Home » Here’s Something I Never Realized About Old Saabs: Cold Start

Here’s Something I Never Realized About Old Saabs: Cold Start

Cs Saab Group
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I think almost anyone into cars appreciates and respects old Saabs just because they’re such wonderful examples of clever, strange engineering that seems to approach every automotive design issue sideways or backwards or both, possibly wearing a funny hat. As such, they’re full of interesting design and technical details, one of which I just now realized, and, in keeping with the solemn promise I made to veteran funnyman Slappy White, I will share it with all of you.

Here’s what I noticed, while looking through an old 1967 Saab brochure. At the time, Saab offered two primary engine types for their cars: the old DKW-style inline-three two-stroke, and a more update V4 four stroke engine, taken from the Ford Taunus. The brochure showed both engines. First, the two-stroke:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Cs Saab I3

…and then the V4:

Cs Saab V4

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Here’s the strange thing I noticed about both of these quite different engines: on both, half that engine bay is devoted to the battery and heater blower setup!

I mean, I get why – Saab’s FWD design places the engine ahead of the front axle, and neither engine is all that long, really, so it makes sense it’d all be crammed in the nose there. But there’s something about a heater blower setup nearly the size of the whole engine that just feels, I don’t know, comical to me. What other cars devote nearly equal amounts of underhood room to engine and then heater blower/battery?

I mean, it does come from Sweden, and it’s pretty cold there. Maybe this makes sense.

 

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Fritz Groszkruger
Fritz Groszkruger
7 months ago

We had a ’67 95 2 stroke that was s blast. But as our family car the ’72 95 was a 4 stroke.
The heater had a valve control for the coolant. If you wanted it to warm up fast you left it closed at first. When opened the temp gage would very noticeably go down. The heater core acted as a radiator it was so big.
I’ve had a few bugs as well. They would go through deeper snow but the SAABs (same tire size) did it with more control.
I consider myself lucky to be alive at the time of such great cars. They were made for people to drive. Humans are becoming an anachronism.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
8 months ago

“ wonderful examples of clever, strange engineering that seems to approach every automotive design issue sideways or backwards or both, possibly wearing a funny hat.”
Sort of like Citroën engineers, except that I think they served more wine with lunch at the Citroën cafeteria.

Miss SAAB and Citroën dearly.

Doug
Doug
8 months ago

I had a ’66 96 2-stroke in high school, later a 95 wagon with the V4. Loved them both but the stroker was more fun. As to the heater taking up so much space, has anyone else noticed that the transaxle is in that area as well, under all those heater parts? And the cars DID have heat! In an era when the VW bugs were still very popular and had the poorest excuse for warmth or defrosting, the Saab blew it away. As well as being infinitely safer Im sure. I rear ended a large Dodge with my 96 (stupid 16 yr old mistake) and we were not hurt and the car was fixable. I’d bet the same result would not have happened in a Beetle.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

Need to see whole system. Only front blowers? You need powerful blowers. Also engines work better in cold so up front exposed to cold air. Rear air space same size available not same space used. That HVAC plus battery is still 3/4 the motor and let’s agree both those motors are sewing machine motors. Vastly underpowered.

Fred Fedurch
Fred Fedurch
8 months ago

I don’t know how Saab does it, but with my buddy’s DKW there’s a can on a chain in the gas tank. You pull it up through the filler, fill it with 2 stroke oil, drop it back down the neck into the tank, then fill the tank with gas. Weird and somewhat convoluted, but it works. Here’s a pic I took of it at a local Euro car night parked beside my bike. The bike has three times the horsepower of the car. ????

https://photos.app.goo.gl/FeLirtyBTCQRcU787

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Fred Fedurch

SAAB used two methods. For the “mixer” cars it’s just a matter of keeping track of how much fuel the car needs, then pouring the right amount of two-stroke oil into the fuel tank before adding the fuel. There’s no need to premix it in an external container before pouring it into the tank, as the tank design does a good job of mixing as the fuel is pumped into it. It helps to have a working fuel gauge and a general sense of what its needle position means in terms of actual volume. For the “injector” cars there’s a tank in the engine compartment which needs to be kept filled with two-stroke oil, which is then, you guessed it, injected via an engine-driven pump, so that only fuel needs to be put into the fuel tank.

The oil injection system had a reputation for being unreliable so quite a few people either bypassed it or removed it entirely and ran the car as a “mixer” instead.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
8 months ago

It’s not as weird as it seems, though since it’s a two-digit Saab it’s weird by definition. The second half of the “engine bay” (that is, what’s under the hood) is there for the front passenger footwell packaging as much as anything else. The front seat passengers are quite close to the windshield, so you need quite a bit of room in front of it to fit their feet. This space ends up under the hood for, largely, styling reasons and since the engine is packaged up front for its own engineering reasons, these design decisions give you a logical place to package things like the heater blower motor (which in most cars is behind the firewall) and the battery. Using this space also allows for a much higher-capacity blower motor than would be possible if you tried to cram it behind the firewall.

Last edited 8 months ago by Theotherotter
Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
8 months ago
Reply to  Theotherotter

is the heater core also in this space?
If so, that seems like a better choice than most vehicles

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Dale Mitchell

The heater core is indeed in there, inside the housing with the large sticker of text on it, right next to the battery; the photos above show the heater hoses running to it. That’s also where the heater/defroster fan is. It’s a pretty good arrangement for working on the heater even though it’s in the way for getting to a few other things.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago

“…a heater blower setup nearly the size of the whole engine…”

True. In my racing 96 I removed the entire heater assembly and relocated the battery to the rear floor of the passenger compartment. This opened up a lot of room under the hood and makes it much easier to reach both the transmission and the rear of the engine. I do use the car as a daily-driver as well, so I admit I sometimes miss the heater/defroster.

Toecutter
Toecutter
8 months ago

Both the Saab Sonett and Saab 96 in the image above have lower CdA values and lower mass than any new car you can buy today.

When I was looking for a donor car to convert to EV as a kid, both of those were on my shortlist. I definitely had an issue with the FWD layout, but range more than performance was the overriding goal because I only had access to lead acid batteries back then. Of course, I found the GT6 for $1,200 and that is what I picked.

For a brief period in 2010 I regretted the decision to buy the GT6 because on the EV Tradin’ Post I came across a 2nd generation Saab Sonett converted to electric for $2,000, already running, and in what appeared to be great shape without the need to do rust repairs. It wasn’t a fast EV by any means, a 96V conversion, but it was already running as a functioning EV, and was even more efficient than my GT6 at the time(the GT6 didn’t have its aero pieces made). Someone quickly snapped it up and the listing only remained there for about 3-4 days.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
8 months ago

I’m just playing armchair engineer here, but I’m assuming the layout is partially due to help stabilize temperatures for the battery and heater blower assembly. Why else would you have a secondary firewall to separate it from the front end airflow invariably passing through the radiator and into the engine bay?

That said…I’ve had a handful of Saabs and Volvos and they were always way up there *arm-stretched-high* in terms of that elusive, intangible soul, out of all the vehicles I’ve owned. I think it’s partly due to their unique designs but, as others said, their unique approaches their design teams took towards problem solving.

KC Murphy
KC Murphy
8 months ago

Why else would you have a secondary firewall to separate it from the front end airflow invariably passing through the radiator and into the engine bay?

I don’t have an answer to this… but I have learned that Volvo doubled down, said “hold my Norrlands Guld,” and buried the HVAC components somewhere next to the frame on the 240 series. I seriously think the blower fan went down the assembly line first, then the rest of the car was built around it.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
8 months ago
Reply to  KC Murphy

Ah yes, the classic Volvo “yard sale repair.” I’ve lucked out, never had to replace a blower motor, but ye gads, I’ve seen the DIYs and it looks painful. It’s not even the work, so much as trying to preserve all that brittle 80s Swedish plastic as you go through the steps…

KC Murphy
KC Murphy
8 months ago

Fully agreed on painful. Maybe 15 years ago, I was in the market for a 245 or 745. Every 244/245 I checked out had a hole cut in the passenger side with a hardware store electric fan and toggle switch cobbled in.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
8 months ago
Reply to  KC Murphy

Blame the Americans. The rest of the world got a 240 without A/C and the blower motor was a 20 minute replacement. But Americans had to have A/C and Volvo had to figure out a way to get an evaporator and everything else in the same space as a heater.

Patrick Cook
Patrick Cook
8 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

American 240’s with or without AC have the same nightmarish blower motor repair procedures. I’ve done both, have the PTSD and the scars to prove it. Maybe non-US cars were different, but AC had no effect on the 6-8 hour repair time. <sobs quietly in the dark corner>

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
8 months ago
Reply to  Patrick Cook

Yes. All US-delivered cars came with “A/C prep” so dealers could install A/C on any car on their lot. The heater-only system sold elsewhere was entirely different.

Last edited 8 months ago by Eggsalad
Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
8 months ago
Reply to  KC Murphy

I owned several Leyland P76s (’70s Australian built RWD big sedan with Rover-derived 4.4. litre alloy V8) and the HVAC system in them was all mounted on a large section of the centre of the firewall panel that unbolted from the rest of the firewall and came out as one big unit. Unfortunately the removable panel’s overlap was on the OUTSIDE of the firewall, so a heater core replacement involved removal of engine and gearbox first!

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago

“…a secondary firewall to separate it from the front end airflow…”

There is no secondary firewall. If you’re referring to the light-colored object spanning the full width of the engine bay in those photos, that’s just a reinforcement tube:

https://bringatrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/1971_Saab_96_Project_For_Sale_Engine_1_1.JPG

although in the Sonett II it also became a place to hang the radiator fill tank:

https://www.classicargarage.com/assets/images/9/saab-sonett-2-1967-two-stroke-red-rouge-rot-rood-17-cb125909.jpg

before simply becoming the radiator fill tank in the later Sonetts:

https://barnfinds.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/120516-Barn-Finds-1968-Saab-Sonett-5.jpg

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

It had crossed my mind that it was an optical illusion and not an actual firewall…My initial guess might apply despite that, but I’m less certain now as to the configuration.

Conrad Schille
Conrad Schille
8 months ago

92’s and 93’s did have a separate “firewall”

https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/saab_93b_1958web4.jpg

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Conrad Schille

I thought about that but Man With A Reliable Jeep specifically referred to “the front end airflow invariably passing through the radiator and into the engine bay” which isn’t how things go with the rear-mounted radiators of the bullnose cars (including the early 95 and 96).

Last edited 8 months ago by Mike Harrell
IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
8 months ago

“What other cars devote nearly equal amounts of underhood room to engine and then heater blower/battery?

I mean, it does come from Sweden, and it’s pretty cold there. Maybe this makes sense.”

You need the high capacity heater to cook the meat of the moose that totaled your car while you await rescue. Whenever someone points out an odd feature on a Scandinavian car, I attribute it to the moose.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago

Reminded me of this. My folks were driving thru the Colorado Rockies one night in their Sonnet. A moose ran across the road in the canyon. Rather than die like Toonces the Cat, my old man aimed for the moose. Drove right between it’s legs! The moose survived, but used a walker for the rest of it’s life. True story.
The Sonnet was unharmed.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago

My family had SAABs from the late 1950s thru the early 1970s. They were so far ahead of their time, especially compared to the shit we built here in the 1960s.
SAAB was the first car I ever rode in that had seat belts, BEFORE they were required.

They designed windshields with a thin soft gasket. It was designed to pop out of the car upon impact, rather than decrapitate you like shit we built. (very early 1960s)

The 95, 96, 99 SONNET, all came with a roll cage built in at the factory, Detroit? NA…

My recollection is that the engine compartments were designed that way on purpose. In a head on wreck the engines were designed to break engine mounts and drop down, rather that being shoved into your face by the impact. (not that there’s anything WRONG with that)

Diagonal braking systems. Collapsible steering columns. ETC. ETC.

At one time both SAAB and Volvo built the safest cars in the world.
Being a Swede, I am proud of that. Fight me…

Last edited 8 months ago by Col Lingus
Conrad Schille
Conrad Schille
8 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Only the Sonett’s had an actual “roll bar”

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago
Reply to  Conrad Schille

Agreed, but the structural build of the others also had a roll bar from hood to trunk.
It just did not look like the common roll bar design. They even used it as a sales tool for safety in ads. I have probably seen about 50 SAABs that were rolled, some rolled several times. It always amazed me how well they, and the occupants survived these events.
On one of the old man’s 96 cars he wanted a spot light installed for price work. They had to install it on them on the doors because the A pillar was too tough to drill through.
I just wish they were still making cars.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
8 months ago

Had a Sonett III, lots of quirky features, the brake pad material is at an angle on the theory the leading edge of the brake pad wear more I guess. Their is a front cross tube that doubles as a frame/suspension support and a radiator header tank, and of course the freewheel feature that came from the two stroke, but survived in the V-4. Sadly my freewheel was disabled.

Some guy named David Tracy even wrote an article about my old car (orange one) when it sold on BaT a few years back. https://jalopnik.com/why-are-we-not-all-buying-saab-sonetts-right-now-1835105252

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago
Reply to  ProudLuddite

We had 2 Sonett IIIs. They were ahead of their time.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
8 months ago

I mean, it does come from Sweden, and it’s pretty cold there.

The car’s first job is to keep you alive. Then, to get you to your destination.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
8 months ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

Clearly you have never spoken with any of my cars on either of these points.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

My cars also fail miserably on both counts.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
8 months ago

I’m interested in the curious choice to flip the direction the photos are facing when trying to make a comparison..

Also I’ve never heard a V4 in person, I need to change that.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
8 months ago
Reply to  Cool Dave

I finally saw one a few years back—it was an old backup generator for a dorm. About the cutest little thing short of a BMC a-series engine.
Still haven’t heard one run yet.

Conrad Schille
Conrad Schille
8 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

They really do make delightful noises, especially with a fun exhaust on them.

KC Murphy
KC Murphy
8 months ago
Reply to  Conrad Schille

You said fun exhaust.
I saw crazy straw.

Exhaust: “Wheeee!”

A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago
Reply to  Cool Dave

If you can’t find a V4 car, Honda’s Interceptor line of motorcycles had V4s ranging from 500cc to 1000cc. They were used in cruiser-type bikes as well: for example, the engine from the VF500 Interceptor went into the V30 Magna. They also had the V65 Sabre – a more or less standard bike – which was 1100cc.

10001010
10001010
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

My buddy had a V45 Sabre for a while and let me borrow it for a couple of weeks. That exhaust note was delicious.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
8 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I’ve got a Honda RVF 400, tiny 14,000rpm 60bhp V4.

With the standard exhaust it sounds like two Ducati V-twins fucking in the distance.

Great bike.

Citrus
Citrus
8 months ago
Reply to  Cool Dave

While we don’t see the entire brochure, the likely reason is purely layout – putting them in opposite directions back-to-back looks better than if they were laid out back-to-back but facing the same direction. If they were stacked vertically it would make sense to put them in the same direction.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago

I recall the engine block in my Dad’s 1941 American Bantam was the same size as the battery! I doubt it even had a heater.

Last edited 8 months ago by Chronometric
A. Barth
A. Barth
8 months ago

“Really Cold Start”?

I like that the engine compartment has the Gandalf line in the middle, beyond which the engine shall not pass.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

Gotta keep that Swedish Bikini Team warm in the winter.*

*Disclaimer: The Swedish Bikini Team members were actually American models, not Swedish at all. Maybe the bikinis were from Sweden?

Conrad Schille
Conrad Schille
8 months ago

And they’re an absolute delight to work on.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago
Reply to  Conrad Schille

Are you referring to the bikini team or the SAABs? As I recall both tended to leak when pushed too hard. YMMV.

Goose
Goose
8 months ago

My brother bought a V4 96 about 10 or 12 years ago. The thing was super cool, sounded awesome, was really slow, and oddly had tons of suspension travel. The engine was so small we both carried the whole assembled long block with accessories down into his basement by hand and lifted it onto the engine stand.

The engine sounded pretty unique and with his needing exhaust work brought out the neighbors thinking they were gonna see some kind of race car or something. Turns out it could have been a live action version of the Care-A-Lot Cloudmobile making all that noise.

Last edited 8 months ago by Goose
Ted Fort
Ted Fort
8 months ago

“Whether you choose two strokes or four, you’re gonna smell toast!”

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