Sub-60K Miles Turbo: 1979 Saab 900

Among the potential project cars that are perpetually on my list of Gee, I’d like to own one of those someday is the first-generation Saab 900 Turbo. This 1979 example is not only the first iteration of the classic turbocharged hatch, but it’s also a fairly low-mileage example with just under 60,000 original miles. It’s also unmodified and looks like a solid basis for an amateur restoration. Find it here on eBay with bidding over $1,800 and no reserve. 

Amazingly, this one has been hiding in a barn in New York State for 30 years – and it doesn’t appear to be terminally rusty (like some cars I own…) Even better, all of the cool bits that make a first-gen Turbo a Turbo are still attached, from the rear hatch spoiler, to the badges, to the classic “Inca” wheels and headrest pillows. There is some cosmetic damage to sort out, but nothing catastrophic.

The Saab 900 cockpit is sort of like the aircooled Porsche 911: it remained very consistent up until its ultimate replacement, and is a comforting sight, like the whale tail on a turbocharged 930. The three-spoke sport steering wheel was another Turbo item that is great to see here, but the best news is that the dash remains uncracked. The one upside to long-term barn storage? No constant heat-cycling of a cold car, wherein the cabin heater causes the cold, brittle plastic to break.

The engine bay isn’t the prettiest site right now, with surface rust staining throughout. The seller confirms it does not run and it sounds like no attempt has been made to start it. Currently, bidding is more than cheap enough to take a chance on a mostly rust-free 900 Turbo like this one. At some point, supply of these cars will dry up and good ones will certainly command a premium. Buy one while they’re cheap!

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Comments

  1. stillrunners

    From the engine compartment picture it does look like it’s been out and about in a eastern winter or two.

  2. DLM

    Actually, the first generation was a 1978 Saab 99 Turbo, pretty similar but not the same. I had one, bought it wrecked lightly in the front, fixed it. Enjoyed it and traded for a 65 Corvette coupe.

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  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    This one being in my wheelhouse, I will give it some critique…initially, to the write up. This is not the first turbo Saab…it’s the first Turbo 900, 1979 being the first year for the 900. The 99 turbo had already wowed the automotive world.

    First, there are only 3 Inca wheels the other likely being cracked or bent long ago. Cool wheels. Some of my favorites, but prone to bending. Second, no way I believe the mileage claim. It is a VERY common issue for these to have the odometers quit working, even as early as 30K miles. The gears separate because the plastic housing cracks with age. Also, there is bound to be rust on this…under the faux “driveshaft tunnel” is a big place. Floors. Control arm mounts is another. Wheel arches as well.

    With the H engine, be prepared for a frustrating water pump replacement should it ever give up…if it hasn’t yet. It’s gear driven and a royal pain to replace without the Saab tool.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love Saabs. I have now and in the past owns a carpton of them and will drive them as long as I can. The 900 is a cool car to drive with your foot in it. With the hatch and the seats folded there is a full 6 feet of cargo space. I’ve hauled washing machines, plywood, you name it in the back of a 900. And in the snow, these are as good as any SUV, maybe better than a lot…and I say this coming from a decade of Full Size Jeep ownership.

    5
    • Geoff

      Correction on the engine; it’s a B engine. The H engine came out in 1981 and includes a more traditional water pump 😃. I actually don’t mind the B engine water pump. As long as you use the special tool they can be rebuilt using parts from McMaster-Carr.

      Regarding the dash, the 1979 and 1980 dashboards rarely crack. I guess they may have been made with a different material. Interestingly in Sweden none of the dashboards crack – possibly due to the different levels of sunlight.

      I agree on the mileage in regards to the possible broken plastic odometer gears but I have found a few of these early turbo cars that were parked with low miles and when they were restructured it turned out that their odometer were functional. The cars were parked because of mechanical failures that scared their owners or mechanics: bad turbo, broken gearbox, botched water pump replacement.

      2
      • wuzjeepnowsaab

        You’re right Geoff. B Engine is what I meant.

        The odometer can indeed be repaired to fully functional. I’ve done it on more than a few. I enjoy these early 900’s. They’re very “grunty” compared to the 16v at lower rpm’s The dual vent hood is a nice look and the carry-over seats from the 99 are nice as well

        I’ll also add that the dash if uncracked along with the turbo logo on the glove box door are worth the price of entry if it doesn’t get too higher

        1
  4. RH Factor

    I owned a lot of 99’s in the seventies. All fun cars, but expensive to maintain and I did my own work. Learned a lot about them.

    1
  5. Fogline

    Wow – non- running 8v turbo bid over 2k. Guess I should pull my 80 out of the bushes and put it on eBay.

    I agree that these 8v motors with the less loaded up on all the toys bodies are pretty darn fun. I have a 16V ’85 that is fun but the power is different. The mechanical fuel injection may have been what put my 80 on the sidelines and is very expensive to replace, though I just saw on Wheeler Dealers where they rebuilt a unit for under $100 so might give that a try. I didn’t know that the 79 and 80’s had less crack inclined dashes. That is interesting but think mine is pretty cracked regardless. There have been a couple of uncracked dashes that sold not too long ago for around $2k which kind of tells you how rare they are and how needed for a good restoration.

    Oh – and if anyone gets this and needs a new 8V motor let me know as I have two that are supposed to be low mileage that look a lot better than this one sitting in my barn in California.

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  6. Bob in Bexley Member

    Always a SAAB story.

    • spartanpride

      Booooo!!!!

      1
  7. Bryan W Cohn

    I owned a ’79 Turbo very similar to this for a short time and a later ’84 4 dr 900 sedan as my daily, followed by a ’85 900 2 dr hatch. The ’84 and ’85 both died of rust around the front suspension mountings. On the ’85 we patched it together and took it rallycrossing till it gave up the ghost due to rust. Took maybe two events for that to happen…..a fitting demise I think.

    The Turbo was a fun car, hauls 4 people or everything you own with the seat down.

    I’ve wondered if the solution to the water pump problem on the early cars would be modern electric water pumps. Anyone tried one?

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Bryan, I’ve seen electric wp kits for these b engines. Not sure how well they work though

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