Saab Stories: Meet Mellis!

Like meeting an old friend in the middle of nowhere. Ex­cellent chair-height seats, visibility, in­struments. Five-speed shifter rubbery and imprecise, especially when trying to find reverse (mandatory for removing ignition key from console). Window and mirror controls on dash okay for long­time owner but hard to find for occa­sional driver. On balance, a superb car for long, hard drives over bad roads.

Car & Driver, July 1983

Right around that time that issue went to press, I emerged into the world, a blubbering baby. A little less than a year later, a platinum blue metallic Saab 900 8-valve turbo rolled off the production line in Trollhattan, Sweden and made it way onto the decks of a ro-ro for the transatlantic journey to the Port of Baltimore. After clearing customs it was shipped out and sold to its first owner. Where it went from there is a mystery lost to history, until it was bought by a woman in New Salem, Mass who owned the car for some period of time before parking it under some trees on her property and letting it sit for a while. Eventually, it made its way on the Craigslist where, Jim found it, in this rather sad state:

Jim's #saab900 is very rusty…

A video posted by Zack Dagneau (@zackdag) on


Jim is engaging in a bit of “Saab dentistry” to treat some surface rust on Mellis.

Jim, never being one to let sleeping dogs lie, dove into saving the car that his son quickly christened Mellis. A portmanteau of Mouse Ellis from a Judy Blume book. As all good names do, it stuck and I’ve continued to refer to the car by that name. So, in the two-ish years that Mellis was owned by Jim, she was the subject to his considerable care and attention. For a car that Jim used as his winter beater, it’s in damned fine shape now. Sure, she’s still a bit rusty, but I can report that her degree of decay has been halted and in pursuit of a “rolling” restoration, she’s developed a rather nice “patina.”


Mellis and Sven hanging out at Zo’s secret compound in Southern Mass.

The result of which, is that I’ve lucked into a pretty incredible car! Despite its age and mileage, it drives nothing like you’d expect a car that’s been to the moon and is on its way back. Whereas, with Sven there was always something on the list, Mellis is a near perfect driver. A fact I was able to put to the test about two weeks ago when I drove her 900 miles to Carlisle, Pennsylvania and back to attended the Carlisle Import and Kit National Car Show.

Saab Stories: Sven is for sale

Anyone want to buy a nice classic #saab 900? It's a '93 900S 16v with a 5 speed. Mileage is 222k. Needs work but has had a lot done to it since I've owned it - ecodes, new tires, stereo, roof rack, studded snows. Plus a lot of mechanical work. DM if interested. Looking for $1500. Located in Boston. #saabclub #steadysaabin #saab900classic #saab900 #saabnation #saab4life #saabforsale

So my time with Sven seems to be at an end! I’m now the proud new owner of an ‘84 8V Turbo formerly owned by Jim over at Old Dead Volvos. The ’84, as all good cars do, has a name and it’s Mellis. Once Mellis has joined the fleet in Somerville, I’ll give a full rundown of her. For now, my focus is finding a good new home for Sven.

As a recap, Sven is a 1993 900S, which means he’s got a 2.1liter 16V naturally-aspirated slant inline-four. Power makes its way to the front wheels through a 5 speed manual transmission. The trans fluid was recently replaced with Shell Rotella and shifts smoothly. Total mileage is in the range of 220,000. All accessories – windows, sunroof, fog lights work! With the exception of the front seat, which are pretty beat up, the interior is in good shape.

If any readers are interested, here’s a complete breakdown of what’s been done to him since I bought him in January 2014:

  • New CV joints on both sides
  • New driver’s side ball-joints (sale includes extra parts for passenger side)
  • Thermostat, and top-end hoses (sale includes extra hoses)
  • Valve-cover gasket
  • Major rust repair work – rebuilt front fenders (pic is recent but work is continuing)
  • Fresh V-belts
  • Brand new tires on SPG wheels, plus studded Nokian snows
  • E-code headlights (vastly improved over stock units)
  • Thule roofrack included in sale
  • Pioneer deck with AUX in, Bluetooth and handsfree phone + Rockford Fosgate 4in speakers.

Immediate needs: exhaust from the cat-back has rusted off (replacements are $160 via eEuroparts).

Asking: $1500, obo. 

Saab Stories: Back on the road

Well, a couple hundos later (ugh) it’s back on the road. Hopefully, this time it’ll last!


Meanwhile, as winter continues to stick around (seriously, it’s going to snow tonight!) progress on the Saab has been a bit … slow. Alas, the work keeps adding up! I’ve got a growing list that I won’t bore you with, but suffice to say, this car is gonna keep me in Saab Stories for a while yet. I’ve been balancing two needs – on the one hand, the car needs to be brought up to stage 0-level reliability, and the other hand it needs some livability improvements. For instance, most recently I upgrades the very blown and very bad JVC speakers in the dash to a pair of much nicer Rockford Fosgates. The Rockfords will pair nicely with the Pioneer head-unit I installed last fall. In terms of jobs on the Saab this has to have been the easiest. Seriously, I was done in 20 minutes, my beer, if I’d had any that day, wouldn’t have even gotten warm in the time to do this!

So how’s that for a barn-burner of an update? At least there was no little blood!


Saab Stories: Rites of Spring


After a very long winter here in Boston, we’re back on the road! Ahem, that is until the belts that have been making a bloody racket these last few weeks decide to heave-too and disintegrate. Welp, not this again.


Yeah, that’s no good.


Oh, and I has such plans today! I was off to a friend’s garage to fiddle with a few things, including measuring out the necessary sheet metal to weld up the floors and finish the months-long body work project. Alas, old Sven had other ideas, thankfully the belts gave up the ghost close to home and with AAA the tow only cost me eight bucks out of pocket. The car is now back at ABJ in Somerville, where they’ll hopefully sort the mess for me this week. Ugh.

Makin’ do

As you probably know, Boston has been nailed with historic snow amounts in the late month – the official count is now well over 70 inches! Even more is coming down as I write this. As you might imagine, these epic snow amounts have made having a car in Boston – a city not known for its easily navigable streets and thoughtful urban planning at the best of times – a total nightmare. I’ve shoveled out my car more times in the last 3 weeks than I can remember in all my years of growing up in Michigan! It’s getting to the point where there’s almost no place left to pile the snow.


I’m here to help! Also, this Lego Unimog is just the cutest thing!

Thankfully, I live on a quiet side street where parking isn’t too hard to come by. My neighborhood isn’t one known for the insidious but often necessary practice of parking savers. The real challenge of street parking with snow amounts like these, is finding places to pile it. See after a storm, owners dutifully go and find their cars – usually employing some sort of divining rod, metal detectors or the panic button on their keys. Once the car located under a shapeless mass of snow, the owner begins the process of digging out.

Simple enough right? Except that after 2-3 hours shoveling, people get tired and lazy. Those massive berms of snow between your car and the one in front and behind? Eh, someone else’s problem. You’ve beaten a path to your car and cleared out juuuust enough snow so that you can pull out and truck your way over to Whole Foods because you’ve run out of kombucha, again. Of course, before you leave you make sure your space saver is left behind, securing your parking spot from all the other predatory Massholes out there. After all, that miserable stretch of pavement is yours, you dug it out!


No Whole Foods run today.

See how this can start to become a problem? Thank god for high taxes. Yes, really. We may pay more taxes here, but we do get our money’s worth.


Inset – snow-chewing hell-beast! Bonus: it’s a Volvo!

The City of Somerville does a pretty effective job of handling snow. No major blizzard is going to sneak up on our city officials (I mean really how could one, with the damned Weather Channel each one an “event”) without an appropriate response. The above photo was from a clean-up following our first and second major storms a few weeks ago. Yep, that’s a Volvo front-end loader with some sort of industrial grade snowblower attached, which is chewing up and shooting the snow at high speed into a giant dump-truck. Godbless.