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Discussion Starter #1
First off, thanks in advance for any advice I receive. I’m in central Indiana and I have a 4 door Saab 900 I’m interested in. I’m looking for advice on what to look for on a used 900.

I’m a 20 year ASE master certified mechanic so I understand cars. I have owned a 2008 Saab 9-3 (I should say, my wife owned a Saab 9-3. I just fixed it). I have never owned an older Saab. Being a child of the 80s I have a fondness for 80s cars. I really like the styling of the Saab 900 because it is quite unique.

The Saab I’m looking at is an 86 900 4 door AT. It looks quite clean inside and out. It supposedly fires right up and runs (I haven’t confirmed this yet). I talked to the owner over the phone and he says it needs a muffler and “a sensor for the fans”. He has the parts they’re just not installed. It has some oil seeping from the engine here and there. I’m going to swing by there today after work and check it out again today. What should I look for and look out for? What obvious issues or trouble spots should I look at? He’s asking $1300



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"...he says it needs a muffler and “a sensor for the fans”
Think exhaust system and head gasket.
Find a newer Turbo 5-speed, that thing's slow as cold molasses.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
“that thing's slow as cold molasses.”

Perfect! My days of tickets and blowing up engines and transmissions are long behind me. I’m looking for something to just cruise around locally.
When you say head gasket, are they prone to blowing? When they do, do they leak oil, leak coolant, lose compression, burn oil, or burn coolant? Or all of the above, or any combination of the above?
 

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I’ve daily driven a 97 Honda Civic HX for the past 20 years so I’m no stranger to “slow as cold molasses” lol
 

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They usually start with coolant seeping on the exhaust side, and/or burning it. Head gaskets are easy.
An '86 will need a timing chain (40 minute job for a professional, 20 with the head off). Probably need a radiator (cheap).
Transmission is a BW37 (more or less).
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
How bad is finding parts? Common failure items anyway.
What about that busted left front lens? Would that be tough to find?
Other than a head gasket, anything else? No real crazy transmission issues to watch out for?
Here are some more photos
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B5F33C3C-30B7-4ED1-87EA-B8947EEBB518.jpeg
 

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Jim is NOT lying about slow... I often wondered whether a MkIV VW with a 2.slow was faster or slower than an 8v automatic Saab. I would be a real time commitment to find out. 10 minute 1/4 times add up!

IMO, $1300 for a running c900 is a good deal. So, there's that.

But base model 900s through 1988 have an 8v motor which can be a pain to keep up - it's old-school mechanical fuel injection with 15 years of electronics heaped on top so the car would drive right when cold and pass emissions tests. IMO, running a CIS Saab in 2020 requires patience, understanding, and dedication. When things break, it's a research project to figure out where you can get parts.

The BW37 transmission isn't a model of reliability, but it's based on solid yesteryear technology too, and with only 11hp and 4 lb ft of torque it might last forever with good maintenance. That car looks good for its age - maybe even very good - so it seems reasonable that it's been looked after. If it runs right now, it will probably run right for a good long time.

Old bullnose 900s are really hard to find in good shape, so you truly gotta take what you can get. If you're just looking to putter around town, they are still frustratingly slow! But, $1300 bullnose 900 that runs is a solid starting place. Being in Indiana, I'd wager you will in some way shape or form have access to rusted out c900s, which to me means you're keeping your eye out for such a car so you can steal it's engine & transmission & wiring harness for when you finally decide you want to make it to and from the grocery store in the same day.

That all said, slow or not, there is seriously nothing like driving a c900. Nothing. Even when they suffer time contraction, they're wonderful. If you have any interest whatsoever, I'd seriously consider pulling the trigger.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Jim is NOT lying about slow... I often wondered whether a MkIV VW with a 2.slow was faster or slower than an 8v automatic Saab. I would be a real time commitment to find out. 10 minute 1/4 times add up!

IMO, $1300 for a running c900 is a good deal. So, there's that.

But base model 900s through 1988 have an 8v motor which can be a pain to keep up - it's old-school mechanical fuel injection with 15 years of electronics heaped on top so the car would drive right when cold and pass emissions tests. IMO, running a CIS Saab in 2020 requires patience, understanding, and dedication. When things break, it's a research project to figure out where you can get parts.

The BW37 transmission isn't a model of reliability, but it's based on solid yesteryear technology too, and with only 11hp and 4 lb ft of torque it might last forever with good maintenance. That car looks good for its age - maybe even very good - so it seems reasonable that it's been looked after. If it runs right now, it will probably run right for a good long time.

Old bullnose 900s are really hard to find in good shape, so you truly gotta take what you can get. If you're just looking to putter around town, they are still frustratingly slow! But, $1300 bullnose 900 that runs is a solid starting place. Being in Indiana, I'd wager you will in some way shape or form have access to rusted out c900s, which to me means you're keeping your eye out for such a car so you can steal it's engine & transmission & wiring harness for when you finally decide you want to make it to and from the grocery store in the same day.

That all said, slow or not, there is seriously nothing like driving a c900. Nothing. Even when they suffer time contraction, they're wonderful. If you have any interest whatsoever, I'd seriously consider pulling the trigger.
Thanks to you guys for the information. Now I really want to drive it just to see how slow it is lol. Yeah it seems quite clean. It’s been sitting outside a small garage for about a month. I drive by it every day and figured I’d stop in and see what was up with it. I figured it was either a customers car and they couldn’t figure it out or it was owned by the garage owner. It’s owned by a kid who works at the garage. The garage owner called him and he said he’s not really trying to sell it but he said he’d let it go for $1300. He just bought it from an older gentleman who had it in his garage and the older guy didn’t want to sell it but I guess the kid bugged him enough to let it go.
 

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Maybe another key attribute to keep in consideration is the brakes......
This vehicle is likely to have the front mounted handbrake style calipers, dual floating pistons, sliding yokes........not too conventional to say the least.....can be difficult to service and keep up to scratch.
If kept in good order, brakes are adequate but from 87 onwards, the brakes evolved to a more conventional layout with mainstream calipers on the fronts and handbrakes calipers on the rear.
 
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