By the late 1960s Saab had developed its philosophy further to include safety at all costs. The result was the distinctive 99 models of 1967, the central section of which would prove durable enough to remain in production (as the 900) until 1994. The 99’s appearance was guided by Saab’s principles of aircraft design. It was known as the Little Draken, a Saab jet fighter, within the company. It placed great emphasis upon occupant protection. The upright, narrow widescreen pillars were immensely strong tubular structures. However, the 99’s weak link was its slant four engine, a design originally borrowed from Triumph in the UK, but so flawed that it had to be totally redesigned by Saab’s own engineers. Even, so performance was felt to be the 99’s weakest area. Saab started to look at turbo charging in the late 1960s, and Per Gillibrand became Saab’s turbo expert, introducing the concept of a wastage to help reduce what became known as turbo lag, the delay between the point where the driver starts accelerating and the engine delivering the full power.
The 99 became Saab’s first Turbo charged car in 1977. It became an icon, partly thanks to the restrained styling changes which made it stand out, including subtle air dams front and rear and, most celebrated the Aztec, alloy wheels. The Saab 99 predicted the 1980s performance car boom, with a range of similarity fast and adorned cars appearing on the scene.