Saab Story: How a Vintage Car Stole the Show in 'Drive My Car'

The Saab 900 was the perfect choice.

drive my car saab
Drive My Car

Hollywood's relationship with the automobile is poetically unmistakable. Whether it's James Bond blasting some foes away in an Aston Martin or Lotus—and a few BMWs for a very brief time—or Stephen King's movie adaptation of "Christine" in the form of a 1957 Plymouth Fury in "Hot Hues Scarlet Fever." To Paul Walker's 1997 Toyota "MKIV" Supra, the trio of Austin Mini Coopers from "The Italian Job," and Steve McQueen's 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback. Cars in motion picture storytelling can be as integral as the actors themselves.

Most star cars on the big screen are often expensive, fast and flashy, leaving more common, everyday cars as background filler and collaterally destructive eye candy. But in a change of pace, this year's highly acclaimed Japanese film, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's "Drive My Car," shines the spotlight on an unlikely set of wheels: a quaint and quirky Cherry Red 1987 Saab 900 Turbo three-door hatchback.

Nominated for four Academy Awards — Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, and Best Adapted Screenplay — on top of winning three awards at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, including Best Screenplay, "Drive My Car" tells the story of Japanese actor and theater director, Yūsuke Kafuku, who was left a widowed man following the unexpected and sudden death of his wife, Oto Kafuku, a screenwriter.

Two years after her passing, which also brought his last major film production to a halt, Kafuku relocated to start afresh, allowing him to continue his stagnant project. Kafuku reluctantly then meets Misaki Watari, a young female driver, at the behest of his new company, which required him to be chauffeured in his own car—that Saab 900 Turbo.

drive my car
Courtesy

Rather than being tossed around with tire-shredding lunacy and a shallow plot, the Saab instead serves as a catalyst where Kafuku and Watari learn about each other's past, that they both suffered from losses. Through their shared time on the road, the movie chronicles the dramatic development of their bond through grief, love, and understanding.

A True Sob (Saab?) Story

It's easy to be wowed by shiny sheet metal and loud engines in fantastical placements. But such automobiles aren't ones typically found in your average garage. Seeing a car as modest as a Saab 900 Turbo hits a little closer to home for car enthusiasts, being an automobile that your average person was more likely to experience in their past.

Furthermore, "Drive My Car" demonstrates how humans commonly find ways to bond with one another when stuck traveling together inside an automobile. The film also portrays how cars can serve as memory ringers, meditative cocoons, and emotional safe havens, especially for those who prefer to be in control. Giving up that control can leave one feeling vulnerable, a feeling that can have a dramatic emotional effect on one's meditative state. And what a car Kafuku chose as his chariot of sanctuary.

Conceived as a compact executive sedan, the Saab 900 launched in 1978, competing against the BMW 3-Series, the Volvo 240, the Mercedes-Benz W123. Though the 900 was often perceived as the more interesting and unconventional alternative. Arguably one of Saab's most iconic vehicles, the 900 was also one of the company's most successful. Sold in sedan, three- and five-door hatchback form over 16 years in its original generation, the 900's success led to an incredible and rather peculiar cult following.

drive my car saab
Drive My Car

Its unique and quirky design often served those who defied the ordinary and appreciated individuality. Hence, why the original source content's choice to choose a Saab 900 as Kafuku's choice of wheels couldn't be any more fitting for a filmmaker.

The Saab 900 today remains to be a popular aspiration among collectors and enthusiasts. Though from limited production compared to its competitors, finding one on the second-hand market isn't easy. Many of them met their demise from neglect and rust, while the ones still on the road today are being held onto by those who know what they have.

saab 900 turbo
A Saab 900 Turbo for sale on Bring A Trailer
Bring A Trailer

For the ones that have hit the market, sites such as Bring a Trailer and Cars and Bids seem to be the places to find them, where they sold for prices ranging from $4,000 for high-mileage examples to as much as $55,000 for turnkey, low-mileage, pristine examples. But rest assured, should you be interested in pursuing a Saab 900, you'll be after one of Sweden's finest automotive moments.

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