Plans for car production in Trollhättan started evolving within Saab management as World War II was nearing its end and management sought to widen the production program to meet the expected decline in military aircraft requirements. For many reasons, automobiles appeared to be a suitable replacement. Motor vehicles were somewhat akin to the products then being made and were also suitable for the tools already in use. Provided that the automobile – no one dared to think of more than one model and type of car – was in the right size, type, construction and price, it should be quite easy to sell.
That the Company’s resources were such that one couldn’t afford to design more than one relatively small and simple vehicle did not seem to have any influence on management’s optimistic outlook. The success of small European cars on the Swedish market just prior to the outbreak of the war gave everyone full confidence that cars of the same type would also prove popular in the future, and that demand would be enough also to encompass a car from Saab. Export sales of any volume were not considered.
The decision to actually design the automobile project was made in the fall of 1945. Development work was initially conducted in Linköping and was directed by the very capable engineer Gunnar Ljungström, who to assist him had a staff of only about 20 people. Since Saab had no experience in car construction, not any traditions in this field, it became a matter of common sense and the ability of those involved to think and design technically, analytically and innovatively. But, if one could design and manufacture advanced aircraft, why not cars?
Ideas and designs flooded in and by summer 1946 the first prototype body was ready, hand beaten on a wooden jig, black, shiny and very streamlined. It was propelled by a DKW 18hp two-cylinder; two-stroke engine, an Auto Union fuel tank and many other components that were salvaged from a scrap yard.
The original Saab 92001, that was eventually to be driven many long miles and give much valuable experience. But the shape was neither pretty nor very practical. New blood was needed.
In the design-artist Sixten Sason – at that time working with Saab on aircraft X-ray and instruction drawings – Ljungström found the right man for the job. Sixten sketched and thought, and finally hit on the right shape. It is the one that is discernible in the sketches above, which in simplified form show the basic design that was reached after about one year of prototype design work. The wooden model was altered, metal was shaped around it, and in May of 1947 another prototype, in almost finished shape, stood ready: Number 92002.