Saab was ahead of its time, but the 99 Turbo’s introduction to rallying came through a simple case of natural evolution.
The Swedish marque had a strong reputation in rallying circles and Stig Blomqvist - now an 11-time WRC rally winner - had already triumphed at various events, first with the 96 V4 and also with the naturally-aspirated 99 EMS.
When the 99 EMS’s homologation expired at the end of 1977 season, Saab was forced to find new methods to extract more ponies from its 8-valve engine. Armed with prior knowledge of using turbochargers on its 96 rallycross car in the early 1970s, Saab bolted a Garrett T03 turbo onto its 99 rally car.
Tasked with handling the 270-horsepower two-wheel drive beast was Blomqvist. Stig debuted the car on the 1978 RAC Rally but retired with a broken driveshaft.
The following year, however, history was made. On home soil at the 1979 Swedish Rally, Blomqvist and co-driver Björn Cederberg triumphed by over one-minute - leading home Björn Waldegård’s Ford Escort RS1800 with Pentti Airikkala third in a Vauxhall Chevette. It marked the first-ever WRC win for a turbocharged car.
The 99 Turbo was something of a one-hit wonder, however. Blomqvist entered the RAC Rally later that year but crashed out in Kielder and Saab withdrew its involvement from rallying in 1980.
Cover Photo: © McKlein