Some years ago, Hollywood produced a less-than-notable epic, The Yellow Rolls-Royce.
For the second half of 1997, the Swedish automaker Saab stages its own yellow production, the Monte Carlo Yellow Saab 900 Convertible, an eye-catching automobile that celebrates Saab’s soft-top heritage.
Available exclusively on the ’97 Saab 900 convertible, the color’s official name was coined by Saab’s former chief designer, Bjorn Envall, for a bright flower that is common in Monte Carlo.
With the attention-grabbing Monte Carlo Yellow accented by charcoal leather upholstery and a power-operated black soft-top, the 900 is a set of wheels that represents the good life.
Monte Carlo is the mecca for the jet set, and the brightly colored open air Monte Carlo 900 swings right along, with a variety of engine options and trim levels. Available in S or SE form, the gamut of motors runs from normally aspirated four-cylinder engines to a V-6 for the 900 SE version.
Convertibles used to be fair-weather automobiles, but no more. The Saab soft-top is an all-seasons vehicle that offers the option of fresh-air motoring or the snugness of a closed coupe.
The Monte Carlo 900 convertible is not a converted coupe that had its roof sawed off. It has been engineered as an open car from the start, with every inch of the chassis designed around the absence of a stressed roof structure.
The body is heavily reinforced at crucial stress points such as the base of the windshield and at the door sills. The car’s A (forward) pillars are formed by a continuous G-shaped support that runs down the hinge posts and into the sills.
These designs add to an already-rigid chassis without adding convertible weight, and the current generation 900 convertible is 73 percent stiffer in torsion than its predecessor.
Structural integrity and safety go hand in hand, and the Monte Carlo 900 combines both. Dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, industry-leading 5 mph self-restoring bumpers, side-impact reinforcement, and Saab’s safety cage construction with front and rear crumple zones are all part of the standard Saab safety package.
With the 2.0-liter, 185-horsepower turbocharged engine, great emphasis has been placed on cockpit design and ergonomic controls. The thinking is that before a driver goes fast, he or she must feel comfortable.
The front seats are slightly elongated for better thigh support and are reshaped to provide a more supportive seating position. Deeper side bolsters provide more lateral support in high-speed corners.
There are revisions to the gearshift mechanism when the Monte Carlo uses a manual transmission. It enhances precise gear changes. A four-speed automatic also is available with the Turbo motor and the normally aspirated (non-turbocharged) 2.5-liter 170-horsepower V-6.
Instrumentation is inspired from Saab’s aircraft heritage and is designed to give the driver information quickly and clearly. Dials and controls are arranged in logical groups, with a four-gauge instrument layout of speedometer, tachometer, temperature and fuel gauges.
An innovative “black panel” allows the driver to darken all controls and all gauges except the speedometer for night driving. Darkened displays will appear on a “need-to-know” basis, such as when the fuel is low or the engine temperature is high.
A convertible is on the luxury end of things, with Saab soft-top running from about $35,000 to the mid-$42,000 range. In keeping with the upscale affect, the Monte Carlo’s SE model’s dashboard is trimmed with genuine California walnut. Other SE standard features include automatic climate control, a 160-watt stereo system with trunk-mounted six-CD changer, power seats and 16-inch tires mounted on three-spoke alloy Viking Aero wheels.
The convertible dimensions are the same as the Saab 3-door and 5-door sedans: 102.4 inches of wheelbase and 182.6 inches of overall length. They are, however, a little heavier due to the structural bu lwarking . An SE V-6 automatic weighs in at 3,300 pounds versus 3,170 for the sedan.
The Monte Carlo Yellow 900 celebrates Saab’s 50th anniversary as a car builder. Even the most jaded will admit that it sort of dazzles the eyes. It also is a fitting way to launch Saab on the next 50 years.