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My SAABs and I

Possible Classic 900 purchase...

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by , 16 April 2012 at 10:08 (677 Views)
09 April 2012

1987 SAAB 900i Benelux model, 8v non-turbo

Today I drove all the way to Sarreguemine, France (3-1/2 hour drive each way!) to look at a 1987 900 for sale. The guy who is selling it has been a died in the wool SAAB guy for 13 years and right now owns four SAABs. His first one was a '98 9-3 convertible, then he got the 900, then a '71 99, and now a newer 9-3 sedan for a daily driver. He is selling the C900 because he was using the 900 as a daily driver and recently replaced it with the new 9-3, and he might be selling the convertible too, and is thinking of buying a Mustang (midlife crisis he says...).

The 900 is an 8 valve, fuel injected car, hatchback, white with a red interior. When he bought the car it needed work, and he has been fixing it up ever since, and frankly, you wouldn't be able to know unless he told you, the car looks great. Not a show car, but a good driver. He had some rust removed from the rear hatch, from the rear right fender, and the right side inner firewall, behind the right fender. I looked at the usual C900 rust spots (battery tray, fuel door, under the doors, plus the whole underside, etc.) and couldn't find anything other than surface rust around hot pieces under the engine. All body panels are straight, no dents, no paint chips, no big scratches, just regular wear and tear stuff.

When he bought it the car had a worn out blue interior, and he swapped for the red, which looks terrific. The dash is black and uncracked. All the gauges work, the only one that doesn't is an add-on VDO engine temperature gauge, the original engine temperature gauge works fine. Besides that VDO gauge there are also engine oil pressure and voltage gauges. All the electrics work (rear defog, fan, lights, seat heater, etc). The headliner was redone in 2005 and it's mostly good, there is some minor sagging on the edges (see picture below). The car comes with aluminum rims, plus he has prefect steel wheels to come with it.

After inspecting the car for a while we took it for an extended drive, I drove the car for a good 45 minutes, from cobble stone streets to rural roads, a steep uphill where the car felt strong, then we drove around some farm villages, and then on a French autoroute and a German Autobahn were I got it up to 70 mph and it felt sure and drove straight. Shocks and brakes are good. Overall the car felt great, the gear shifts are good, it doesn't pop out of gear, first and reverse engage well. The front wheel bearings make a bit of noise, a very light hum, but nothing worrying.

So it looks great, no (apparent) rust, drives well, has a seemingly good transmission, and started up quickly from cold (I checked). The car was driven in 2010 to the IntSAAB in Switzerland with no issues. He said he usually drives the 99 to IntSAAB but the 99 was down that year. This year he is taking the 99 to Belgium.

The bad: the car has 257,000 kilometers (159,000 miles), and when I asked how old is the engine chain and the clutch he wasn't sure. There was a bit of a language barrier between us so maybe he didn't quite understand me. He is German, if he were French I would be OK as my French is much better than my German. His English was OK. I asked about the chain tension, but apparently he doesn't do much work on his car and instead takes it to an old SAAB mechanic guy who does it all for him. He has some receipts for the work he has done, the receipts of course are in French and German (he lives right on the border). He is the third owner and doesn't have any receipts from before 2001. The car also needs two new tires, the front ones are worn.

He is asking 1200 Euro or best offer for the car. Plus he is sending the complete blue interior, a set of genuine SAAB fog lights with the SAAB covers, the steel wheels, and some assorted parts. I told him I am not interested in the blue interior as I have no place to store it (my garage is tiny). He also made the mistake of telling me he is having a hard time selling the car as most French and German SAAB enthusiasts are looking for a museum-quality car and don't even want to come see the car when they hear the mileage. Also, the car is originally from Belgium and has no catalytic converter, which would mean higher road taxes in either France or Germany. For me it doesn't matter as I would register the car with the Army and there is no emissions test.

I am thinking of low balling him and offer 700 Euro for the car minus the blue interior. That's 917 dollars for a very good looking, nice driving '87 SAAB 900i 8v hatchback with 152,000 miles, with unknown clutch and chain life (I will replace the chain as soon as I can, clutch I will probably do a bit later: the one on the car felt just fine when driving). How does that sound? I am prepared to pay up to 1000 Euro without the interior. I have seen only one other 900 for sale here for less than 2000 Euro and it was a Turbo, a rusty bucket, not a driver.

Few questions, these cars have mechanical valve adjustment, right? How hard is it to do? I have adjusted valves on VWs and Mercedes before, it's just a matter of how complicated it is to get it done, and if special tools are required. Also, the front wheel bearings on these cars, any harder/easier to do than on another front wheel drive car?

Also, the car has a cool ANA SAAB of Trollhättan license plate frame

Here are pictures of the car (the pictures are almost a year old but the car looked the same when I saw it today):

And here is the original ad, in German: Saab Cars.de (needs login at saab-cars.de)

What do you guys think?

Updated 16 April 2012 at 10:19 by rpiereck

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