Automotive history

This chop-top is a gilded celebration for Saab’s golden anniversary

by Sajeev Mehta
27 September 2023 2 min read
This chop-top is a gilded celebration for Saab’s golden anniversary

A not-so-surprising thing happens when you shop online for gifts for a 50th anniversary, as everything has a gold theme thanks to traditions forged in central Europe. But the Swedes clearly wanted none of this for their golden anniversaries, as Saab chose not to gild its 9000 CSE Anniversary for the 1997 model year. But this isn’t a story of an uprated trim package for a commemorative edition; rather, it’s about a gentleman named Per Ekstrøm and his creation known as the Saab EX.


The notion of chopping a roof down came from a need in motorsport, but this chop-top Saab was more about making a big impression for a special occasion. Called the 1997 Saab EX, it looks like a custom-bodied derivative of the GM2900 platform that Saab used for the 1994–98 900. But according to Bonhams (who is currently auctioning this vehicle), it’s registered as a 1987 Saab 9000 hatchback, one that’s clearly been modified by Per Ekstrøm with newer Saab parts. The auction includes extensive documentation proving he had “dialogue with the Saab factory” during the process.

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CX in the foreground, EX in the background (Saab Planet)

Which is impressive, but this isn’t Per Ekstrøm’s first custom-bodied Saab. His first was the Saab CX of 1992, based on an older Saab 99 but with parts from both the 900 and 9000 series, along with a significant reduction in wheelbase and roof height. Clearly Ekstrøm has a recurring theme in his custom creation, but the level of OEM integration in the Saab EX almost justifies Bonhams’ assertion that this is a “prototype.” (To clarify, Per Ekstrøm is likely not a Saab employee; as suggests, he’s a body shop guru living in nearby Oslo.)

No matter the provenance behind the Saab EX, the end result looks quite impressive. Commemorative emblems and engravings abound in an interior heavily based on the 1987 Saab 9000 donor car. The only item that might not be lifted from a factory parts bin is the motorized screen for the Alpine audio system.


Ekstrøm clearly wasn’t messing around when it came to this custom body, as his quick sketches turned into a clay model that foretold of a future vehicle worthy of a golden anniversary. While I am far from a Saab expert, the Bonhams auction lists some very believable-looking modifications:

  • The hatch is a modified 900 II unit, and rear glass is from the 900 cabriolet
  • The roof is “lowered by 7cm”
  • The tailgate lock cylinder was deleted in favor of a back-up camera
  • The gas filler cap is relocated above the right rear wheel arch
  • The wheel arches came from a Saab 9000 CS to widen the body

And it all makes a rather stunning design, something that Saab could have made for production after Ekstrøm and his shop spent a reported 3,000–4,000 hours in labor to create the Saab EX. He did a lot of the hard work, though Saab would likely need to create a less aggressive roof chop to ensure the EX appealed to more people. But that’s irrelevant for this singular vehicle and the gifted souls who made it.

While we are bullish on the Saab 900, there’s no way to determine just how high the bidding will go on the Saab EX. Sky-high, perhaps, for the right enthusiast. Start your engines, Saab fanatics!

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