Hollywood’s relationship with the the automobile is poetically unmistakable. Whether it’s James Bond blowing up enemies in a Aston Martin or Lotus – and a few BMWs for a very brief time – or the film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Christine” in the form of a 1957 Plymouth Fury in “Hot Hues Scarlet Fever”. At Paul Walker’s 1997 Toyota “MKIV” Supra, the trio of Austin Mini Coopers from “The Italian Job“, and Steve McQueen 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback. Cars in film 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 Ryūsuke Hamaguchi”drive my car“, shines the spotlight on an unlikely wheelset: a quaint, quirky 1987 Cherry Red Saab 900 Three-door turbo sedan.
Nominated for four Academy Awards – Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay – in addition to winning three awards at the Cannes Film Festival 2021including Best Screenplay, “drive my car” tells the story of Japanese actor and director, Yūsuke Kafuku, who is widowed following the unexpected and sudden death of his wife, screenwriter Oto Kafuku.
Two years after his passing, which also ended his last major film production, Kafuku moved to start afresh, allowing him to continue his stagnant project. Kafuku then reluctantly meets Misaki Watari, a young female driver, at the request of his new business, which required him to be driven in his own car, this Saab 900 Turbo.
Rather than being tossed about with tire-shredding madness and shallow plot, the Saab instead serves as a catalyst where Kafuku and Watari learn of each other’s pasts, that they both suffered losses. Through their shared time on the road, the film chronicles the dramatic development of their bond through heartbreak, love and understanding.
A real sob story (Saab?)
It’s easy to be impressed by shiny sheet metal and noisy engines in fantastic locations. But these automobiles aren’t the ones typically found in your average garage. Seeing a car as unassuming as a Saab 900 Turbo hits a little closer to home for car enthusiasts, being an automobile your average person was more likely to know about in their past.
Additionally, “Drive My Car” shows how humans typically find ways to bond with each other when traveling together inside an automobile. The film also describes how cars can serve as memory boosters, meditative cocoons, and emotional havens, especially for those who prefer to stay in control. Letting go of this control can leave a person feeling vulnerable, a feeling that can have a dramatic emotional effect on their meditative state. And which car Kafuku chose as the shrine tank.
Designed as a compact executive sedan, the Saab 900 was launched in 1978, competing with the BMW 3 Series, Volvo 240, Mercedes-Benz W123. Although the 900 was often seen 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 for 16 years in its original generation, the success of the 900 led to an incredible and rather peculiar cult following.
Its unique and quirky design has often served those who have challenged ordinary, valued individuality. Therefore, why the original source material’s choice to choose a Saab 900 as Kafuku’s wheel choice might no longer suit a filmmaker.
The Saab 900 remains a popular aspiration among collectors and enthusiasts today. Although of limited production compared to its competitors, finding one on the second-hand market is not easy. Many of them died of neglect and rust, while those still on the road today are held back by those who know what they have.
For those new to the market, sites such as Bring a trailer and Cars and Auctions seem to be the places to find them, where they have sold for prices ranging from $4,000 for high mileage examples up to $55,000 for turnkey, low mileage and pristine examples. But rest assured, if you’re interested in pursuing a Saab 900, you’ll be after one of Sweden’s finest automotive moments.
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