1988 Saab 900i Automatic.
To say this car was in less than pristine condition when I bought it (for the sum of £60!) would be rather an understatement. In fact, it was really rather a mess. Nothing like the image you see above - in fact, rather more like the picture below...and that's after it had a wash and the bootlid attacked with polish.
It had been someone's work car, and had been sadly neglected. Not even having been washed in over five years, never mind serviced. However, I took pity on the poor thing, as it seemed to be relatively free of rust...and thanks to a friend of mine I had a soft spot for Saabs, and if I hadn't taken it, it would probably have been scrapped. No way was I going to let that happen. The whole thing was totally matt, and PINK, the passenger's door had apparently suffered a nasty scrape at some point, and had been painted with, wait for it - red telephone box paint. One of the guys at work had then gone over it with red oxide primer, as that was at least slightly closer to its original colour. I'm glad to report that this door (which was totally rotten anyway) has since been replaced.
A few more photos of the car as I bought it are shown below.
That sand was EVERYWHERE!...and still is in some cases. Reckon the only way I'll get all of it out of the carpets is to actually take them out and attack them with the pressure washer. Something I shall probably do once the car is through its next MOT. I'm not going to mention how many bits of paper (the previous owner should have had shares in McDonalds judging from the number of wrappers I found...) and other random junk I removed - and several dozen golfballs from under the boot floor. The source of the clunking noise I thought was a knackered shock absorber mounting. Also, the fact that the previous owner had a light haired dog didn't help - either due to the clinging blonde coloured fur, or the smell. Thankfully it wasn't a dog that chewed things though!
The grime and faded paintwork were the least of the poor things worries though. It sounded really rather ill - and felt it too. Acceleration was best measured in geological terms, tickover was set to about 2500rpm (which made taking off from a standstill really rather interesting being an automatic!), half the electrics didn't work, the boot didn't open, and the handbrake didn't work, nor did any of the warning lights on the instrument panel for that matter. The fasten seatbelt light excepted - which wouldn't turn off.
The largest worry was caused by the extremely loud mechanical ticking coming from the top of the engine. Given the state of the oil, the fact the poor thing sounded ill wasn't really a surprise. I'm sure that's what crude oil is meant to look like - not engine oil. Two oil changes later (one to flush the worst of the gunge out, and another with a cleaning additive in - then good oil in!), and a new filter helped a lot. The engine still ticks, and I intend to get the top cover off the engine and take a look shortly to find out why - but it sounds a lot healthier than it did, and never got any worse again in a good few thousand miles.
The lack of acceleration was caused by a combination of a throttle cable with nearly an inch of free play in it, an air filter that was a solid oil-soaked mass, and spark plugs with a gap that had widened to nearly 1.2mm. We won't even go into the state of the distributor cap or the rotor arm...or the HT leads - which I had to replace with some spares of mine the first time they got wet. Unfortunately I didn't have a matching set though - hence the mixed colours in the later photos.
Idle speed seemed to have been set so high due to the fact that the engine had a tendency to stall when cold before - given all the other things it had to contend with, not a surprise! A simple readjustment was all that was needed here.
This engine deserves a medal I think for the fact that it was running at all in the state it was in!
Reattachment of the famous Saab 900 earthing point down behind the radiator cured most of the electrical problems, aside from the oil light which needed a new sender, the no charge light which needed a new bulb, and the wonky offside headlamp wiper - which still has a mind of its own to this day. It's on the to do list!
A good service under its belt, and the car was running much better. So much better in fact that I started using it on a daily basis to commute to and from college. A slight tendency to run warm occasionally was cured by fitting a new thermostat - the original had fallen apart. At this point in time, aside from the maintenance and a tertiary clean, little work had been done. Several months of faultless performance then followed, until a missing drain grating did in one of the balljoints. Cue me making a trip home on the back of an RAC truck. D'OH! Thankfully, the damage was limited to the balljoint itself, and the inner CV boot which was torn to bits when the driveshaft was pulled out.
While this didn't take long to sort, I'd had the insurance and everything transferred back to the Niva, so the Saab sat on the driveway, just patiently waiting to be used again. The MOT then expired, I discovered a couple of CV boots had split, and time moved on.
Then guilt set in. The poor thing deserves to be back on the road. So the always leaky radiator was replaced - which led to a nearly three month delay while I waited for a new radiator hose to be sourced (if you have an auto, for goodness sake, do NOT damage the bottom radiator hose!).
The work to get it roadworthy again is definitely under way now. The new radiator's in - the few dozen bits I've nicked off it in the year it's been sitting waiting for me to fix it have all (I think) been replaced, the new passengers door is on (soooo lucky to have found a perfect passenger door in the right colour...even with the correct colour trim!), and a few certain bits of work have been identified as needed for the test. Firstly, both outer CV boots, these were already known. Unfortunately, there are holes in the bottom of both driveshaft tunnels...a real pig to weld up as half the suspension has to come apart to do it. Still, I feel that the car is well worth the effort.
Unfortunately, despite working
on and off on the car for a year or so - eventually I had to concede
that the rust on this particular example had gone just too far, when I
discovered that it had managed to dissolve a good portion of the main
crossmember at the front, and the area around the upper wishbone mounts
had almost completely dissolved on the offside.
While a good number of useful
parts were salvaged by a friend for use on his 900, the car itself has
since been scrapped - which is something I always hate doing! I
just had to admit defeat on this occasion though - it was really just
beyond resonable repair.
Not a happy ending
really...especially as it was my first Saab, and to be honest one of
the best driving 900's I've ever been in...sometimes though, you just
have to admit defeat.