Saab 900 EX prototype you see here is exactly what we're talking about. This very one was built in Norway (not Detroit), and it's stunning in just about every way. It was created to celebrate Saab's 50th anniversary, but it never saw the light of production, which is too bad. Just take a look at this thing.
This very prototype is headed to Bonhams. It was created by a man by the name of Per Ekstrøm, an auto body expert and automotive enthusiast who worked directly with Saab and Norwegian road experts. The car was hand-built by Saab professionals, and the work took a painstaking 3,000 to 4,000 hours from start to finish. The black-and-white photo below shows it from the front 3/4ths, highlighting its clear Saab shape, rectangular side mirrors, grille, and tri-spoke wheels.
The ties to the second-generation 900 are evident, even though the roof has been lowered by almost three inches. The sporty coupe also borrows the widened stance of the 9000 CS, as well as its front and rear wheel arches that help carry on the Saab look. Even the rear window comes from a 900 Cabriolet, and the hatch comes from a 900.
The interior, thankfully, isn't a concept cabin. Instead, it pretty much comes from a Saab 900. The gauges, steering wheel, switchgear, and the wood trim are straight-up Saab goodness (not the same can be said for the quality of the electronics, which were never great). It also has soft leather seats in front and back, and big squared-off glovebox, and center stack.
The engine is a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that has been tuned to 220 horsepower to the front wheels. The odometer reads 141,600 km or the equivalent of 88,000 miles, but rumor has it that most of the miles were put on the engine before it was inserted in the 900 EX. Our favorite part is the manual transmission, which should make it quite fun to drive.
The car is said to be in excellent condition, including the seats and paint. Even the build quality is supposed to be top-notch with panel gap tolerances better than many modern cars. The 900 EX is also ready to be driven, and the condition of the suspension, manual gearbox, and engine working properly. The red and black paint job is original and near perfect, having received a 10-hour professional coating this past summer. If there's any question about how it has been treated of late, the 900 EX has been on exhibition at Leif Gjestrum Larsen AS in Larvik, Norway. It just so happens to be one of the last remaining SAAB specialists in Norway.
The 1997 900 EX prototype will go to auction in Belgium on October 8, 2023, at 7:00 a.m. East Coast Time. The auction has no reserve, so whoever bids the most will go home with this singular example of Saab's best. The price is expected to fall between $64,000 and $96,000, but we think it's worth so much more than that, honestly. The car comes with documentation, as well as development sketches. It's a very special car that a collector would love to have in his or her stable.