Car: Saab 92, 1949

Faced with a devastating drop in orders for its aircraft in 1945, Svenska Aeroplan AB (Swedish Aeroplane Limited) needed to diversify; it chose car manufacture. Inspiration came from the popularity of Germany’s DKW cars in Sweden in the 1930s, where their surefooted roadholding suited the country’s treacherous winter roads. But improving performance was a key goal; Saab aimed to make their car 50 percent faster by applying aircraft construction methods and aerodynamics.

1949 model car Saab 92
The Saab aircraft company took a long, hard look at the post-World War II environment and created the economical 92 car to capitalize on it.

The first prototype took six months to build in 1946. Three years of solid refinement and testing followed until the production lines began rolling on December 12, 1949. Impressively, just 17 percent (by value) of the car consisted of bought-in components.

Named the 92, it was a compact two-door, four-seater economy sedan with aerodynamic lines. It had a light, strong body built around a passenger “safety cell” and employed torsion bar suspension.

1949 model car Saab 92
1949 model car Saab 92

The power unit was Saab’s own water-cooled two-stroke, a DKW clone mated to a three-speed gearbox with no synchromesh on first. To overcome the engine’s Achilles heel (oil starvation during engine braking), the transmission featured a freewheel.

1949 model car Saab 92
1949 model car Saab 92

The 92 was certainly idiosyncratic. It came in just one color, green (gray, blue-grey, and black were added in 1953). The project’s viability was assured when a major distributor pledged to buy 8,000 in exchange for exclusive Swedish sales rights; it soon had a 15,000-strong waiting list.

“As a medium for putting in fantastic average speeds over rough, twisty roads, it has few rivals in its class. The Saab 92 is definitely a sports car in spirit.”

The autocar magazine, 1949

Video model car Saab 92

Specification model car Saab 92

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Trollhättan, Sweden
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: flat two-cylinder, 47ci (764cc)
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the front wheels
BODYWORK: two-door four-seater sedan
TOP SPEED: 65mph (105kph)