So, 2016 has arrived! Thrity years ago, in January 1986, the first cars rolled off the line at Valmet in Uusikaupunki, Finland. It was an exiting period for SAAB, because if this car would become a succes, SAABs future would be rosaceous and SAAB would be able to push the brand upmarket, a desire of mainly Bob Sinclair of SAAB USA, whereas in the European market the economy was difficult and SAAB was looking for a lower priced car. SAAB’s convertible sold out soon in the USA and now, 30 years later, we all know about the instant succes of SAAB’s convertible range.
For all of the pioneering Fabulous Flatnose production cars, who paved the road for this massive succes, this means their 30th birthday will be celebrated this year. So what do you think your venerable frontline fighter deserves?
To find out in which month to celebrate, check the left door jamb for the factory sticker for the building month:
Or just check your serial number in the Register-pdf on the Register page to see in which month your Fabulous Flatnose was built. What will you give your car for its birthday…?
The weekly search around the net for Fabulous Flatnose seller ads sometimes results in a lot of unanswered questions. Getting them answered is on of the fun parts of running an incomplete Register. Of course, every time a Fabulous Flatnose turns up for sale somewhere around the world, the serial number and affirmation of the model year are the first two facts to excavate. But not always is a seller able, willing or contactable to give that information.
On boxing day 2015, the following ad was spotted on Craigslist:
What caught my attention is the fact that the car offered for sale is a red 1986 convertible. In the Fabulous Flatnose Factsheet in the Library you can find out why that would be a rarity. So an ad like this raises multiple questions:
Is this a model year 1986 convertible (with a G-VIN) or a model year 1987 but 1986 delivered convertible (with a H-VIN)?
If the first is true, it is a true Fabulous Flatnose, but what will be the building date and will it be a production car or perhaps even a pre-production car that found its way to the USA (like Bill Jacobson’s car)?
If it is a production car, was the car originally red or was it resprayed at some point in time? Because a red production car would be the Register’s first!
Questions like these make it worhtwhile contacting the seller. I asked about the 10th VIN digit and waited anxiously for the answer…. “An H”, it sounded. Bummer. The car turned out to be a 1987 model year Saab convertible – hence the “1st year of the longer front end” note. So, mystery solved. No Red Flat on the Net.
Or is there?
That same afternoon yet another red flatnose convertible turned up on Facebook, a car from my very own country even:
The photos were actually three years old… Once some guy told me he thought there was a red Fabulous Flatnose in the Netherlands, but he knew nothing more. Judging from the license plate, this car has been there since May 2003! Of course, I want to know all about it… So another quest can start: how to find out the VIN to check what we are dealing with? How to contact the owner, when the photograph tells us nothing? Yes, it looks like a cherry red Fabulous Flatnose, which might mean it’s a pre-production car. But the license was first registered (outside the Netherlands) on September 15th, 1986. So that doens’t indicate an early car. Rather, it would suggest a 1987 model year car. Perhaps it was built back to the old looks? But the accompanying comment on the above photo series states “One of the first 400 Saab 900 convertibles”.
Do you, as an owner of a Fabulous Flatnose, ever wonder if that car on – for example – this press photo or that one with Bob Sinclair in it is yours now?
Well, to be honest I do. Imagine what your car looked like when it was brand new. I can’t even imagine! Wouldn’t it add great emotional value to owning your car if you had pictures from 1986 with your car on it? I think the car would also immediately add historic value for me in person.
Recently, Valmet posted this picture on its Facebook page:
The photo itself was seen before, and it was taken at the end of the production line in the Valmet facility. Those cars were almost ready to go, undergoing final quality inspection. In its recent post however, Valmet noted that the date this photo was taken was March 1st, 1986. Depending on at what moment the door jamb sticker was sticked on and on what data the month noted on that sticker was determined, this must be the February or March cars – sticker wise.
The sticker in my car tells me it is a March car, a month in which 14 cars were built. So that would give a 28.6% chance of my car being in the picture if it are March cars being shown. In February, 5 cars were built… So in the other case that would give the February car owners an 80% chance of appearance! Regrettably I was never any good at probabilism.
But that doesn’t keep me from thinking this way. I don’t know – it’s just something that occupies me. I guess that makes me a Fabulous Flatnose Fanatic.
For years, rumor has it that not all the 379 production cars were silver. Allegedly, some of the cars were white and some were red. I have heard the stories and I have read wild guesses and misinterpreted information about the Fabulous Flatnoses. But over the years, I have not found ANY prove of red or white production cars having left the factory back in 1986. Let alone a car in itself.
I have, however, a trusted Swedish informer with SAAB knowledge and relations, who knows in first person about white and red cars among the 379 examples. Also, this informer saw a white 1986 flatnose convertible (non-prototype of course) being offered for sale in the USA about 15 years ago. Unfortunately he lost all prove due to hard disk failure years later. And prove is what this Registry is all about.
The thought of not succeeding in elucidating this matter, well… it was to some extent unbearable. So for quite some time he and I have been informing, searching and reasoning but were really not getting anywhere. No ‘official’ source (retailers, importers, factory or museum) nor any internet source had convincing evidence or even plausible conjectures of at least ONE car not being originally silver.
Yes, the SAAB Museum claims their cherry red 1986 convertible is a production car, but the prove to me is insufficient and I am truly convinced it is a PRE-production car. Absorbing quests like these were in fact the reason for me to start the Fabulous Flatnose Registry in the first place.
But in January 2015 the prove came along totally unexpected, when I was rashly clicking along Youtube and ran into this 1987 commercial:
What we see in that commercial is the first originally white production series ‘fab flat’ to be reported in years (that I know of, of course). Below is a 1986 picture of a that very car in motion, hence the poor quality. But the car is a true flatnose, rebuilt to slant nose. Based on the information I have, this conversion was in all likelihood done by SAAB itself. The VIN proofs its species: a ‘G-series T16 manual’ VIN, no doubt about it. The April 1986 registration certificate is also unquestionable. Color: white.
This car, with serial number 021807, was built in February or March 1986, to the same standards as the other production Fabulous Flatnoses in the registry. It is one of the first 23 cars to have been produced and one of the 29 cars that remained in Scandinavia, instead of being sold to the USA. This very rare and historically interesting car blissfully is still around, privately owned by an owner who wants to remain anonymous. It has travelled 122,000 miles.
On the Saabnet.com website, the depicted advertisement for ‘parts & rims’ was posted on January 23rd, 2015 in the Classified Parts section.
Amongst some parts, a 1986 900 convertible project car is offered. Curious for details, I contacted the seller. It turns out to be a very early flatnose convertible production car, with serial number 015003! That is a January or February built car, equipped with a manual gearbox. In fact, it comes in as the oldest production car known in the registry! The pictures acquired later on show a car that is in need of a lot of TLC:
One could expect a car like this to indeed end up on the scrapheap. But… the latest news on this car is that it is on its way to the Netherlands…! Let’s see what will happen!
A poor quality screen capture of a 1989 video advertising a research institute shows a flatnose convertible in a wind tunnel with Finnish dealer tags. Tommi Aihkisalo, who works for that institute, posted this picture, which is remarkable, since apparently this Fabulous Flatnose did not leave Finland to be shipped to the USA.
Unfortunately nothing more is known about this car and it is thusly not in the Register.
With registration number 011, Vincent Van Der Meulen’s 1991 900 Monte Carlo look-a-like is an impressive car in the Register!
This 900, with serial number 027216, was converted to a post-86 ‘slantnose’ Monte Carlo Special Edition back in 1991, shortly after it was imported to the Netherlands. Imagine the buyer, who then drove a 5 year old 900 flatnose that looked like a brand new 900 Monte Carlo! And… with matching license plates, since in the Netherlands each license plate number matches the first domestic registration date. So the car, just repainted, must have looked like new. Nonetheless it is a genuine 1986 Fabulous Flatnose – which will not surprise one when looking at the silver paint underneath the bonnet – and Vincent is planning on getting it back in its original shape.
This not for the faint hearted. As with all production cars, the crash impact has to be measured to make a car roadworthy and safe. Likewise, this fate did not indulge this flatnose convertible:
As Valmet wrote: “It should also be remembered that making a convertible is not just about putting on a retractable roof. As an example of the chassis changes, below an early sketch of the body reinforcements added to the Saab 900 Cabriolet – a total of 14 reinforcement points with around 300 special parts”: