Top Gear Saab Special – your thoughts?

I haven’t seen it yet – I’ll employ some trickery and watch it within the next few days – but Top Gear’s Saab special has just been shown on the BBC.

J Fan has already written the following in comments here:

Well, I enjoyed that. It was never going to be a straightforward praise for Saab, but, by Top Gear standards, that was pretty good, especially the 99 Turbo and safety part.

The black 9000 was almost identical to the one my father bought in 1993 – was great to see it again! I’m glad they highlighted the changes that Saab made to the GM sourced parts over the last two decades.

Was quiet a sad piece. When the credits rolled, my father, brother and myself merely stared at the tv, reflecting upon that sad end.

I figured it might be appropriate to have a feedback section so people could have their say on the show. An appropriate tribute? Entertaining? Surprisingly caring? A crock? A wonderful boost to the value of Chris’ 99Turbo?

Leave your thoughts in comments.

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  1. Courtesy of your link, downloaded ‘backdoor’ [free for 3 days], software for live viewing from Canada (worked a treat!). Thought they poked at the airplane heritage tad too much (vs. BMW) but otherwise appropriate. Certainly pushed the ‘independent spirit’ angle (that went beyond badge engineering — vis a vis Vauxhall and Lancia). Liked to have seen a dedicated hour though (rather than 20 minute segment). BMW roof drop was priceless!

  2. It was really good! Sure, there were a few factual errors and they made fun of the disputable airplane heritage and a few other things, but once they got that out of the way, it was full of love. I’m sure it has raised positive awareness about Saab. Just showing the 9-5NG has that effect.

    Near the end of the segment Jeremy says, with a sincere voice, “I really like they way they did things” and he also pays homage to the work force at Saab.

  3. Just finished watching it. Of course it wasn’t all praise, and they bring up the increasingly weak aircraft lineage of modern Saabs. And that the Sonnet was slow. And that early 900 convertibles were floppy structurally. Fair enough. But if they didn’t poke that it wouldn’t be Top Gear, and it wouldn’t be objective. It’d be a puffy pro-Saab piece and even I wouldn’t want to see that.

    They call the 99 Turbo Saab’s watershed moment and I have to agree, even if the 900 Turbo really popularized Saab the brand. They drive home the point that it was a special company, with engineers, left to their own devices, who could create brilliant machines.

    It’s all extremely touching and reinforces what Saab fans really believe: These cars were/are special. And it’s a complete shame they’re bankrupt today. I could pick nits with the narrating and carrying out of details, but I’ll leave that up to the more fanatic fans. This was better than the Lancia video they did, and it tugged at me as hard as the Ayrton Senna one. It was that good.

  4. I loved it! Beautifully put!

    At the beginning it was getting quite weary with all the negativity regarding Saab marketing. But moments after you did really get to hear the amazing stories from the brand. I found it specifically interesting with how they pictured Saab as a revolution against GM – meaning that Saab changed too much of the Vauxhall features since they didn’t think those cars were good enough – leading to GM’s decision to throw in the towel.

    Very nice, marvellous tribute and with an ending that you might call A New Hope, you’ll see what I mean Swade.. 😉

  5. The fact that Jeremy & Captain Slow did not ridicule SAAB but showed both the bad & the good, but best of all the soul of SAAB! As a viewer from childhood, I don’t think I have seen such genuine emotion!!
    Who ever buy’s SAAB, needs to watch this to ensure that they to can live with a car that’s outside the BOX!

  6. I quite enjoyed the special and thought they were honest about their feelings for Saab. Like most of us they seemed to love the brand because of its quirkyness and it genuinely showed in their expressions and faces when they talked about it. Over all I give it a very good review with very little bashing than I thought originally it would have. Also I am sure they will mention Saabs future in upcoming shows when a proper decision has been made. Again loved it and its something I will watch over and over again.

  7. I did think the tone was respectful but I would have liked to see some mention of rally successes and a little about how successful the convertibles were.

    I am led to believe that were surprisingly well informed about the fact that Saab ignored GM’s instructions to keep costs down on the 9-3 which led to serious internal strife..

    Also I thought the hypothesis of why Saab failed was inaccurate – my view is that it had nothing to do with the fact that the new Saab 9-5 was badly received and more to do with the fact that Saab was owned by people with lots to say but not much cash.

  8. I thought it was a very well-done piece. I learned quite a bit myself, and actually appreciated the honesty about the overworking of the jets relationship.

    I especially liked the appreciation shown – and extended time – for the 99 Turbos. That car deserves way more attention than it’s received. Of all the Saabs and cars I’ve owned and sold, that is the one car I’m dying to have back. This show certainly added to the urgency to get another 99 Turbo back in the garage.

    I really enjoyed the part about how GM would request watered down re-branding of existing models and Saab would ignore them and do their own thing. I had never been privy to this. I’m curious you had heard about this before/if your experience ‘inside Saab’ validates that that really played out that way.

    Overall, I give the Top Gear folks a thumbs up for an entertaining job well done.

  9. All in all I think this was a good tribute to Saab by TG. They can, as I’m sure you all know, be a bit harsh sometimes but I think they gave a pretty fair representation of the Saab good bits and bad bits.

    The cars they had were stunning. That black 99 Turbo and 9000 were just fantastic and the red Aero look great too. Lucky owners. I still miss my 9000; a car that doesn’t received the credit it deserves IMHO.

    Dropping the BMW was good. Like it when they show up the mainstream brands like that.

    The sense of sadness that Saab are no more (at the moment) seemed genuine and I do think that they felt that the world is somehow less bright now that Saab can no longer produce their ‘different cars’.

    I would also have liked a bit more on the rallying success that Saab enjoyed and I don’t think their statement about the lack of success of the new 9-5 as being the main reason for Saabs demise was accurate at all.

    I was interested to learn (if it was accurate) that Saab changed the GM products they were given so much that they essentially became completely different cars. Makes all those comments about Saabs being nothing more than a Vauxhall/GM model dressed up seem very stupid indeed.

    Well done TG for a good (if not perfect) tribute. Very enjoyable.

    Griffin Up! Cuore Sportivo!

  10. I think that it’s even-handed and even fitting. They had a certain reverence for the brand and the people involved.

    They spent a bit too much time harping on the ‘Born from Jets’ advertising that we all knew as schlock, but I dare say that any other brand would fare the same under the Clarkson scrutiny (save perhaps his beloved Aston-Martin).

    I realize that the 900 ‘vert wasn’t the stiffest of rides, but that’s not the point — the point was that the car spurred a renaissance of convertibles in North America. Almost single-handedly.

    Their love of the 99T is, of course, spot-on. Their panning of the early two-strokes and their (later) free-wheeling successors was perhaps a bit simplistic. Their analysis of the 9000 is, well, as correct as time will allow (the 9000 was not a profitable car, that’s well documented).

    As far as the figures quoted about the number of changes made for the NG900 and 9-3SS vs. their GM platform sisters, be careful about divorcing yourself from those roots. Most of the changes were modifications, not completely new parts. The 9-5 Mark 1 in particular has a plethora of parts made or sourced from Russelsheim. They are still GM cars whether we like it or not. The Saab difference is important, don’t get me wrong. They are still Opel in large part.

  11. The Saab feature certainly managed to stir this viewer’s emotions. It is rare for the TG team to have so much respect for a mass-producer.
    I realise that the following might seem a bit heretical to some, especially the more emotive contributors to the Saabsunited site: I’ve been trying to nail down how I feel about the current situation at Saab. Primarily it is a tragedy for the workforce and my heart goes out to them. Setting this aside, I think it is perhaps a bit too pie in the sky at this stage, to imagine we will ever see Saab re-living its former glory and I hope not to sound like a nay-sayer, but GM seems intent on putting-paid to that.
    In any case, who would want to see SAAB under managment of a foreign (from wherever) investor making a product under the SAAB name which did not live up to the company’s heritage or roots? I would have thought that there is sufficient support for the products already embedded in the annals of motoring, such that the brand will not disappear from our roads or our consciousness for many decades to come. I for one, would prefer to remember them this way than as a fragmented shadow of their former selves. So I can only hope that the company is ressurrected completely….or not at all. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way?