Everyone knows Saab cars are Swedish but there are some things about the name itself you might not know.

The Saab cars brand — and therefore the name — has become synonymous with a magical combination of reliability, performance, economy and safety. “The performance of a Porsche and the safety of a Volvo,” said one lifelong enthusiast.

Sam Knight, a fellow Saab enthusiast, wrote in an article for Financial Times, “Like Rolex, Apple or Harley-Davidson, there is something mysterious — albeit modest and Scandinavian — about Saab that, over the years, has transcended its marketing and publicity materials and been appropriated by the people who drive the cars.”

As a result, the face of Saab cars in America has changed dramatically over the last half-century or so from young to old and everything in between. But the name itself remains a constant reminder of an incredible history of speed, barrier-breaking and innovation.

What does the name actually mean? Let’s pull this engine apart.

4 Saab Name Facts

  1. The acronym: Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget
  2. Google translation: Swedish Aeroplan Share Company
  3. The shorthand: Svenska Aeroplan AB (AB is common Swedish shorthand for “company”)
  4. What it all means: Swedish Airplane, Inc. or Swedish Airplane Limited or Swedish Airplane Company (depending on who you ask)

From SAAB Aerospace to Saab Cars

When it comes down to it, the Saab name is a consistent reminder of Saab’s origins in the aerospace industry. The origin story, as told by former parent company Saab Group, goes something like this:

“In 1937, it was clear that Europe was on the brink of a major conflict. In Sweden, neutral and at peace for more than a century, government and industry decided to prepare for the worst. Saab was founded with the mission to secure the nation’s supply of military aircraft as part of its drive to maintain national security and sovereignty. Saab was founded with the mission to secure the nation’s supply of military aircraft as part of its drive to maintain national security and sovereignty.”

When the first Saab car — the “Ursaab” or Original Saab 92 — was unveiled in the 1940s, it was clearly inspired by aircraft design. It was incredibly aerodynamic with an unheard of air resistance coefficient as low as 0.31 and it had a sleek look that would be at home on any runway.

It’s no wonder. The pioneering effort was a collaboration among 16 aeroengineers all lead by Gunnar Ljungstrom, Swedish engineer and technical designer who made his name in aerodynamics, and the design conceptualized by Sixten Sason.

While the car division was separated from the original company decades ago, Saab Group continues to be a powerful leader in international security and defense. And, today, Saab car enthusiasts celebrate, enjoy and share a devotion to an automobile that once touched the sky.

Want more Saab car trivia? Get all the details on the Griffin right here.