Richard cruises to a classic 1980s drive-in film with a little-known Saab 900 connection
1989 SAAB 900 TURBO T16
Back in the good old days, when Saab was successful, Swedishly sexy and had yet to consummate its unhappy marriage with General Motors, it was behind some very fine TV commercials. One of them was
Nothing On Earth Comes Close, made in the early 1980s to publicise the 900 by pitching it against its flighty sibling, a Saab 37 Viggen fighter jet. It’s one of motoring’s more memorable adverts, up there with Take My Breath Away for the Peugeot 405 – which also has a connection with what’s coming here. It was probably responsible for selling a lot of Saabs to those who fancied themselves flying a fighter jet but found the £7500 for a 900 rather more manageable than the £7.5 million for a Viggen.
Behind the ad was director Tony Scott, brother of Ridley, who, on the strength on the Saab piece, landed the gig to do Top Gun, 1986’s smash-hit movie that made a star of Tom Cruise and grossed £244 million (or 32,533 Saab 900s, or 32.5 Viggens). And, yes, that’s apparently true – this isn’t a Myth Buster after all.
So, when Moonlight Outdoor Cinema decided to bring Top Gun to a pop-up drive-in in a mall car park just down the road from CCW Towers, there was only one possible vehicle to take – my own 900 Turbo T16. It seemed the ideal way to briefly recreate the decade in which the Saab was born in a highly appropriate way – with a fast run down the A1 past RAF Wittering, with its Hawker Harrier jump-jet on display outside. Naturally, I used (Tom) cruise control...
Not having seen Top Gun probably since classic Saab 900s were still being made, I’m pleased to report that it was just as cheesily entertaining as I remembered. And despite the view through the Saab’s aviation-inspired panoramic windscreen – sadly marred by cars that weren’t from the 1980s – I’m still no closer to figuring out if Kelly McGillis’ character drove a genuine Porsche 356 or a Volkswagen replica.
Perhaps next year, there’ll be a drivein 007 film, so I can celebrate the 900’s James Bond links too. Still, I’d be happy with Kung Fu Panda, to which I’d drive in a certain little Fiat...
Night begins to fall as the Saab gets comfy for movie date night.
Richard tries to recreate either Top Gun or the Saab ad at RAF Wittering. And fails on both counts.