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Soon to Own a Saab 900 Convertible

4017 Views 24 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  TimClifford
I've been looking for a solid convertible as my first car purchase, and I've been drawn to the Classic 900's. I've been haggling with the dealer over this one:

Is a Classic 900 a good first car purchase? I want to be able to commute with it, enjoy the sun, and learn to treat a solid car correctly. The fact it isn't made of plastic like modern cars is also a huge selling point. I'm here looking for advice from people who really know the nuts and bolts on Saabs, to hear what to expect when purchasing a Classic 900.


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Wow! That's a nice one...70K the color as well, and the last of the breed too.

In that shot of the engine bay it looks to have some dust? Dirt? Something, kind of on all the high points. I'd find out why...maybe a carfax will tell you it's nothing.

At any rate, if you aren't afraid of turning a wrench, these are cars that can put a smile on your face. If you aren't too mechanically inclined, they can make you sad as they can ding your bank account in a hurry.
Being in VT....there are more than a handful of capable independant mechanics who have worked on 900's for decades.

Yes, its old. Yes, its quirky. Yes, its maybe not the best FIRST vehicle, but as said above, you'll get far more enjoyment out of a 900 convertible than say a $5000 Accord or RAV4.

The miles are low, the interior looks clean, the top looks perfect, its a 5-speed.....all of that bodes well.

Make sure that the transmission feels tight & crisp on all upshifts and downshifts. Back up a steep hill with it (reverse is notorious for being weak, and if its on its way out, it'll pop out of reverse when heavily loaded).

900's are a love it, or hate it vehicle, period. This one looks like a very nice example of a well cared for, low mileage 900 (at least in pictures).
The shot of the engine bay looks as if it's not even the same vehicle. Strange, but could be nothing. Everything else looks super clean for the age and very low miles for a saab.
Definitely run the VIN, with that low miles, should only have 1, maybe 2 owners. Good question too on the dirt on the high points in the engine compartment (could be flood damage?). If it was me, one of the first things I'd do is put some contrasting material on the door panel inserts and rear speaker surrounds, that's a lot of beige in the interior! I had too much gray in mine, so put some black velour on those areas and broke up all that gray nicely.

But that's a great color combination, and with low miles, MT, twisted 3-spoke alloys, seems to have been well kept and stored indoors, etc. If the VIN checks out, I say go for it!
A nice example but as per norm somethings a bit funny in the description, but usual from a non Saab dealer?? it seems to have two different size of tyres, and specifies 35 mpg :eek:not a hope, very difficult to do in UK with bigger gallon
I looked at the car a lot on autotrader but its too far from me so I never got a chance to go see it... honestly looks like just another non saab enthusiast sale that the seller has no idea what he's talking about
(could be flood damage?).

But that's a great color combination, and with low miles, MT, twisted 3-spoke alloys, seems to have been well kept and stored indoors, etc. If the VIN checks out, I say go for it!
Flood is what I was thinking too. Vermont had lots of problems last year with flooding from the hurricane (can't remember the name). Could be that it might have gotten washed behind its ears while in a garage. Probably OK though, but a carfax will tell Tim if there was a claim laid on it.

Either way, I'd be all over it...that is a beautiful example.
I don't know where exactly you are, but have the car examined by one of these people:
Kurt Pettinga in VT

I know them all personally, though I haven't seen Kurt in 20 years, you'd have to Google him.
Few people know as much about those cars as Jared at SAABWORKS, Paul at SAABTECH, or Kurt.
They probably won't work cheap, but spending $$$$ before you buy the car is better than.....
Few people know as much about those cars as Jared at SAABWORKS, Paul at SAABTECH, or Kurt...or Jim Mesthene at Saab Central

Fixed it for you

One thing that I noticed, and this bugs the heck out of me is the statement: Internet pricing reflects $1000-$2000 down payment or trade in. Thus, the $5995 price is really $6995 or even $7995? Car dealers have started doing this and I think it's the first step in dishonesty and you don't even own the car yet! In other words, more to come....

It's probably the photo, but do the front seats look as though they have been recovered?

My honest opinion is that if someone is not mechanically inclined a Saab is probably not the right car for them. That's just my 2 cents. There are limited dealers left, and while parts are available, if you're not willing to go on E-bay, Eurosports, etc. and buy and replace yourself, you will pay a big repair buck. I also think it would depend on where you live. Around here (where I live), there is very limited mechanical knowledge about them.

On the other hand, you can buy a somewhat boring but easy to maintain typical car and know that you can get it fixed anywhere, anytime.
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Few people know as much about those cars as Jared at SAABWORKS, Paul at SAABTECH, or Kurt.
But they're still working (I'm not sure about Kurt), and no amount of money would persuade me to work professionally again.
I don't know about up thaya, but in Colorado, if a vehicle has been in a flood, it must be disclosed (in writing) prior to the time of sale or the dealer can lose their license.

That nastiness on the engine does raise some red flags! If it spent some time in shallow water diving school, there will most certainly be electrical gremlins in its future. Why a dealer would make no attempt to detail the engine is beyond me...
I abhor laziness!

Could just be that someone's cat used the engine as a litter box I reckon... It's a good looking car though. If you can be satisfied that it hasn't been flooded, I'd say talk those goons down to a reasonable price and buy it. Then... Put some elbow grease into that engine bay!!!

One major caveat... If you're not familiar with a toolbox, buy a Honda.
I think it might be a decaying hood lining that's causing the brown stain on the inlet manifold, turbo outlet and throttle body.
I think its water stain ... Look at the Turbo plumbing , that looks all the world like surface rust to me ...

Easy to tell ..if it is decayed material .. BLOW it off ..
I have never seen a Bonnet underlay decay that much on a late model c900 ..

Did someone mention electrical gremlins ? oh LOOK A FUSE REMOVER AND SOME BLOWN FUSES IN THE CUBBY BOX ... But I doubt I have replaced more than 2 fuses in the last 10 years , let alone 2 since its been on the car yard lot ...

Have it well inspected as advised ... There is an odor attached here ...

MY 2 cents ... Cars this vintage ( saab or anything else ) are at the point of being Uneconomical to maintain as a daily driver if reliant on Professional support

... unless you are one of the following ...

You can DIY and have a mechanical aptitude ..
OR you are prepared to get your hands dirty and learn ...

OR ..

You are very very very lucky .

If the above don't apply , Look for a New Buzz box with a 5 year warranty ...
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Carfax is clean.

The driver side door had some rust on the inside, where it closes. The door felt loose, like each time I was going to close it, it would slam all on its own.

I attached a picture of the engine from when I looked at it- definitely had some acorns in it.

I think I'm going to try another dealership in the area and see if there's the option of playing the two off each other, because the car obviously has some issues that should bring the price reasonably under 6k.

Here's a link to a higher quality version of the image:

And as an aside, I'd consider myself mechanically inclined, ready to get dirty, and definitely interested in learning. I just hope I can pry one of these old convertibles away from the clutches of used auto dealerships!


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I'm pretty lucky, but honestly I'm planning on relying on the mechanical inclination and desire to get dirty and learn :D

I just checked out another pointlessly expensive 1993 convertible with a big tear in the roof and water damage inside, among other cosmetics that kept the vehicle from being even close to show-room. And what looked like the exhaust on the undercarriage of the vehicle seemed to have a leak, so all in all it wasn't worth the 8k+ asking price.

Hopefully I can talk the dealer down to something reasonable so I can take it off his hands, but at the very least I got to drive a red 900 convertible today which was pretty fun.

I heard there are often issues with the Turbo going early on 900's, the transmission being loose, and the reverse being weak, so I tested the three of those points as best I could.

As an aside, I have a higher res photo of the engine when I went to NH to look at the Saab in the original post: 11.07.03.jpg

Let me know if that link works, I'm not 100% on the rules about posting links on this forum yet.
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I've actually tried posting to this thread twice now to no avail. Apparently mod approval is strict these days-

I looked at another Saab 900 in Burlington to see what the spread looks like, despite a high asking price. Up close, the vehicle has a bunch of cosmetic damage, where I actually walked around and took a video of all the dents/scratches/missing buttons on the wheel that I saw, alongside the roof having a clear hole in it you can slide your hand into up to the thumb.

I have a video of what looks like the muffler having a corroded hole in it, with what looks like a wet spot underneath where it leaked, but I'm pretty sure my posts are getting flagged because they all have links in them so I'll hold onto it.

A small hole the bottom of a muffler, if it still works as a muffler- is that a big deal?
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So what's the story on the first one that you posted about? It seems to be in MUCH better shape than the one you just looked at in Burlington? I don't know about you, but I'm more of a turn-key kinda guy. If this Burlington Saab needs work (replacement top, body work/paint, trim, switches, buttons, muffler, etc), I'd probably pass.
I hate to admit it, but I was undermatched in talking price in NH, and at best I could haggle the dealer down to 'considering' 6300 for it. Still felt too pricey. So I'm shopping around, hoping to find something more affordable or at least get an idea of what I really will be paying if I pick up a 900. I've attached a shot of the engine compartment- if anyone knows an accepted image host where I can upload the high res version, I'll gladly post it.

The Red 1993 has less miles, but a ton of cosmetic issues I could see, and I'm not going to play into the dealer's statements of 'unfindably low mileage' when I'm looking at two cars with similar numbers. Right now, I'm thinking of talking again to the 1994 owner, and seeing if I can take it to SaabWorks on Monday next week. Here's hoping the engine checks out.


and with respect to being mechanically inclined or lucky- I've been pretty blessed up til this point, but I think that's because I like getting dirty and learning how to fix things myself! That's one of the big draws to an early 900, I think I already have a handful of tools, and cars seem fun to diagnose/fix.


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