Hammer Time: Finding A Good Home for a 1988 Saab 900 Turbo

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

The old Saab was virtually perfect. 1988 900 model. Turbo. Convertible. It was as if the vehicle had been taken through a 21 year time warp right to my lot. The prior owner had become tired of frequent $85/hr fixes and now needed a four door instead of two (in Orwellian speak). He traded it straight up for a 1990 Volvo 240 that had also been cared for so that part of my work was done. But what next? This beautiful red Saab had only 150k original miles and had plenty of life left thanks to a healthy maintenance regimen and the use of OEM parts. The owner was downright wonderful and it was now my responsibility to make sure this level of care carried forward to the new owner… and hopefully beyond.

The first thing I always do is visit enthusiast sites. Not really just to sell it. But to find out more about the car itself and what enthusiasts generally liked about that particular model. Most unique trade-ins I drive for a while and play around with. I quickly went to Saabnet and found a very hard core group of enthusiasts who would be willing candidates. Apparently the Saab 900 has a history almost as unique as it’s customer base. Improvements begat changes that went far beyond cosmetics… and apparently Saabs can be owned reasonably if, and only if, the owner is very loyal and attentive to the car’s needs.

So, I threw in an advertisement on Craigslist with the heading, “Only Saab enthusiasts should reply to this ad.” Rude you say? Nope. I’m not going to be selling this classic to someone’s 16 year old kid. Unfortunately discouragement can only result in more bees going towards the honey, and none of these bees would be the enterprising type. Questions like, “Does it have a turbo?”, “Do you think this car would be reliable for my teenager?”, and the lowball offer du jour soon filled my email box. It was time to shift gears.

Sometimes I call friends who also know mechanics that specialize in a particular brand. They in turn have customers whose love and loyalties are true to that brand. That would have been my next step. But luck and fortune were literally right next door. My neighbor has owned several classic Saabs over the years. He loves to tinker, problem solve, and even use the occasional sledgehammer if all else fails (it happened once). He has helped me innumerable times in the past. So I offered him a free 60 day test drive.

If he wants it, I’ll offer him a price that he can’t refuse ($1500 plus some gardening tips). I always provide a hefty discount to any enthusiast who has the skills and appreciation for that type of automotive history. It’s always worth the investment. Over the past couple of months I’ve had two 1991 Suburbans that were truly loved (diesel and non). A 1985 Lincoln Town Car with 45k. The Saab. The Volvo… and a Mercedes. I’m busy prepping the Lincoln which was rescued from C4C thanks to errant paperwork and a lack of insurance for the now deceased owner. Anyone know a hardcore fan of 1980’s Lincolns? Anyone in your ‘family’ named Gambino, Soprano, or Hoffa? Anyone?

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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  • Accs Accs on Nov 29, 2009

    Oh SNAP! I know a guy named Guido who would love.. a nice black on black Linc... Or at least a white on white.. with white walls...

  • Blowfish Blowfish on Nov 29, 2009

    One bloke I knew has a Saab & a Mtisubishi AWD, he says the SAAB handles better than the AWD. He drove to Whistler BC for ski lots. So is something there, not withstanding the high maint. One man's poison is another man's treasure. I came close to owning one but never did happened. One of m bro went away, his Saab was given to some fnd's kid. next i heard it has to be towed awa, because the Dad got estimates that was Astronomical numbers. His kid is kind of the few bricks short of a full load, so gave him a Saab will spell SAAD.

  • Lou_BC As others have pointed out, some "in car" apps aren't good or you pay for upgrades. My truck did not come with navigation. It was an expensive option. There's a lame GM maps app that you need to subscribe to "in-car" data. The map does not give you navigation other than to tell you where restaurants and gas stations are located. I'd want Android auto since I already pay for the phone.
  • Theflyersfan Given so many standard nav systems aren't the best and updating could mean a dealer trip, and I stream all music, Android Auto is an absolute must. Wireless isn't necessary and some wireless chargers overheat the phone. And there are some hacks that let YouTube stream on the screen - excellent for listening to concerts.
  • Jeff I going to guess by the condition of the body and interior that there is little to no rust on the frame. Appears to be a very well maintained car.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would not buy a new daily car without it.
  • Namesakeone I hate the thought, and I hope I'm wrong. Mazda. They're a small fish in a really big pond, and they made their reputation on sports cars--a market segment that nobody seems to want to buy new anymore.