Well, I’ve done it. I’ve really decided that it’s time to move on from my 1988 Saab 900 Turbo Convertible and find another 900 convertible to work on and keep running.
Generally speaking, the car needs a great deal of work, and the body is just rough enough that this 900 simply won’t ever be as good as I’d like it to be.
As those of you who read my post in the waning hours of Trollhattansaab.net, I got quite a surprise from my wife while I was attempting to fix an unexpected electical issue that had cropped up just before Christmas. To summarize, I had been victimized by a complete electrical failure (completely black) returning from the airport in mid-December in the convertible. Once I found the time and conditions to work on the car, I diagnosed the problem and got the car running well enough to take a quick test drive. During the ensuing minutes, my wife confessed that she’d reversed the jumper cable polarity accidentally while using the 900 to jump start my company-owned Chevrolet Impala while I was out of town the week prior to the failure.
Naturally, the damage from that episode was much greater than I had aniticpated. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
On top of all of that, a local used car dealer had a 1994 900 Convertible on the lot, and I drove it today. It’s a much better car than mine, and it’s priced about the same as the cost of my total estimated repairs. More to come on that.
What’s wrong with the car?
Well, plenty. To run properly, the car needs a voltage regulator (diode), alternator, power steering pump, a new battery. It will also need a new fuel pump in the very near future if that little buzzing noise tells me anything. To handle properly, the car needs new front shocks and bushings at a minimum, and the ball joints are the originals and should really go. To make the car drivable in wet or cold weather, the cabin vent fan should really be operable. FInally, to legally register the car, I’ll need a new windshield since the current windshield has an 18-inch (450 cm) crack right up the middle. It seemed that the cabin vent fan, windshield and fuel pump all started to go in the same week early last August when the temperatures were unbearably hot.
Cosmetically, my 900 convertible has a few rust issues, and it needs some body work in the right rear quarter panel (courtesy of the previous owner). The convertible top motor/pump should be rebuilt and the windows are very slow. I’ve re-worked the switches once, and perhaps that would solve the issue once again, but my visual inspection of the window regulators shows a good deal of rust, which I expect will require some work and parts. How much, I’m not exactly sure.
Additionally, the right front headlamp components have disintegrated, I guess due to being twenty-one years old with a strong assist from the heat radiated by the nearby turbocharger. In a similar fashion, the flexible vinyl dash fascia peeled last summer. I have a replacement already in hand.
Finally, the front seat skins are done. I’ve got a widening hole in the driver seat back that will a couple of inches wide by the beginning of this summer, and there are places on both front seats where the finish is rubbing off a little bit every time you sit.
Of course, none of these things by themselves is a killer; I’ve kept the car this long with the intent of fixing all of these things as I could find the parts and the time. Once the extent of the electrical issues became known and simulataneously the power steering pump started sounding like squirrels in a blender, it was time to seriously take stock and estimate the time and money required to fix it.
How much will it cost?
I’m not exactly sure. I know pretty much the minimum that it will cost to fix, and that’s enough to put it over the edge.
As you can see from the below spread sheet, I’ve estimated that the parts for the “must do” list alone will cost very close to US$2,000. I’ve estimated that I’ll need to hire my indy Saab shop to do some of the work and I’m sure that they will want more for the parts than I can get them for elsewhere.
If I include even the lowest estimate for the remaining work, the total comes to over US$3,000. More realistically, that will creep up to about US$3,500-US$4,000. We’re now in the ballpark for a whole, running car.
It’s truly amazing, once I looked around, the quality of some cars that are available at good prices. Because it’s only about three miles (about five kilometers) from my house, I went to the lot and drove this car today. It’s a Eucalyptus green 1994 Saab 900 S convertible with an automatic transmission. It proves that I can do better for about the same money as I would spend on repairs.
It’s not the quickest car that I’ve ever driven, but it’s in very nearly perfect condition and they’re asking only US$3,871!!
Everything works. Everything. The A/C has been converted to R134 and it appears that the front seats have new leather on them. Not a speck of rust. Not even a little. There are no rattles, the handling is MUCH better than my 900 (I need those shocks!) and it sounds great driving down the street. The only things that this car needs is the twisty electric seat fix, new door inserts and a dash cap and it’s done. 100% perfect. Even the factory remote and alram system still works!
But did I mention that it’s not the quickest car that I’ve driven? Even though the condition is impressive, I’ll be shopping for a turbocharged and 5-speed-equipped of similar age. It may cost another US$1,000, but it’s worth it!
Vive la C900!!