Saab Automobile AB, Trollhättan
Saab History: Production at Saab began 50 years ago : Dec. 12, 1949
Saab Production 1949
Gunnar Ljungström, who had been employed as Wing Designer at Saab since early 1937, was allocated a team of around 15 persons and was instructed to create a new car. After Styling Designer Sixten Sason joined the project, an aircraft-inspired and very advanced car gradually emerged. In many ways, the car was very different from the norm in those days.
The first prototype - designated the Saab 92.001 - was ready in the early summer of 1946. One year later, on 10 June 1947, a second car – designated the Saab 92.002 - was ready and was unveiled to journalists assembled in the personnel cafeteria at the Saab offices in Linköping.
Development work thus began in Linköping, where the Design Department was located. Soon after being set up, the Car Department was moved to Trollhättan in the late autumn of 1947. The operations were modest enough to be transported in the "001" and "002" prototype cars.
Engine development work was pursued in parallel with the development of the prototype cars. After joining Saab in September 1946, Rolf Mellde – an engineer who specialized in engines and was a racing enthusiast - was put in charge of engine development.
By the late spring of 1949, production preparations for the Saab 92 – the designation was a logical progression from the earlier Scandia (90) and Safir (91) aircraft projects - were sufficiently advanced to enable production of a pilot series of 20 cars to begin.
Cars instead of aircraft
The part of the Trollhättan workshop that was available for producing cars had a floor area of 17 700 square metres and accommodated the whole production process - bodywork panel pressing and body assembly, engine and gearbox production, upholstery and painting departments, final assembly and final adjustments. Production consisted of 6330 working operations.
Since the car was to have a unit construction body, the roof was pressed as one unit - from the windscreen right back to the rear bumper. The design of the roof panel determined the size of the biggest press that would be needed for production. This press, together with two smaller presses, were ordered from Clearing in Chicago and arrived in Trollhättan in the summer of 1947. The presses arrived in Gothenburg by sea, and were then shipped up the Göta River to Trollhättan in dismantled condition. The heaviest part was the crown of the biggest press, which weighed an imposing 87 tonnes. When the parts arrived, it was found that the headroom in the press shop was insufficient, and a hole had to be made in the roof to allow assembly to begin. Lifting the heavy crown 5 metres and then moving it sideways was no easy task. The problem was aggravated by certain parts being incorrectly marked and arriving upside down.
Practically all bodywork tools were made in Trollhättan. The bodywork jigs were completed by the end of October 1949, and the count-down then began for production to start in earnest.
Regular production of the Saab 92 began on 12 December 1949
Regular production of the Saab 92 began on 12 December 1949. The Christmas and New Year festivities naturally intervened, but the first three regular production cars were ready for delivery on 16 January 1950. As the first cars began rolling on the production line in Trollhättan, the last Saab 21 propeller fighter aircraft was rolling out of the factory. Aircraft production was being moved to Linköping.
Saab production rate in the early 50s
All of them were green
When Saab cars finally hit the showrooms, they aroused enormous interest. Estimates of prospective buyers queuing up to buy the cars ranged from 15 000 to 35 000 persons. But production was initially fairly sluggish at only four cars a day leaving the factory. A mere 1246 cars were produced in the first year. All of them were of the same bottle-green colour, and all of them appeared to have been De Luxe versions, even though the sales brochures at that time mentioned that a standard model with more basic equipment was also available.
Welding of a Saab 93 body in the mid 1950s
The transversely mounted, two-cylinder, two-stroke engine had a displacement of 764 cc and developed 25 bhp. The engine and gearbox were integrated into one unit and, just like all subsequent Saab models, the car had front-wheel drive. The unit construction, all-welded steel body was strong and torsionally stiff. Due to the streamlined body design, the cars in their production form had a drag coefficient of only 0.35, which was an exceptionally good figure at that time. The first model years had no boot lid, and the fuel filler cap shone brightly just below the small rear window.
The production rate in the early 1950s (1953) was 13 cars a day.
Production records in Trollhättan
In the early days, the entire car was made in Trollhättan, but the production of engines and gearboxes was then moved to Gothenburg in 1953. According to the production plans from that date, 13 cars a day left the factory, but this dropped to only seven cars on Saturdays.
A production rate of more than 10 000 Saab cars a year was not reached until 1958. The rate then rose swiftly to around 90 000 cars by the mid-1970s. The highest annual total was recorded in 1986, when 134 112 cars rolled off the production line.
In addition to those produced in Trollhättan, Saab cars were also assembled over the years in Linköping, Arlöv, Malmö, Mechelen (Belgium) and Nystad/Uusikaupunki (Finland). Production today is concentrated to Trollhättan and Nystad, the latter plant producing the special Saab 9-3 Viggen model and all Convertibles. By far the best production year for the Trollhättan factory was 1998, when 107 135 cars were produced (out of a total production of 124 867 cars in that year).
Saab car production from 1950 to 1999*