Shed Of The Week: Saab 9000

'Last of the true Saabs'. How often have you read that phrase? It's generally applied to pre-2000 Saabs, that being the year in which General Motors upped its stake in the company to 100 per cent.

Great white hope?
Great white hope?
Actually, GM began the careful and painstaking process of turning a quality company into a rubbish one some 11 years earlier, in 1989, when it took a 50 per cent share in Saab.

This week's Shed is interesting because it was built in 1997, when the firm was only 50 per cent rubbish, and when Saab was celebrating its 50th anniversary. (Time out: we call them Saabs, but as the vendor rightly points out in his ad, we should be saying SAAB, what with it being an acronym. Stands for Svenska Aeroplan AB, or Swedish Aeroplane Company. Like most folk, we'll be sticking with the popular/wrong 'Saab'. Saab or SAAB, any firm that can create something as mad as this - see 2:50 on - is all right by us.)

Now, where were we? Oh yes, 1997, the year of Blair's landslide election victory, the birth of Dolly the first cloned sheep, and the death of Princess Di. The 9000 had been around for a long time before that though, since 1984 in fact, the year of the miners' strike, the Libyan Embassy siege and the demise of the £1 note.

The last great Saab. Apparently
The last great Saab. Apparently
It was a joint venture with Fiat (the 9000, not the £1 note). Sharing the same Type 4 platform as the excellent Alfa 164, but cloaked this time by the Italo-Swedish partnership of Giorgetto Giugiaro and Bjorn Envall (the 164 was by Pininfarina), it came in saloon or 'liftback' options. It doesn't really matter which, because as we all know, all Saabs have huge boots. Our Shed is the saloon, which is sort of cool. And it's in white, which has recently become the most popular colour for a new car. Just goes to show. Keep those flared pants on hold, they'll come round again eventually.

The LPT (Light Pressure Turbo) on the slant-four 2.0-litre is a sweet option. With something over 1,400kg to lug around - actually not that bad for a big exec saloon back then - 150hp won't give you the whoosh factor of an Aero, but it will give you a feeling that you'll get to your destination, and in supreme comfort too. Yes, it's an automatic, but power rather than any inherent design fault is what tends to break Saab autos. Or the manuals come to that. If the torque converter does go AWOL, that's the end of the game for a £750 car, but with only 73,000 miles up you'd be very unlucky to hit that particular buffer on this car.

The 9000 was discontinued in 1998, so it's reasonable to suppose that our Shed would have been as good as the factory could make them. The direct ignition module is known for failing. Luckily, it's a side of the road swapout: canny owners simply carry a spare. Brake discs can be expensive to replace, but as any bargeman will tell you, the trick with brakes is never to use them. Over time, Saab heater motor blowers can need new bushes, as can a fair few of the suspension components (front lower control arms, steering rack, rear anti-roll bar).

Lightly stressed, lightly used too
Lightly stressed, lightly used too
A loud rattle on start-up means a loose timing chain. If it doesn't quieten down after half a minute or so it probably needs to be replaced. Blue smoke and a louder than normal whistle means either your turbo's nobbled or you're being pursued by the police. Headlamp reflectors get loose, panel bulbs pop, ABS sensors stop sensing and heaters sometimes only blow on max, but everything is fixable.

Bright, sparky women tend to like Saabs. Even Mrs Shed, the exact opposite of bright and sparky, appreciated the clean functionality of the 9000's interior when a misty green one appeared in a corner of Shed's yard a few years back. She said she liked to dust it, but when Shed asked her to dust his broom, all he got was a frosty glare.

The vendor's excited claim of a NEW MOT! (Never Enter Wet Motorways On Thursdays) is obviously a nice bonus. Home servicing on Saabs of this vintage is perfectly acceptable as long as the vendor is a enthusiast, as our one obviously is, having owned this specimen for the last 13 years. The presence of many cleaning bottles in the seatback pockets indicates a loved car and, if the rust free appearance of the underbonnet area is any guide, a solid one too. The snaps are not ideal but there's no obvious sign of brown on the door bottoms, rear sills/arches or screen surrounds. Makes you wonder what the backstory is on the sale. It must be a huge wrench to say goodbye to a faithful servant, an experience Shed is in constant danger of having for himself if he keeps on going the way he's going.

The fact that there are over 4,000 9000s left is testament to their strength and longevity. Simple, honest, and as straight as a school tie in a high wind, this is a smart man's alternative to a leggy Aero at a half or even a third of the price.

Here's the ad.

Last of the True SAABs
2 litre LPT in good condition and owned by us since 2002.White
ONLY 73,600 genuine miles complete with old MOTs and bills.
Main things replaced--- Ignition Tray,2x ABS wheel sensors and drivers door mirror assy.
Serviced by me and still have original SAAB service book.
Drives smoothly and autobox changes seamlessly.
Interior is cloth and is immaculate.No tears or splits or marks.
Tyres in good condition..Its a pleasure to drive and will be a shame to see it go
Driven carefully it can achieve over 35 mpg.It is unmodified and reasonable to insure. This car is driven daily and has been 100% reliable.
Viewing and Collection Worcester Park ,Surrey


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Comments (53) Join the discussion on the forum

  • B'stard Child 03 Apr 2015

    I borrowed a non turbo one from work a while back, manual box and I thought it was going to be awfull - it actually impressed me with a nice box of cogs making the most of the normally aspirated engine.

    I prefer my saloons in German flavour (partic Opel derived) so I feel I must apologise for the dogs breakfast GM made of SAAB

  • rallycross 03 Apr 2015

    not with those wheel trims no thanks

  • VolvoT5 03 Apr 2015

    This one is doing absolutely nothing for me, and I'm usually a SAAB fan.


  • carinaman 03 Apr 2015

    A bright and sparky woman I know doesn't like the bowed windscreen of the 900. That could look quite presentable with some better wheels on it.

  • JMF894 03 Apr 2015

    I owned a 1998 Anniversary 2.0 lpt run out model back in 2006. I spent far too much on it but it was pushing 290bhp and 310 ft/lb

    A simple stage 1 remap will take this motor to 190bhp and they go rather well with it. Just make sure the front bushes are renewed. Mine were totally shot and the front suspension may as well have been held together with bailing twine.

    A days work and a few select polybushes later the thing was nailed down. Replacing one of the top engine mounts with poly tightens it up nicely too but does send a little more vibration through to the cabin on tickover.

    FWIW that motor is good for 500bhp if your wallet can stomach it.

    If you can found one a full pressure turbo 2.3 with auto kicks out 200bhp and has all the bells and whistles. Quite stealthy tbh.


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