Perfecting coffee cup holders through the years. By Martin Wojtowicz, November 22, 2017.
This article was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of SAAB 99. This first “big” SAAB model was released on November 22, 1967 in Sweden and imported to the US shortly after. I acquired a well used, grey 1970 99E in 1978 in California and drove it to Canada.
When I bought my first SAAB in 1978 coffee cup holders were unheard of in SAABs and uncommon in cars in general. I was not a big coffee drinker at the time so it was not an issue. Things started to change in 1990s but, SAAB being SAAB, its cars were not equipped with any driver distracting equipment, which is so prevalent in today’s vehicles. The ergonomically designed dashboard of my 1991 900 SPG was simple and oriented towards the driver. The ability to concentrate on driving by paying 100% attention to the road was the guiding principle. You can experience this by sitting in a classic 900 and compare the wide open visibility around the car with the claustrophobic feel of many later models. Likewise, the design and the layout of the instruments is near perfect (see photo 1).
Photo 1 by the author showing the interior of his coveted red SPG
You will notice that the A pillars, for example, are slim, yet have legendary strength to support the weight of the car. The pillars don’t obscure your peripheral vision such as seeing a pedestrian crossing the street at a busy intersection. The controls are large, simple and easily manipulated with the gloves on and without the need to look away from the road. There was no cup holder since this would constitute another distraction and perhaps a hazard if any hot coffee would spill on the driver or the instruments. Well, at least that was the philosophy of SAAB at the time.
But times are changing and I was actually quite pleased when my next SAAB, a 2000 9-3 Viggen came equipped with a prominent cup holder at the top of the middle console (see photo 2).
Photo 2 by the author showing the interior of his yellow Viggen
By that time my coffee drinking, Tim Horton’s supported habit, was well developed and I was ready to abandon the old philosophy for the new one. At the time SAAB promoted that a comfortable driver is a safe driver, hence the heated seats, the ergonomic layout of the instruments and of course the cup holder became permissible and in fact desirable. One drawback though was the location near the vital SID display. I personally ruined at least one SID screen by having coffee spilled on the display resulting in damage to the cover of the display unit itself. The other problem was that the cup holder in my Viggen also doubled as a radar detector holder, with detector positioned just above the surface of the dashboard, a perfect location for its operation, with the ability for quick disconnect if a constable with a radar detector-detector happened to be nearby. I no longer use this device since my need for fix wins over the need for speed.
Another decade passed and I eagerly anticipated testing a new cup holder, first introduced in the 9-5 and later adapted to the new 9-3. The clever folding mechanism is amusing and the clash with the SID display is avoided by shifting the cup holder towards the passenger side of the centre console (see photo 3).
Photo 3 by the author showing the interior of his black 9-3 SC
The device works perfectly except if you carry a passenger. It happens quite often that the passenger knocks the bottom of the cup with her knee and comes dangerously close to spilling the coffee.
Still, having the cup holders in my newer cars had made me totally conditioned to this gadget and I really missed one in the SPG. After trying several aftermarket devices that I found unstable and unsafe, I came up with my own version by adapting a sliding holder from an older model Acura Integra. It fits nicely in the large bin at the bottom of the centre console and holds two cups safely and without any obstruction of the instruments. One has to fix the holder to the wall of a bin at the height which allows for free gear shifting, but once this is done the holder is stable, slides out with a gentle pressure on the front facia, and is easily accessible (see photo 4).
Photo 4 by the author showing coffee cup installation in 900C
So I have come full circle from not liking coffee and not having a cup holder in the car to adopting the new philosophy, developing a taste for a fine brew and inventing a device that actually works better than expected and avoids pitfalls of the newer designs. With this I would invite my other fellow SAAB drivers to share their ideas on how our fine vehicles can be improved and enjoyed.