Rally or Restore? 1977 Saab 99 EMS

A few years ago, I attended an impromptu Cars & Coffee event where a well-preserved Saab 99 EMS showed up. The owner was quite passionate, and clearly understood the value of keeping his rare Swede as OEM as possible. Aside from the hood stripe, this example here on eBay follows a similar formula, but with those big Hella 500 fog lights on the front bumper, it’s tempting to keep this car slightly tatty and use it where it belongs: grassroots rally events!

Although I always defer to preservation over modifying, these old Saabs had an impressive track record on the rally circuit. This is one of my favorite racing videos ever, taken at a vintage hillclimb event where the Swedish driver had to drive flat-out due to the 99 he was piloting running too rich to stay running. Running issues aside, there’s a reason why 99s like this one came with a tasty three-spoke steering wheel, extra gauges and sport seats – they were clearly designed to appeal to the hotshoe in the family.

Consider the EMS the best thing that happened to the 99 before the Turbo years began. Two liters and eight valves gives off just under 110 b.h.p., and the cleanliness of the engine bay gives you some confidence that this EMS has been lovingly maintained. The lack of oil stains and other signs of wear and tear don’t seem to exist under this hood, but more details on the 99’s maintenance file would be a welcome addition to the eBay listing. The seller notes it wears an uprated suspension and recently received new brakes and tires.

Not surprisingly, this 99 is in Washington State, which seems to be wear weird cars go to retire (or never left to begin with). I dig the big rally lights on the front bumper, but based on this Saab’s condition, I suspect they are just there for extra lighting and not for eating up a nighttime special stage. Bidding is already quite active but the reserve remains unmet. Having options with a hobby car is always nice, and this 99 could be compelling both as a preserved specimen or an entrant into vintage rally events. Which would you choose?


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  1. Bill

    More aerodynamic going in reverse.

  2. gene

    According to ebay it is in new york.

  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Ohhh…this is a very nice 99! Last year model, EMS, clean and clean…the only thing I would change is the hood stripe

  4. Chuck Sibio

    Have always thought these things were weird, but kinda cool.
    The saving grace is the key in the console, along with crumbs,coffee, & sticky things in the lock tumblers.
    None the less- cool.

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Center console key was a safety thing, Chuck. In an accident, the emt’s wouldn’t be digging the key out of the driver’s knee

      Yeah it can be a crumb catcher but there are ways around that. Also, oem Saab keys are steel, not brass so not that susceptible to over twisting. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of oem keys that aren’t twisted but the tumblers in the lock are so worn you can start the car with a flat screwdriver :D

  5. Howard A Member

    Does anybody remember the movie “Crazy People” with Dudley Moore? It’s a great movie, in a nutshell, Dudley Moore is an ad executive, that goes nuts and commits himself to a nuthouse. In the nuthouse, is a patient that walks around muttering facts about the Saab 99. Constantly. Later on in the movie, the patients become great ad designers and Dudley buys them all the car of their dreams ( to drive around the compound) including a Saab 99 for this guy. He’s speechless, and everybody hops in their cars and takes off. This guy slinks behind the wheel of the Saab, finally gets the nerve to turn the key. The starter spins and spins, nothing. He sits back, with a big smile and says, “They weren’t suppose to start EVERY time”. http://www.imcdb.org/vehicle_3837-SAAB-99-1977.html

    • Leon

      The Volvo and Jaguar ads in the movie were funny too. Truth in advertising

  6. Wade Treadway

    One of my all time favorite cars was a 99 EMS. It was the perfect Vermont car. With studded radials, it would go anywhere.


    i never got these cars, they break a lot and are expensive to fix. quite ugly and they never change the design much.

  8. glenn

    dont believe ive ever seen one of these before i wish saab was resurrected i love the cars

  9. Russell

    Okay, you get me all excited, I’m on eBay, I’m seriously thinking about what my max bid is going to be because after all, its in the state of Washington where weird people like myself go for cars like this. But, it’s in New York, not Washington. That is so cruel on so many levels!

  10. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Styling so far ahead of its time. Everything currently on the road mimics the 99.

  11. wuzjeepnowsaab

    These are marvels of engineering. In snow with proper tires they will go just about anywhere and do it better than most SUV’s and I say that having come from years of Grand Wagoneers and their cousin Cherokees and J Trucks, which aren’t too shabby in snow themselves. Fun cars to throw through corners, comfortable on long hauls, and cavernous interiors, especially the hatch backs…though I do love me a notchie like this one on auction.

    These old Saabs also have one of the most ergonomic driver’s interiors on the road (Born From Jets and all that) Super safe cars too. I know plenty enough folks that walked away from totaled 99s and 900’s One even from a rollover in a ‘vert

    Painlessly simple to work on no matter what the people who have never worked on them say ;) These B engine cars were a little more quirky than the H engines that followed in that both the distributor and water pump on these was driven from a jackshaft and that made a water pump replacement a chore even if you had the proper tool. Name another car though that you can do a clutch job in an hour without separating the transmission from the engine.

    By the way, Brit car fans, did you know the first Saab inline 4’s were derived from Triumph slant 4’s?

    I could go on…and on…and on about how great these little Swedes are…but I won’t :)

  12. Wayne

    I hated these cars. I had one for a company car. The only car that I ever drove that went straight off the road (when it should of gone around the corner) into a corn field. The rat-a-tat noise of corn cobs bouncing off the hood at 70 MPH is a sound that I will never forget. I understand that these cars under steer. (I am an ex-pro-rally driver & ice racing champion in a Honda Civic and VW Scirocco). So I do know a thing or two about under-steer and how to correct/manage that situation. But when you turn the wheel and the car never even acknowledges that fact that you that you commanded it to do something. Totally ticks me off for the rest of my life! Combine that with the ignition switch that refuses to let you start the car once you have topped off the fuel tank. And then once it decides to let you turn the key and then locks up in the start position long enough to overheat the wiring and start on fire at the gas station.(luckily they have fire extinguishers at gas stations) Will never get me to take a second look. The only positive aspect this car is that you can load a full size casket in the back and close the hatch!

  13. Howard A Member

    I tell ya’, I get such a chuckle out of people’s different views. On one hand, you have wuzjeep singing the praises of this wonderful automobile, and Wayne, the exact opposite. Very rarely, do I see a uniform liking of any certain car. Somebody always had a bad experience with ANY car. I guess that’s just human nature, and not just in cars.
    I always thought, the Saab 99 was kind of the “poster child” for problems,( which is why the producers of that movie chose to pick on it) although, I’ve never owned one, and have nothing but the highest regard for earlier Saabs. Problems aside, these were very nice cars, when they ran, that is.

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      I dunno, Howard. I think Wayne’s post was maybe a bit of trolling :) I think with hundreds of thousands of Saabs out there surely if they didn’t steer through a corner you’d have heard of it more. Maybe a 99 isn’t a car to try and guide through a 30mph turn at 70 :D

      At any rate, they are certainly polarizing. Usually those that own and work on them love them; those that don’t…don’t :)

  14. the one

    We have 4 Saabs and yes we do have an occasional “Saab” story, however, these cars are really quick, handle great and get ridiculous gas mileage. We just picked up an ’07 Aero. 280hp V6 Mitsubishi turbo automatic with manual thumb paddles, or you can use the console shift to change gears in manual mode.
    Nail this car and it literally snaps your head back. Getting on the freeway?Fabetabodit! See ya! Great ride, quiet comfy, killer Bose stereo.
    I have been a Detroit steel driver forever, I still am but kids and my wife love these Saabs..

  15. CelestialGryphon

    Rally the everloving sin out of it

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