Sweden's 6-Wheeled Colossal - Saab 906 Turbo
6-wheeled cars have been experimented with, though have never really been successful. From Formula 1 cars in the shape of (for example) the Tyrell P34 and Williams FW08B and D to supercars such as the Covini C3A, they have proven benefits but these are mostly outweighed by negatives. In terms of the F1 cars, more tyres means smaller wheels could be used whilst retaining the same amounts of grip, providing better aerodymamics allowing the vehicles to reach higher top speeds. In turn, pit stops were made longer as more tyres in turn had to be changed. This extra time spent swapping rubber totally negated any time possibly gained whilst out on a lap, rendering the whole experiment pretty much pointless. For reasons of pit stop complexity, the FIA eventually limited cars to 4 wheels in 1983, outlawing the Williams from racing.
Six wheeled vehicles have other uses though, such as off roading. The extra grip comes in handy for when the going gets very tough, and I don’t think I need go on much further considering the popularity and general widespread knowledge of and about the G63 6x6. More conventional cars can also make use of an extra axle, as proven by the Citroën CX Tissier Loadrunner. The extra stability offered by a longer wheelbase can allow cars to be longer and more practical, serving purpose in an estate car as their main trait is practicality over a saloon car thanks to the extra space.
Saab themselves never made a production estate model out of the 900, the only estate models other than the 906 were the two 900 Safaris made by coachbuilder Nilsson, which are impossible to find for sale as the two vehicles are very much collector’s items. The 906 then was not massively different in the rarity department, with only one known example built. It started life as a fairly humble 1981 900 GLS, which then had the boot compartment removed. The cavernous boot stretched the overall length of the car by a good 2 feet when compared with the standard vehicle. A third axle was implemented to retain stability as explained above. In order to keep the proportions in check, the enormous Swede was widened by 18cm.
When you have a car this flamboyant in appearance, you need as many gadgets as you can cram in. In the end, the 906 had a 16 speaker sound and video system, freezer, fridge and heater cubby holes worthy of a Starplan kitchen and, underground street racers rejoice, a radar detector. All in your 5.3 metre long estate car. Not a great deal else is actually known about the vehicle, though from the name it’s easy to assume the car was fitted with the powertrain from a 900 Turbo of the time period, giving the titanic Saab 145hp to play with. Whilst this may not seem like a great deal of power, remember this was 1984.
You might have noticed that I mentioned the conversion year being 1984 and the original manufacture year of the base 900 being 1981. If you put two and two together, you might come to the conclusion that this was not a Saab official creation, and if so then you’d be right. The 906 was the spawn of Leif Mellberg, a man who created his own wonderful custom vehicles based upon Saab cars. Amongst his other creations are iconic pieces such as the Saab EV1 prototype (though this was an official Saab product, Leif made the body) and the Saab Gullwing, both of which are one-off specials.
The 906 was used as a promotional car for Mellberg’s own company for a number of years before seemingly disappearing into the great abyss of the unknown. It resurfaced a number of years ago, though far from the magnificent condition it once was. It was found in a Swedish scrapyard, and seemingly remains there, unrescued to this day. It appears to have undergone some changes before it ever arrived at its place of resting, as the once orange (and gloriously 1980s) side stripes have shifted hues.
So, that was none other than the largest Saab car ever created. An unusual story to an elusive, once extravagant one-off showcase, now reduced to a rotting carcass. Hopefully it’ll be saved, as it’s in a sorry enough state and would be a fantastic piece of history to have on the road.