I don’t think I’ve ever done this full listing before, so I figured it might be high time to take you through an historical list of the Saabs I’ve owned.
My Saab journey started in the early 1990’s with a ride in a friend’s 1986 Saab 9000 Turbo. It took a few years before I finally got my own, though.
Late 1990s – 1972 Saab 99E
I reckon it was 1999 when I got my first Saab. Unfortunately I’ve only got two photos of it. They’re both on paper and despite spending an hour or so digging through various albums, I just can’t find them anywhere right now.
My ex-wife and I were pretty surprised at how nice it looked, actually, because we bought it from a vehicle wreckers’ yard for $1,000. It had a red velour interior – hot! – and an automatic transmission. We got the car home and literally stripped the interior bare and cleaned the car within an inch of its life. What we ended up with was something we were both pretty proud of as it really did shine.
Unfortunately, it had a pretty short life with us. The same ex-wife took it to work one night and when she was leaving, she backed it out of a carport with the door open. The door hit one of the poles holding the roof up and bent right back on itself.
The door was useless, as was a lot of the sheetmetal around the hinge. We were quite poor at the time and the repair would have cost a lot more than what we paid for the car. Of course, looking back, I really wish we’d fixed it, but we didn’t.
2000 – 1979 Saab 99 Turbo
My first turbocharged Saab!
I bought it on a Saturday for $400 from a painter who lived here in Hobart. He’d been trying to sell it for weeks and if hadn’t bought it that day he was taking it to the wreckers on Monday.
It had a dead gearbox, and when we got the car going we found that the turbo had seized as well, so it took a few dollars to fix, but it was worth every last cent. Words can’t describe how satisfying it was to sit inside that green velour interior, hit the gas and feel that turbo spool up for the first time.
It had a rare, dealer installed sunroof. It was mirrored glass and slid back to open.
I actually owned this car twice. The first time I held it for around a year before becoming enchanted by the idea of owning a Saab 900 (see below). I bought the 900 just after the ex-wife and I separated and being suddenly single, I had neither the space nor the money for two cars, so I put the 99T up for sale.
I can still remember looking out the window the day the buyer came to pick it up. The two cars were parked together in the street and as good as the 900 looked, I couldn’t help but think “what am I doing?!?”
I still sold it, but Tasmania’s a small place. As it turned out, the guy who bought it was the son of a former work colleague. He kept my number and a few years later when he wanted something newer, he called and I jumped at the chance to buy it back.
In the two years that he owned it, he put another gearbox in it, a new windscreen and a 3-inch exhaust. I got it back in slightly better condition than what I’d sold it.
I drove the car for another few years, lugging music equipment, family members and anything else I could throw into it. It was an absolute joy to own that car and I’ve been pining for another one as fun as that one ever since. It was no show pony, but it was a car that I had a deep connection with.
Eventually, the gearbox started ticking in second gear. 99 gearboxes are hard to find at the best of times, so the car went off to Bill H’s Saab 99 retirement farm. I’d started a blog about Saabs by this time, and I figured I should get a more serious Saab 🙂
2001 – 1986 Saab 900
I love Saab 900s, but I have to say I’ve never had a great relationship with either of the 900s I owned.
This is the car that I bought when I sold my white Saab 99T the first time. I was so eager to get into a 900 that I was willing to overlook the fact that it was a 5-door and an automatic.
Despite some of the driving disappointment the auto brought to the table, the car was very comfortable to drive and I actually lost my drivers licence for three months because I was enjoying it just a little too much!
When Mrs Swade and I got married, the 900 became her daily driver (I’d just bought the 99T back by then) and everyone enjoyed having such a unique vehicle around. The young-un’s were actually quite sad when we decided to trade it on our first Saab 9000 because the 900 was such a cool car to look at and they enjoyed getting dropped off at school in it 🙂
2005 – 1999 Saab 9-3 Viggen
When the gearbox on my white Saab 99T failed, I figured it was time for a more modern Saab and at just six years old, my 9-3 Viggen was the newest car I’ve ever owned (I’ve still never bought a car younger than six years old).
A vehicle check with the transport authorities uncovered the fact that the car had been written off a few months earlier, which was something the seller hadn’t disclosed. After having it inspected and satisfying myself that the car was OK, I used the write-off as leverage to get a few more thousand dollars off the price.
I adored everything about this car. The color. The shape. The interior. Especially the interior. For me, aside from the 99T that had captured my heart years before, the Saab 9-3 Viggen was the ultimate expression of Swedish aggression. It was mad. Loopy. A car that could literally kill you if you weren’t concentrating (and if it weren’t so safe).
The downside of the Viggen (and any other NG900 or 9-3) was the fact that you have to spend a fair bit of money getting the chassis up to a high enough standard to do the engine justice. I did most of the usual suspension and steering modifications and the car became a true joy to drive.
I’d just started out on the quest for more performance when I took the car to a driver education day at Baskerville Raceway, where I totalled it on the second last corner of my last lap for the day.
A year-long battle with the insurance company followed (I won) and the car was eventually sold at auction to a guy in South Australia. He fixed it up and sold it earlier this year to a guy in Sydney, who I just happened to meet at a dinner full of Saab friends in Sydney. Once we figured out the connection it made for a very interesting conversation because Wayne (the new owner) hadn’t been told anything about the car’s write-off status either!
Apparently car was repaired well and Wayne’s having a ball in it.
I really miss that car.
2007 – 1985 Saab 900
Whilst the Viggen was down for the count, I needed something to get around and when I heard that a friend in Sydney was selling this 1985 Saab 900 Turbo, I jumped at the chance to get it.
Simon A was a guy I’d met on a previous trip to Sydney and I knew that he had immaculate cars. He has a Saab 99T in Cardinal Red that’s still one of the best 99s I’ve ever seen. This 900 wasn’t up to that standard, but it was still pretty sweet.
It was actually built in early 1984 and my mechanic, who was into Saabs up to his ears at a new Saab dealership at the time, recalls a number of vehicles in the same color combination coming to Australia as demonstrators for the launch of the 16 valve engine. Apparently they were supposed to go back to Sweden after the launch, but vehicle tracking in the mid-1980’s wasn’t as reliable as it is now, so a few of the cars stayed here and were sold to private buyers.
I know most people probably prefer the ’88 or ’91 models but for me, the pre-87 flatnose models of the Saab 900 look really cool and I absolutely loved the way this car looked.
It drove really well, too, most of the time, at least. It had an intermittent fault where it would just lose power, then stutter and die. A few minutes later, all would be well. It could happen at start-up or at 100 km/h on a highway. I gave the car to my mechanic to keep for a week and drive like it was his own and he never had a problem with it.
The car had the APC removed and a manual boost control valve installed, as well as a three inch exhaust. It sounded superb. Without doubt it was the best sounding Saab I’ve ever owned myself and one of the better ones I’ve ever heard. When it got going (and stayed going) it was a difficult car to top.
Eventually I tired of the intermittent problems, sold the car (to a guy who blew it up racing a Nissan Skyline) and decided a newer Saab was what I wanted once again, so I set off on another quest for one of my favourite Saabs.
2009: 1999 Saab 9-3 Monte Carlo
I loved the Monte Carlo from the first time I saw one. They were a limited edition – just 195 units worldwide (known as the SE Sport elsewhere) and only 50 in Australia.
Each of the Aussie cars was numbered and I was quite pleased when I found out that mine was #9 – some Saaby significance there.
I bought the car in Melbourne for an extraordinarily cheap price, but then it did need a little fixing. The original Monte Carlo wheels had been replaced with some very tired looking Saab 9-5 wheels, so they were the first thing to go, being replaced with some 17-inch five-spokes from the 9-3 Sport Sedan, complete with brand new Conti rubber as well (a great story, that).
The car’s also been upgraded with a Hirsch ECU, sterring rack clamp and brace, a carbon fibre dash panel a-la the Aussie Viggens, some Viggen dampers, a Hirsch stainless cat-back exhaust system, a custom made front brace and a rear anti-roll bar from Taliaferro.
It still has some paint imperfections, but yes, it’s nice.
- Our two Saab 9000s. The first one was written off just a few weeks ago and we’ve just replaced it with another one. No photos yet. Both of these were/are my wife’s daily drive.
- A Saab 99T in Cardinal Red that I only had for a few months. It’s now owned by a young guy named Simon L and you can read about it here. It’s an exceptionally good example.
I’ll try and dig out a photo of the 1986 900 5-door tomorrow.
That’s a few cars in just over 10 years. And you can add a Mazda MX-5 and two Alfa Romeo 33s to the pile too!