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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all! I am looking into buying my first Saab. It is a '93 900s in great condition. Except for the fact that the engine is seized up. The car's story is that it had an issue with the engine (the owner guesses that the head gasket blew, but he could very well be wrong), then sat for too long until the engine wouldn't turn over at all. Before it sat, however, the current owner measured the compression in the cylinders to be 80psi in two and 120psi in the other two.

This car is begging to be brought back to life- the body and interior are in nearly perfect condition. And the asking price is only $500, so I want to do it. However, I need help in knowing what to look for to figure out if this engine really is dead or just in need of some work. Hoping to tap into the knowledge of some of you here before I go check out the car again so I'm able to do a much more thorough inspection.

A secondary question would be: if the engine does need to be replaced or rebuilt, would this car be worth it at this price?

Thanks so much to whomever is willing to give some advice! I will attach pictures of the car below for any further clarity it may provide.


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Broadly speaking an engine is an engine - low compression can be caused by bottom end issues, top end issues, or a head gasket. Since it's seized you have limited options - you can't do a leakdown test and a chemical test is of no value. You may be able to use something (ATF, Seafoam, MMO, etc.) to unstick the cylinders and IMHO that's worth doing, so I'd start there.

Engines are out there - c900s rarely suffer from actual engine problems... usually they give it up to rust or transmission issues.
 

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Restoring a Saab

You don't mention how many miles are on the car or what you intend to do with the car. Will it be your commuter car or a hobby/collector item? Overall interior and exterior pictures of the vehicle would allow people to give a better opinion on whether it's worth it.


As jvanbra stated, one of the biggest concerns of the C900 is rust, especially for a 25 yr old car. So if the body is in immaculate condition, that is a good reason to pick up the car for only $500. They aren't making Saabs anymore so the car can only appreciate in value over time.


Hopefully, there is a mechanic in your area who has experience with Saabs and can quote you how much to rebuild the engine. This way, you can decide how much money you want to put into the car. Almost all other mechanics will do more harm than good in attempting to fix your vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The car would be a hobby/collector item, not a daily driver. I would hope to tune it, have some fun with it for a few years, then sell it after they appreciate. I will attach some interior and exterior photos as you said. Mileage is 161k.

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That little bit of rust over the rear left wheel is the only rust on the body. One of the headlights needs to be replaced, but that is pretty much the extent of the problems beyond the engine as far as I can tell.
 

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I would not buy the car as an investment. That's not going to work out.

The car looks clean, and engine problems are solvable. Not sure I would entertain a rebuild due to cost... a good used motor shouldn't be more than $1k, and probably a fair amount less.

Only thing that really sucks is that you can't drive it now... because it would not be uncommon to find a long-running c900 that turns out to have transmission problems.

I'd say the good news is that 2.1l cars are prone to head gasket problems and not particularly prone to transmission issues... so you may not have much in the way of getting it running.
 

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Take the plugs out, put solvent in cylinders.
Wait a day or three.
Push it at 15-18 MPH, then engage 4th gear.
There's a 77.4% chance it will turn over and you can get away with just a head gasket.
 

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going on the gearshift knob , its an auto Jim .
Outside of the engine concerns, likely with the Mileage it has issues with the auto.
 

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There are several important points that I think should be addressed regarding the viability of fixing this particular Saab.
1.Given the compression readings you were provided with, yes, the head gasket was toast already. That being the case , the car likely sat with coolant in the middle cylinders and caused them to rust inside, fusing the pistons to the cylinders. If the engine can even be saved, it will likely need machine shop work , which will add to the cost.
2. The automatic transmission in these cars does not take to sitting for long periods of time. My 92 900s sat for about 3 years before I bought it in non running conditions. The car now runs well but still slips in second gear after changing the fluid and filter. Since the car you are looking at does not run, you have no way to check the viability of the transmission. In all likelihood, the powertrain is junk. If it were an easy fix the current owner would have done it already and sold the car.
3.The 900s with auto trans is one of the least desirable power plants in the classic 900. Only car slower is an 8 valve. Not an easy car to sell, especially in the Saab community. I should know, I have 2 900s convertibles. The 5-speed is definitely more fun. I love the cars myself, but the best advice I could give you is buy a 900 turbo that runs. This car has rust already. It's best use would be as a parts donor.
 

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Part2....didn't want to sound to pessimistic I guess. On the other hand, you can buy this car cheap and if you can swap the engine and transmission out for good ones, you have a fun car for relatively low cost, so there's that. I bought a used 2.0 turbo motor from another Saab enthusiast last summer for $100, so parts are out there if you look. If it isn't too rusty might be worth it. Would be interested to see how it goes.
 

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When i was reviving my $600 1990 turbo vert 5m, I was lucky enough to find a complete motor/auto trans along with all the parts for 150 bucks. The seller knew the motor had blown a head gasket and his father (diseased) had swapped out the motor with a parts car he also had. my first question was "was the head ever pulled from the motor" and the answer was no. So with that said both the seller and i knew the motor was locked since the coolant was never removed from the cylinders.
Later on, when i had time i stripped the motor down to the bare block. 2 of the pistons were so badly seized, even with weeks of soaking in penetrating oil, to the cylinder walls i had to beat them out destroying the pistons and badly marring the cylinder walls. I believe the block would be salvageable with a bore out but that also means new pistons. This engine only had 53k miles on it.
My point is that your engine could likely be in this condition. Although fixable, it may not be worth it.
My current, running motor has over 275k miles on and still runs beautifully; however, i'm thinking about rebuilding the other block as a backup.
 
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