How GM’s Early Turbo Engines Crashed and Burned Out

Nevertheless, the automotive press raved. “It’s a bit of a shock to all of us to find out that the safe, sane and snow-resistant Saab has now picked up a model that will get second gear rubber,” wrote Patrick Bedard in Car and Driver . “Who knows? Maybe the law of gravity will be repealed next.

In 1982, Saab’s turbos added their revolutionary Automatic Performance Control, a microphone that listened to engine combustion and made adjustments on the fly. The engine has become functional, reliable and economical. The word turbo has become synonymous with Saab.

But Saab’s crowning glory came in 1983, when the company imposed a stripped-down two-door sedan on Saab USA. Mr. Sinclair needed upgrades such as cast wheels, a premium sound system and leather upholstery.

“I got to the end of the list,” he recalled in that 2006 interview, “and I said, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s one more item. ‘What is that?’ ‘A convertible top.’

The convertible, one of the few available, arrived in showrooms in 1986. While America was still feeling the effects of the oil crisis of the 1970s, a convertible with a peppy, fuel-efficient turbo engine fuel was a resounding success. A quarter of a million Saab convertibles have been sold in 20 years.

The Saab made the turbo more than acceptable; it was prestigious. Owners who didn’t have a turbo on their Saab wanted people to think they did. “A guy I knew who worked in Saab parts said he sold more turbo badges than cars,” Mr Smart said.

With technical and image issues resolved, the turbos returned. In the mid-1980s, they were found on a Volvo wagon, Porsche 944, Ford Mustang SVO, Datsun 280ZX, Dodge Daytona Shelby Z and Chrysler LeBaron GTS.

Darcy J. Skinner