The Saab 92: Born from Flying Barrels

The Saab 92, which debuted in 1949, was the first production car made by the the aircraft and armaments manufacturer known as the Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget. It was a rounded-off, barrel-shaped little car with a 25-horsepower two-stroke engine… which bears a clear family resemblance to another late-1940s Saab AB machine: the Saab 29.

Because of its portly appearance, the Saab 29 was known in Sweden as the Flygande Tunnan, which means “Flying Barrel.” It proved to be a good fighter-bomber design for the era, and served in the air forces of Sweden and Austria into the middle 1970s. Much like the Saab 92, appearances outside Scandinavia were uncommon (I was excited to find an example of the 92 in an amazing wrecking yard near Sundsvall, Sweden, but was not fortunate enough to spot a 29).

Photograph by Gnolam – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Flying Barrel doesn’t look so ungainly once it’s in the air, especially when presented in this patriotic 1954 Swedish film.

When Saab came up with the "Born From Jets" ad campaign, however, you didn't see any Flying Barrels (or the very first Saab jet, the even goofier-looking Saab 21R of 1947). For obvious reasons, the ultra-slick, Mach 2-capable Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter got that role in the television advertisements for the Saab 9-3 (based on the Opel Vectra platform) and Saab 9-7x (a badge-engineered version of the Chevrolet Trailblazer). The earlier Saab 37 Viggen, and Saab 35 Draken looked very graceful as well, but— we're going to be nitpickers here— the 21R and 29 were the jets from which the Saab cars really were born.

The Saab 92: Born from Flying Barrels

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