Saab EV-1

Car of the Day #27: 1985 Saab EV-1

Saab EV-1
Saab EV-1 • source Saab

This is the first EV-1.

People, er, content farms, love to speculate on hot topics like the Best Minivans For Absent Fathers, Top 10 Wheel Bearing Failures In Motorsports, and Most ’80s Cars Ever. On that topic, any of the ’80s lists that don’t include the Saab EV-1 should not be trusted. 

The most ’80s car would have been featured in Back To The Future; the Saab EV-1 was. That's right, this running, driving prototype was an extra in Back To The Future Part II.

In typical Saab fashion, this coupe was front wheel drive, sort of like if a Subaru SVX had been powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and ultimately capable of 270 km/h (168 mph).

"But instead of pulling upward, its pilot retracted the gear, lit the afterburner and bore past us at 250 mph at an altitude of 35 ft. Hell's own fury followed, redolent of kerosene and a flash of heat in the sub-zero temperature." —Dennis Simanaitis, Road & Track

Like the Sonett range before it, the EV-1 had a simple mission: turn Saab mechanicals into a sports car. But as a leader in turbocharging at that time, its forced induction mechanicals couldn’t be fully showcased within production cars — Saab’s powertrains deserved a car like the EV-1 to shine.

In period, Saab designer Bjorn Envall, talking to Road & Track writer Simanaitis said, “A lot of intuitive thinking went into the design…the kind of thinking that can outsmart a computer.” Read Simanaitis’ recap at his website here.

Who did the runway photos? Now-legendary photographer (and Porschephile) Jeff Zwart.

Saab EV-1 on runway • via Saab

It is a pretty shape, isn't it? Certainly edgy but not entirely lacking in character; for the era, its deformable front and rear bumpers and jet-like upper profile are more than enough to look sleek and more current than its year would suggest. Compare its profile with an Isuzu Impulse Coupe or Toyota Celica and this Saab will hold up well. 

For its ’80s cred: finned, unidirectional, three-hole disk wheels; Saab Night Panel; solar panels in the roof; cut-out side windows; wire-heated windshield, for inclement weather.

Captain P.G. Hogbäck and Saab EV-1 • by Jeff Zwart for Road & Track

Its performance was awesome, for the time. As Saab noted, even with its 16-valve four-cylinder turbo motor lifted from the 900 Turbo production car, it was on par with a period Ferrari Testarossa: along with its top speed, it'd hit zero-to-100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.7 seconds. 

Would it have been a success? Sure. Yes. The answer is yes, Saab could have sold an EV-1. Two? Possibly. 25,000? No chance.

This is the first EV-1 — but is it the best? Comment below…

me: mom can we have a Saab EV-1?

mom: we have a Saab EV-1 at home

the Saab EV-1 at home:

Ove Larsson custom Saab '9900'; car now located in the American Saab museum