Talladega Red Survivor: 1990 Saab 900 SPG

One of the more surprising trends over the last few months among 80s-era collector cars is the surge in values for the classic Saab 900. Not all 900s, mind you, but the limited production models like the special edition convertibles and the high-performance trim line known as the SPG. This 1990 Saab 900 Turbo falls into the latter category, as it’s a real-deal SPG wearing a desirable color known as Talladega Red. The SPGs are considered the holy grail of collector cars among Saab fanatics, and this one listed here on eBay has under 100,000 miles and appears to remain in very original condition.

The current bid is $16,900 which hasn’t caught up to the seller’s reserve price. This isn’t surprising as genuine SPGs have been selling comfortably over $20,000 for some time now. I don’t think anyone necessarily saw this coming because even though enthusiasts will freely admit the SPG is a compelling package, Saab owners tend to not see their cars as being enormously valuable. In fact, up to a year ago, you would see clean SPGs trade hands for under $15,000 without batting an eye. The seller’s car is in excellent, original condition with nicely preserved leather seats and a crack-free dash.

The SPG got a few performance upgrades from the factory but it didn’t dramatically increase output over a standard turbocharged model; still, as we all know, any model that has been tuned up by the factory and sold with a warranty when new generally becomes a sought-after model. The turbocharged Saab 900 is an interesting car, as the power delivery is definitely peaky compared to a naturally-aspirated model, but for a four-cylinder front-driver, it’s still a compelling driver’s car that offers plenty of grin-inducing rips away from a stop light. The seller notes that recent servicing includes fresh fluids, recharged A/C, a steering bearing replaced, a new passenger side axle, and a new radiator.

The 900 also comes with some desirable accessories, like these OEM rear window louvers. The seller has made an almost required upgrade in the form of the 16-inch “Super Aero” wheels that came on the 9000  Aero sedan, replacing the standard 15″ SPG wheels. Overall, this is exactly how you want to find a genuine SPG if you’re in the market for a turbocharged 900, and while you may have missed the boat in terms of the point in time when these were $10,000 cars, there’s still an awful lot of value here in terms of the low cost of ownership relative to other vintage European cars and the uniqueness of a 90s Saab product – there’s really nothing like it.

Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    A number of years ago I found a Talladega 90 SPG for a friend. It was also a low mileage example and I mechanically restored it for him before I had it shipped out to Colorado. He absolutely loved that car and only recently sold it after 10 years of ownership. These are special cars and I’m glad to see they are finally starting to be recognized in the collector market. I’m not a red car guy but I think Saab nailed it with this color. They also made a few in Monte Carlo yellow which also stands out and is desirable. When I was at the dealer I worked on a one of one SPG convertible in Malachite green.
    These are durable cars but the challenge now is finding someone who knows them and is able to work on them. Parts are also becoming a challenge to find for some items. Reproduction parts are available but no where near the factory in quality.

    Like 10
    • BTG88

      Note that there were never any SPG convertibles. The closest to this was a 1988 ‘Springtime in Sweden’ package, but this was cosmetic only and only came in black.

      • alphasud Member

        Opps, you are right it was not a convertible. For some reason I was thinking it was. I know it was a special order in Malachite green. You have to forgive me that was 28 years ago working as a Saab tech.

        Like 1
  2. mike

    Very nice Saab.Great color.Saab was good company before GM got involved.

    Like 8
    • alphasud Member

      Actually the acquisition by GM wasn’t all bad. Saab was in dire straights in the late 80’s due to inefficient production practices. They needed the cash infusion to keep going. I do agree however the Opel Vectra chassis as a basis as the NB 900 was a mistake. The 9-3 and 9-5 cars were really good products which still offered a good mix of Saab traits to appeal to traditional buyers. They did go off in the weeds with the 9-2 and 9-7 vehicles. How many quirky car companies have been able to survive today? I can think of many that didn’t.

      Like 5
    • Mitchell

      GM in general had have no clue about leading brands like their
      successful competitor FORD did and do with Aston Martin, and
      partially with Jaguar. FORD then is known as a manufacturer
      of throw-away cars (as they self stated back in 1970 after a huge
      fire burned down their spares warehouse near Cologne, Ger-
      many). Even they own the competencies and capacities to
      build much better cars then they actually do. Except FORD GT
      and the Mustang from 2004 onward.

      Anyway, former GM leader Jerry Smith said for the company
      the shareholder value is their point of interest and not primary
      to build good cars. Anymore explanations needed? I dont think.

  3. wuzzjeepnowsaab

    The acquisition by GM killed the company plain and simple. The *reason* was Saab pre-GM was a design and engineering manufacturer and GM is a business. Not saying that Saab could have used a little more business “chops” but GM could have left it alone.

    Good example: a Saab 9000 took over 100 man hours to build. GM reduced that to 30 to build a 9-5, but the 9-5 was never the car that the 9000 was from an engineering standpoint, a build quality standpoint, a performance standpoint.

    Like 6
    • FireAxeGXP

      I thoroughly disagree. Having owned both a 900 Turbo and a 9000 Turbo, both of which I loved, ( in fact the 900 T was my absolute favourite car ever until my Bonneville came along) I have a neighbour who owns a 2011 Saab 9-5, and that Turbo 6 is superior to my old Saabs right down the line. I hated to admit the truth but things are what they are and not what we, nor nostalgia vision, a WISH them to be.

      Like 1
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    As to this beautiful Tally SPG, that uncracked dash, the nice front seats, the louvres all make this a big dollar getter. SPG’s had an upgrade in the springs plus the “aerodynamic” cladding along the bottom but that was pretty much it for the Special Performance Group. Some got a “red box” upgrade to the APC controller which bumped the hp from 165 to 170ish (actually an easy tweak to make to any control box)…but, the Saab turbo in general was never really meant as a performance upgrade (like Porsches for example). It was initially designed and added to get more out of the middle band range of the engine. Which it did.

    Like 2
  5. wuzjeepnowsaab

    My other comment didn’t stick, but more or less, yes GM killed Saab. Saab was an engineering and design company. GM is a business and as a business, Saab couldn’t make it work to their favor

    Good example: It took Saab 100 man hours to build a 9000…GM cut that time to 30 hours for a 9-5 but the 9000 was 10x the car a 9-5 would (or could) ever be. Saab lost money on every 9000 that drove off the dealer lot but they believed in the car (it was a halo car for them) and hoped popularity would grow….but it never did

    Like 5
    • alphasud Member

      Show me the document that claims the Saab 9000 took over 100 man hours to build. I can’t find it. I don’t think any 900 or 9000 took that long to build. I want to say the original 900 was in the 60-70 hour build time.
      Regardless of build times you mention the 9000 several times. I owned a 86 9000 turbo as well as a pair of 97 9000 Aero models. The 9000 wasn’t even a true Saab. It shared it’s platform with Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Lancia. Customers who owned a 86-92 9000 got to know their mechanic well. Squeaks, rattles, oil leaks, weak ZF transaxles, A/C issues, head gaskets, timing and balance chains, traction control issues 92 and up with their overly complex throttle body set up.
      I went through all of that but I was happy because I made good money working on these cars. I have also owned and worked on the 9-5 model that replaced the 9000 and it is 10X the car the 9000 was in every way. They had issues as well as any other car in the luxury segment.
      The original 900 however was a true Saab. You can blame big bad GM but I ask the question again. Name a manufacturer who has been able to keep the true essence of a eclectic car company excluding exotic’s and stay viable to a consumer? This is why there will always be classic cars and statements like “they sure don’t build them like they used to”. It’s a sad reality

      Like 3
      • BTG88

        While the platform development started as a joint venture, Saab ended up going their own way when the parameters and metrics for their requirements did not match up with their partners. The Top Gear episode on Saab’s demise discussed this.

        Both my Dad and I owned the 9000 turbo – 1988 model years. Both were fantastically performing cars that went over 300,000 miles with only routine maintenance. Sorry your experience was not as good.

        Like 1
  6. SaabGirl900

    I’m with you, Alpha. I had a base 9000 (I think it was a ’91…it could have been a ’92, tho) that had all sorts or weird things going on with it. It’s the only Saab I’ve ever owned where the doorlocks froze………and, in that model, the alarm system was tied to the driver’s door lock. I can remember crawling into the car from the hatch, getting it to start, and then watching the hazard flashers blink constantly on my way to work. I ended up having to pull the fuse for the alarm system (which was the factory system from Saab) and wait for the doorlocks to finally thaw before I could put everything back together again and drive the car normally. The phantom cooling leak, the weird rattle that we could never find in the back end. It’s the one Saab I do not miss.

    Now, having said that, to my knowledge, Saab never offered the C900 ‘vert in Malachite. Eucalyptus and Beryl, yes, but not Malachite. And, I never recall the SPG being offered in Monte Carlo yellow……the C900 SE convertible, yes, the SPG, no.

    Driving a C900, especially an SPG is a hoot. They are incredibly fun to drive on twisty, turny roads……incredibly tossable, but they always let you know when you are starting to reach the limits of your abilities before you end up on the roof. My beloved ’88 SPG and I saw many, many, many miles of real estate…..in point of fact, before I retired Edwina, she had almost 400K on her chassis. The tinworm has attacked her floors, and she sits, forlornly, down in the underbarn, waiting for me to hit the lottery and spend many cubic dollars to bring her back to life.

    It’s not just the SPG that is prized by Saab people….the convertible has really come into its own as well.

    Not surprised that the owner has had to replace the right inner drive…..it sits right under the exhaust downpipe. The heat bakes the grease right out of the boot and ruins the joint. I have the downpipe in my ‘vert wrapped in heat tape to try to keep the joint together……but I fear that when Fiona sees pavement again, a new inner drive will be in the cards.

    Beautiful car! I can see the price heading north of $20K easily!

    Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      I corrected my statement above it was a Malchite green SPG not the convertible. I worked on a 900 turbo convertible in Monte Carlo yellow that had the SPG appearance package. I think the customer also installed the Red Box and fuel pressure regulator. The tech next to me was all giddy about the green SPG as he knew the story behind it but I forget after 28 years. My 86 9000 was just a loose rattling 9000. The first year had all kinds of teething issues. My 9000 Aero’s were really solid and fun to drive. The seats were the best.
      We had Alfa Romeo as well and you could see the similarities in the structure. Funny thing was Alfa used the same ZF transaxle in their car but we never had one fail. The 9000 turbo on the other hand we stocked replacement units. A lot wouldn’t make it to 60K.

      • BTG88

        The SPG only came in Beryl Green in one year – 1991. Never in Malachite Green. Other colors for the SPG production years of 1985-1991 were – Edwardian Grey, Black, Taladega Red and in 1988 there was one special order of Silver – as an homage to the silver Saab that the author John Gardner had as James Bond’s personal car (not a Q branch vehicle) in three novels written in the 1980s.

        Like 1
      • alphasud Member

        I also stand corrected in my color remarks. malachite was a lighter green that was a popular color for Saab but it never found it’s way on a SPG. As soon as the Beryl color was mentioned a dormant synapse fired.

  7. BTG88

    Jeff – The fun of the power in the Saab turbo is not about “rips away from a stoplight”. The low first and second gears and the turbo lag limit that capability. It’s really about acceleration in the 40 – 100 mph range in third, fourth and fifth.

  8. John Eder

    As a former SAAB 900 owner (900 convertible- great car), I can’t believe that no one has mentioned their fragile manual transmissions. I babied mine, but sold it to a young Honda Civic (which I have also owned) driver unfortunately. Despite a demo ride and countless warnings (“don’t shift this like your Honda…”), first gear did not survive 24 hours with him. It felt like I had given my dog to a bad home…

    • BTG88

      I had the transmission in my ’91 SPG rebuilt at 200,000 miles. They can last, if you don’t try to speed-shift it, and change the fluid once in a while. A rice-grinder it is not.

      • Mitche

        Thus are not automatics. There is a clutch to proper shift.

  9. SaabGirl900

    Alpha–

    I hate to nitpick, but the ’91 SPG was Beryl…..in point of fact, the only two models you could get in Beryl Green were the SPG and the ‘vert. My ’90 ‘vert is Beryl…..it is believed that she was painted that colour to test public opinion. She was never supposed to leave Scandinavia, but she slipped onto a boat and out of the country and is here in my barn.

    I had a friend who had a gorgeous Beryl SPG…….the car was clean enough to eat off of. He put a red box in it and it was near perfection……and then he sold it to buy a ’97 Aero. Go figure.

    I have had friends who swore by their 9000s….and an equal number who swore AT them. I think it had to depend on what day of the week they were built……..Wednesday afternoon cars held up better than those that were built the Monday morning after Midsommar…………

    • alphasud Member

      Not nitpicking at all. I need to go look at the colors as I might have my greens mixed up. Either way if it was the Beryl green they were really rare and the tech who was so exited to see it might have been wrong to think it was a 1 of 1. I might need to pull the humble pie from the freezer and cry in my beer for dinner.😩

  10. wuzjeepnowsaab

    @Alphasud, 100 man hours. At least that is what I’ve been told by a few Swedes that worked the lines in Trollhattan. And while the chassis was a joint effort as you say, Saab went all-in on their design with features – safety and power/handling – that the Alfa-Fiat-Lancia never matched. Well other than the Lancia Thema that is…WITH the caveat that even with the 8 cyl Ferrari kissed engine it barely beat the Aero in side by side road tests.

    Slam the door on a 9000 and do the same on the others. Right in that little ‘seat of the pants’ measure you can tell the difference in quality. Saab added reinforcements all through the car that were designed to protect occupants. I have pictures of 9000’s – one the where the back end was pushed almost to the back seat and the front end that was pushed almost to the windshield and the occupant walked away. In fact that one was a friend who hit the wall on a cloverleaf on ramp, first with the front and spun 180* to hit the back. I have c900 photos, some taken by me in a boneyard and some from friends’ cars showing the same in-tact cabins after accidents. I myself took a header in a left turn by someone who ran their red trying to time my arrow. Bag went off in my face but other than the front end being folded everything else was untouched (other than the bag). And that was a convertible.

    Are they quirky? Hellzya they’re quirky. But they were true Saabs, despite the nitpicky point about the shared platform…which btw is the reason that the ignition in a 9K is in the steering column instead the console between the front seats. Fiat said no way to that and Saab had to give in to that demand. That said, quirky as they may be, every one of my 9000’s were comparatively more advanced (for the time) than just about anything else on the road…in the price range for sure but even compared to say a 5 series BMW

    The Trionic engine management system is still to this day an engineering marvel and other than some GM era issues with things like oil starved engines, holed pistons, etc…something btw, pre GM cars didn’t have…the 2.3l engine was a powerful product, capable of pushing hp numbers into the 300s and 400s if you wanted without those “weak” transmissions you mention even blinking. As well as your comment about “A/C issues, head gaskets, timing and balance chains” Those are the result of poorly maintained cars period and Saabs do not own the sole license for that. Yes, the TCS proved problematic and Saab dropped it in 1996 after 3 years. That said, a lot of cars today are drive-by-wire and a lot of cars today have traction control systems and that’s 30 years after.

    I’m not going to go to die on this hill, but as I initially said, Saab was a design and engineering company and GM is a business. And that is the answer to your question about why “eclectic” companies are no longer viable. The roadmap of the history of the automobile is littered with great companies and products that crashed. For me, there will always be a least one Saab in my garage and I will keep it on the road for as long as I can.

    Like 3
    • Mitchell

      Ya. Great companies like
      Panhard, Facel Vega, Talbot, ISO, Isotta Fraschini (the first pre-
      war with hydraulic brakes power steering electric windows on
      choosen models) RR/Bentley from the Vickers era, Jensen
      (the massive Interceptor and C V8), Bristol, Alvis, TVR

  11. SaabGirl900

    Alpha–

    If my memory is correct, Saab only sent 109 Beryl SPGs across the pond. They are super rare, and about the only place you’ll see one now is at Carlisle, at the Saab Owner’s Convention or at Swedish Car Day in Boston. I can’t remember if my friend from New York still has his or if he sold it. He also had one of the four pre-production SPGs painted in Pearl White.

    BTG–

    Yes, I think there were actually a handful of SPGs painted silver. I can think of at least two up in Canada and maybe one here in the US. A lot of people think that the cars were modified by their owners, but Saab people know the backstory. My ’88 is Edwardian…..well, she’s Edwardian and rust, but that’s sort of besides the point. Lots of great memories tied to her……I hope someday to have her back on the road…..

  12. SaabGirl900

    Fragile gearboxes???? I have 11 Saabs….9 of them with standard gearboxes. I have never had a gearbox grenade. My convertible was born an automatic…..at 110K miles, her gearbox exploded and we replaced it with a five speed. The automatics are frail……the torque converters usually give it up. The manuals are a lot hardier. Obviously, you can’t beat the crap out of the car or the box will fail, but under normal driving conditions, manuals are very long lived.

    Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      I agree. The later gearbox failure was probably due to a chipped reverse gear since it lives next door to the pinion bearings. I used to rebuild a lot of 89 and earlier ones. I remember having 3 apart on several workbenches at the same time.

      • Paul

        Hey Alphasud,

        I’m planning to look at a 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0t sport sedan at a used car place near my home in Maryland over the weekend. I already ran a Carfax on it – it’s a 2-owner car that has lived in PA and VA, and has just a little over 100,000 miles on it (almost 101k to be exact). It’s a 6-speed manual car, which I prefer because I’m not a fan of automatic Saabs.

        Do you have any tips or advice on how to go about examining the car before I make an offer?

  13. SaabGirl900

    Paul–

    A word of advice…..DON’T. The 9.3 that was built after 2002 (2003 ‘vert) is more GM/Opel than Saab. If you are a fan of the C900…heck, even if you like the real 9.3 (the ones that appeared after 1998 but before 2002) you will be disappointed. The cars have no personality whatsoever……it’s like driving a Malibu. The interiors are a riot of cheap plastic and low-grade leather. The rear seat is for kids or groceries…put a full sized person back there and prepare to make an enemy. The full-load ride is harsh and the trunk space, compared to the cave that is the back of a real Saab, is pitiful. I have moved rooms of furniture with my real 9.3s and my C900s. You’ll be lucky to put luggage for a short road trip in the back of a SS.

    I’ve had friends who have had great luck with these cars, but I’ve had more friends that rue the day they ever signed on the dotted line for theirs. The electrical system seems to have been designed with gremlins built in……some of these cars eat their xenon headlamps, and they are not cheap to replace. Electrical busses also seem to deteriorate with alarming speed. And, when you are trying to troubleshoot an electrical gremlin, you get about 20 minutes to a half hour at it and then the system goes into sleep mode for 20 minutes or so. Some of the earlier cars had fibre optic connections for the sound system and those are also a real PIA to troubleshoot and fix. The rear shocktowers are prone to rot, as are the front shocktowers. They are repairable, but difficult and expensive to repair. Some of these cars have issues with coolant in the gearbox, but I believe that is for cars with automatics only.

    Yes, the real 9.3s suffer from shocktower rot, but if you maintain the car, it either is not n issue or you can catch it before it becomes a huge issue.

    Better bet…….look for a 9.3 from 1999-2002. As long as the oil has been changed and the coolant looked after, you will have no issues with the car. I have three of them……my beloved 2000 9.3 and I have traveled well over 150,000 miles together….and she was a basket case when she came to live with me, the victim of an indifferent owner. I also have an ’01 Viggen and an ’02 9.3…the ’02 was also the victim of an indifferent (and likely broke) owner….I’ve gotten some stunning bills from the shop, but it’s all deferred maintenance.

    If you can find an owner willing to part with one that’s been well kept, I’d take that any day over the GM SS. I’ve driven every version made for sale here in the US….including the TurboX, and hated each and every one of them.

    Just my nickel’s worth.

    Like 1
    • Mitchell

      Agree. Saab’s best decade was from 1995 to 2005. The 9-3 II
      from 2003 to 2006 are better then the following. Check for one
      with the chromed grill and the small sid on top on the dashboard.
      Thus are the better models. From 2006 on they have a small
      silver painted grill and the small sid was cancelled.
      As later as more the quality and their performance dropped
      (Euro 3 to Euro 6 emissions)

      I have 3 of them and 2000 to 2003 are the best years.

  14. Mitch

    I agree to the 9000 Except the 1st series which had major
    rust problems the followers where/are solid and trouble
    free cars. I never had seen so much Stone chip and rust
    protection on a car, see behind the upper mudguard fold
    in the engine compartment when a fender is removed.

    The 9000 is also better in electrics and mechanics than
    the 900 before. The 902 is off discussion. The after 9-3
    9-5 later are also good, no spares shared with OPEL.
    Except the rust spots, but not as good as the 9000 from
    94-98
    Precious nine-thousands are hard to find. Rarer the
    notchback 9000 CD as aero, 5 speed, sunroof, velour seats.

  15. Mitchell

    I had one of this back about two decades ago as Saab in general
    was in a far outer angle on one of my eyes.
    It was a dark silver AERO with dark brown leather interior, factory a/c
    and rare sunroof with 16″ aero rims.

    Acquired in the deep frozen winter by minus 10° the gearbox
    seemed frozen and we where not able to get the gear out from
    the reverse. Sick, but a few weeks later as the cold weather
    was gone it worked.
    Back then SAAB stated they warrant their cars work until
    250’000KM flawless sadly i decided to sell it. It was a Hirsch
    maintained car. And rust free around.

    BTW, im looking for sets of unused ALU 33 #4011670 and
    ALU 54 #5531355

    https://www.saabfreunde.de/felgen-datenbank.html

  16. SaabGirl900

    The problem with GM owning Saab (and I got this straight from some GM executives masquerading as Saab execs) is that they wanted Saab to be more than a niche marque, which is most certainly was. If I recall, the exact quote was that the “new” 9.3 was aimed at the 60% of Americans who had never driven a Saab before. To that end, GM bled all of what made a Saab a Saab out of the cars. I can agree that everything up to the 2002 9.3 (2003 ‘vert) had what made a Saab a real Saab….after that, they were nothing more than Swedish Cadillacs. The Cadillac BLS, built for sale in Europe, was nothing more than the fake 9.3 with a Caddy grille. Made you want to reach for an airsick bag.

    The problem with that approach, is that Saab people abandoned them in droves, and people who had never driven Saabs before weren’t exactly flocking to dealerships. Those who did trade their Malibus for fake 9.3s found the cars to be complicated and expensive to repair…..but then, any European car is more expensive to repair than a domestic car. But, the former Chevy owners didn’t know that when they bought the cars and quickly learned a hard lesson.

    I don’t have enough experience with the 9.5 to say yay or nay, but I have three real 9.3s….a 2000, which I rescued from the crusher, a 2001 Viggen and a 2002 which I saved from a broke, clueless owner. All three of them are worthy of the Saab name and can take their places proudly next to my 5 C900s and 2 99s.

    Yeah, GM saved Saab in the short term, but killed them in the long run. I was never a big GM fan prior to the Saab debacle, but I wouldn’t drive anything GM if you gave it to me for free and promised me free gasoline for as long as I drive the thing……..

    Like 1
  17. Mitchell

    Agree.
    If, if GM would have interest in building good cars they should have
    moved their whole engineering to OPEL and SAAB. Opel had
    very good engineers but the red pen from Chicago killed many good
    of their attempts. In 2008 after the Lehman blowup German politics
    headed to GM that the German government does not spend ANY
    funds to rip GM out from their bankruptcy. GanstaMotors leading
    crooks dont unterstood basics of economy: fast and cheap = not
    good. Cheap and good = Impossible (GM). Good and fast = not
    cheap.

    • BTG88

      Detroit, not Chicago.

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