Last week, I posted an introduction to Lars-Erik, my 2007 9-3 Arc SS. I even posted a video on YouTube showing Lars-Erik in action. But, what I failed to mention is that thousands of miles away, in the country of Switzerland, a set of beautifully crafted high-quality leather handles were being prepared for shipment to the USA, destined to be installed in my 9-3 SS. Hirsch sleeps and breathes Saab.
Their sole purpose is to provide wonderful enhancements to the Saab experience. Something that enthusiasts will deeply appreciate, each and every time they embark on a journey .
It is important not to think of Hirsch as somehow fixing deficiencies in our cars. But, think of it as pairing a fine cheese with an elegant wine (whether the car is the Cheese and the Hirsch add-ons are a wine, or visa versa, may depend on your perspective).
Last week, to much to my excitement, I received the Hirsch door handle set in the mail. This kit includes four door handles, one parking brake handle and a smart handle. All of which are crafted in high-quality leather. The picture to the left depicts my 9-3 after all of which have been installed. The trickiest part of the installation was the parking brake handle.
As the parking brake contains a high-tension cable that serves as a means for engaging and disengaging the mechanism, one has to exercise great care in removing the original handle and replacing it with the new one, all without crippling the Saab’s parking break functionality, in the process. Removing the original parking break handle was a strenuous task that involved damaging the original handle. But, with some patience and tenacity, I was able to get the new handle positioned for reassembly. Just to be on the safe side, I had the local dealership reassemble the parking break handle. In retrospect, that safety measure was probably unnecessary as I had the mechanism aligned correctly. The image on the left illustrates the newly installed Hirsch Parking break handle along side the old plastic parking break handle. As these are high-quality leather handles, they add a rich “new car” smell to the Saab’s interior. It feels excellent in the palm of the hand and blends in quite nicely with the already rich cabin. These Hirsch handles are feel very much at home, and as such, are a wonderful upgrade. The Smart-slot cover was a trivial affair. This was simply a matter of snapping the Hirsch part in-place. Yes, you might lose that “credit-card slot” but, let’s be honest: who actually uses it?
In my opinion: it is simply begging to be replaced with something akin to the incredibly stylish precision-stitched leather that Hirsch provides. By having both the smart-slot cover and parking-brake handle replaced with Hirsch leather casing. And now that takes us to the primary focus of the Hirsch handle kit: the door handles. As the doors of the Saab 9-3 are lined with wonderfully textured leather, it is only fitting that one might want to replace the stock plastic handles with those that which are included in this kit. For us Saab enthusiasts, the slight creaking sound that we hear as our left leg is pressed against the plastic door handle is less than optimal. But, once the handles are replaced, that creaking sound vanishes completely. The end result is a a complete package that has the touch, smell and appearance of sheer perfection. Indeed, Hirsch parts are genuine Saab parts with a high-quality encasing added. But, the end-result is a wonderful blend of Swedish and Swiss engineering. When I was originally considering my purchase of the Hirsch door-handle set, I was concerned with weather or not they would match the Saabs interior. Well, for those who have the same concern: worry no more. These handles are Saabish to the point that they will blend-in and dramatically elevate the appearance of your car’s cabin. In the picture to the left, we see the newly installed handle, along-side stock plastic handle. It’s not too often that someone can add modifications to their car without having that tacky “aftermarket” look to it. Hirsch and Saab are clearly meant for each other. That’s not to say that removing those door handles was easy. In fact, while they weren’t as much of a hassle as the parking-brake handle proved to be, removing the stock door handles required more twisting than many Saab owners would be comfortable with inflicting on their cars. While the included instructions gave a general idea of what needed to be done, when it came down to actually removing the old parts: it was not a pretty sight. I learned very early on that the key is not to worry so much about hurting your Saab. These parts are actually quite robust. Well, they need to be because despite the Hirsch instructions, pulling the handles off isn’t nearly as easy as separating legos. You have to really do some careful twisting and pulling. The screw-driver which is vaguely useful in removing some of the tabs, isn’t nearly as effectively as applying some good ol’ fashion elbow grease. Each handle actually took me about 15 minutes of careful twisting, tugging and sliding to remove them. Once the old piece are removed, their replacement is quite easy, as they slide into place. In fact, that seemed to be a recurring theme of installing Hirsch add-ons: removing stock pieces is hard, while adding new parts is pretty darn easy. Once the entire operation is complete, it is difficult not to feel a sense of accomplishment. The beauty of these wonderful pieces will accentuate the cabin and perfume your car’s interior with the fresh aroma of high-quality leather.
So, what is next in Lars-Erik’s journey towards Hirsch-hood? Brushed-Aluminum Pedals: baby! After that, I may consider either looking at the Hirsch dashboard trim, gear shifter trim, glovebox trim, or possibly even the performance upgrade. And with MapTun as a viable option, perhaps I might even look that direction as well. Either way, one thing is for certain: the possibilities that Saab offers goes above and beyond what you find with other auto manufacturers. Whereas most will content with tacky aftermarket enhancements: Saab is about pursuing excellence, brilliance and perfection.