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One-off 1997 Saab 900 EX prototype headed to auction

An obscure and fascinating part of Saab’s history is looking for a new home. The one-off 1997 900 EX was built in Norway to celebrate the company’s 50th birthday, and while it was not approved for production it shows what a sporty, 900-derived coupe could have looked like.

British auction house Bonhams explains that Per Ekstrøm, an auto body expert and enthusiast according to The Drive, worked closely with Saab and Norwegian road authorities to create the 900 EX. His goal wasn’t merely to create an eye-catching coupe that’s pretty to look at but impossible to drive; he wanted the model to be street-legal and drive like a regular-production car. The auction description notes that the 900 EX was built by experienced professionals with Saab’s blessing and that the process required between 3,000 and 4,000 hours of work.

The end result is stunning. While the headlights and the grille create a strong visual link between the EX and the second-generation 900, which enthusiasts often refer to as the GM900, the roof line has been lowered by nearly three inches and the body has been considerably widened thanks in part to 9000 CS-sourced front and rear wheel arches. We’re told that the rear window comes from a 900 Cabriolet’s soft top and that the hatch is a modified panel sourced from a standard 900, though pictures of the back end haven’t been released as of writing.

Bonhams describes the build quality as “exceptional” and says that the panel gaps are better than those seen on many modern cars. It adds that the red and gray paint (which is a tribute to the combination often seen on the 900 SPG) is original and “in close to perfect condition.” 

The interior is largely standard 900 fare. There’s wood trim, leather upholstery, a three-spoke steering wheel, and the big knobs and buttons that characterized Saab models for decades. The brand designed the switchgear so that it could be easily operated by someone wearing gloves. The odometer displays about 141,600 kilometers, which represents approximately 88,000 miles, though Bonhams pegs the engine’s mileage at around 154,000 kilometers (roughly 95,600 miles). Most of the miles were reportedly added before engine ended up in the EX.

Speaking of the engine, power comes from a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sourced from Saab’s regular-production parts bin and tuned to send 220 horsepower to the front wheels. It’s bolted to a five-speed manual transmission. Using off-the-shelf parts should make this car relatively easy to keep on the road, which is unusual for a prototype, and the auction description notes that drivetrain runs “excellently.”

Registered as a 1987 Saab 9000, the 1997 900 EX prototype will cross the auction block in Belgium on October 8, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. European time, which is 7:00 a.m. in New York and 4:00 a.m. in California. There’s no reserve, so the highest bidder will take home a very cool car, but don’t expect to score a bargain: Bonhams expects this Saab to sell for anywhere between €60,000 and €90,000 (about $64,000 and $96,000). The winner will also receive a thick stack of documentation and sketches detailing how the car was developed and built.

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