Anyone calling Per-Anders Johansson's Saab a glorified "parts car" should know where he works. You should also know that everyone calls Johansson "P.A.," and if you had his job, you'd take "parts car" as a compliment and probably dream about building your own.
P.A. works for Saab, in Trollhaettan, Sweden, as a technician within Saab's vehicle recycling center. This is where Saab's test mules, prototypes, loaner and executive cars come to be parted out into saleable bits for Saab's dealer network. It's a little known aspect of many automakers, and in this case is a dream shop for Saab nuts.
P.A. has God's own access to the best factory parts and runs with a fervent crowd of Trollhaettan speed-freaks tied to local tuner SQR. These guys bleed Saab, and in the creation of this SQR Saab 9000, P.A. pulled stuff from his enviable position of working in Saab's chop shop, then turned to SQR and the wealth of skunkworks surrounding Trollhaettan to finish the job on his 9000 rocket sled.
A quick tour through P.A.'s place of business will have any Saab nut drooling on the spotless, painted floor. The pristine facility has racks of Viggen motors and interiors, complete suspensions, and any switch, harness or body panel you'd like lining the floor-to-ceiling shelves of the warehouse-size facility. Picking and choosing from the finest factory hi-po parts, P.A. built an impressive baseline from which to launch his 9000 project.
The SQR 9000 began in 1998 as a 1995 Saab 9000 CSE motivated by a light-pressure version of the 2.3-liter turbo four cylinder. The turbocharged mill got the first attention, with P.A. using his experience in Saab's body shop to handle much of the major wrenching, with consulting and machine work from local legend Trollspeed. Trollspeed's Tommy Karlsson is the entity behind some of the most fearsome Swedish four cylinders ever constructed, including many of the 600-plus- bhp animals turned loose on the flanks of Pikes Peak.
Using a Trollspeed crankshaft, P.A. took displacement down to 2.0 liters, an advantage Karlsson has found when tuning extreme output mills. The shorter stroke shifts the powerband farther up the tach, allowing the engine internals to better cope with the prodigious cylinder pressures generated by turbocharging enhancements. The Trollspeed crank is collared with Verdi rods topped by J.E. pistons clinched by Qrille rings and wristpins. Trollspeed camshafts, mated to Wargia adjustable cam sprockets, spin in a cylinder head ported by Trollspeed and pocketed by larger intake and exhaust valves.
A massive intercooler from an IVECO truck feeds a dense charge to a Garrett GT40 ball-bearing turbo. The hulking compressor hangs on a work-of art Wargia intake, and an equally sinuous Wargia exhaust manifold routes spent combustion gas from the pressure-packed four into a 3-in. J.T. exhaust system. The de-stroked grunt is routed through a Stam Engineering-built transmission, a Sachs pressure plate and reinforced clutch disc and channeled to a Sellholm differential.
The chassis has been lowered on H&R springs, and the 19-in. BBS Challenge wheels are coated with 35-series Yokohama AVS Sport rubber and damped by Bilstein shocks. The front wheels encase a set of 330mm Brembo binders lifted from a Porsche GT3, and the stock rear brakes were swapped out for a Speedparts Sport setup. A strut brace hovers over the engine compartment, helping quell some of the twist generated by the front-driver's massive increases in thrust and grip.
Current output from the 2.0-liter turbo is slightly over 400 bhp, the latest goal in P.A.'s annual winter engine rebuild. "It has very smooth and stable acceleration," P.A. explained. "It's very refined. After five years I was never satisfied with the car, but now I'm satisfied. We've pulled the engine out every winter to work on it and have it make more power and add more refinement in the powerband." SQR's Frank Stroemqvist (StroemQvist Racing) worked his chip-tuning magic on the Saab's Trionic engine management system to help balance and integrate the ECU to the wealth of add-on parts.
P.A said he's finally content with his parts special, a near constant labor of love. "I've repainted the car three times, and the chassis has over 200,000 km on it." The current all-black paint scheme certainly looks menacing, and the rubber-band wheels suggest this isn't exactly a boulevard cruiser. Interior modifications are minimal, if swapping out the CSE trim for a full Aero compartment can be called minimal--something P.A. can do on a lunch break. Beyond the seating swap, a separate boost gauge is the cabin's only hint at warp drive capability.
The end result of a truly group effort is a finely polished machine. P.A. led me on the snaking farm roads outside of Trollhaettan, where the SQR 9000 belied its 3,500-lb heft. The powerband is seamless and incredibly stout, pulling hard but progressively from the tach's lower registers. Even on the rolling, off-camber rural lanes, the car remained planted and taut, without a hint of suspension harshness.
"My original goal for this car was to show what you could do with a Saab with original parts," P.A. admitted. "I knew it was going to be quite special, because I have access to try things no one else can try. It's funny, in the beginning you just tune the engine, but then you work on the chassis, and then the brakes, and now I have the whole car tuned and I've won many awards from magazines, so now I think it's basically finished. It's a very smooth ride, very nice suspension and nice to drive on the racetrack. I wanted a car you could drive hard as well as show."