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Sweet Swede: 1979 Saab 900 Turbo

One of the greatest characteristics of Saab as a vehicle manufacturer was that they were rebels. This brought them into various conflicts, most notably with their parent company when the firm was a fully owned subsidiary of General Motors. It also allowed them to develop and produce cars like the 900 Turbo. This particular 900 Turbo is a very nice example, and it is located in West New York, New Jersey. It is listed for sale here on eBay, and while there is a BIN option of $21,500, the owner does appear to be open to offers. Interestingly, there are 126 people who are currently watching the listing at present, which suggests that there are more than a few people who like a good Saab.

Apart from a repaint of the hood at some point, the 900 is said to wear all of its original Black paint. It has stood the test of time quite well, and the red pinstripe provides a nice contrast. The Inca wheels look perfect on the car, and the owner has also fitted the car with Euro-spec headlights. He does include the original headlights with the car for the next owner. The car also features a sunroof with optional wind deflector, a neat front air dam, and an oh-so-1970s rear window louver. The presentation of the 900 is extremely good, and there really doesn’t look like there will be much for the next owner to do on the outside of the car.

When I initially read the listing description and saw the words ” reupholstered in orange velour with red marbleized vinyl and matching carpets,” I have to admit that I was bracing myself for the worst. The reality is that the combination actually doesn’t look that bad. The interior is certainly clean and tidy, but there are a lot of non-original components and items to get our heads around. The triple gauge cluster in the center console isn’t original, and neither is the Alpine radio/cassette player. The 3-spoke wheel also isn’t original, but the original wheel is included with the car. Saab’s rebellious streak is best demonstrated by the location of the ignition switch. Most manufacturers would locate this in the dash or steering column, but only Saab would choose the center console as the best spot for it. I quite like that. For your comfort, the 900 Turbo is also fitted with air conditioning and the previously mentioned sunroof.

It was when you lifted the hood on one of these Saabs that you realized just how serious the company was about being different. Turbocharged engines were nothing new, but they had previously been the preserve of sports car manufacturers and the motorsport community. Saab was one of the first manufacturers to see the benefit of strapping a “hairdryer” to the side of an engine of a volume production car, and what a success that was. This provided the 2.0-liter Turbo with a 50% power boost over its normally-aspirated sibling, and the Turbo now had 143hp to play with. In this car, that is sent to the front wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission, while the car also features power steering and power brakes. By the standards of today, performance probably doesn’t seem that impressive, but in 1979, the performance of the 900 Turbo made many a motoring journalist suddenly sit up and take Saab very seriously as a producer of true Grand Touring cars. This one appears as though it runs and drives well, and it does come complete with a full maintenance history and service manuals.

When Saab fell from the sky following the Global Financial Crisis, it signaled a sad day for the automotive world. Saab were not just rebels when they were a manufacturer in their own right, but their approach caused more than a touch of heartburn in the halls of power at General Motors. With ongoing take-overs and mergers in the automotive industry a harsh reality, it is doubtful that we will ever see another manufacturer like Saab, and that means that we will probably never see another car as daring as the 900 Turbo. To me, that seems like a real tragedy.


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Very well said, Adam. Most readers will agree with you that GMs treatment of Saab was like it was the proverbial “redheaded stepchild”-no patience and no attempt for understanding of their character.
    More than likely it was with relief and smug satisfaction during The Second Depression that GM cut them out after learning new (different) approaches-after all, Saab has built far better jet fighters than GM ever did!

    And before anyone rants about my apparent contempt for GM, that’s not the case-I realize “it’s just business” but businesses of good character find an avenue of employment for the people it displaces when they close up the shop, though that requires the board of directors to overall have human character themselves.

    Like 6
    • Superdessucke

      ILOL @ how cheap I know their enthusiasts are. He’d struggle to get $2,150 for this. Nice car though, just no market at that price point.

      Like 5
      • Fogline

        Not sure about that. There has been a steady rise in interest in these cars over the last three years and one in this condition certainly is worth note.
        The early 8 V turbos have reputably a fairly bullet proof 4 speed transmission and I can attest to them feeling lighter than later models and a bit more raw in their fun. I have an 80 and 85 900 T and an 86 convertible and all are a different driving experience.
        GL to the owner and new owners of this nice example.

        Like 0
      • Leo

        looks like it sold in the 20’s

        Like 0
    • SubGothius

      OTOH, we have GM to thank for the existence of any Saab models at all after the 9000; if it wasn’t for GM, the company almost certainly would have folded sometime in the ’90s.

      Like 2
  2. Dean

    Good SAAB story, indeed

    Like 4
  3. Eli

    The price is unrealistic. When selling cars in the late 70s through the early 90s I “specialized” In Saab’s. One reason was that hardly any other car dealer wanted them! Although they were fun to drive they were horrible mechanically. Almost all of the 3 speed automatics would fail and most turbos needed replacements. To find a “healthy” example was difficult but they were a blast to drive and great in the snow. Once GM took over the fun was over. I do miss the original Saab 99/900.

    Like 4
  4. Kris

    It was on BAT back in April. It was bid up to $18,500 but didn’t meet reserve. It’s a nice example, but definitely trying to set the bar for pricing. There is a market for this car, but $21,500 might be pushing it.

    Like 0
  5. BTG88

    I’ve owned nine Saabs and currently have a DD 2001 9-3 Viggen and a 1991 900 SPG (Special Performance Group) turbo. Outside of regular maintenance, I’ve had hundreds of thousands of miles of worry-free (and Fun!) driving. Saab – There is no substitute.

    Like 4
  6. SaabVertGuy

    Quite an overly ambitious price on this one! Nicely worded write-up though. I own 2 GM era Saab convertibles, a 1998 900S and a Stage 1 tuned 2005 9-3 Arc. Both have been extremely reliable and beyond a blast to drive. But with that being said, GM did nothing but rape Saab of every innovation and technological advancement that the company brought forth. Then discarded the Swedish brand when times got hard because of the horrible mis-management, policies and philosophies GM had operated under for decades. Most people would be shocked to learn how many first’s Saab was responsible for in automotive history and how much of their technology and advancements made their way into GM cars still to this day. The author is correct, we’ll never see another brand willing to take the risks and buck conventional wisdom, as Saab did, ever again. But again, the price for this 900 classic is in the “crack pipe” category.

    Like 2
  7. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    Shaker SAAB baby ! Fond memories of some really great folks & SAAB enthusiasts.

    Like 0
  8. Tyler

    Looks nice…but how are the headliner and reverse gear?

    Like 1
  9. SubGothius

    The turbo isn’t the only thing remarkably “different” under the hood. The OG 900 and its earlier incarnation the 99 had a Triumph-derived engine mounted “backwards”, with the flywheel in front and crank pulley driving accessories at the rear.

    Like 2
  10. James BANDY


    Yes, yes, SAAB….what an innovation!! I have had four SAAB…all 900s..and one 4000…A friend of mine in Pittsburgh, PA, had 40 SAAB…all beautiful…He was featured in the “Wall Street” journal of his SAABs….Am not sure about GM, I believe ‘they’ were the demise of the SAAB….A Dutch company tried to revive it…to no avail…..Driving my 94 SAAB Convertible today. (Other” The AT were Borg Warner’s…same as in early MB, Jaguar’s, and a host of others….really not a “bad” transmission….my XJ6 has one as does my MB…go fugure

    Like 1
  11. Fran

    One of a few reasons I will not give GM my money, and what they have done to other companies is a disgrace. They are more than happy to build cars in China, opps that’s another reason.

    Like 1
  12. Dan

    Thought I recognized this example – not many like it… it was in BaT, Bid to $18k

    Like 0
  13. Doug

    One thing one must keep in mind about SAABs is the cost and availablity of parts. Back in 1981, I was having some work done at a Swedish car garage – the owner was mainly a Volvo guy, but also worked on the few SAABs in the area. A gentleman stopped in, was having starting problems. The shop owner tested the starter, battery, and alternator. The battery was low, and the alternator was only putting out 11 volts. After several phone calls, no alternators were available locally. He then called SAAB, and the nearest dealer that had the alternator was in San Francisco – at a cost of over $400 plus shipping via Greyhound. ( The SAAB was only 3 years old at the time ! )
    The alternator was a Bosch unit, similar in every way to the ones in Volkswagen Rabbits, some BMWs, Volvos, and other cars, except for the design of the case, which would only fit on the SAAB. If you think BMW and other German car parts are expensive, the economics of scale mean that the cost of something that fits only one car that sells in tiny numbers can become astronomical .

    Like 1
    • BTG88

      The expense of parts beyond the typical European car has not been my experience in owning 9 Saabs. The second half of this old Top Gear video addresses the same “urban legend” as they talk about the 900 as a used car purchase.

      Like 0

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