Q: What is the aim of a Saab project car? A: To keep it running.
I have much to learn. And as it turns out, this 21 year old Saab I bought for all of $860.00 is intent on teaching me. You may be wondering what’s it like owning a car that’s done miles nearly equivalent to one leg of a moon journey? Honestly, not too bad. Sure the old girl’s got some problems – she pops out of reverse (discovered that neat trick on Sunday), she’s got a few rusty spots (but not as bad as some I’ve seen – see video), she leeks a bit of oil, and her dash has more cracks than a plumber’s convention. Still its not all bad – her motor fires right up, she revs happily and idles smoothly, and she cruises very nicely at 70 miles an hour. All in all, the Saab seems to be a good project car candidate. I’m sure I’ll come to rue this, but I think I did alright!
SPG wheels are the icing on the cake with this car.
Look at all that practicality!
Winter mode, begrudgingly activated.
Swedish Luxury circa 1993, or was it 1979?
HVAC controls and ergonomics are a study in purposefulness and ease of use.
So this is definitely a project. Off the top of my head, I can tell you the following things it needs. New valve cover gasket (in hand!), replacement fog-lights (check!), v-belts (more on that later), head-liner (what Saab doesn’t) and a good tune up including all new fluids and possibly hoses. While the rust ain’t bad for c900, the car isn’t perfect. Both front fenders have rot around the wheel edges and I’m sure there’s more where I can’t see it. In terms of taking care of that, I’ll probably POT-15 the worst damage, cut and repair what can’t be saved and give it the poor man’s paint job: plastidip.
Hella yeah! The Bently and the driving lights are the first real purchase for this project.
As I said, this car seems intent on teaching me. I’m also sure it’s also intent upon drawing a lot of blood in the process. My first lesson came about a week into owning the car, after I’d brought it down to Jim in PVD for his thorough appraisal. To his eye, the car mostly checked out. Aside from the wobbly feeling gearbox, the obvious oil leak and more immediately, some very worn v-belts. Now on most cars, belts are a fairly easy fix. Not so on a Saab 900. Why you ask? Because this Sorry Automobile Assembled Backwards is actually really backwards. See, like the ground-breaking Citroen Traction Avant, the 900′s engine is installed backwards. The crankshaft leaves the engine at the front (or is back?) of the motor and is routed down to the transaxle via a set of chain driven planetary gears. The transaxle is bolted to the bottom-end of the engine and forms the oil pan, but perplexingly, the engine and gearbox have separate lubrication systems. Finally, despite being a front-wheel drive vehicle, the engine is mounted longitudinally, like in a real wheel drive car. Yeah, look I’m just as confused as your are, and I own the damned thing!
So what does that all have to do with replacing worn v-belts? It means they’re an ever-loving pain in the ass because they’re wedged up at the back (er front of the engine) next to the firewall. What is it with me and buying cars with annoying engine configurations and layouts that make common maintenance jobs such a pain in the ass? At any rate, my lame attempts at changing the belts lasted about as long as it took me to drain a Guinness in Jim’s driveway. I knew almost immediately, I was beat and would need help from without. Enter my saviour Amazon and Lord Bentley and his 16 Valve Service Manual. So while our first outing left the score Saab 1 and me 0. I’m confident that with a little help from this hefty tome and more than a little help from my friends, I’ll be basking in the glory of victory soon enough! Stay tuned…