MI6 looks back at 007's SAAB 900 Turbo which featured in John Gardner's debut 1981 Bond novel "Licence Renewed", and talks to the author about his choice...

007`s SAAB 900 Turbo
8th February 2004

John Gardner took over the 007 literary torch in 1981 after a long hiatus since Kingsley Amis' one Bond novel "Colonel Sun". Gardner continued the legacy by producing an astounding 14 original novels and two movie novelisations.

In his first Bond novel in 1981, "Licence Renewed", he let Bond venture away from his traditional Q-branch vehicles to a new brand - the Saab "Silver Beast".

The SAAB 900 Turbo saw Bond depart from his earlier Bentley's and Aston Martin's and have his own personally modified car by the multinational "Communication Control System" and not Q-Branch.

The real life counterpart SAAB 900 Turbo was launched in 1980 and was seen at the time as a car which broke new ground, offering the public high-end performance and practicality.

SAAB's prestige and automotive credibility were raised to levels shared by other Bond thoroughbreds - Bentley, Aston Martin and Lotus.

Above: This rare promotion photograph was produced in conjunction with the 1981 Novel 'Licence Renewed'.

1981 saw the release of John Gardner's first 007 novel "Licence Renewed", which was published to great critical acclaim. The book introduced us to new the "Silver Beast" and its refinements, and the car went on to see action again in two more Gardner titles in 1982's "For Special Services" and "Icebreaker" in 1983.

Above: Bond author John Gardner with the Saab 900 Turbo.

John Gardner talked to MI6 earlier this year about his use of the SAAB 900 Turbo in his Bond novels, and why he chose the brand over 007's previous vehicles:

"The Bentley was ridiculous. In many ways so was the Aston Martin, because I regarded it as a fairly flash motor car. I had to get away from that, and I liked the Saab, it was a very safe motor car indeed."

"You could clock up the miles on it, you could clock up the speeds on it. I had a Saab right up until I stopped driving two years ago, and loved them."

In 1982 a specially created SAAB was developed based on what had been written by Gardner the previous year. The car was a fully working version of its fictional cousin, including a specially developed turbo changed engine with water injection raising the power to 240 BHP from 2000cc and provided 0 - 60 MPH in less than 7 seconds.


007's SAAB Modifications

  • The top speed in excess of 170 MPH
  • Oxygen masks fitted in the roof lining above the two front seats
  • External tear gas outlets
  • CO2 gas-operated compartment for Oxygen unit, in case the air runs low
  • The car is armour plated and has bullet proof glass
  • Hardened to resist small arms and automatic gun fire
  • A filter to stop deadly gas from entering the cars cabin
  • Dunlop Denovos - resealing puncture and split proof tyres
  • TH70 Nitefinders goggles for night driving without lights
  • Reinforced stressed steel ramming bumpers
  • V L 22H counter surveillance receiver
  • A pen alarm
  • A small ultrasonic transmitter to protect the SAAB from sabotage
  • Hidden compartments within the dashboard
  • Unauthorized heavy Ruger Super Blackhawk 45 Magnum
  • Unauthorized Browning hand gun
  • Heads Up Display of digital instruments
  • Special designed steel- strengthened briefcase
  • A Gun Port built in just below the dashboard
  • Black leather upholstery
  • Remote starter unit
  • Cruise Control
  • Air Conditioning
  • A fully built in sound system
  • Radio Telephone
  • Box section number plate that can be turned to any number
  • Two front halogen lamps

Stay tuned for MI6 for more articles from the John Gardner literary era throughout this year.