Saab engineer Per Gillbrand “Mr. Turbo” passed away at age 82

Mr. Per Gillbrand, one of Sweden’s most well-known automotive engineers, died on November 30th, 2016. While he worked in many different technical areas, he was mostly known for developing the turbo engine for Saab.

Per was born in Tidaholm, Sweden in 1934 which is about 100 km east of Trollhättan. He started his automotive career with Volvo Penta in Skövde as a test engineer. He moved on to Volvo in Gothenburg where he worked on ”Project 1958” which later became the P1800. He was also involved with development of the well-known B18 engine.

Mr. Gillbrand started working for Saab in 1964. He worked on the development of the first four-stroke engines for Saab.  Turbochargers were used in cars before but Per was successful in controlling the boost pressure. This made Saab the first car manufacturer to offer turbocharged engines in passenger cars on a large scale.

Anti-knock control, the 16-valve cylinderhead and the company’s direct ignition system were developments at Saab where Per Gillbrand was involved in. Many of these technologies are now common in today’s cars  and recent Saabs in particular.

Mr. Turbo kept himself busy after retirement and helped with development of the Variable Compression Engine which was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 2000. He also worked on small-size replica combustion engines modelled after historically significant real engines like the Bugatti Veyron W16. His last presentation was in Stockholm in 2014 which can be seen in the video below.

Mr. Gillbrand: “All engines have an oil pump, a fuel pump and a water pump.  So why not an air pump, which is all a turbo really is? I think it’s odd that all engines don’t have one!”

Per Gillbrand 1934 – 2016

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