I think I’ve delivered all my tentative Saab purchase write-ups for a while now. I’ve sampled various 900s and 9000s, auto and manual and Sensonic; but right now, there’s no reason to open the door of yet another advertised one and go through the logbook. Have I given up on the weird one of the two Swedish marques? No, not exactly.
I’ve bought one.
The proverbial wraps come off, and reveal to you the latest inclusion to my fleet of daily drivers. Finished in perfect ’80s red, bespoilered, rolling on cross-spoke Ronals from a 9000 CDE, it’s a 1990 Saab 900S five-door Combi Coupé, original generation. Note, please, that it’s the Euro-specification 900S, which means a low-pressure turbo good for 145PS factory fresh. More of that later.
And for the first time ever in my possession, an automatic car. I’ve driven a few in my time, but never with my name in the pink slip that’s not exactly pink here. It’s the three-speed Borg-Warner M-37 box, slapped below the venerable 16-valve Saab H-block.
The car has done 211 thousand documented kilometers, and the previous owner was a meticulous Saabhead who paid close attention to everything else than the hanging headliner (three pins, mind) and the wrecked C-pillar cloth. And yeah, three of the four door bottoms are a bit nasty on the inner edge. But not terminal, and the car has been garaged for the past three winters. The underbody is as solid as they come, and the hood and the hatch are near-flawless, along with the wheelarches. Trim is spot-on.
In the previous owner’s opinion, the car works so well the minor cosmetical fixes are rendered near-meaningless.
I’ll be the first to say, a manual one is probably a touch more enjoyable. But I don’t care, since the trans shifts very smooth and complaint-free. No niggles there, as it’s been maintained well. Bury your right shoe into the stain-free carpet, and the car senses its chance and surges forward with the extra power invested in it by an intercooler from the Saab 900 turbo proper. The ECU benefits from an extra chip and whatnot, so we could say there’s a 15-hp leeway from the stock figure. Not much, but more than factory-spec, with torque to spare. The drivetrain really makes the car, and on our roads, no matter whether straight or twisty, it’s right at home. A car made in Finland really should, too.
And yet, the 900S feels the most solid of the cars I call mine. It’s like driving around in a bank vault with an electric sunroof. I love the dashboard layout, I love the sure-footed steering, and even the wipers washing the upright windshield are a treat to use. The dashboard is uncracked, the cloth seats are rip-free and comfortable with no sag. No leather here, sadly – this example wasn’t the gunmetal car with the Oxblood interior I had been daydreaming about. But I definitely cherish having a bright red ’80s car again.
Then there’s the enormous trunk that makes the E34 shrink and shrivel in comparison. True, the cabin is a lot bigger in the BMW, but the Saab could swallow two sets of tires and have the spoilered hatch slam tight. And with an upgraded Sachs/KYB suspension, the car rides comfortably but solidly, making highway progress incomparably hushed in comparison to the 4000rpm terrier that is the 205 XS. But a car that weighs 500kg more and has doors thicker than the Peugeot’s engine block really should have an advantage there.
And instead of the stock three-spoke wheel, I get to grab a Saab Sport Momo wheel originally from a Saab 99 turbo. The stock wheel and a set of rear window slats followed with the car, as did a modicum of spares and a good set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta tires on steelies and original wheeltrims. I don’t think I’ll be doing winter driving in this, the BMW will be reserved for that. And the Peugeot needs to do some ice track hooning as soon as the lakes freeze over.
But right now, I look forward to doing cross-country trips in the excellent Saab. Is it perfect? No, far from it – the penalty from spending my days in TURBO ZONE in a heavy automatic car is 19-20 mpg. But do I get what all the Classic 900 drivers are on about? Definitely.
Now I only need two new Saab badges and a set of 16-inch Super Aero wheels and I’m good as gold. Anybody got a Toppola for sale?
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]