After a disastrous end to my previous Saab 900 Convertible, a white 1988 900 Turbo model (see the end story here), I’ve been searching for my next 900 ‘vert. The criteria were clear: turbo, manual transmission, no 1987 cars, no rust. Good condition and performance goodies desired. I was not opposed to a fixer-upper, but it had to be the right one.
After seven or eight months of looking on-and-off (and considering a couple of 9-3 convertibles and one Jaguar XJS convertible), I’ve found and bought the one that I’ll have for life. Or as long as possible, anyway.
Behold, my new (to me) 1991 Saab 900 Turbo SE convertible.
As you can see, the 1991 900 Turbo Convertible Special Edition has the lower body kit. What you can’t see is that it also has the “redbox” performance EPC and is lowered slightly vs. the standard turbocharged 900 models. These differences transform the car, especially in the upper revs and on the twisty roads that I may seek out from time to time.
It’s done 137,000+ miles, but the car has been immaculately maintained (thanks, Jon!). Everything that didn’t work was promptly replaced. It’s got a new heater valve, tires, catalytic converter and fog lamps. Under the hood, it’s pretty original. Everything except the cruise control works, including the factory alarm. It even has the original stereo with the equalizer/amplifier upgrade with a 6-CD changer in the trunk.
I found my new 900 convertible on a national auto classifieds web site. Since the car was located in Minnesota I didn’t pursue it right away given that it was 950 miles (1500 km) from my home. After skipping over the car for a couple of months and trying others within reach of my normal travels, I got the opportunity to drive my future 900 while I was in on a rare trip to Minneapolis during the short Labor Day week. I made Jon an offer the next day, and he graciously accepted.
Now that I’d bought a Saab in Minneapolis, how was I going to get it back to Nashville? I briefly thought about having the 900 shipped, but I figured that I could easily drive it home. In fact, the more that I thought about it, it seemed to be a perfect way to spend a mid-September weekend. Why not drive 950 miles across the Heartland in my new convertible? I cashed in a free ticket that I had lying around for a one-way flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul for Friday night. Greg Abbott, regular reader and all-around great guy, volunteered to give me a Saturday-morning ride from my airport hotel up to the western suburbs of Minneapolis to pick up my new Saab. Double bonus: since Greg’s a lawyer (that’s Esq. to you), he helped to reassure the previous owner and me that we’d filled out the title transfer correctly. My photo is also his handiwork.
I loved driving it back from Minnesota, which took the better part of two days. That’s mostly due to the distance, but partly because Greg lined up entertainment along the way. That’s another story that’s coming up soon.
P.S. Anybody want to buy a slightly used 1988 Saab 900 convertible with electrical issues? Call me!
More photos after the break.
As you can see, there’s a weekend’s worth of cleaning under the hood and a couple of minor fixes down the road, but there’s the money shot: the Redbox.
Post Script Re: 1987 models —————————
This question has been asked twice now, so I feel compelled to explain in full here. The classic Saab 900 was built from 1979 until 1993 with some of the 1993 cars leaving the Valmet plant in the 1994 model year as convertibles.
As you may know, 1987 was the first year of the “facelifted” 900. The one with the slant front rather than the “bull nose” flat front. It was also the first full year of convertible production. 1987 cars are thus a bit of a mixed bag — some of the parts that were destined to change in the newer cars were still hold overs from the older cars. The primary examples are:
Turbocharger: 1987 models were oil-cooled only as their predecessors were, but 1988 and later are water cooled for better bearing life.
Wheel hubs: 1987 models had the same wheel hubs as the 1979-1986 cars while the 1988-1993 cars had the wheel hubs from the 9000. Your choices of wheels are reduced a good bit if you’ve got a 1987 convertible.
Handbrake: 1987 models use a handbrake on the front wheels like the 99 and early 900’s, and the newer cars had it in the rear. This fact is often the short hand to designate the old vs. new, e.g., “It’s a front-handbrake car, so those won’t fit.”
Braking system: The 1987 900 had the braking system in use since the later 99 or early 900, but the 1988 and forward models had the improved braking system from the 9000.
While we’re on the subject, there are reasons to like and dislike the 1988 model, too. The 1988 is the last year with the ‘small’ pinion bearing, and it’s also the last year (in the US) without air bags or anti-lock brakes. So, depending upon your point of view (whether you see the additional equipment as a bonus or a hassle to maintain), the 1988 model can also be less or more desirable. I’ve heard both.
I’m happy with the 1991. That’s the bottom line for me.