1989 Saab 900i Automatic.

1989 Saab 900i Automatic Front Three Quarter View


Okay...so the last thing I was looking for was another car.  I had the 107 and the 306 as my daily runarounds, and the van as the project.  Was happy with that.

Then a friend dropped me an email with a link to a classified listing on eBay, simply titled "thought you might like this."  The link was to a classified ad for a Classic Saab 900i, with tax and test, 113K on the clock, for 495.  Photos weren't stellar, but it didn't look too bad.  It was only an hour and a half drive from here, and that that price I figured had to be worth a look.  Even if it wasn't great it was surely worth more than the asking price.

The main photo from the listing is shown below.  This is all I really had to work with at the time.  There were a few photos from other angles as well - but nothing of the engine bay or of any of the usual rust traps, and none of a high enough resolution really to show any useful detail.

Photo from eBay Classified Ad

I spoke initially with the dealer on the phone, and they seemed very nice actually, even in spite of my query being about what was quite obviously just a trade in to clear.  They were quite willing to stay back a bit later even on a Friday afternoon to wait for me to get there from Aberdeen.  Turned out that someone had tried to buy the car while I was on the way, but were turned away on account of us being on our way.  I know plenty of places where that would have been a case of tough luck for us when we got there!

Given the low price, I certainly wasn't expecting miracles - and to be honest was expecting quite a dog of a car.  I was surprised, very surprised.

Not a mint car, no...but a heck of a lot tidier than any I've ever owned.  Some rust, sure enough on the driveshaft tunnels.  Welding done, it looks like for the most recent MOT involved a patch over the surface, and I'm not 100% happy that the dodgy metal has actually been cut out - so further investigation and a proper repair will need to follow there.  The engine bay was a disgusting mess - but a disgusting, reassuringly original looking mess with no apparent bodgery and save for an engine in need of an oil change, nothing which set alarm bells ringing.  Sure enough the timing cover was leaking oil like a sieve, but that appeared to be the only place it was escaping from.  It also seemed distinctly reluctant to start from cold, tending to flood if you gave it anything resembling a chance, but once up and running, despite idling a little fast it sounded like the sweetest 8 valve engine I'd heard in many a year.  No hint of any smoke whatsoever, no untoward noises and it was idling as smooth as you could ask.  A quick test drive and I was sold.  The car drove like new.  Few quid short of 500 changed hands and I set about arranging a lift back the following day to retrieve the car.

Below shows what I got, after a (very) quick skim over with the polish.

1989 Saab 900i Rear Three Quarter View

1989 Saab 900i Front Three Quarter View

The radiator grill has also been changed here for a chromed one which I've had rattling around for about the last five years as I think that suits the car far better.

1989 Saab 900i Automatic Interior View (front left)

Note the paper mats still here from the dealer.  Hoping I can track down some blue original Saab mats to finish it off in there.  Aside from the compulsory sagging headlining, it's pretty much factory fresh in here!

1989 Saab 900i (hatchback) luggage compartment

...Those bumpers *really* needed a bit of back-to-black on them!

1989 Saab 900i Engine Bay (left)

1989 Saab 900i Engine Bay (right)

Have done some very brief cleaning up of the worst grime here, but a lot still to do.  Several vacuum lines have also been replaced as they were either kinked or perished.  Not much else has changed here yet though.

1989 Saab 900i Driver's Door Rust Just Starting

Compared to the doors of the previous two 900s I've had, this is positively factory fresh!  A serious rust-treatment and proofing session will be happening to this door shortly.

1989 Saab 900i Passenger Door - Astonishingly free of rust!

This one too - probably the cleanest example I've seen this one.

In addition to the car itself, I also got an inch deep pile of documents, which I reckon must be pretty much every bit of paper ever to relate to it - right back to the original new vehicle order form and invoice.  Not to mention thousands of pounds worth of invoices for work done over the years, and a service log stamped all the way up to 99K of its 113K miles.  That, and the Saab Owners Club (which I really need to get around to joining now of course!) sticker in the front window suggest to me that this has been a well looked after car which has been the pride of its owner over the years.

Will probably have more detailed summaries and photos of the less pretty bits in the coming weeks - for now, have a wallpaper I spent half an hour putting together...

"A Shadow In The Dark" Computer Edited night time rear three quarter shot of a Saab 900i

Full size version is available on my Deviantart page.

All in all so far however, I am a very, very happy person.  This one will definitely be making its way to a few shows this year.

If this is your car that you recently traded in - hopefully you're happy to know that it's landed in the hands of an enthusiast rather than into the hands of someone just wanting a cheap, disposable car to last them until the MOT runs out as so often happens to cars in this price bracket.


One of the first things I noticed when I got the car was that the front speakers were pretty well knackered, the one on the driver's side in particular far more interested in producing an annoying buzzing noise than reproducing actual music.  They're luckily a pretty standardised size (150mm) so switching them out for something more modern is a pretty easy task, as it's fair to say that speaker technology has come a fair ways in the last 30 odd years.

New 150mm speakers suited to a Saab 900, old on the right, new on the left

There are only really two things to watch out for when doing this upgrade.  The first is that the little plastic lugs which hold the speaker onto the grill tend to be pretty brittle after this much time (the heat from the windscreen demisters probably doesn't help) and break quite easily.  If this happens you'll need to get inventive with how to secure the speaker...The second thing to watch for is that there isn't much clearance between the front of the speaker and the grill - so beware of any speakers which have things sticking out beyond the basket (frame) of the speaker as it may prevent the speaker from being able to fit properly.  In the case of this one I had to make up a cardboard spacer to prevent the tweeter frame (cut out of a used kitchen roll tube) from buzzing against the grill.  Oh...and don't drop the little tube that fits between the heater grill and the pipe up from the heater box down the back of the glove box or it's a pig to retrieve!

During a routine inspection one weekend, I spotted that a bit of the paint at the back of the wheel arch of the nearside front wheel had started to bubble.  Having seen this before, this sight filled me with dread, and sure enough, when prodded with a screwdriver, the bubble turned into an annoyingly sizable hole.

Saab 900i Inner Wing Rust

Thankfully this rust was found to be relatively localised, and a good friend who is a bit of a wizard with a welder was able to get this sorted out for me in next to no time.  Though he did locate some further rot underneath the washer bottle as well (which was leaking) and sorted that out while he was there.

He also spotted that the metal brake pipe running from the flexi hose into the caliper itself was looking a bit sorry for itself, so changed it while he was there.  Turns out the brake fluid was very much in need of a change...this is what came out!

Really manky brake fluid...

No idea when this was last changed, but I reckon it's a lot longer ago than the service documents suggest!  It was given a complete flush following the finding of this obviously.  Didn't actually make any difference to the feel of the brakes really, which were about the most positive feeling of any car I've ever had even when I got it.  Copper grease on the back of the pads though did put an end to the *maddening* squeaking on gentle braking though...traffic jams previously were torture...

It was shortly after this that I ended up with an episode which took the car off the road for the best part of three months, and ended up with a fault finding mission which resulted in pretty much the entire fuel injection system being systematically dismantled and reassembled short of actually taking apart the fuel distributor (though I did dig my spare out of the shed!). 

The fault (which saw me for only the third time ever having to be recovered - towed behind an RAC van on a rigid towing pole thing...one of the most unnerving experiences of my life), exhibited itself as follows. 

The car would start perfectly from cold, and run absolutely fine for 10 minutes or so.  After which the car would start to misfire under load.  This would become progressively worse until the engine would stall.  The symptoms basically pointed straight at fuel starvation.  Cue three months of head scratching, part swapping and swearing.  The eventual cause?  The fact that Intermotor have the wrong rotor arm listed in their catalogue!  I randomly stumbled across one of the original Bosch items in the parts box and as a random thing to try, stuck it on.  The car ran perfectly.  I won't repeat what I said when that happened, but suffice to say that the offending rotor arm got hurled a significant distance from the car.  Oh well, at least I know that the fuel pump and the warmup regulator (which controls the fuel pressure) are new!

June 2013 saw the car have its first proper entry into a classic car show, in the annual classic car show up at Fraserburgh.  So the evening before, the car got a bit of a "spit and polish" ready for the morning.  This was an opportunity of course to take photos of a shiny car at the beachfront in Aberdeen with dramatic lighting...

The eagle eyed amongst you might also spot that the car has had the deeper chin spoiler fitted by this point as well which I think really improves the stance of the car from the front.

Saab 900i on Aberdeen Beach Esplanade at sunset

Saab 900i At Fraserburgh June 2013 Classic Car Show

Saab 900i At Fraserburgh June 2013 Classic Car Show

The lovely 900 Turbo Convertible that I ended up at the show next to was just an added bonus.

Fast forward a few months, and a house move several hundred miles south and a milestone was reached.  I was pleased to be on a quiet side road when this came up, so I was able to snap this photo.

123,456 Miles

One of the niggles I'd had since I first got the car were that the very eye catching stainless steel wheel covers were looking a bit tatty.  It turned out that a bit of Brasso, elbow grease and then a good coating of wax sorted this out...Here's a before and after.

Saab 900 Stainless Steel Wheel Cover - Before cleaning

Saab 900 Stainless Steel wheel cover cleaned

Around that time I had the opportunity to take a few random photographs following the car having a half decent clean, and having the new (slightly brighter than expected) interior floor mats fitted.

It really is an interior design which I can only describe as "timeless" in that it's a design which is very much its own thing...really doesn't suggest as old a design as it is, dating from 1979.  While it might lack some of the "toys" that people think of as essential these days, I still find that it's an utterly pleasant place to be.

Saab 900i Automatic Interior

...Still need to find a black lead for my iPod though...or route the cable (the head unit has a rear USB socket) out the back into the glove box...It bugs my OCD...

Saab 900i Automatic Interior (rear)

Finally for now...have some random photographs from a photo shoot we did at the Bridge of Don Park & Ride site and then Accommodation Road one evening.

Saab 900i Front

I really had never realised until the first time I had someone else following me in this car that the 900 really does have a rather menacing stance to it...

Saab 900i Rear View

...Really need to replace the shredded mudflap at some point.  Anyone got a spare laying around?

Saab 900i Rear View (right)

Saab 900i Front Right View

Saab 900i Side View (taller version)

1989 Saab 900i Profile

Wouldn't be a proper photoshoot without capturing that iconic profile...

1989 Saab 900i Rear Three Quarter View (right)

1989 Saab 900i Front View

I do have a few more updates for this page which I hope to get written over the weekend which will bring us up to date with the story of "The Ambassador" as she is known.  Sadly I've run out of time for tonight though, so about to go and fall into bed!  ...More to follow soon!

Page Last Updated Friday 12th June 2015.


Manufacturer: Saab.

Model: 900i 3-door Automatic
Engine: 2.0 litre (1985cc) 4-cylinder inline, "Slant 4" layout.  (SOHC, 8v with Bosch K-Jetronic Continuous Fuel Injection.)
Gearbox: 3-speed automatic (Borg Warner Type 37).
Power output: 118bhp.
0-60mph: 13 seconds.
Max speed: Unknown.