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The economics of Auto to Manual swap

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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
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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).
 

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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 :)
 

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This thread is straying far beyond the topic of the initial posting--and, indeed, beyond the bounds of a technical forum.

Much as I myself would like to jump in with both feet, I feel that the Lounge is the appropriate place to continue this discussion. I am therefore locking this thread.
 
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