Drive My Car’s Star Saab 900 Turbo Is a Swedish Hot Hatch Built by Fighter Jet Engineers

Choosing the right car for a movie is a monumental task, but that decision can be easier when you consider a Saab. A film could be flawed without the right vehicle to tie a scene together or provide aesthetic value. In the case of the 2021 Japanese drama Drive My Car, the automotive star was none other than a classic and quirky Saab 900 Turbo.

Drive My Car is an emotional film requiring a car with a personality

Grey Saab 900 Turbo parked by a curb
Saab 900 Turbo | Getty Images

In Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s story of the recently widowed Yusuke and his healing journey, the car was more of a cast member than a prop. Yusuke is a theatre veteran invited to guest-direct Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya on stage in Hiroshima. To add to the emotional turmoil Yusuke is facing, he is accompanied by Misaki, a young Chauffeur. According to Hagerty, the Saab itself acts as a stage, a venue where the characters interact and heal together.

Drive My Car is based on Hamaguchi’s own short story and called for a trendy little yellow convertible. For the 2021 film adaptation, Hamaguchi opted for a timelessly styled Saab instead of a non-descript yellow convertible. Rightfully so, the red hatchback adds a pop of color and character to the subdued concrete landscape.

Why pick a Saab 900 Turbo for the film?

Ryusuke Hamaguchi at the Oscars
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi accepts an Oscar for Drive My Car | P. Lehman, Getty Images

Saab has some pretty impressive credentials. Yes, the Swedish manufacturer is famous for cars, but that’s not all. Saab also makes military aircraft, with the Saab Gripen being perhaps the most notable. So the company’s rich aerospace traditions are apparent in its cars leading up to Saab’s 2011 bankruptcy.

Saab 900 Turbo | Hagerty

A replacement for the Saab 99, the Saab 900 Turbo is a sensible, quirky car with hot hatch DNA. In typical Swedish automotive fashion, the 900 Turbo features a 45° oriented engine and an oddly designed crankshaft. You wouldn’t expect any less from the Scandinavian manufacturer. According to Bring a Trailer, the liftback hatch and driver-oriented controls are as practical as they are stylish.

The Saab 900 Turbo is no stranger to appearing in books and films. According to Hagerty, a silver Saab 900 Turbo was a James Bond car. Imbued with characteristic gadgetry, the “Silver Beast” was Bond’s mount in the John Gardner novels. With James Bond exerience, the Saab 900 Turbo is clearly a great on-screen prospect.

What does the Saab 900 Turbo do for Drive My Car?

Red Saab 900 Turbo parked in a courtyard
Saab 900 Turbo | Getty Images

The little red Saab is integral to the plot of the film. Hagerty says the Saab brings Yusuke and unlikely road trip companion Misaki together. The duo evolves from a chauffeur-client relationship to that of friends and confidants. The character evolution is visual, too. Yusuke moves from silent back seat occupant to passenger seat compatriot beside Misaki.

Drive My Car, then, was a story in need of a vehicle with screen presence. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi selected a timeless classic of lovably unorthodox engineering. The little red Saab 900 Turbo is as much a part of the cast and crew as any of the actors on-screen.

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