No Reserve Driver: 1992 Saab 900 S

There’s something reassuring about finding a classic car that its owner offers for sale with a complete service history. That is the case with this 1992 Saab 900 S, and its overall condition helps explain why it has already attracted some strong interest. It is a turn-key proposition with only some minor cosmetic issues that the buyer could choose to address as time and circumstances allow. If an interesting European classic has been on your radar, you will find the Saab located in Palm Springs, California, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has already passed the reserve to sit at $5,500.

I’ve always found it sad that Saab collapsed in 2016 because it was a manufacturer with a history of producing interesting and groundbreaking cars. Cars like this 900 exhibit a styling trend that evolved from their “99” model that emerged in 1968. Our feature car is an excellent example of the breed and presents well in its original shade of Silver. The paint shows no evidence of deterioration or patchiness, while the panels appear to be as straight as an arrow. The original owner ordered this car with a factory sunroof, which is a nice feature to have on a sunny day. It is a classic that has a couple of attributes that increase its appeal to potential buyers. The first is that it has lived its life in California, which features a climate that tends to preserve classic steel. The second is that this vehicle’s rust-free status comes as no surprise due to Saab maintaining a consistent build quality and standard for both export vehicles and those destined to withstand the rigors of a harsh Swedish winter. It is refreshing that the exterior plastic shows no significant deterioration, despite its exposure to the UV rays that are part of life in its current location. The original alloy wheels are in good order, while the glass is close to perfect.

When we delve below the surface, we are confronted with this Saab’s strongest selling point for potential buyers. Its engine bay is occupied by a numbers-matching 2,119cc four-cylinder engine that produces a very respectable 140hp. The power finds its way to the road via the front wheels and a five-speed manual transmission. Considering its modest engine capacity and power output, a ¼ mile ET of 16.8 seconds is respectable for a vehicle of this type and size. With 137,000 miles under its belt, it is not what I would class as a low-mileage survivor. However, this is where we strike its strongest selling point that I previously mentioned. It seems that the owner is meticulous about record-keeping, and he holds a complete service history that dates back to Day One. This will allow potential buyers to confirm that it has been appropriately maintained throughout its life. The owner recently rebuilt the steering rack and reports that there are no fluid leaks or other nasty issues for the buyer to tackle. This Saab runs and drives well and is waiting for its next owner to rock up and drive it away.

I’ve mentioned the quirky nature of Saab products, and the interior of our feature car is home to one of these unique quirks. Most manufacturers locate their ignition switch on the steering column or dash, but Saab marched to the beat of a different drummer. That is why this car is one of their many offerings that located the ignition switch on the console between the seats. I have seen this confuse the inexperienced, but it is a small part of this brand’s DNA. Overall, the interior of this 900 looks inviting. Its most significant flaw is a seam separation on the base of the driver’s seat. This is pretty big, but I believe that an upholsterer might be able to return it to a presentable state. There are a couple of other alternatives for the buyer to consider. They could source a set of replacement front covers in the correct shade and grain of leather, which will cost around $800. The other would be to find some high-quality slipcovers to hide the damage. That last option will probably be the cheapest, and I suspect that it is the one that most potential owners will choose. The cover on the glovebox door is lifting on the corners, but the next owner could glue this back into place easily. Beyond those flaws, the interior presents well. There are no other rips or tears and no wear worth noting. The car comes nicely equipped, with a driver’s airbag, ice-cold air conditioning, power windows, power locks, and an AM/FM radio/cassette player.

The collapse of Saab signaled a moment when yet another iconic brand disappeared from our new car markets. There have been some attempts to revive the brand, but these have proven fruitless. I would love to think that something will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, but that looks doubtful. That leaves cars like this 900 S to wave the flag for the brand, and their bulletproof reputation means that this car could be doing that for decades to come. Therefore, if you would like to become the proud owner of a quirky European classic that combines comfort with surprising performance, maybe this is one that you should consider carefully.

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    These are nice driving cars. Saab leather was always a little weak compared to its European rivals. Problem areas to look at in this 92. Head gaskets were a problem as well as cylinder block deck corrosion, timing chains and tensioner so listen to the engine on cold start for the chain slapping on the valve cover. The 92 has the best transaxle of the classic 900 but listen to gear whine in 3rd-5th gears on accel. If you hear that then the pinion bearings are failing. Very expensive and new parts are NLA. Finally make sure the clutch pedal pivot pin for the clutch master cylinder isn’t sloppy. Causes clutch to fail to fully release and the reverse idler gear becomes damaged. Again another very expensive repair with NLA new parts. Reverse should engage with no clicking noises when backing up.

    Like 11
  2. John Harmer

    I have owned 2 Saab 900 and they are a real joy to drive. Saab put the key in the middle because they didn’t want you to cut your leg or knee on it incase of a collision. Mine had a electric fan that sometimes would come on after it was parked. I had a job once at a Chevy store? And the mechanics would talk about the guy who owns 2 Saabs!

    Like 4
    • SubGothius

      Also the anti-theft feature of removing the key locking it into Reverse, rather than locking the steering wheel off-center like most other cars.

  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Very nice example and with prices of these classic 900’s on the rise the price isn’t too bad.

    As said above, the reason for the ignition key in the center of the seats is for safety. Everything about the 900 (and the 99 before it) was about safety. I can’t tell you the number of cars I’ve seen in a bone yard where they’ve been in a header or corner hit, or hit from behind or even t-boned, and the cabin is for the most part intact.

    Quirky? Yes but only because they don’t fit the “norm” of what we expect in a car. The engine mounted backwards and on top of the transmission (which also doubles as the “oil pan”) is one of those “quirks” that have many mechanics roll their eyes and say walk away from this but I can tell you that there’s nothing better than doing a clutch job insitu without separating the engine from the transmission. This is another safety feature btw. Saab engineered it this way so that in a head on collision the passenger wouldn’t end up with the engine in their lap. There is a rubberized couple link in the shift rod as well which breaks and the energy of the collision is forced under the car with the engine/transmission package…which allows for a braking effect as well.

    The massive curved windshield offers the driver maximum viewing and all of the switches and controls are designed to keep the driver’s eyes on the road. Yes there are some weaknesses. One big weakness isn’t so much about the car but about the way people drive them, and that is the transmission and primarily the drivers. There’s a lot of flex in the internals and case when you tromp through the gears and that is the biggest reason for failure. But every vintage car ever built has one or two fatal flaws. Saabs get a bad rap mostly because people buy them and don’t understand them. They’re not for everyone but neither is a Spitfire

    I could wax on for pages about both the engineering marvel that is a Saab as well as the ease of wrenching on it…but I won’t. The only other thing I’ll add is these are absolute beasts in the winter. Put snow tires on all four corners and there’s no storm you can’t conquer. As good as the best suv’s and better than most. I’ll always make sure there’s at least one c900 and/or 9000 in my garage and driveway

    Like 8
    • JMB#7

      My aunt who lived in Upstate New York always drove a Saab. As you have stated, they perform fantastic in snowy conditions.

      Like 2
  4. SaabGirl900

    You can still get a lot of parts from these cars from places like Goldwing Saab in upstate New York and English Swedish Spares in Georgia. I believe that Orio, the parts company set up by the Swedes after Saab gasped its last to provide parts for these cars, is reproducing the fenders and other hard to find, formerly unobtanium parts for the C900.

    As far as driving them, I have 5 C900s and each has her own personality. I’ve got an 8 valve Turbo, an SPG, a Turbo convertible, a 16 valve Turbo and a 16 valve 900S. They are unstoppable in the snow, especially with studded snow tyres (a must up here in the mountains of New Hampshire).

    Prices for these cars are starting to rise; formerly, an S would be considered a donor car for a less fortunate Turbo. Now, the S has come into its own. At 137,000 miles, this car isn’t even broken in. My SPG has nearly 400,000 miles on her chassis, but for the tinworm attacking her floors, she would still be on the road.

    Very nice example of the marque and should not last at that price!

    Like 3
  5. JMB#7

    I know this is “off-topic”, but I would like to hear from anyone who has done an EV Conversion to a Saab 900, or 99. It has several advantages that would make it a very good candidate for conversion. I am particularly interested in the drive & battery configurations and final weight.

  6. DayDreamBeliever Member

    “Sold” at $6500

    • JMB#7

      Someone got a good deal. I would have paid that if I did not have to go to travel that far just to inspect it.

      Like 1

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