SaabCentral Forums banner
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm in the second week of ownership of my third Saab.

An old 99 got me through High School.
An 87 900S 20 years later
And two weeks ago an 89 900, with automatic transmission

I'm an aeronautical engineer and I believe the older Saabs are one of the best cars I've ever driven. I bought the 1989 and almost immediately started to regret the purchase. The car (with my repair work) is pristine. Only a small scratch is on it. Yet, I'm regreting the purchase -- someone called a meeting at Saab and proposed as an agenda installing a 3 speed automatic transmision! I don't have fuel economy data on the car yet, but I'm anticipating it may come in at around 20 MPG.

So, I've been reading about manual transmission swaps. My 1987 was a beautiful malechite green car with a 5 speed and the pinion bearing went. People told me that manual transmissions in Saabs are known for pinion/synchro failures and while I'm capable and interested in performing a swap on the car -- the thought of taking a perfectly fine automatic and installing a bad manual transmission makes me shudder!

Which raises the question: HOW CAN YOU JUSTIFY A SWAP from a cost standpoint? It seem like a bad financial decision. For example:

Blue book for an 89 Saab is $1500. That's a mid-range figure. A used transmission (including clutch, and other hardware) is at LEAST $800. A used transmission stands a god chance of needing replacement in 2 years if you believe the people I've talked to.

That means going to a rebuilt transmission -- that will cost more than the value of the car -- perhaps by a factor of two.

You could buy an entire car for that much! A good one! So, I'm extremely curious -- what rationale, logic, or motivation would cause one to justify swapping transmissions? I'm SURE this is a newbie question -- in fact I am new to this forum and ask for your patience. What am I missing here?

Siggy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,170 Posts
I think the key to this is the saying - attributed to Oscar Wilde - "A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Financially speaking, the time and effort that some people on here put into their cars would make an economist laugh his head off. It makes no economical sense to be spending hundreds of pounds on a bodykit for a 16-year-old car with 5 previous owners which pops out of second and takes 3 minutes to get into reverse on a good day. And yet that is exactly what many do. There are several owners on here who have auto gearboxes and are very happy with them. There are many manual owners who say the auto box is the invention of the devil, and most of them haven't even driven one.

The manuals are pretty fragile, it's true, but as a general statement a manual box offers more performance and a more involved driving experience. The manual boxes had a strengthened pinion bearing (a traditional weak spot) in later years, so aim for one from 1990-1993. Additionally, Saabs policy of stating that the gearbox oil never needed changing (by failing to put in a drain plug on later boxes) probably hastened the demise of several cars. I doubt very much a rebuilt or second hand transmission would only last two years, but you never know. It might go on for another 16 years if you treat it well.

In summary, economically it makes no sense at all to even own one of these cars, let alone do any major work on them. But it makes no economic sense to buy a new car and drive it off the forecourt, thus reducing it's value by 50% at a stroke. If you really want the manual C900 experience, do it for emotive, not economical reasons. Personally I think it's crazy :D .

Welcome to Saab Central.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,034 Posts
I put no money into my Saabs and just drive them until they die. Thus most of my repairs are just bodge jobs to keep it on the road. I do have decent supply of parts cars now so I can do a better job, but ultimately I do as little as possible. That being said I am considering a tranny swap on my auto boxed current ride. Why? because I have a couple of decent M-Trans to choose from and clutches and all that. The reason I would do it is the exact same one you're considering...possible 10mpg or more fuel economy improvement. I do 500km a week, so that adds up pretty quick.

What's my point? Find a dead parts car with a reasonable M-tran and do the swap if you're so inclined. But dont bother if you're going to have to shell out $1500 to buy all the stuff and have someone do it. You should be able to get a decent parts car for free or at least less than $100. Plus with the price of scrap metal these days, you can probably sell it back to a scrapper for the $100 quite easiliy.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the feedback -- the Oscar quote was also wonderful. :p You both confirmed what I suspected: It's for the love of the car (meaning: there is no data that I'm missing -- perhaps I overlooked that there is a supplier of $200 rebuilt transmissions :cheesy: ); and second, that I should look for a parts car.

I must say, I am a perfectionist of some sorts and I can not feel completely at ease until I address this circustance: 65MPH at 3300 RPM!

It's just wrong!

I'm surprised that no one makes a final drive gear that can be substituted for the stock gear to lower the drive line compound gear ratio. I don't need great acceleration (I own a 400hp Ford Mustang Boss 302 for that); just good fuel economy and that wonderful Saab body feel.

Anyway, this is a great forum -- I found this forum last night and I stayed up quite late last night enjoying the posts.

Kind thanks,
Siggy

:cheesy:
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
637 Posts
Uhhhhh.. Beyond the Financial aspects Mate.. there is a LOT of work involved.. This will take you ..many.. Days of frustrating work and you will need a Parts Car to cannibaliize for all the sundry bits.
Why not just drive the thing? It may surprise you.. It's not like the 5 spd is overly quick or significantly more durable :).. but yes, 20 mpg is a reasonable assumption.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,034 Posts
Depending on the year, those RPMs could be higher. Just ask me, and my 85. You could try really big 4x4 swamp tires for the final drive you want :cheesy:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My problem is that I love Saabs and am a perfectionist. A very knowledgable man who wrote an article on how to do the swap gave me the impression that the automatic (Type 37) is very unreliable.

And here in California fuel prices are very high Perhaps not so high that there's a positive return on investment to fund swapping transmission -- not in about 20 years of driving! :D

I suppose I had better just drive the car.

It's funny. I think about the performance of business and engineering managemnt in a company where such a beautiful chasis was designed; where an engine that can easily exceed 250,000 miles was designed; where the ergonomics were so well thought out, the safety, the vehicle dynamics -- how in the world -- in a climate where there was so much excellence -- how could the transmission development programs (MANUAL and AUTOMATIC) be so poorly executed? And why didn't anyone correct it? What sense does it make to produce an engine that can drive the distance to the moon, but to mate it with such poor tranmissions? It's like dressing in fine silk to attend a royal dinner and eating with one's hands and feet. I just can't understand it. What can you say about a beautiful ballerina who finshes a dance by defecating on the stage? Saab would be a wonderful Business management case study.

Siggy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
154 Posts
I'm quite happy with the auto on my 89 900i. Reckon that I was getting between 22 and 27mpg depending how I was driving - and I've just discovered that that was with a huge great hole in one of the vacuum lines, which can't have been helping things!

Performance is more spirited than people tend to expect from an auto, kickdown's responsive. Really could do with a fourth gear for cruising though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,220 Posts
I get at least 25mpg in our 1990 auto, with 160k miles on the clock. All I've done to the trans is a band adjustment at 100k miles, and a filter change at 140k (just because I had the engine/trans out for other reasons--the old filter was fine).

There were 2 sets of primary-drive gears fitted to the auto, with US cars getting the lower gearing (for better acceleration--top speed being irrelevant, since these cars were built during the "double-nickel" era:evil: ).

You could certainly play mix-and-match with these gears to produce a taller ratio, but I once calculated that the fuel consumption would only improve by about 1mpg--easily achievable by other means such as keeping tires properly inflated, etc.

BTW, the auto trans fitted to Turbo cars is beefed up--has extra clutch-pack elements, among other things. If my trans ever goes, I'll get a Turbo one from a junkyard as a replacement.

Finally, regarding the "fragility" of manual gearboxes: I recently scrapped my '88 5-speed, due to rust :cry: . It had done 272k miles, and the gearbox still worked perfectly (give or take a little difficulty in shifting into 2nd on a 10 degree F winter morning).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,035 Posts
yeah as jez. pointed out, it makes absolutely no ecnomical sense to drive these cars! they can be very expensive to fix, very annoying to fix, and sometimes you feel like kicking it. but there is something about the car when you hop on the freeway and can just fly like a bird so smooth and nible, stable like a train on straight rails, and turbo acceleration WOW! they are so interesting looking, kinda like a spaceship, kinda like a porsche, kinda like a volvo. these engines are incredible and very realible, oh and btw-these transmission aren't that bad!-well they are bad, but compared to other cars, they hold up very well! 300,000kms to any tranny is a huge number! and this is common on these cars! put in a new tranny and your good to go for another 300,000 and then some. its people who treat the transmission like its a race car that blow up! for the love of god! take a couple second to ****, and there is no need for excessive downshifting! switch to honda mtf, ignore the pinion whine, don't floor it in reverse and she will hold up just fine!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
577 Posts
and put her in 1st gear before putting her in reverse. That stops the gears from turning so you won't grind teeths and subsequently ruin the reverse gear when putting her in reverse.

and don't whine about fuel prices over there in America!! :nono; Here in The Netherlands (that's in Europe... :p) we have to pay EUR 1.30 for one liter RON 95, that's about USD 6.25 per US Gallon...

And EUR 90.00/USD 115.00 road tax per month, insurance a tad above EUR 33.00/USD 42.00 per month and of course a few quid per month for maintenance and mandatory yearly inspection... On the other hand, my car uses Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) so I only pay EUR 0.40/L or USD 1.90/US Gal. but I only get an average of about 9 km from 1 litre of LPG...

Oh, and check: http://saabfaq.msk.ru/saab-900_geer_convert.pdf for swapping transmissions.
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
4,637 Posts
Actually, it's not that bad from an economic POV. If I was changing my car every 3 years (as the motor trade like you to do), I'd be spending far more than I'm spending keeping two C900s running. I've had one for 10 years now and the other for 3. I get far more pleasure out of these than I'd get from the type of car I'd be able to afford to change every 3 years.

Of course, the kicker will come when these ones die and I can't get a C900 anymore. I'm 40ish now so I just have to keep them going for another 40 years... ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
577 Posts
Siggy said:
...It's funny. I think about the performance of business and engineering managemnt in a company where such a beautiful chasis was designed; where an engine that can easily exceed 250,000 miles was designed; where the ergonomics were so well thought out, the safety, the vehicle dynamics -- how in the world -- in a climate where there was so much excellence -- how could the transmission development programs (MANUAL and AUTOMATIC) be so poorly executed? And why didn't anyone correct it? What sense does it make to produce an engine that can drive the distance to the moon, but to mate it with such poor tranmissions? ...
Siggy
It could be the space limitations of the (btw wonderful) compact design of the transmission underneath the engine. In the years Saab continuously improved the design of the gear box. Check the Engine/Gear page of this very interesting Saab 99 site, it will teach you a lot about the development history of the 99/900/90!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Excellent comments, all. I think that we can all agree on one point, if design groups (including supplier management for outsourced components) within Saab were babies in a hospital maternity ward, one would have to agree that the transmission design group was a switched baby! The car is otherwise an inspired design. I truly belive that an insider at Saab would have a very interesting story to tell concerning the evolution of the Saab transmissions.

Two other points -- I must be completely misguided. I live in California. I own a 35 year old Ford muscle car that will get 5-6 miles per gallon (miles that will be run at an obscenely high rate of acceleration :eek: ) and I own a SUV. I bought a Saab because I wanted to do my part to conserve fuel and because I believe the car is economical and cost effective. I'm somewhat shocked to hear knowledgable Saab owners claim the car can be expensive. As the saying here in America goes, "Please say it ain't so!" The only expense issue that I see is that the Saab dealerships are abysmal in terms of their pricing -- and attitude. I inquired about 4 NGK spark plugs for my normally aspirated 16V engine last week and was told that the plugs cost over $8 apiece! I easily found them for $2.

The other point is a bit off topic but to my brothers and sisters of Europe let me say that we Americans love and respect you -- but I'd like to say that there are many people in America who claim that the recent increase in gas prices is nothing to complain about. They cite the fact that gas prices in Europe are 3-4X that of the US. Some environmentalists even advocate that the US government should increase gasoline taxation to discourage poor fuel conservation behaviors.

I beg to differ on those points. I wish that any of you who might think that way would consider the following (and I won't stay long off-Saab topic):

1. Europe has a lot of -- how do I describe it -- ahhh -- let's see, there aren't a lot of these in the US so it's dificult to describe. They're...like system thingys for transporting people and stuff -- but they do it without cars! I'm serious! You give a small amount of money and you can totally go places without a car! :cheesy:

Seriously, what does this mean, other than the fact that Europeans are, well....smarter. It means that to a low income person in America -- with much greater distances to travel -- the affect of a higher fuel price is far more disastrous to their lives than to a person living in most places in Europe.

2. Much of the cost of gasoline (not oil) is tax. In Europe the gas taxation rate is higher, causing higher gas prices, but the taxes are being used wisely and you're deriving benefit for those higher prices -- for example the much better public transportation system. Increasing gas taxes in America will hurt low income people (that's called regressivity).

Gasoline prices should be going down, not up. Americans shouldn't be paying more, you should be paying less. Productivity in economies results in two things: An improvement in products and services, or a reduction in costs for a given product or service. In the past 30 years, aircraft, semiconductors -- pick a product -- almost anything you can think of has enormously improved or fallen in price in adjusted dollars. Gasoline is arguably unchanged or worse (lead additives aside) in performance yet is approximately as expensive as it was in 1970 in adjusted dollars.

Anyway, enough on that topic. A lot of people here in the US are angry and frustrated on this subject. I will stay away from politics, but the current middle east situation and INCREASE in gas prices is very ironic. Ironic indeed.

Siggy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
RoccoH said:
It could be the space limitations of the (btw wonderful) compact design of the transmission underneath the engine. In the years Saab continuously improved the design of the gear box. Check the Engine/Gear page of this very interesting Saab 99 site, it will teach you a lot about the development history of the 99/900/90!
Good site -- it deserves a close reading over tea. Not sure it's the space limitation because two of the offending failure points may have been avoided by a good design review of a bearing and gear design. A better material choice or other change could have addresed the pinion bearing and that would not have affected the installation envelope. I'm no expert, mind you.

People have anecdotal experince with a car that went over 200K miles, but the body of evidence from mechanics and even people on this forum is that the transmission was a C or D grade in a report card that is otherwise all As. There must be quite an interesting story in Saab as to how that occured.

Anyway, based on the comments I've received in this forum, I'm going to change the oil and filter in my automatic during every oil change -- whicle will be every 3000 miles -- and I will use fully synthetic oil in the engine. Type F oil in the transmission.

Cheers,

Siggy
 

·
Saab Mad
Joined
·
14,069 Posts
Siggy said:
1. Europe has a lot of [busses] You give a small amount of money and you can totally go places without a car
Siggy said:
2. Much of the cost of gasoline (not oil) is tax. In Europe the gas taxation rate is higher...the taxes are being used wisely and you're deriving benefit for those higher prices -- for example the much better public transportation system.
Clearly, the UK is not in Europe because neither of those two points are true ;)

We pay a large sum of money and then wonder if the train/bus will turn up. Then we are unsure if the bus/train will make it to our destination. Even then, we'll probably be late. For all this we pay ever higher punitive fares for ever poorer levels of service.

If one penny of fuel duty or road tax goes back into improving (I mean really improving, not this traffic "calming" etc rubbish) the UK network then I'll eat my socket set.

My advice: stay in the US and be grateful for what you've got.

__________________
Best Car Insurance | Auto Protection Today | FREE Trade-In Quote
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,220 Posts
cdaly said:
If I was changing my car every 3 years (as the motor trade like you to do), I'd be spending far more than I'm spending keeping two C900s running.
Too right, mate (as one would say in NZ)--that's Classic 900 ownership in a nutshell. These cars make excellent financial sense, but only if you can do at least some of the maintenance and repairs yourself. Otherwise, like every other car over a decade old, it will be a money pit.

Fortunately, these cars are easier to work on than many of their era (or today), and shopping around (using info from this Forum) can save you a pile of money on parts.

Remember, also, that the desirable C900s--the SPG, convertible, and any Turbo model in general--will always be worth something on the market.

But the best reason to drive a C900 as daily transportation is that it's a great, though understated and underappreciated, package: You get all kinds of goodies, plus a well-designed body, interior, suspension and drivetrain. There's a reason why these were not cheap cars when new!

A few years ago, there was a TV commercial for some Japanese car with the slogan, "Everything you want, nothing you don't."

There's no better description of the Classic 900; it does everything so damn well :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
24 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Matthew said:
Clearly, the UK is not in Europe because neither of those two points are true ;)

We pay a large sum of money and then wonder if the train/bus will turn up. Then we are unsure if the bus/train will make it to our destination. Even then, we'll probably be late. For all this we pay ever higher punitive fares for ever poorer levels of service.

If one penny of fuel duty or road tax goes back into improving (I mean really improving, not this traffic "calming" etc rubbish) the UK network then I'll eat my socket set.

My advice: stay in the US and be grateful for what you've got.
Oh my -- what a great post! That made me laugh hard! By the way -- I thought that Englanders were increasingly thinking of themselves as part of Europe. That's one sensitivity I will been keen to remember! :cheesy:

I thought public transportation in Europe was OUTSTANDING. Whoops, I might be wrong there too. :lol:

That was eye opening -- perhaps things aren't as great over there as we have been led to believe.

Siggy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,170 Posts
Siggy said:
1. Europe has a lot of [public transport]...You give a small amount of money and you can totally go places without a car! :cheesy:
This is a fairly common misconception about Britain. I've been to many other European countries where it certainly applies, even defying geography in a country like Norway where one ticket will take you on a tram, bus, trolley bus, train, subway and ferry. They even work in the snow, which is handy in Norway. The Netherlands probably has the best integrated transport network in the world, and they have even made provision for the fact that some people cycle. The UK system is a joke, and a bad one at that. While there is an element of integration in London and other metropolitan centres, out here in the countryside you are seriously stuck without a car. In my village, people volunteer to go shopping for each other or take people to the post office as the nearest shop is 7 miles away. There is one bus a day but it goes in the wrong direction. Even between urban centres it would be wrong to assume some kind of economical incentive to use public transport. A friend was recently quoted a fare of £170 to travel by train between London and Manchester. That's almost one pound a mile. Assuming of course that the train arrived, or even managed to depart.

It means that to a low income person in America -- with much greater distances to travel -- the affect of a higher fuel price is far more disastrous to their lives than to a person living in most places in Europe.
Again I'm not sure how valid this is. As I've said, in rural Britain you are pretty stuck without a car in that village shops have closed so supermarkets (nearest to me: 7 miles) outside the towns are the main option. Post offices (11 miles) have closed. Bank branches (17 miles) have closed. Petrol stations (12 miles) are not common. The average commute in east Suffolk is about 25 miles. Petrol costs the equivalent of $1.68 a litre. The average annual wage in this county council is $25,500. So there's a lot of people struggling with the fuel price, and getting very angry because the tax they are paying doesn't seem to be put back into the transport system.

Gasoline prices should be going down, not up.Americans shouldn't be paying more, you should be paying less.
Strongly disagree. We should be paying what we are, but seeing that money accounted for. And you should be paying the same. The rate at which America guzzles oil has a profound affect on global stability, quite apart from the ludicrous short-sightedness in terms of environmental accountability. Opening up wildlife refuges in Alaska is farcical. America has never been self-sufficient in oil and never will be. It will always depend on imports and therefore will always be trying to control the market to its advantage. Only by adjusting the preconceptions of citizens, by subsidizing public transport and taxing oil to the same level as Europe will America finally be acting in the interests not just of its own citizens, but of the rest of the world as well. No coincidence that of the countries which according to the UN development index for quality of life have a higher standard of living than America, with the exception of Australia and Canada, all are European. Link

Anyway, enough on that topic. A lot of people here in the US are angry and frustrated on this subject.
Same here. We do this one every now and again. What happens is someone in the US posts about how their gas prices have gone up, then the Brits start saying you don't know how good you've got it, then the Americans say but you just had an election, vote them out of office, take to the hills, etc, etc. We could say the same thing. That's why it's generally safer to stick to Saabs :) .
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
660 Posts
Can't help joining this one - public transport, with a few exceptions, in the UK is CRAP. Dirty, unreliable, slow, miserable, graffiti clad and expensive.

My experience in France, Holland and Belgium is totally opposite - its a joy to use and leave the car at home, a different kind of freedom!

We are not allowed to have good public transport because it tastes like central planning and smells of communism!

Wow, I feel better now!:)

What was this thread about?
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top