Want big power for your pound? If so, it's hard to look past something like this week's Shed, an Aero HOT version of the Saab 9-5. 260hp, nearly the same number of torques, no rust, a long MOT, plenty of new bits fitted, and all for the princely sum of £975.
OK, so it was Cat D once, but as long as the repair work was done (as it was here), does that really matter at this end of the used car market? At the last MOT test in August there were advisories for worn brake pads, a worn rear tyre and corroded front brake lines - hardly the kind of problems to launch a public inquiry about. The mileage is high at 170,000, but although the official stamps petered out at 100k we're assured that it's had regular servicing since.
If this 9-5 had been of a certain age, namely 1999 to 2003, you'd have wanted to make sure that the regular servicing was more than just oil and filters, because 9-5s of that vintage suffered badly from engine-killing oil sludging caused by carbon buildup on the sump's oil pickup screen. Saab cured this by bringing in a new PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system in 2004, and our Shed is a 2006 example, so it's fair to assume that sludging shouldn't be an issue here.
What Saab never really sorted out was the coil-on-plug coil pack known as the Direct Ignition Cassette, which is that black plastic banana-shaped doohickey sitting between the valve covers. In simple terms it used the spark plugs as sensors, a clever idea in theory that turned out to be not quite so clever in practice because the component was given to failing. If your cassette failed a bit, you'd get misfiring: if it failed a lot, you'd be immobile at the side of the road with a burny smell in your nostrils. Smart owners kept a spare cassette in the boot for just such an eventuality. Sometimes though it would be the overworked spark plugs that had given up.
A few other things could go wrong on 9-5s, like dirty or deteriorating throttle bodies, wonky engine mounts, coolant bypass valves, fuel pumps, crankshaft sensors, and leaking head gaskets. Inside, windows would drop down and not come back up, HVAC ventilation systems would stop ventilating and SID LCD displays would stop displaying. On 2006 and later facelift cars like our Shed you would also have to learn to live with the GM cabin parts that came along in that year to replace much of the home-grown Swedish stuff.
Thing is though, a 2006 car is quite likely to have experienced some or all of these shortcomings already and will have had good quality fixes applied. This car has had its suspension polybushed and a new steering rack and dampers fitted. The way is surely clear for a new owner to enjoy the built-in core appeal of a car that even GM couldn't completely ruin.
The 9-5's enduring appeal hinges on its outstanding comfort, cargo space and safety and, in the Aero HOT version, storming in-gear performance, with or without the contents of your flat in the back. You can safely tune post-1998 B235 engines to 350hp. Interestingly, the earlier (1990) B234 motor used in the 9000 has legendarily strong internals that will put up with 500hp or more, and Shed thinks there might be a fair degree of interchangeability between the two. Just a thought.
Mr & Mrs Shed owned one of these 9-5s a while back. At that stage of their marriage Mrs Shed was still making an effort. She made a point of checking out the foibles of each new car Shed bought, so that when they broke down (as they invariably did) she would have some meaningful contribution to make, even if it was only to put her 424lb weight to good use in shoving the vehicle to the nearest garage while Shed sat behind the wheel in the warm.
When the 9-5 arrived she found out about the Direct Ignition Cassette thing and immediately instructed Shed to buy himself a spare and keep it in the boot. Unfortunately this led to a terrible misunderstanding on a country lane one dark night when the Saab expired. While bending majestically over the engine bay, Mrs Shed told Shed to pop round the back and get his DIC out. Things were never quite the same for Shed after that. In the right light you can still see a faint imprint of Mrs Shed's skull ring on his forehead.