I have recently through social media come across a few restoration stories of some great Saabs. Car restoration has always been something that interests me. Mostly the start to finish process, how you can take something in rough shape and make it essentially new or better.
I would love to have as many stories as possible sent in about the step by step process of a loving restoration. It is beyond cool to see what could have in many cases been scrap cars if they had fallen into the wrong hands and to see them beautifully restored to showroom conditions. I have asked a few people to write their restoration stories for us here and hope to have more to come.
Quite often the restoration is something that is more then just a simple restoration story. In some cases, it is a father and son who bond over years of weekends under the hood in coveralls turning wrenches and sometimes like the story below, it is something that step by step is shared with a community who get to see something come to life.
Here is the first of such posts from Chris and the restoration of his classic Saab 900. Thanks again Chris for sharing with us.
Hi Jason, as promised here’s the story of my Saab 900 classic and its restoration.
It is a Flat Front 1985 T16S Silver with Colorado Red Leather interior and 80’s red dash. Mileage is 80k and registration is B707 ABW. Three years ago I completed a full restoration of the car which took just short of two years, I have fully documented the restoration on the UKSaabs forum website. The car was first registered on 3rd May 1985 and I’m now the fourth owner. I’m unsure of its first owner but I believe it was sold by Oxford Saab. The car was purchased from its second owner by a local Saab specialist after losing reverse gear and suffering collision damage to the driver’s front wing, this was in 1991.
The specialist aimed to repair the car and use for himself. He removed the engine and repaired the gearbox, replaced reverse gear and lowered both into the car but never reconnected it or went any further. I bought my first Saab from this trader 14 years ago and remembered the car being in the corner of the workshop back then. Over the years, I always wondered what had happened to the car.
In 2008 whilst in the area, I thought I’d pay the garage a visit to see if he was still trading, as it happens he was at the garage. It transpired that for various reasons he’d decided to close the business, but had still kept the premises. I was amazed to find the car unmoved and nearly complete. I wasn’t looking for a project car at the time as I already had a 1991 900 convertible, but the car was about to be scrapped so I had to step in and save it. The timing of this was not the best as my wife was 8 months pregnant at the time. Thankfully, she was very understanding and after securing the rental of an additional garage to free up my garage, I was then able to relocate the convertible. The car was then rescued and transported to its new home, this was in June 2008.
Once I had it home I was able to assess what sort of condition the car was really in. The engine compartment was full of years of grime with signs of rodents living in there judging by the chewed hazelnut shells, it was quite unpleasant! Other than the engine and gearbox there was quite a lot missing from the engine bay, most of which, thankfully, was in the boot, and although some of the original parts were serviceable, I decided to replace as much as possible with new parts, they did however help me to make sense of what was essentially a large jigsaw puzzle.
Front body – December 2008
The restoration was carried out in a small single garage which was at the top of a steep slope; this made it impossible to move it once the recovery vehicle had delivered the car. Once in place, the car was completely stripped of the front suspension, engine and transmission. With the oily bits removed, the engine bay and front wheel wells were stripped of underseal, it was then onto treating the patches of rust and any loose paint. This was done with an angle or die grinder using flap disks, wire brushes and various other abrasive attachments. With all the rust removed, all the grot spots were treated with a rust inhibiter to (hopefully!) prevent any further corrosion.
With the engine bay and wheel wells treated, it was time to paint these areas. As most of the front of the car was now bare metal, it was first sprayed with a layer of acid etch primer. Once dry, a few coats of high build primer were sprayed and flatted back to get rid of any scouring marks left by the preparation, this took a few attempts to get right. Not content with just the high build primer, I then applied a few coats of stonechip to any areas that could be exposed to road debris before spraying a coat of primer. Once the primer was dry I gave the whole lot a few coats of Saab Silver before sealing the nice shiny base coat with several coats of clear coat. The front underside was then under sealed and finally the front of the car was as good as new. To protect all the hard work, all the cavities were pumped with copious amounts of waxoil.
Brakes, Suspension and Steering
The brakes and suspension were in a very bad way due to the amount of time in storage. The entire braking system had completely seized with callipers both front and back completely fusing with brake disks. The front and rear suspension was in much the same condition covered with a layer of dirt and rust. As the parts were in such a bad way, I replaced every component with the exception of the control arms and original T16S springs, these were refurbished though with springs being acid dipped and then galvanised. The control arms were stripped and re-painted. The steering rack seemed fine so this was partially stripped, cleaned and repainted ready to go back on the car.
With all of the front suspension components refurbished, I couldn’t wait to get them back on the car and start putting things back together instead of taking them apart. As I have already mentioned, this included all new parts, including all the suspension bushes. After lots of online reading of other people’s projects I decided on a combination of standard and poly bushes to sharpen the feel of the car but without compromising the original ride of the car. New front brake lines were fitted with new/recon callipers, disks and pads.
Engine and Transmission
When the car was taken off the road it was only 6 years old and had only covered 77,000 miles. With the engine having stood for so long, I decided to pull it apart to inspect for any wear or internal corrosion. The strip down didn’t expose any problems and the crank, pistons and bores were in perfect condition showing no sign of any wear. The cylinder head was also in great condition but it was stripped to give it a thorough clean and then reassembled with new valve stem seals. The valves were cleaned, lapped into place to ensure a good seal with the valve seat. All the engine components were cleaned, painted and then reassembled with a complete set of new gaskets and seals.
As the gearbox had been repaired with a new reverse gear and new pinion bearings installed, it was just cleaned, painted and re-joined to the engine and then both were reunited with the equally clean repainted engine bay. The original drive shafts were cleaned, painted and refitted with good second hand inner CV’s and brand new outer joints.
A Milestone – December 2009
With most of the hard work done, I had some small jobs left to do before the car could be started and we could venture out of the garage for the first time. In no particular order, a complete new clutch, the original turbo and new cooling and exhaust systems.
The car finally started and moved under its own power in December 2009 after 18 years. It was fantastic to get the car out of the garage and be able to move it around as it had become extremely cramped in the small single garage. The excitement however was slightly short lived as I now had to subject the rear of the car to the same restoration as the front of the car. It may seem a bit strange to restore a car this way, but it was the only way due to the lack of space and access. The rear of the car was stripped, repainted, waxoiled and all reassembled with a mixture of standard and poly bushes, before finally being lowered back onto all four wheels.
Interior, Respray and Reassembly
February 2010 saw the car mechanically complete. This left the final very important job of the respray. Prior to the respray the car had to be completely stripped of all glass, external and interior trim. I had the car professionally painted as there was no way I could carry out this part of the restoration in my small single garage. Should I have tried this and got it wrong it would have made the rest of the project a complete waste of time and money. So off the car went to be prepared and painted its original 172 silver with the body kit returned to its original 176 Anthracite Grey.
With the car at the body shop, this gave me some time to sort the interior. The interior was in fantastic condition and the Colorado leather needed nothing else other than a good clean and feed with Gliptone leather products. The Headlining, although amazingly still attached to the original card, was very dirty so this was recovered. I was even fortunate enough to find in the boot of the car, a full set of genuine Saab mats in a very bright shade of red.
The car spent around 4 weeks at the bodyshop and arrived back with me to be reassembled just two weeks before my deadline of Swedish Day (9 May 2010). I just about made the deadline with the car passing it’s MOT the week before, which allowed me just a few evenings and the following Saturday to complete any outstanding jobs. Needless to say I cut it very fine and completed the car Saturday night, with the event the following morning.
Swedish day and 0nwards
The trip to Swedish day was a 200 mile round trip and was really the very first drive of the car other than the trip to the local MOT station. I was accompanied to the Haynes Motor Museum by my friend Martin Lyons who had just one week previously also completed the restoration of his beautiful 2dr C900 T16S, it was great to see both cars on the road, although slightly nerve racking having had no time to run either of the cars in. Thankfully all went OK and after 19 years off the road and just short of a two year restoration, it was quite a surreal experience to finally drive the car to the event and to meet and talk to other enthusiasts about the car and all things Saab.
Well this was three years ago, Since then I’ve attended several events with the car ranging from some local car rally’s around the scenic South Wales Valleys to local car shows. It’s also attended two Saab Owners Club of GB National’s in years 2010 at Bath race course and at Wickstead Park in 2012 (Wickstead Park is the location of this years IntaSaab, it’s a fantastic location, really looking forward to this) More notably I’ve also attended Swedish Day 2011 with it where it won ‘Most Admired Saab’ as voted for by the attendees of the day and it has also won ‘Astley Saab’s Favourite Saab’ an award chosen by one of Swedish Day’s sponsors in 2012. Both awards were a complete surprise as there are always stunning Saabs at these event’s.
I’ve now clocked around 3000 miles on the car of which most have been reasonably trouble free and very enjoyable. It’s currently dry stored waiting for the beginning of springtime here in the UK (or when they stop putting salt on the roads!) when it’ll be taxed ready to hit the road for what looks to be a busy calendar of shows and meets in 2013.
The entire restoration can be viewed at UKSaabs in detail, here’s a link with lots of picture content http://www.uksaabs.co.uk/UKS/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=45875
All the best