By on April 23, 2012

Before I moved to Colorado from California, two years ago this June, I became accustomed to seeing Saab 900s in large quantities in every self-service junkyard I visited. The 900 was a big seller in California (as was the Volvo 240), and you’d always find a half-dozen or so at the bigger yards. The 900 is a much rarer beast in Colorado; I see the occasional lovingly preserved example on the street, but this is the only junked example I’ve seen in a few months.
The turbocharged 900s were more popular, especially here at altitude, but quite a few naturally-aspirated versions were sold.
290,000 miles— pretty good for a mid-80s car.
One thing I’ve learned working 24 Hours of LeMons races is that the 900 is one of the quickest cars of its era when you put it on a road course; the non-turbo 900 is respectably fast and the turbocharged version will obliterate most BMW E30s and even the shockingly quick Alfa Romeo Milano… until the transmission (or engine, or suspension, or electrical system) breaks, which tends to happen early and often. At least the California Saab racers have no shortage of junkyard parts!

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21 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Saab 900...”

  • avatar

    All the turbos I see in Craigslist in socal are ragtops. I would have loved to own one, but I only have so many parking spots.

  • avatar

    Oh god, can’t let my Saab loving significant other see this. She’d cry.

    At least she’s enamored with interesting cars, and not 3-series bimmers.

  • avatar

    My memories of the 900 are mixed. My older brother bought a new wine-red 900 turbo sedan with 5-speed in 1981 and it was a very sweet car to drive. However, there were also a bunch of annoying little faults such as fuel injection problems, electrical issues, and a rear “900” badge that repeatedly fell off the trunk lid. Finally, two years after purchase, the car caught fire and self-destructed despite being maintained by the book. It appeared something in the fuel system cracked under the hood and sprayed gasoline on the exhaust manifold. While the passenger compartment remained pretty much untouched to Saab’s engineering credit, everything forward of the firewall was completely destroyed. The heat was so intense it melted the headlights right out of the sockets. So much for Saab’s attempt to go upmarket, and my brother was off to the BMW dealer with the insurance money.

  • avatar

    Crazy almost 300,000 miles! Body looks in good shape too.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Looks good enough to get back into service

  • avatar

    These things are surely can be temperamental, but to be fair, they are so simple mechanically and electrically, that even with most basic skills and ability to read electrical diagrams and spanner, I was able to restore boost in my 1990 900 Aero hatch – and fix a few other things.
    They are fun to work on – given you have the right attitude and a Honda Civic as a back-up.

    The engines are known for insane longevity and can do up to a million miles without overhaul.

  • avatar

    Wow, 290,xxx miles. And I thought my friends 4runner with the 22re engine was a beast with 280,000 miles, with working air conditioning and power options. Good for saab! I’d love to own a late-80s – mid-90’s 900.

  • avatar

    Ahh, the 1986 SAAB 900. When I sold mine it had about 320k on it. I raced it in every event I could, I drove it all around US and Canada, I did not spend a dime on it in the last 5 years of its life (it was our third car by then) — it still ran like clockwork. Original engine, using cheapest motor oil every 10k miles. Original gearbox. Original clutch. Nothing broke until the day I sold it, when both the clutch master cylinder and the alternator decided to punish me for trying to sell it. The clutch cylinder was surprisingly easy to change, like most other things on these cars, and it was cheap from a local store. I was able to find a replacement for the cracked alternator bracket in the local junk yard with minutes to spare before the buyer came.

    The car was extremely comfortable, felt rock solid on the highway and could drive 100 mph all day long without beating you up, despite the super stiff SPG suspension I had on it. Driven conservatively, 30 mpg was easy and it could cut through heavy snow with confidence none of my AWD Subarus ever had. Beautiful, amazing, awesome cars!

  • avatar

    Had a mid eighties 4 door, White, Light Blue interior Saab that was dependable, comfortable and fun to drive for the three years I owned it. As I mentioned here before these 900 Saab weren’t fast but they did handle, ride and brake reasonably well for the times. Mine was particularly fun to drift on sweeping highway on and off ramps. Also found the car unstoppable in the snow. And finally, you could get the paint to take a great shine with a good light polish and wax job.

  • avatar

    “Saabs”, the Saab-obsessed lunatic in the movie “Crazy People” would love it.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I went to the auctions this weekend. The little one particularly enjoyed the trip.

    I saw the 3 generations of this car: a 4 door SEDAN classic 900, a NG900 and a ~’02 93 sedan. When I closed the door of the classic and newer one I was surprised at how solid they felt. But the trolls didn’t let me open that clam shell bonnet.

    The little one only approved the newer ones, he refused to jump into the older. And he climbed into many things from Statesmans, Soarers, SV6s, old Lasers and even an 850 wagon.

    This one is for MM, do they use the NG900 in LeMons or only the classic ones?

  • avatar

    Classic 900’s are very high-mileage-friendly cars, with one exception:

    Those damn gearboxes. especially on Turbos, but all are susceptible to reverse gear failure (manuals.) The Auto is even worse, and is genuinely an experience-ruining addition. The slung-under box wasn’t designed to cope with more than 100-125 horsepower, so the 175+ the Turbo makes will literally flex the case, put weird loads on the layshafts, and everything goes to hell. At this point, it’s damn hard to find a good condition box, “new” boxes have been out of production since the mid 90’s, and even replacement PARTS are getting scarce, which is killing the remaining field.

    Which is a shame: the rest of the car is extraordinarily robust. The rust-proofing takes care of most problem areas. it’s an extraordinarily DIY maintenance-friendly car. clutch? 2 hours. Shocks? Maybe 3. Brakes? Super simple. etc etc. Electrical system? Simple.

    I still miss my SPG.

  • avatar

    I passed one of these the other day, and the driver and I exchanged the knowing nod of old car owners. He has a few years on my ’91 940, and was sporting classic plates as well. I was happy to see an old SAAB running.

  • avatar


    I grew up in Lakewood (CO) and in the 80’s these things were everywhere, especially the turbos as you noted. Colorado is not kind to tempermental cars though – on any given summer weekend when we drove up into the mountains, all manner of “fringe” and tempermental automobiles would be broken down on the side of I-70 or whatever road we were on.

    There’s only so many times you can take that sort of embarassment when you are an upwardly mobile yuppie, so the Saabs got flipped quick for turbo Volvos and AWD Subaru wagons.

    As an aside, Aspen used to have Saabs as police cars.

  • avatar
    Raises hand tentatively

    I remember a co-worker was involved in a minor accident in her 900 one afternoon about 3 o’clock in downtown San Francisco. When she got out of the car to inspect the damage the doors automatically locked. She had her keys in her hand, but when she unlocked the doors they would immediately re-lock. She and a police officer couldn’t act fast enough to get the doors open before they locked again. The cop ended up directing traffic until a tow truck showed up.

    She changed jobs about a year later and the last time I saw her she was still driving that thing.

  • avatar

    I used the turbo off of one of these to charge my 1962 Jeep 134 F Head. A fun but rather pointless custom job, it still runs around as more or less the only turbocharged Jeep F head on youtube.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    I had a 1987 900 4 door, with the 8v 110 hp engine, for 11 years from 1993 until 2004. It was for all intents and purposes the same as this junked one, except for the bodystyle and the flight revision to the front end and bumpers to make them more aerodynamic. Bought it with 82k miles, dumped it with well over 250k miles. It was alittle fussy (goddam vacuum hoses and FI system made for nightmarish idle adjustments), but otherwise stout, perfect for errand running, comfortable, durable and funky, with just enough exhaust burble and gear whine / drivetrain lash to annoucne to the world that somethign special was coming down the road. Amazing turn radius. I plowed through several blizzards where I passed SUV’s stuck in ditches. Even in non-hatchback form it could haul a shet of plywood on its flat trunk floor with the rear seat folded down.

    never ceased to entertain me. Such was the “soul” of the car that it was like a family member — I shed a tear when I sold it, and then I saw it back on the road twice in the subsequent years, which made me happy and jealous for the new owner.

    Wonderful cars, ne’er to be duplicated.

  • avatar

    For those of you that are interested, I moved abroad in june 2014. Before doing so I owned a white 1986 SAAB 900S non turbo exactly like the one pictured above, except 4 door instead of 2. My God what a car it was, wanted to sell it on ebay but never got to it so I finally had the local junk yard in wilmington NC pick it up. If its still there, please make some use of it, that is the real ultimate machine, and the only asset that I had an emotional attachment to. What a car. Its at a sort a pull and pay kinda place off of highway 421 in wilmington nc, let me know if any of you found it

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