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Summer Driver: 1992 Saab 900 Turbo Convertible

Now’s the time to sell a convertible if you’ve got one in the driveway taking up space. Summer driving season is upon us, and cars like this 1992 Saab 900 Turbo convertible represent an ideal way to cruise with the top down without having to take out a car payment. The seller’s car features the preferred combination of  the manual gearbox with a turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood, and the top is said to be in great condition. Find the 900 here on craigslist for $7,900 and located in Denver.

The 900 is a fast-appreciating example of a classic 80s and 90s European car, from the era that provided all the beloved quirks of a Saab before GM took over and began slowly dismantling the company. Saabs of this generation weren’t part of some global chassis-sharing scheme; Saabs, like their owners, marched to the beat of their own drum. With attractive styling and interesting details like the clamshell hood, Turbo “twist” wheels, jetfighter-inspired cockpits, and room for four, the 900 convertible definitely stood out from the crowd.

But not in a bad way, mind you. The 900 was the choice of college professors and retired grandmas alike, so it had broad appeal in certain parts of the country. The 900 can still be found in places like New England and the Pacific Northwest, although the latter is far kinder to the occasionally-fragile sheet metal. The 900 isn’t necessarily prone to being a rust bucket, but the fenders can perish, and like any convertible, rust in the floors can be an issue if water gets inside the body cavity when the top is down and is allowed to stay there. This 900 features a pretty tan and black interior; if it has a crack-free dash, that’s a miracle in and of itself.

As mentioned earlier, the turbocharged four-cylinder is the way to go, as a naturally-aspirated engine came standard. However, check out that red box in the bottom left of the screen: that’s the upgraded APC, or Automatic Performance Control, unit that controls boost pressure. It’s a desirable OEM upgrade and combined with the three-gauge cluster in the bottom of the center console, I’m willing to be this 900 has a few more tweaks that the seller either takes for granted or doesn’t know his car has. All told, this looks like a fun package for reasonable money. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Mark K. for the find.


  1. alphasud Member

    That’s an attractive price for this car. Models after 1990 have the best transaxle with the large pinion bearings. A/C will most likely need the hose set at the compressor. Definitely not a deal breaker. Things to check when looking at this would be timing chain rattle and head gasket for leakage. Make sure the transmission shifts smoothly and check for gear whine while in 4th and 5th gears (pinion bearings). Also make sure reverse engagement happens without grinding and there are no clicking noises when backing up (chipped reverse gears). Common issues are ball joints, stabilizer bar end links and shock bushings. Engines leak oil from the V/C and head gasket, crank pulley and oil pump O-ring. Transaxle oil leaks are shift rod seal, axle driver seals and O-rings. Power steering return hoses leak. Lastly check for coolant on drivers floor indicating a bad heater control valve. Very seldom issues with convertible top and hydraulics, window switches but make sure the ignition turns freely and shifter locks in reverse due to soda spillage. Last of the real Saab cars.

    Like 22
    • Tom

      Wow. You sure know your stuff! Very informative. Thank you.

      Like 3
  2. -pete-

    Made in Finland, Uusikaupunki city

  3. SaabGirl900


    I thought that Saab upgraded the gearbox in ’89. We swapped out the grenaded autobox from my ’90 ‘vert and installed a five speed from a too-badly-wounded ’90 Turbo coupe. The coupe had a zillion miles on it, so the fellow who did the work for me rebuilt the gearbox. He said that it had the larger pinion bearings, but everything was so worn, he replaced everything.

    And yeah, sadly, C900s do rot. My beloved ’88 SPG is sitting in the back yard with no driver’s floor……the tinworm attacked the left fender, went into the rocker and then slowly ate the floor from the rocker to the shifter. Part of the issue was that the former owner got popped in the fender and, instead of replacing it, he had it repaired, probably to avoid the cost of having a new fender welded in after the old one was cut off. We think that the tinworm got its start there, and it was off to the races after that….

    Great cars……I have 5 C900s…………

    Like 3
    • alphasud Member

      You are right 89 saw larger pinion bearings but other enhancements were made to improve shift feel like synchro design. I want to say 91 was the last of the refinements but I’m fuzzy as that information was learned long ago when I went to school for them.

      Like 1
  4. MarveH

    I only recently got into SAABs, my first a 1983 900S 8V non-turbo, I bought sight unseen and drove it 1600 miles home without incident 3 years ago. I now have an 89 900 Turbo I bought out of an abandoned storage unit.
    I’m sorry I waited so long to get them. They are wonderful cars, well engineered and quirky enough to feel special. I only wish I got into the 95’s and 96’s in the 1980s and 90’s when they were cheaper.

    Like 1
  5. SaabGirl900


    The C900s are completely different than the 95s and 96s. C900s are quirky, but the two digit cars DEFINE quirky. They’re fun to drive, but can be very needy (not that C900s can’t be needy, but it’s a different sort of needy).

    If you want quirky and forgotten, go out and find a 99, especially an early one. Kind of a mix of the 95/96 and what would later be the C900…….

  6. charlie Member

    Great cars. But, also look for rot in the front struct towers. Many went to the junkyards because the cost to repair, if possible, was more than the car was worth, even this variety of turbo convertible.

  7. SaabGirl900

    I know that the C900 got the 9000’s brakes in either ’90 or ’91 and, of course, the airbag in ’90. I can’t tell you how many airbag cassettes I’ve had to replace in my ‘vert because of a bad wire in that ribbon that connects to the clockspring. Funny, my ’90 coupe is still on her same airbag cassette.

    The rear shocktowers rot out faster than the fronts….up here in salty New England, we’ve got body repair folks that have paid mortgages on the repair of rusty Saab shocktowers. My 99 Turbo would be on the road but for a rotted out left rear shocktower…….

    Like 1
  8. CRW Member

    My first is (still got it) a 5-door gearbox 99, covered a gazillion miles; a 1984 3-door 5-speed turbo, a 1989 5-speed turbo C/V and a 1993 3-door with A/T. Most need work, but would only sell the ’93.. Biggest problem is rust in the laminated front door window frames, chase it but can’t stop it, and rusted front floor pans in the CV, as said earlier. Membership in the SAAB club on line is a must for solutions.

  9. SaabGirl900

    Actually, the most valuable thing a Saabista can have is a tech that really knows how to work on these cars. They have so many quirks and foibles, that your average tech is lost before he can even begin. My ’02 9.3 is a perfect example of a Saab that was taken to a tech that did not speak Saab fluently. I have never seen so many MacGyvered wiring harnesses in a car…ever. Someone was trying to chase an issue with the lights in the car… looks like they tried to put a jump wire in…..and the problem was actually the ignition switch. Replace the switch…..and now there are lights. Half of the cash that I’ve spent on the car is to fix the things that were done in an attempt to fix a larger issue. Shmaden on the valve cover gasket to stanch a leak…..glue all over the exhaust system because a replacement downpipe was 1/4 of an inch short…..and it gets worse when you look at the older cars…….more quirks and fewer folks know how to work on them. Alphasud…as a tech, I’m sure you saw all sorts of laughable repairs on Saabs and other foreign cars…….

    All ‘verts up to and including the real 9.3 (2004) were born in Uusikapunki….after that, the GM cars were built in Graz, Austria. All of the Viggens came out of Uusikapunki and most of the 99/C900 five doors came from there. How my SPG ended up being born there is a mystery to me….

    • alphasud Member

      With a 9-3 a factory level scan tool is a must since just about every switch input works through a module. Much easier than a 1988-89 Saab with a ABS concern. No self-diagnostics and a ridiculous break out box tester that requires 2 techs to diagnose. Fortunately we found a work around by installing a 1990 ECU and a grounding wire to get basic blink codes. My friends 9-5 Aero I sold him 8 years ago needs his A/C diagnosed. Easily accomplished with Tech 2 with Saab software.

  10. SaabGirl900

    You are so right….anyone who tries to work on anything from a NewGen on up is dead in the water without a Tech2. I think that’s why my ’02 was so badly MacGyvered……no one knew what they were looking at and they were trying to repair a quirky Swedish car using the same techniques that they use on American made cars. Doesn’t work very well!

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