Half-A-Million Miles: 1983 Saab 900S

Typically, we celebrate iconic cars wearing astoundingly low mileage, but today marks a bit of a reversal. This 1983 Saab 900S has racked up an incredible 560,850 miles yet remains in cosmetically-sound condition. Even more surprising is that it’s turned up in the hands of a used car dealer. Find the well-used Saab here on Frank’s Used Autos for $4,995.

Wearing a faded shade of cranberry paint, the 900S looks impeccable up and down the sides, with tight shut lines and no major dents. Wheels remain OEM, as do the bulky U.S.-spec safety bumpers. Although older Saabs has a reputation for longevity that its younger counterparts did not, the mileage tally seen here is still quite good for any vehicle. No word on what sort of maintenance history its had.

The interior is even more impressive than the exterior, with bucket seats that look like new and all of the trademark Saab features still in place: three-pod gauge cluster in the console, aircraft-like dashboard, heavily-sculpted bucket seats, and even a set of OEM carpeted floor mats that are included with the sale and stored in the luggage compartment.

Pictures show a well-stamped maintenance booklet, and a box in the hatch labeled as “Small parts” that formerly housed OEM car seat covers are all clues that point to committed enthusiast ownership. This shot of a super clean engine bay reveals a motor that looks far better than half-a-million miles would suggest. Cars rarely show up with this kind of mileage and in this sort of shape, so I hope this early 900s continues to enjoy obsessive ownership.

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Comments

  1. That AMC guy

    These cars have two achille’s heels – RUST and TRANSMISSION. The car will tend to rust in the area where the drive axles go through, and also the rearmost control arms on the twist axle can pull away from their body mounts due to corrosion.

    The engines will run for hundreds of thousands of miles with any kind of maintenance but the transmissions are very weak and prone to catastrophic failure. Back when these were new the turbocharged models in particular would blow out the transmissions regularly. If the trans whines in the upper gears it means the pinion bearings are shot and transmission death is not far behind.

    • geoff

      This car has the low power non-turbo 8 valve engine. The transmission, if well cared for, should be good for a quarter million miles. Its when they’re paired with the turbocharged engines and people powershifting and doing other silly stuff that they fail early. So maybe this gearbox has only been replaced once or twice? Not too bad in a half a million miles!

      • GeoffF

        I guess that is why Saab had that shift light on the dashboard. And my name is also Geoff!

    • Tyler

      As a Vermonter with a love affair with old 900s, I am all too familiar with the rust around the drive axles! Makes changing the half axles fun when you go to unload the springs according to the manual’s instructions and the opening crumples!

      An experienced Saab mechanic is a necessity if one wants to keep these on the road (unless one has the skills and time themselves)! Mine could rebuild a transmission with his eyes closed, and knew all the tricks (like flipping the reverse idler arm to buy a few thousand more miles out of the gear).

      I haven’t owned one in almost a decade, but I do get wistful whenever I see one (which is less and less as the ones around here succumb to rust).

  2. local_sheriff

    I grew up in a SAAB family , personally I’ve never really been attracted to them. Yes, they are ‘different’ but also somehow awkward to work on, at least when you’re no pro and used to work on FR cars only.

    Grampa’s last SAAB was a very similar 86 900i with 3spd AUTO(!).That, plus a special order paint and a sunroof was only options; no PS! I’m 6feet4 and could never find a comfortable driving position in it , and for such a light car it truly sucked gas.I measured its 118hp 2liter would drink as much as the rebuilt 300hp 327 in my 64 Impala. Go figure out which car was coolest to drive for a 20 year old…

    SAABs still deserve historical attention for being ‘different’, especially after GM slaughtered the brand. They’re just not for me

  3. Darren Krimminger

    Being the owner of 2 currently, I am glad to see this 900 classic still soldiering on. Yes they’re quirky, weird and considered hard to work on but true fanatics of this brand look at mainstream cars in the same light. Wish this 900 was in my area as I am in the market for an OG900 to go with my NG900. Thanks GM….Born from Jets, killed by A**holes!

  4. Steve Bush

    The dealer selling the Saab says on its website; “We work for the Lord.” Lord Vader, perhaps? By the way, I wouldn’t pay more than $500 for it. Perhaps someone will pay $1000.

    • Mountainwoodie

      “We work for the Lord.”

      Well everything is on the up and up then. No worries.

      • Neal

        Lol!

    • Robert

      Always thought the Saab looked a little quirky. But the owners I’ve known seem to swear by them. Here’s proof. 560,000 miles

  5. Stevieg Member

    In my late 20’s, back in 1999, I went to Phoenix for my first time. My sister & her hubby moved there a couple years prior & kept harassing me to come visit, telling me I would love it there (sure enough, 20 years later I am still trying to finance the move out there.. I need to quit buying cars & motorcycles lol). Anyhow, my plane landed & I worked my way to the car rental agency.
    I had reserved a compact car. When I got to the window I was told all compact cars were gone, they would upgrade my car for free. They gave me the choice of a Subaru Outback or a Saab 95. I chose the Saab. Turned out to be a turbocharged sedan, brand new with & never previously rented.
    During this trip I was to be driving to Vegas. Obviously, I took the Saab. Back then, Interstate 17 didn’t exist from Phoenix to Flagstaff. At least not that I knew of lol. I took the back roads to Vegas. A bizarre route that I can not now find for the life of me. It took me through the mountains on roads that scared the hell out of me. Switchbacks, no guard rails, just terrifying to this city slicker lol. I also took a case of beer with for both the ride out & the ride back. That is a large detail for this story lol.
    I made it to Vegas, not being a gambler or into strip clubs, I was bored. I’ve been to Vegas since & have had a way better time.
    On the way back, my beer & I worked our way through the mountains. Occaisionally, there would be straight desert highway between mountain roads. On these straightaway roads, there were no speed limits back then, so in my Miller Light induced fog I would let that turbo Saab engine have a lashing. One of these times coming out of the mountains I let her have it. Problem is, I had downshifted to low 2 for engine brake reasons. I forgot to upshot out of low 2. I got that engine up to 75 or 80. I couldn’t figure out why the car would slow down so drastically whenever I let off the gas lol.
    I came to some small town & noticed the oil light flickering while cruising @ about 35 miles per hour. I turned down the volume on the stereo & heard “the knock” lol. I knew what it was. I look down & realize I am in low 2. I shifted to drive & the oil light stopped flickering…it was now just “on”.
    I made it back to my sister’s house & used my brother in laws car the rest of the vacation. The day I was to fly out, I washed the car, vacuumed it nice & drove to the airport. When the attendant looked @ me funny because of the noises the car made, I told him it sounded like that when I picked it up. I grabbed my luggage & walked away. This is my Saab (sob?) story lol. I hope you all enjoyed it!

  6. Stevieg Member

    Oh, the Wisconsin Auto Museum in Hartford Wisconsin has a 1,000,000 mile Saab almost identical to this. 1 owner prior to the museum taking possession of it.

  7. geoff

    Jeff, those aren’t “US Spec” bumpers. They’re global spec. SAAB didn’t make different bumpers for different markets. The Swedes pride themselves on safety, they wouldn’t undercut safety in certain markets and favor it in others.

    That car sure looks clean if the mileage is correct. But I believe it. I watched Peter Gilbert when he drove his 900 SPG over the million mile mark and that car was in pretty good shape, all things considered.

    But is a base model 900 with a half of a million miles worth $5K? Only if someone is willing to pay it, I guess.

    • Numbe

      Bugger – I thought I’d get to be the wise guy about the bumpers… ;-)

  8. Robert Thomas

    That’s the same price I sold my 1985 Saab 900S for in 1992 with 121,000 miles.

  9. Karl Sisson

    I’m surprised no one mentioned head gasket failure. Quite common on these Saabs. Found out on Saabnet they need the Mercedes type antifreeze to solve the problem.

    • Geoff

      I used to work as a SAAB mechanic. I worked on 99s, c900s, 9000s, and ng900s. The only head gaskets I ever replaced were on a cars with over 250k miles on them.

  10. BTG88

    I’ve had classic Saab 900 cars all my life (currently own a 1991 900 SPG – Special Performance Group – turbo). They are fun, unique cars that do a lot of things well. The design can be polarizing, but versus many other cars of the era, the design holds up well and still seems futuristic. They are built like tanks. The doors, when closed, sound like the locking of a rifle bolt and the passenger compartment is a extremely solid place to be. As Jeremy Clarkson said “No one could figure out why SAABs were so expensive – until they crashed one.”

  11. BTG88

    Oh, and the paint color is called Rose Quartz. A unique and interesting color. This car could probably use a polish and a wax, but it is not a “faded cranberry” color.

    • Geoff

      No, rosequarts is more silver. I had two rosequarts 900s.

      • BTG88

        Yes, you are right. I was thinking of the color of my Dad’s 1988 9000 turbo. Maybe that one was Carmosine Red sort of a plum with gray undertones. Pretty color that changed in different light.

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