In January of 1986, Saab hosted the world debut of the 900 / 9-3 Convertible series in the good old United States.
Since that date two decades ago, the Swedish auto manufacturer has produced more than 240,000 units of the popular open-air car.
In celebration of that auspicious premiere comes the release of a special 2006 Saab 9-3 Convertible model, which is aptly named "20 Years Edition."
Original plans called for a total of 300 copies to be assembled.
"But, because of dealer and customer excitement, that number has been increased to 400," said Tom Beaman, manager of product communications for Saab Cars USA.
"Even though the volume is upped by 100, we feel that at 400 vehicles, the 20 Years Edition is still considered an exclusive, limited production Saab," Beaman said.
Although the 20 Years Edition features all the sporty body trim, dual exhaust and lowered sports-tuned chassis found on top-of-the-line Saab Aeros, it’s a cinch to spot the new kid on the block by its eye-catching 'Electric Blue' metallic finish. This includes color-keyed tonneau cover, door trims, door handles, and rear trunk lid lip spoiler.
An additional clue distinguishing the anniversary edition are the handsome double five-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels.
Beaman mentioned a subtle feature I had not noticed at first. He said, " Saab designers chose not to use the typical fender badge or decal to identify this special model, but instead adapted a more elegant approach.
Etched into the driver’s side rear quarter window is a stylistic rendering of the 9-3 Convertible and the words, 'Convertible - Twenty Years.' "
Complimenting the exterior is the parchment leather interior that is tailored with Electric Blue upholstery trim lines. Even when the convertible top is up, the airy cabin ambience continues with the light parchment-color, fully enclose headlining and glass rear window, which incorporates a defroster.
With the push of a single button, a well-choreographed series of actions lowers the roof.
It takes a mere 20-seconds for the hydraulically powered automated top to take down the windows, open the storage compartment, neatly stow the folded top and close the storage cover.
An option is the remote control button on the key fob to lower or raise the top.
Other high tech features on this topless Swede includes ReAxs passive rear-wheel steer characteristic for optimum handling, and DynaCage rollover protection system with pop-up rear roll bars, strengthened A-pillars, sills and automatic seat belt pre-tensioning.
Standard on the 9-3 Convertible 20 Year Edition is Saab’s high-performance 2.8-liter, single twin-scroll turbocharged V-6, which pumps out an energetic 250 horses and 258 pound feet of torque. Consumers have the choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions to team with the six-cylinders.
The original 900 Convertible from 1986 came with the 175 horsepower, 2-liter turbo engine. It had, as a way of coincidence with 2006, an initial limited production run of 400 units for the U.S. market.
By the following year, the model was taken into full global production, and soon annual sales were exceeding 10,000 units.
The year 1994 marked the beginning of sales for the second generation of the Saab 900 Convertible, and with in a year of that intro, was topping 13,000 in sales.
Beginning with the 1998 model, Saab changed the name to 9-3 Convertible, which featured hydraulic soft-top operation, and a larger rear window. Sales increased to more than 18,000.
In the fall of 2003 the current third generation Saab 9-3 Convertible was launched and has driven annual global sales to a record volume of almost 19,000 units, and, on Aug , 28, 2003, the 200,000th ragtop was produced.
While other 9.3 models are built in Trollhatten, Sweden, all the drop top versions are assembled at the Magna Steyr plant near Graz, Austria.
If you’re counting the days until you can raise the roof on summer open-top motoring, hustle down to a nearby Saab dealership and check the availability of the limited Saab 9.3 Convertible 20 Years Edition.
Suggested list price of $44,615 includes delivery.
Seen below is the Saab Convertible prototype that was introduced at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 1983, with styling near identical to the original 900 Convertible model released in 1986.