Help A Brother Out: Saab 9-3 Viggen

Saab-9-3-Viggen-Coupe-1999-2002-Photo-05

I need your help. I found a low mileage Viggen and I think I want it. But I have no personal experience with Saabs in general nor with Viggens in particular. Is the Viggen a completely different animal from the regular 9-3? Are parts difficult to source? Are they unreliable? What should I be on the lookout for? Are there any enthusiast websites or forums worth checking out? I understand the torque steer issue. I don’t know why, but I may have been bitten by the Saab bug!

Thanks in advance.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbNgdPqezJ0[/youtube]

Image source: Car In Picture

35 Comments

  1. It's my understanding that SAABs of this era share many mechanical bits with contemporary european GM models. That means that while parts might be a bit more expensive, they won't be impossible to source for quite some time.

  2. They're reliable. Parts are available. They're quick and fun to drive. The torque steer is pretty easily managed. Stateside, Genuine Saab in Missouri (www.genuinesaab.com) is a great go-to for speed and handling pieces for modern Saabs, and with the Swedish gubmint owning the parts arm and still some remnants of a dealer/support network out there (see saabparts.com), parts should be available for a long time. There's some good forums out there including Saab Network, Saablink, the Turbo! mailing list, to name a few. Lots of knowledge, support and events through Saab Club of North America (saabclub.com).

    1. And it will do it without the front end lifting at that speed. Incredibly stable at high speed.

  3. Jim, oh boy.
    Former NG900 owner. Car cost me more in repairs than the purchase price……your experience may vary….but fuck did I love that car. I'd get a Viggen in a heart beat if it made sense.
    Head over to Saabcentral.com, used to be a good place for forums (fora?), as I think they have a buying guide. The issues with the NG900s/9-3s/Viggens included sludge/timing chain issues (ask me how I know $$$), DI Cassette failures (most smart folks just carry an extra) upper motor mount/steering rack/firewall flex. Check the firewall for integrity. Rust on strut towers (ask me….)
    The Abbott Racing 'Viggen Rescue Kit' is a must <a href="http://(http://www.abbottracing.net/product.php?id_product=205)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.abbottracing.net/product.php?id_product=205) to fix the handling/firewall issue.
    The stock Viggen wheels are fragile.
    All this said they're not expensive and if you can find one that's been cared for by a pedantic Saabophile (is there any other kind?) you can do well. Locate your local indie Saab place and have them inspect.
    Set aside a reserve fund.
    Good luck!

    1. Hi, I have owned a viggen for the last ten years and its been a great car. I have spent a bit of money on it but through choice, fun to drive and has an excellent mid range power range and even when it was standard it could pick its feet up a bit. All the work i have had done was by Abbott Racing and would recommend them regarding any mods handling or power.
      Regards

    1. Was going to suggest the same. Basically, these small changes manager the torque steer completely. It's not far off what GM later adopted as the HiPer Strut suspension, which has basically mooted the torque steer conversation.

    2. A massive +1 for Abbot Racing. My Dad ran Saabs for years (never anything as exotic as a Viggen) and they were always dead helpful and surprisingly cheap. I've lost count of the number of times we need a part and found the uprated or higher performance option from Abbot or Neo Bros (http://www.neobrothers.co.uk/) was cheaper.

  4. The keys are only issues with the 9-3SS (2003 to 2011)
    The OG9-3 doesn't have that problem, I got mine from my local Saab dealer (Concours Motors in Milwaukee) for about $300 a key. Which is costly I agree but they aren't impossible to get for a car of Viggen vintage. You'll love it, they are amazing Saabs!

    1. Can Jim borrow your time machine to visit his local SAAB dealership though?

        1. I should have said that my local is still open and selling what little inventory there is left. They have a nice service department (as long as you don't show up just before the manager is about to go on lunch :/ )

  5. The only thing I have heard bad about parts availability is that replacement keys can be a major PITA and expensive. This is mainly due to total lack of dealer network and since there is no one to reprogram it, you have to replace the "decoder" module.
    Also make sure you get maintenance records. I believe most Saabs put the turbo right next to the catalytic converter, make regular oil changes even more important.

    1. The keys are expensive, but if you lose your only one you're in for much more expense. I just got a spare key for my NG900 from a local saab mechanic– he ordered the key itself direct from Saab ($60 or so), and then had a spare fob and chip sitting around that he could reprogram to match my key. It was about $110 all told, compared to $250 quoted by a former dealership.
      The turbo and cat arrangement is as you say for normal NG900 iterations, so I imagine the Viggen has the same situation.

        1. So guess it's not the one for you. The shifter does tend to be rubbery like that and the screen also tends to not work. So when you find one that has a working screen and less cracked plasti-bits, jump on that one.

          1. The missing pixels on the screen are a total non-issue, very simple DIY job.
            RE the body-flex, the best fix is the above linked Viggen Rescue Kit from Abbot but you could get away with just the steering rack clamp. Unless, of course, the bulkhead is already rubber-ducked…

        2. The pixel issue is well known and can be fixed on a DIY basis or you can ship the unit off to BBA Reman where they will correct it for less than $100 and guarantee the work for life.
          On my '99 9-3 SE I uninstalled the headlamp wipers and plugged the washer feed tube rather than repair the motors (also a DIY, just time-consuming) since here in the southern US they really aren't needed.
          Torque steer can also be quite fun once you get accustomed to anticipating it. My daughter learned how to drive in our Saab and got quite good at inducing and controlling the torque steer to impress her friends.

  6. I've owned an '02 Viggen for the last three years (now 104k miles) and the only major issues I would point out would be the wheels (likely need to be replaced), rear OEM shocks often leak, DI Cassette *may* fail (good idea to keep a replacement on hand because it is extremely simple to replace), and potential engine sludge issues if the previous owner(s) didn't change oil on time. It has a different engine than the rest of the same MY 9-3s, the 2.3L 4-cyl from the 9-5 and is reliable. Parts are readily available from a good Saab mechanic. I am in Seattle and go to Scanwest, they do a terrific job and often source parts for other regional Saab shops.
    It's not a perfect car but for the price its terrific and very rewarding to drive on the freeway and road trips. Comfortably cruises at 125 🙂

    1. Who are you trying to kid with your "DI Cassette *may* fail " line?
      Of course it will fail, and frequently.
      Not sure how common the GM EcoTec engine is in your part of the world but here in the UK it's so common (as is the DI failure) that every recovery guy worth his salt has one in his kit. It's used in loads of Vauxhalls and Opels, both cars and vans, so by happy coincidence Saab owners tend to be very well looked after when it fails.

      1. I only say *may* because mine has yet to fail but it is a known issue. It has not been an issue for me. The stock wheels are more of an issue because they cost many times over the cost of the DI Cassette to get decent replacements.

  7. General Saab NG900 comments, as a (non-Viggen) owner: don't judge from the first one you see, I nearly wrote them off after trying a low mile but beat convertible, but the next one I tried was wonderful. These cars are durable and easy to maintain, but really need to be stayed on top of, i.e. like an old Benz and not an old Volvo. A well-loved one should be easy and relatively cheap to run, and not too hard to find considering the typical Saab owner.
    I imagine Viggens are more likely to have been beaten, actually, but don't write off the normal turbos as practical, semi-sporting, econo-lux daily drivers. This is one car where the manual versus autobox really is a tossup: the manuals are ropey and lack clutch feel, while the Aisin Warner auto is reasonably responsive and very durable for an automatic. Somehow Saab mated lots of body roll with really good cornering grip in these, just part of the charm. Excellent highway cruisers, and pretty solid fuel economy for a fast car of ca. 2000. Of course, a turbo volvo 850 or 1st gen s/v70 is maybe even more practical and easy to maintain, with about as good speed and handling, but the Saab has more charm. I'm honestly thinking of ditching my Subaru beater and grabbing a second NG900.

  8. Hello,
    I have a similar question. I'm looking at a 2000 Viggen convertible on ebay that has "low compression" and sounds "bad". Current owner does not know what is wrong and basically repeated what he said in the ad when I emailed him. Looking at pictures, the exterior and interiors are in generally good condition, the car has 122k miles on it, with one noticeable dent on the driver's side door which I am not worried about.
    Would it be worth bidding on the car (he says around $1,950 obo) if it is that low, especially with the engine in such questionable condition? I am willing to do the work on the engine, but would it be better to swap another in? Would the turbo need replacing at 122k miles? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Since I have learned of the Viggen I have desperately wanted to own one.
    Also to think of would be any mods adding on to the price, which so far I've heard is a must in most cases. Thank you for any help.
    Rob

  9. The steering rack clamp and brace is probably essential for Viggens and recommended for less powerful OG9-3s and NG900s, as it help tames the somewhat vicious torgue steer in more powerful versions. It also helps protect against Firewall/Bulkhead cracking which is a defect in RHD models. However if cracking is already evident, the rack clamp/brace wont help. LHD cars aren't prone to this defect, so if in US or Europe don't worry about that one.
    DI cassettes are not the same as Opel/Vauxhall models as they part of Saab's own T5 (9000, NG900 and earlier OG9-5 and OG9-3s) engine management system. The Viggen and later OG9-3s and OG9-5s use the T7 engine management which has a black DI cassette. The T5s have a red DI cassette.

  10. I have had my Viggen since it was 1 year old. yes, that is 14 years. Would I swap it — NO. It is too practical and too much fun.
    Do check the Abbott Racing site, their advice on rear toe and rear camber is invaluable and if you are practical you can check yours meets the Abbott recommendation and, if not, fix it for a couple of hrs and some simple metal shims.
    Then go for at least the Abbott front sub frame brace, or, better, the 6 point version available on ebay etc.
    Then stffen up the std top front strut brace by having a bar welded across it just clearing the engine.
    All this is not expensive but assumes you have the rack clamp.
    Now She will handle well, not brilliant, but pretty well for an old girl.
    Enjoy.

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