Posted by: saabnuts | June 2, 2011

Saab 99 Icy Road Story

Saab 99 in snow

Saab 99 in snow from pistonheads.com

Once again I am ready to share a Saab story from 24 years ago, even though it is odd to share a winter story as summer approaches locally.

This story also involves my first Saab, a 1978 Saab 99 EMS.  While out driving with a friend after a snow storm, we were on a straight section of road that was still covered in snow and the center line area of the road was VERY icy.

While on this rural stretch of road, a deer appeared to my right and jumped into my lane and stopped.  This required me to VERY quickly steer around the deer into the oncoming lane of traffic.

Thankfully no one was approaching from the opposite direction, but when I steered around the deer, my Saab hit the icy center part of the road and began to skid sideways towards the opposite side of the road and trees.

I quickly counter-steered, pointing my Saab back to my own lane and the Saab changed direction and went back for my lane, but also over the icy center lines… leaving me heading for the trees on my side of the road… somewhat sideways, exactly opposite to the diagonal / sideways skid I was in a moment ago.

Here is the most amazing, eerie, weird part of the story and something I find in many Saabs.  I’ve previously mentioned the predictable handling of Saabs and things like the nearly perfect front to rear weight distribution of Saabs, at least or perhaps most of all in my 99 EMS.

Among the traits I like in our Saabs is that in spite of being front wheel drive and powerful little cars, our do not suffer from torque steer.

Granted, we do not modify our Saabs but keep them with “stock” power from the factory: we do not put heavy duty / racing things under the hood which might lead to torque-steer.

So, our Saabs have a tendency to go straight and steer themselves straight.  If you let go of the steering wheel while moving forward, with steering wheel turned, the cars tend to turn the steering wheel back to straight on their own!

I am accustomed to our Saabs being easy to drive and perhaps even “helpful” to the driver with this self straightening tendency.  What happened in this deer avoiding story is that I could feel the steering wheel in my 99 changing direction… by itself!

To recap, I avoided the deer but started skidding for the other side of the road, diagonally or sideways, then back to my side but beyond my lane, heading for trees, in an opposite, diagonal skid.  The icy center line of the road caused the car to slip and change direction and attitude when I crossed it.

After the first two steering correction inputs from me, I ended up letting go of the steering wheel!  I made the passenger watch with me.  We were in awe.  We were LUCKY! No one was coming the other way, and the Saab just slowly counter steered itself out of this back and forth diagonal skidding!  I was not steering!

So here we are, two people possibly facing a car accident, and the little Saab we were in counter steered itself; the steering wheel literally turned back and forth as we slowly skid over the yellow lines covered in ice, and the car eventually, slowly “righted” or corrected itself out of the skid and back to being in our own lane, going straight.

I expect that many people will either not understand or not believe this story.  However, it happened, and I have a witness who to this day, is in awe of what we experienced.

I wouldn’t ordinarily let go of the steering wheel, least of all with disaster approaching, but I FELT the Saab’s steering wheel changing direction.  I didn’t have to counter steer, the car spun its own steering wheel correctly out of each slide towards the left or right side of the road.

My hands were ready to grab the steering wheel, but the car did the work for me instead!  I wish I had this recorded on video… I’ve never seen anything like that steering wheel, going left then right and back and forth until no longer skidding – it was as if a ghost of Saab were steering for us. So strange, but true.

With all of the winter driving I’ve done, including in 4 wheel drive cars and trucks, etc… nothing else comes close to how we feel driving Saabs.

Visit Saab.com to learn more about current Saab models, special offers from Saab or to locate your nearest (U.S.) Saab dealer.

Saab dealers are offering incredible prices and special financing options so there has never been a better time to purchase a new Saab.

People who test drive a Saab usually buy a Saab


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