By on September 9, 2016

20160905_124117

Sometimes when you hear hoofbeats it really is zebras.

I was in Bowling Green earlier this week, visiting the NCM Motorsports Park and watching Danger Girl grind through a five-day SCCA license school. On the second day of this odyssey, I saw a final-form Saab 9-5 parked up front, all slab-sided purity and mascara-black facial menace. There’s something profoundly depressing for me about those cars; whenever I see them I think of the narrator of Susan Minot’s “Lust” who, in a moment of shellshocked profundity, says, “I could have loved that one.”

On DG’s final day of school I decided to walk from the hotel to lunch. That’s when I saw it; a Saab 9-3 with a temp tag. You will laugh, dear reader, but this one stopped my heart for a second. Not because of the car itself; I never much cared for GM’s tepid-trunked take on Saab-as-Audi-alternative. No, it was for the owner, the man or woman who possessed the kind of boundless optimism and blissful ignorance of reality necessary to pay any kind of money for a car that was a piece of shit when it was new but went on to lose its dealer service network and any kind of guaranteed access to replacement parts. You can’t have contempt for that person. This isn’t the same as buying a used Range Rover or Aston Martin because your parents went to community college and you’re unclear on the subject of a social register. No, this is a genuinely human accomplishment.

Still, I can’t help but channel Michael McDonald for a moment. At the end of Minute By Minute, as Skunk plays this kind of hippie-Wes-Montgomery octave line and the Yacht-Rock-era studio arrangement skips along merrily behind him, he gathers up his energy and asks the listener, “Oh, how do those fools survive?”

Ironically, the day after I descended like Satan from the paradise of the chiclet-lined racetrack to the Sheol of my occasional office job, one of my co-workers prairie-dogged his head over my cubicle wall and began a stream-of-consciousness diatribe about his concerns regarding the 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder now found in the upper trim levels of the Honda Civic. He’s currently a CR-V driver and had been planning on getting another CR-V before I made my Jehovah’s Witness pitch to let a sedan, or possibly a hatchback, back into his life. It’s the closest thing I have to a religious calling at the moment, this strident discouragement of CUV purchases. And he’s been kind of excited about the idea of buying an actual car, but now he’s worried.

“There’s a recall on the new Civics,” he said. “It’s not for the turbo, but… the guy at the service department said that sometimes you have to replace them at 150,000 miles?” As a former custodian of two VW Phaetons, not to mention multiple Land Rover products that I bought brand-new but which quickly became ephemeral in their quotidian availability, I thought he was saying that having to replace something at 150,000 miles was a good thing.

“Yeah, can you believe they last that long?” I said. He looked at me like I’d used my tongue to snag a fly off the office wall.

“Think about what that costs!” he wailed. “Maybe a thousand dollars.” Earlier in the day, I’d paid $784 to have the wheel bearings and spark plugs swapped out in my 50,750-mile Boxster, so that still sounded pretty good to me. But I am not deaf to my fellow man’s concerns and we eventually started reading from the same page in the hymnal as I commiserated with him about the idea that a CVT might require a fluid top-up at the five-year mark.

Can you stop for a moment and consider the different worlds, both physical and spiritual, inhabited by that used-Saab buyer and my Honda-fretting friend? I wasn’t kidding when I said that I admired the optimism of the 9-3 temp-tagger. That’s a person who really believes in the possibility of having something good happen to her. I’m going to come down on the side of “her” for the Saab owner because that kind of cheerful trust in futurity is, by and large, a female characteristic. I’ve known women like that, ascended Thetans of positive thinking who honestly believed they could “manifest” anything from a free drink to a timely rent payment if they just wished for it hard enough. If a man said something like that, his own parents would 5150 his ass into supervised care.

I know that my own father has often viewed my own optimism regarding everything from mistresses to spleen removal with profound distaste. “You can fuck with whatever you want,” he once told me, “except the percentages. You can’t fuck with them. If you do enough stupid things, something stupid will happen to you.”

“Oh, yeah, totally, Dad, I get you,” was my response. Then I closed my Motorola flip phone and dropped into the Cloud 9 ramp at Woodward. Two days later, as I sat there and idly contemplated the pieces of my knee that were visibly moving around under my skin, I reflected on just how smart the old man could be sometimes.

The percentages say that my friend who anguishes over the reliability of a brand-new Civic is probably going to make choices that result in low cost, low drama, and predictable occurrences. I think he has high future time orientation. As far as I know, he’s never broken a bone, missed a payment, or had to talk a former Marine sniper out of killing him over some wife-related misbehavior. The road ahead looks smooth for him.

By contrast, that Saab buyer is probably like the last girlfriend I had who believed in “manifesting” things. She was always in crisis mode. Bills were left unpaid, doctor visits were skipped, parking tickets were ripped up, cats fell into open heating vents, children were shamelessly neglected. Yet every moment with her was a genuine adventure, a window into a world where possibility and probability were only distantly related and every morning could be the morning that the miracle occurred. You could feel magic in the air, although I know that no such thing as magic exists. Her belief was gravitational in its ability to distort mine.

I can close my eyes and see her behind the wheel of that Saab. It is day three of her ownership. She has called all of her friends, enthused over the worn leather and the inadvertent Black Panel performance of the center stack. She has driven it at full throttle down the freeway. She has named it. They will be together forever. This is the third morning. She turns the key and nothing happens. She turns it again. The engine catches, coughing. There is a wisp of smoke from the left seam where hood meets fender. A cataclysmic noise occurs, shaking her lungs in her chest. Every needle on the dash falls to rest. She screams, beats the wheel, opens the door, strides away without looking back.

There is a CR-V on the road next to her house. It is driven by a quiet man, quietly enjoying his 182,253rd trouble-free mile. He sees her, looks at her storm of red-tinted black hair, her unbuttoned blouse, her dirty bare feet. He shudders involuntarily. There’s a green light ahead. It looks like it could turn yellow. He slows down. God is in his heaven. All is right with the world.

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184 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: How Do The Fools Survive?...”


  • avatar
    ltcmgm78

    I’m on my second SAAB convertible. Killed a deer with the first one (2005 model). Bought the replacement (2008 model) at a BMW dealer. Went from a turbo 4 to a turbo 6. I have 120,000 miles on it. The local Cadillac dealer is still a repair center and I get all its maintenance done there because I like the service writers there. Replaced two fuel pumps, two coolant expansion tanks that cracked, and steering bushings. Dealer still gets parts air-shipped from Atlanta. Enjoy driving the car and will do so until something REALLY AWFUL happens. Yes, you have to have an optimistic outlook to drive an orphan car, particularly if you bought one and know nothing about what could happen. I know one day Sven will break my heart.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      My 2004 9-5 Arc wagon with 186,000 miles I picked up a few years ago has nicked me for a coolant censor and a direct ongnition cassette for the 6 years I owned it. When I first got it I added JZW ecu Stg lV, sport exhaust, and a rear sway bar. Also flushed the fluids and the Aisin trans will spin the front tires at 50 mph downshift. I drive it for one month a year just to hail something’s and get the spider web out.

      Sometimes writers should do more wrenching as a turbo rebuild cost about $29.99 and a set of hand tools.

    • 0 avatar
      Carzzi

      Could it be that the turbos on the V6 will live longer being that, duty-cycle wise, they don’t have to work as the turbo on a four pulling the same weight?

  • avatar
    twotone

    Several of my friends here in Colorado bought new Saabs in the 1980’s after the Aspen police used (or were given) them as cop cars.

    They are still my friends.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    My goodness, has Jack ‘matured’?

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Nah, I’m pretty sure he’s mocking maturity. I remember from a distant past I sometimes deny that the sex with the barefoot wistfully optimistic girl was … memorable?

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Heh – I’m reminded of my college girlfriend, who did art modeling sans clothing to make extra bucks. She was a beautiful goth – skinny, long black hair, and pale skin – but crazy, crazy, crazy. Like the one time she started chasing ravens at a park, getting further and further away until I had to run her down. Or the scars on the legs where she liked to cut herself. Or the time I was driving her somewhere, and she pulled out a fake plastic gun (with no colored plastic tip, it looked real from a short distance) and started pointing it at other drivers.

    Every hour with her _was_ an adventure – but after the sheen wore off I got away as quickly as I could.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Love it! Mine was first girlfriend post-divorce. Late twenties, redhead with the ridiculous curves that crazy redheads seem to get, like a nuke without a safety.

      When she hid a small digital camera in her cleavage at work just to catch men being, well, men, I swore I’d never date her. A few months later she had moved in. After the first night we woke up together I had to take her to the impound to retrieve her dog from her towed car. Not the car, just the dog. She would tease married guys almost to the point of starting fights, get tattoos from family members, track my phone via an ex that worked at Sprint without my permission, etc. When she finally disappeared I changed the lock on the apartment.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        It speaks volumes for our species, though, to know that she will never have a problem finding a man. The amount of crazy we tolerate for an HPA (hot pizza ass) is mind-blowing.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Ha, my fiancée’s ex husband dated this lunatic for over 5 years. Broke up with her at least 7 times, always moved her back in within a month.

        Snapshot of their relationship:

        -accused his son of stealing from her, leading to some pretty ugly fights. Son told his mother “if I could KILL that bitch and get away with it, I would.”

        -printed a sonogram off the internet and told him it was hers so he couldn’t kick her out because she was pregnant (she wasn’t, thank god)

        -slept with his best friend… told him to his face and posted on Farcebook

        -had orgies in his apartment when he was out of town. told him about it to his face

        I can’t even remember it all. I look at Karen and see the most chill, level headed, SANE, woman I have ever known in my life (not just saying it to be saying it either), and wonder how he went from being married to her to being stuck with the exact opposite in every respect.

        So far now after the last breakup he’s been “clean” for over 4 months. Time will tell if he goes back on the Cristina wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        You know Nikki?

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          c’est la vie… (stares wistfully into the distance)

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            I assume you guys know of the hot crazy matrix. If not YouTube it… like now!

          • 0 avatar

            I laughed out loud, hard, at this paragraph:

            I know that my own father has often viewed my own optimism regarding everything from mistresses to spleen removal with profound distaste. “You can fuck with whatever you want,” he once told me, “except the percentages. You can’t fuck with them. If you do enough stupid things, something stupid will happen to you.”

            YES!!!

            And I loved the last sentence in this passage:

            Yet every moment with her was a genuine adventure, a window into a world where possibility and probability were only distantly related and every morning could be the morning that the miracle occurred. You could feel magic in the air, although I know that no such thing as magic exists. Her belief was gravitational in its ability to distort mine.

            Damn, what a ride!!!

            (I drive a Civic with a stick. The previous car was an Accord (stick).

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Jack at his best

  • avatar
    319583076

    densely delicious

  • avatar
    ajla

    My sister drives a 9-3. So now I guess I need to ensure it stays on the road forever.

    However, before she bought it she did ask me if I could fix and I said yes. So if anyone is guilt of boundless optimism it is me. I think I’ve beaten worse than a Saab though.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      With the advent of the internet, its far easier to keep an orphan alive today than 20+ years ago.

      Even using the internet in the later 1990s, I couldn’t find much for a Yugo, so I didn’t buy one. Same for an early Toyota Corona, though I still like them.

      Today, you can find plenty for both, in the US or around the world.

      You can do it, I’m rooting for you. Isn’t that the word? lol

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Last week I was just chatting with a fellow who had a 9-3 convertible I think? Was a later model, black.

    Couldnt help but notice the auto roof didn’t work, the owner was fiddling with the interior a bit, and they readily admitted “it needs work”.

    But for $500 at least it looked nice.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Agreed. I really liked this article, it brought back some memories, a few:

      – The guy who bought an old 7-series and had temp tags, and also had grey smoke pouring from the exhaust, blissfully unaware of the $20k cost to replace the engine on a 7-series.

      – An acquaintance that bought an old Chevelle as a restoration project – the car’s brakes were barely functional (as in 350 feet to stop from 60) and most of the body was chicken-wire and bondo…

      – The friend who bought a 90s Mustang convertible that had 5 previous owners and leaked assorted fluids, but he “got a good deal”.

      – Another friend that bought a BMW Z-Series that dripped oil steadily onto his garage floor. He advised me that it was “A/C Condensation” and not a rapidly increasing oil leak.

      How do the fools survive? Who knows, even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes… But for those few moments in time (until all of their cars bit the dust or crashed), they were living their dream…

  • avatar
    r129

    There is a car lot not too far from my house that always has about 10 of those Saab 9-3s on the side in various states of disrepair and collision damage, along with 3-4 “nice” examples for sale. I often wonder what made someone decide to go into the Saab-specific cannibalization and rebuilding business, who buys the resulting cars, and how long they last.

    My mom had a 2007 Saab 9-3 that she purchased new, and that gave her 8 years of mostly trouble-free service. Could I have the same luck? I have often thought of purchasing one of the later Saabs now that they’ve become so cheap, but they’re never quite cheap enough for me to actually do it. Could it be any more unreliable or expensive to fix than my brief foray into 1990s BMW ownership? The only Saab that I would truly want is the final 9-5 with the rare manual transmission, preferably in brown. However, those scare me much more than a 9-3, given the short production run and even more scarce parts availability. There aren’t hundreds of those sitting around, ready to scavenge.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Sounds like a place in SE PA we pass on ocassion where Saab’s are on display in various forms. In the 1990’s it was not uncommon to see many 900’s north of Philly. Today you’re lucky to see a handful passing through.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I bought an ’08 9-3SC new. Great car, no particular issues, nor has it had any for the friends I sold it to when I ordered my first new BMW. It’s largely GM parts bin bits. Not sure where all the Jack angst on this one is coming from.

      The only real issue with the 9-3 ever was the completely laughable MSRP. Which nobody ever paid. Saab asked BMW money for a car that was not in any way up to BMW standards. But 80% as good as a BMW is still a pretty good car, when the price is right! I paid $22.5K for a $36K MSRP car in the early ’09 Saab firesale. Deal of the century. Only my own misgivings about Saabs future and wanting to get a new stickshift BMW wagon while the getting was possible lead me to sell it. Had I not had the readies to order that BMW I am sure I would still be happily driving the Saab today.

    • 0 avatar
      mwebb

      Is the dealership the Saabman in Winnabow NC?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I always thought the Saabibu was pretty, much more so than any of its GM platform-mates, but they were never good cars.

    I doubt the buyer has conscious optimism in the face of a known hazard. Instead, I think the thought process was just “ooh… shiny… European… black on black leather… not too expensive… want!” People who haven’t owned a used European car (even one based on a Malibu) don’t understand what the ownership experience does to the wallet.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Saabibu?

      Epsilon body, based on Opel engineering. More like Saabectra.

      I can’t think up a clever mash up of all the names of the Ep1 bodies, but that would cover the late 9-3 better than Saabibu.

      • 0 avatar

        I never was Opel or for that matter SAAB fan, but rather Ford and Audi fan. I could not figure out what was wrong with Opel until learned later that it is a division of GM. SAABs were basically Opels which Swedes desperately tried to re-engineer to give them some unique Swedish flavor to the much anger of GM because all this modes cost money and SAAB was not profitable because of that. So SAAB was dead brand walking for long time. What I’m trying to say is that if it was derived from Passat or Mondeo re-engineered by Swedes it would be a decent car but unfortunately of was based on Opel Vectra and it was unloved. Vectra was still driving better than any Japanese car.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        The very rare in nature Saab 9-2x was a rebadged WRX. The OP is correct, and this breed was referred to as the “Saabibu”.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Not really sure where this comes from. The current owner of my old ’08 9-3SC (daughter of a dear friend) have put something like another 100K on it, and the worst thing that needed to be replaced is she managed to rip the shift knob off somehow.

      It’s a car that was rapid, efficient, rode nicely, good looking, had an OK interior (nice style but too much cheap plastic) but great seats. MANY parts are shared with other GM cars so wear parts are cheap. Some Saab-specific stuff isn’t but there’s much less of that from ’07 on.

      The real issue is people who could barely afford a used Honda Civic buy a fourth owner neglected European whatever because it “seemed like a lot of car for the money”. Then they get burned. I’ve owned too many perfectly reliable old high-mileage European cars to believe a fraction of what gets tossed around here as to what the “ownership experience” is supposed to be.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The question is how much you spend (whether in time or money) on preventative maintenance to keep those old European cars reliable. Most owners don’t know to do that — even conscientious ones — because in most cases it’s far more than you’d think by looking at the maintenance schedule. Exhibit A: regular BMW cooling system overhauls. My 21-year-old, 187,000-mile Acura has all OE cooling system equipment except for the hoses and water pump.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          And in exchange, you got to drive a Honda for 21 years. No thanks.

          As for BMW cooling system overhauls – ~$800 every 100K miles for an e46 – and the replacement parts last a lot longer. Guess that will bankrupt those BMW owners. Doesn’t seem to be an issue for the newer ones. Water pumps fail, but water pumps fail on all cars. They get replaced with the timing belt service on a lot of cars too. If you can afford a new one, you can afford to fix it forever. If you buy a used one because you can’t afford new, caveat emptor.

          If you had driven a ’95 Acura from new here in Maine, it more than likely would be in a scrapyard by now, original cooling system bits and all. Can’t even remember when the last time I saw one was. Mid ’90s Saabs, BMWs, MBs, and Volvos are a dime a dozen here. I’ll grant you that mid-90s VWs and Audis (especially) are also very rare cars.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            If a $16,000 Honda can get that right, why can’t a $40,000 BMW? fanboys making excuses for them just ensures they’ll never bother fixing anything.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            As I mentioned, cooling systems don’t seem to be an issue anymore for BMW, bar the waterpumps. But ALL waterpumps fail, on all makes. It’s just a matter of when. I don’t find 100K +/- miles to be particularly short-lived. And as with most things, the replacement units are better than the originals.

            Ultimately, I find BMWs more than reliable enough for me, and prefer how they drive to nominally more reliable cars. If you don’t, buy something else. And in my climate, there are a whole lot more old BMWs than there are old Hondas – interesting given Honda probably sells more cars in a month than BMW sells in a year. I see no sign of that changing. I’ll take durable with needing some maintenance/repair along the way to never needs anything and goes to the scrapyard with all it’s original bits held together by filaments of rust.

            If that makes me a fanboy, so be it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “Doesn’t seem to be an issue for the newer ones.”

            Many electric water pump failures on early-run E90 cars. It’s not a cheap part and not a simple swap either. About $1000-1300 at the dealer.

            My buddy with a fairly low mileage 128i (a SULEV variant) just ran into an issue where a sensor plumbed into the radiator that monitors ozone emissions from the radiator (not even kidding) crapped out. Turns out that these radiators have some special internal coating that makes them cost twice as much as a non-coated one.

            Reason I’m to speed on this is that I stumbled upon an ’06 325xi 6spd for sale locally on craigslist, owned by a guy who obviously cared (snow tires included!). It was enough to start reading some forums for me to back away from the idea. Sounds like an E46 is about the cutoff for shade tree guys like me.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Yes, the early electric pumps failed early and often, especially in hot climates on cars driven in stop and go traffic. The revised pump lasts a lot longer. Having anything done at a BMW dealer is egregiously expensive, those cappuccino machines and loaner cars don’t come cheap.

            DIY, it is a not terrible hour or two project, ~$500 for the pump and the electronic thermostat, which you should always replace while you are in there (but the dealer won’t, most likely).

            Ultimately, I consider this maintenance. If you can’t handle it in either price or time, buy something else.

            I think the e9x are aging much more gracefully then the e46s did. Forums are great, but remember nobody EVER posts to a forum to say that absolutely nothing is wrong with their car. So they always make issues seems more common than they really are. I don’t find my e91 to be any more difficult to work on than any other car I have ever owned, and easier than some of them.

          • 0 avatar

            +1

      • 0 avatar

        From my experience there is no such a thing as a “European car”. There are German cars and there are French/Italian cars. The latter I would avoid buying used at any cost. German cars require maintenance and they can last forever. From my experience, as limited it might be, with Japanese cars – yes they are reliable util some point when their planned resource expires and after that everything breaks down and they should thrown away since have no value. German and American cars for that matter can last forever if properly maintained.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Inside looking out, I’d call it the exact opposite (for most “regular” people). The German cars are nice and dandy til about 70-80k and then random components that you would expect to last well over a decade on a Japanese car start to crap out. For the non-DIYer, the practical lifespan for a modern German car is that 70-80k and 7ish years, after which point repair bills are just unpalatable at the dealer. If they’re an enthusiast who can do their own wrenching or has a good independent shop then that math might be different.

          One area where the Germans and Swedes absolutely do excel is metallurgy and paint quality. Take for example my ’00 Maxima, which is in general very cheap and easy to work on, and hasn’t required any serious outlay maintenance/repair wise for the first two owners over the course of 16 years and 146k miles. Well the chickens are coming to roost now, where the rust that is creeping in both cosmetically and structurally makes putting in a lot of money into the car just a foolish idea, even for the DIY-er like myself. If I had something like a B5 A4 (2.8 V6, NOT the 1.8T), I might be cursing having to spend close to $1000 to properly rebuild the suspension with good quality control arms, but once that’s done I have car that has another decade of life in it where the vehicle will stay structurally sound and will keep looking good.

          The Japanese get the stuff that makes the vehicle affordable to run, and starting reliably every morning, right. The germans spend the extra money on metal alloys on fasteners that won’t turn into crumbling red dust that makes the vehicles ultimately last longer under the circumstances that the owner is willing to do the legwork to keep it running right.

          • 0 avatar

            I had trouble selling my Toyota because it considered to be not durable enough compared with German and Swedish cars, basically a throw away car. It did not handle well either I can attest. Even Lada Sputnik I had before was far more fun car to drive compared with Toyota though piece of junk. I had to lower the price considerably to sell it and the guy who eventually bought it had Opel Vectra before which he totaled and was reluctant to buy Toyota but did not have enough money to buy a German car. BTW I made some repairs on Toyota and other cars I owned, always myself, and parts and labor for German cars were cheaper than for Japanese cars. There were plenty of third party parts for German cars and it was difficult and costly to buy parts for Japanese cars. Guys from Far East may disagree but that was a reality. And driving Audi was far more superior experience compared to any Asian car. Even Honda- there was nothing special about it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “I had trouble selling my Toyota because it considered to be not durable enough compared with German and Swedish cars, basically a throw away car.”

            Okay now, you’re just getting carried away there. You might be in a different country, but in the US, a used Camry is Craigslist gold and will be snapped up in no-time as long as the price is even somewhat reasonable. It’s the European stuff that can really spook folks (rightly or wrongly, depending on specific model).

            To look at a locale outside the US that I’m familiar with, I’ll mention the Siberian part of Russia, the harshest climate for vehicles that I can possibly imagine (Africa-tier roads in places but the added stress of extreme cold and rust). It’s Toyotas that utterly dominate the landscape, both 4wd SUVs and sedans. Now part of that is simply the proximity to cheap Japanese imports being removed from the Japanese vehicle fleet in part thanks to strict shaken vehicle testing/taxation vs the Western part of Russia where the used vehicle stream is by way of Germany and the US mostly. But if those Toyotas weren’t stupidly durable, they would not be so revered and respected. Anyone with money over there buys a new (left hand drive) 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser. Not a mercedes S-class or GL, or an BMW 7 series or X5. People a few rungs down financially will buy a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 150 (a lower-feature verison of our US-market Lexus GX).

            To praise a Lada Samara and call a Toyota a piece of junk in the same sentence is nothing short of insanity, and kind of removes any credibility you may have had in my eyes.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            How many Camrys are found on the steppes of Siberia?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The 02-06 5th gen cars are really taking off over there 28-days, primarily LHD imports that come by way of Europe and the US. 6th gen (07-11) Camries were actually manufactured in Russia, but between the poor local assembly quality and inherently bad interior materials, many folks deride them. Our ride from Novosibirsk to Biysk was in a Euro-spec ’05 Camry with a scary number of miles (bought with a tampered with Odometer like they all are). The car’s been through a lot including a re-sleeving of the motor and a rebuilding of the transmission (and lord knows how many struts). A very good choice for the roads over there (if a Land Cruiser is not available, that is). Of course I do have a cousin over there that’s a huge Benz-head and until recently daily drove a 500k KM ’98 E320. As long as you can keep rust away from the spring perches and can keep up with occasional electrical faults, the Benzes do pretty well over there, although parts are much easier to get for a Toyota.

            The previous Camries that are similar to US models are what we’d call the 4th generation 97-01 (code XV30), are RHD Japanese versions, called “Camry Gracia,” these wider body camries are distinct from the narrower V30 and V40 cars that are likewise all RHD japanese imports.

            Aside from the many iterations of camry, the bigger portion of Toyota sedans are the somewhat ‘tweener’ Toyota Corona (like a fattened up 93-97 US Corolla), the wagon version Toyota Caldina, the Toyota Carina, Toyota Vista, and of course Corolla, Sprinter, Corolla II, Toyota Fielder, etc etc. My cousin has a very used up ’92 Corona 1.8 EX Saloon that gets driven down about 3-4 miles of dirt roads across fields, then some gravel roads, before he finally gets to pretty chewed up pavement. The car’s been in many many accidents judging by the poor body work, but keeps trucking along. Nothing is invincible of course and this car’s had the differential in the transaxle replaced, and everyone is always trying to keep up with replacing their suspension components. To me the most amazing thing is how tight the interior still is, and that the A/C still holds a charge and blows cold.

            There’s also a metric ton of the beloved RWD Toyota Mark IIs and all their derivatives and generations (X70/X80/X90/X100 body cars). There’s the Cresta, the Chaser, Crown, Aristo, Soarer, etc. All available with the legendary 1JZ and 2JZ I-6 engines in NA, single turbo, and twin turbo formats.

            I can’t even keep all of them straight in my head, and i’m a huge Toyota nut.

            pretty good example of the breed, a well worn but servicable Toyota Sprinter (AE-90 chassis):
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qMgMZSBmkE

            Corolla wagon in courier spec:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzYorD2_Dj0

            Mark II Tourer V:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Lj7tcN6FCw

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    FYI, original parts for a 12-year-old Saab are easier to find than original parts for any other 12-year-old GM car. Just bought some rear rotors (OEM, not aftermarket) that were cheaper then they would be for any number of “rational” cars (Honda, Ford, Toyota).

    Heck, GM doesn’t sell original parts for most of their other cars. If you have the chance to witness a first brake job on a GM car, notice how the “OEM” Delco rotors going on aren’t the same as what was used on the production line. They don’t look the same, and they don’t fit the same. Your car will forever make a small clunk every time you touch the brakes. It’s part of GM’s sales strategy, has been for years. Only problem is, a not insignificant number of people trade their GM product-in on a non-GM product, and they never come back.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well I am fu** have had 4 saabs and still have a 05 9-3 vert and am looking at adding a last generation 9-5, no major issues with the 05 vert, and no major issues with the others I owned, guess I should listen to Jack and walk away into the sea of a light blue CRV’s that are everywhere. Yes they are different and do not worship at the German sport sedan alter but I am fine w that, no I prefer it actually. Like most cars if you do what the maintenance book says to do when it is due you should be fine. Saabs are different and to some of us that is a plus.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Saab’s one of those brands that is easy to stain with the myth of unreliability.
      Most readers won’t know either way, so it’s a safe bet, and a few people who do know will protest, which makes the article more compelling. Then you’ll get the one guy who knew a guy back in the 80s who had one (or was it a Saturn?), and it was terrible. Those are the most authoritative sources, and great for starting comment debates.

      I like my mechanic’s Saab quote the best “the problem with Saab is they sold a $30,000 car for $30,000. They should have done like Lexus and sold a $20,000 car for $30,000.”

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Saab’s one of those brands that is easy to stain with the myth of unreliability.”

        if CR is to be believed, it’s not a “myth.” in my experience fans of a particular brand are very prone to, er, “glossing over” its faults.

        and then there’s the usual Tavarish excuse of “well, just make sure you do your maintenance and you’ll be fine” with no explanation of how maintenance is supposed to prevent electrical system problems.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          You are correct, maintenance doesn’t prevent electrical problems. Good connectors and good designs do.

          Are Saabs known for electrical system problems? More so than Honda, VW, Mazda, Mercedes, BMW?
          They do have an issue with missing pixels on the center-dash info display, but that’s a cheap one-time fix. Other than that I’m not sure what electrical issues they are know for.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            For the record, I took delivery of a brand-new 9-3 in April of 2000. I was alsoteammates on a BMX team with a guy who nursed a DOT-lamp 900 Turbo and an early 900NG through a combined 250,000 miles. I’m not just whistling Dixie.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Jack, understood.
            For the record, there is a methodical way to keep a Saab on the road. The issues they have are well documented and easy to fix, parts are available, and they give plenty of warning when something is going bad.

            Wouldn’t recommend one for someone who isn’t into cars, but they have a lot to offer someone who does. Frankly, the kind of owner you describe couldn’t keep a Corolla going for very long.

            Short version: you can keep a Saab in perfect shape, like you can a Porsche or Mercedes, only it won’t cost a mint.

            Their age unfortunately makes them hobby cars. Any car over 10 years is a hobby car, even a 4Runner.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            heavy, a 10 year old 4Runner is definitely not ‘hobby car’ status, my 20 year old one, well maybe. Although once I got it fully run in my first year of ownership, it’s been basically new-car reliable (currently chasing an occasional suspension sound however). I use it daily as a commuter, it’s the vehicle I rely on, my cheapo Maxima is definitely a “hobby car.”

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            gtemnykh,

            I know a guy with a 10-year-old 4Runner, purchased new. He just spent quite a bit of money fixing an intake manifold leak that all 4Runners get at that age. Most people ignore it, Toyotas will ingest a lot of “false air” before throwing a code, but he wants it to run like new. It’s a huge job where you remove and replace almost everything inside the V.

            Granted, most people would live with the rough idle, lower power and higher fuel burn, but even Toyotas get old and need expensive maintenance. He loves the truck, but he admits that it’s a hobby (along with a summer-only muscle car). Keeping the body pristine is a job comparable to what they do to preserve Lenin’s body. The interior is decaying like all Toyotas do. It’s all emotion at this point, he just loves the truck.

            A more rational approach is “if you can afford to buy it, you can afford to replace it before it becomes a burden.”

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “It’s a huge job where you remove and replace almost everything inside the V.”

            We may have different definitions of “huge job” but if your friend has the V8 then he definitely got hosed and if he has the V6 then he probably did.

            Now the head gasket job on the 4.0L is a major PITA so I could see that costing a decent amount.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Okay so there was one decently pricey repair on a truck that has another decade+ of reliable service in it, and all of a sudden it’s like being a shade tree mechanic to an old Alfa or something?

            C’mon man, let’s get real.

            ajla brings up a more valid issue, the headgaskets on early-run 4th gen 4Runners with the 4.0L V6.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            gtemnykh,

            That was just one example of many. people keep claiming that old 4Runners need nothing more than oil after 10 years, but they actually need just as much attention as other cars do, and big jobs do come-up.

            In my experience, the people who think old $Runners are “bullet proof” are the same people who haven’t ever lubed the driveshafts, or kept an eye on rust, or kept the engine running right. Their trucks shake violently when you touch the brakes, but they don’t slow-down much. The shocks checked-out 5 years ago, but they’ve convinced themselves that a dangerous, un-damped ride is “trucky.” These owners aren’t different from the Saab dreamers Jack describes.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “but they actually need just as much attention as other cars do”

            If your contention is that a 4Runner will require maintenance as it ages then you are correct.

            If your contention is that a ’94 4Runner and my ’94 Seville are the same on the attention scale because of their ages then we disagree.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Heavy I’m definitely a “lube very single zerk on the driveshafts” sort of guy, hell I preemptively replaced perfectly good front lower balljoints on my ’96. I bought it as you described with warped rotors, totally gone shocks, and in need of some neglected maintenance.

            That doesn’t take a way from the fact that they are head and shoulders above just about any other SUV I can think of in longevity/durability, and day-to-day reliability. Most 10 year old 4Runners (and 20 year old 4Runners) are on their original rear axles, transmissions, wheel bearings, transfer cases, etc. They may have worn shocks but the suspension is still typically quiet and fairly tight. The interiors hold up well and all accessories including A/C typically still work. You simply take that for granted with a 4Runner. Contrast that to just about anything else (domestic, German) that is equally neglected and the difference is truly vast.

            4Runners (and Toyotas in general) don’t just have insane resale value by chance. The market has spoken quite clearly.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Gtem, I dont know where you live, but I’ve driven plenty of 80s-90s Toyota truck and 4Runners, most under 200k. I’ve encountered plenty of head gasket, cracked block and/or head(s),(these issues on a 22r and re), a typical loose feeling of a worn out steering and suspension, cracked and failed suspensions, in one instance my cousin’s husband had always had a Toyota 4×4 as his hunting truck, but when some ball joint or something on the front end let go at 158k miles, he lost control and the truck rolled several times. He and his son sustained fairly minor injuries considering. The truck was not a ragged out, beat to death toy, just 4wd ex-cab likely used as a commuter before he bought it. No evidence of previous damage.

            I hear them go by with the unmistakable high-pitched whining sound of a worn out rear axle.

            I see the trucks with over 300k before, but my dads F-250 and my brother’s Sierra have 330k and 360k, respectively. The Sierra is on its original engine, drives well, trans rebuilt around 300k. The Ford is original everything except the engine is the Navistar 7.3L and it has required some external work (heads never been off). The shocks and other normal wear items, but nothing major replaced or rebuilt. I found an Avalanche the other day with 370k. Seen several 300k+ 5.0L (not Coyote), 4.6L and 5.4L Fords, have owned and driven many Vulcan-engine Fords with more mileage than I see 4Runners on craigslist with “needs motor”. To generalize the way you do is disingenuous.

            I love the delusional ads.

            “1992 4Runner, low miles! One of the most reliable vehicles I’ve ever owned, trans rebuilt 30k ago, needs motor. Sorry to see it go!”

            Lol, I’d be happy to see it go, was your other car a 1989 Jaguar?

            I watched my family and friends buy them with supposed minor problems and discover the engine is toast, and they are very expensive used or rebuilt, extraordinarily so.

            If they can all drive to the moon and back with original everything, why the strong demand for used engines? They’re not Ferrari or even Saab rare, they get wrecked as often as a Ranger or Durango, so why do their used engines cost so much?

            I don’t get why Toyotaphiles seem to be obtuse regarding reliability and durability. They can and do break like any man-made machine.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            John the way you present a litany of anecdotal evidence is equally disingenous. I can tell you all sorts of fun tales of mid 2000s Explorers that needed new transfercases, rear differentials, and transmissions (yes all three one one truck) before the 100k mark, the 5.4 motors blowing plugs out of the heads, well documented issues with Ford balljoints being utter crap (when Moog can make a better balljoint than the factory, you’ve got issues). I don’t disagree that Chevy and Ford both make a great heavy duty truck. I’m specifically speaking of SUVs in this case. IE 4Runner vs Explorer, Grand Cherokee, TrailBlazer, ML320, X5, whatever else.

            The fact that as evidence of poor quality you bring up some beat to death hunting rig Toyota truck is pretty indicative. Hell even then I’d say the fact that a rusty but trusty old yota with the 22RE is your relatives’ truck of choice speaks pretty well for the brand.

            We can go back and forth with anecdotal data all day, but like I said the market forces and experiences of hundreds of thousands of consumers both in the US and globally speak very clearly.

            There is a VERY good reason that a 2003-2005 4Runner sells for well over twice an equivalent year Explorer does on the used market, and it’s not just some weird conspiracy where the masses have been duped.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Edit I re-read what you wrote about the 158k mile truck with the failed balljoint. If that was a Tacoma (not the pre-95 “Pickup”) then yes the double wishbone front end has been known to suffer balljoint failures in such a fashion, mostly on trucks with over 150k miles on original lower balljoints, oftentimes ones with larger than stock tires and/or suspension lifts. They are loaded in a “pull apart” fashion rather than compression. They won’t make any noise as they wear out due to this. Everything will still feel tight and drive fine right up until the point that it fails. Hence me replacing my original 132k units on the ’96 this spring even though they were totally fine, even when I checked them off the truck. My buddy just bought a ’97 4Runner with 178k miles, I checked his OE LBJs and they had just a tiny bit of vertical motion (1mm maybe), this means that they needed to be replaced as well, even though there was no noise or feeling of looseness. Tacomas 05+ and 4Runners 02+ got a different IFS where the ball joints are now in compression rather than tension.

            So yes the failure mode is definitely unexpected and can be dangerous, it also quite rare in the grand scheme of things. But the balljoints themselves last longer than something like a Ford Explorer/Expedition/F150 where replacement control arms typically take the place of the factory part before 100k miles (depending on locale). I’ll take the Toyota option of preemptive replacement of OE joints every 150k and sleeping easy.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        When did Saab sell a $30K car for $30K? When they were clearing out the last 9-5 Turbo6 XWD Aeros? Because nothing else they ever sold was worth close to $30K. People think Saabs were unreliable because they were the least reliable cars on the US market much of the time they were offered. Some percentage of people received cars that worked just fine, much like people on the internet claim about their Renault Alliances or Corvair Corsas. Others had Saabs made before GM took over and started slapping their grills on Opel econoboxes. Freewheel transissions? Failed. 2-stroke engines? Seized. Slanted head bolts? Happened. Failure prone starters that cost a bunch to replace? Real. Headliners that fell on three year old cars? Yup. Window cranks that fell off and power windows that did nothing? Take your pick. Saab was barely even a car company anyway. They had a reverse-engineered DKW and an evolution of it powered by a Triumph engine. That’s it. They should have folded their tent in 1990.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Looking at it from a mechanic’s perspective, it’s a valuable car. Never seen a CV joint go bad on one, and you can tell why by looking at them.
          Same thing with wheel bearings; unless you flooded the car with sea water, they don’t ever go bad.
          Camshafts show no wear at a half million kilometers. Look at a Camry camshaft at 1/10th the mileage: they are noticeably flaking; you get slightly less lift each go-round.
          Saabs have the only GM car brakes that last.
          They are even made with better, thicker steel, and Saab’s paint shop was the only one in GM’s vast empire that could lay-down a decent coat of paint.

          It’s funny that you list pre-1980 issues, but you say they should have shut-down in 1990 (after those issues were fixed). We’re not talking about antiques here, but about recent Saabs like the one in the picture.

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            Camry camshafts flaking at 50,000 km / 31,000 miles?

            Bologna. I haven’t even seen an untoward used oil analysis on a Camry with 30k miles.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Saab did shut down in 1993. After that they were just Opels with Saab trim. The 9000 was never a Saab, as anyone whose seen a Lancia Thema or FIAT Chroma knows.

            I’ve never seen a Saab with 310,000 miles, and I’ve never seen a Toyota engine open with only 31,000 miles. You seem to live in an alternate reality.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            Todd,

            You’ve never seen a leaking valve cover gasket on a nearly new Toyota, or a high mileage Saab? Fine, at least you know your limitations.

            I see you subscribe to the notion that the last “true” Saab was the original 900. You are certainly entitled to that belief. This article is obviously about the cars that were sold under the Saab brand until 2009 or so, it’s not about the 2-strokes or the 900 or the 9000 or the 99.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Our Saab has been more reliable than our Volvo and equal to the Audi. It can’t touch our Japanese fare though.

          It’s a European car. They like attention.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      I friend of mine had two Saabs from the early 2000’s till around 2010. I don’t remember what years and models they were, but he bought them used. They were his and his wife’s daily drivers. They lived near work and didn’t accumulate many miles. These cars spent so much time in the shop that he used to joke that he was doing to buy another Saab. That way they would have two working and while the other was being being repaired.
      He ended up getting rid of both of them.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Buy and enjoy what you like, Seth. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    Jack, I love these existential musings. As much as we want more, we also know that more might dilute the brand, so we wait patiently.

    This one brings back memories of being a kid addicted to cars in the eighties. I would see some wretched tan or green malaise wagon at the local Kroger parking lot and think “someone went to a dealership and bought that new”.

    As parents (and broke-ass blended-family screwups), we want the low-risk path for our kids, but I quietly cheered when stepdaughter passed on the offer of a gifted family Corolla to pay for a Mustang with Space Shuttle mileage. It may be a loose formation of parts, but its never boring.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    2002 Saab 9-3, 215,000 miles and counting.
    2010 Saab 9-3, 85,000 miles and counting, and so far the most reliable car we’ve owned.
    Our 2004 9-5 wagon had 177,000 miles on it when its front end was run over by a cement truck who couldn’t be bothered to look in his rear view mirror. But it was doing fine too.

    Some of us fools survive by not listening to other fools.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      one thing’s for sure, so many don’t understand statistics, and that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        I’m quite aware of your point, but three anecdotes still make more “data” than someone else’s opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        But a single data point can trigger the rejection of some hypotheses.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          That’s going to be a pretty bad or extremely narrow hypothesis.

          I’m kind of tired of the comments where people insist they know that this or that car is perfect or problem prone based on what some jackass said on a forum or from their cousin’s brother’s aunt’s roommate owning one. I know that is about 2/3rds of the comments here but it’s tiresome to read people dictating these and then defending themselves as if it’s gospel.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I lost a transmission in a Honda Accord V6 (and my Mom’s first Civic puked a head-gasket), but I still preach their gospel.

            Different strokes for different folks! If you can afford to baby an old Bimmer, more power to you!

            I’m sure a 9-5 (or was it 9-3) Viggen is a nice piece of kit, but it’s going to be increasingly hard to care for. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s your money!

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      I couldn’t help but notice that 2 of the 3 examples you gave, there wasn’t any service history, just the total miles.

      I don’t doubt you can put a lot of miles on even an unreliable car, it’s how many repairs it took to get there.

      Name the most unreliable (modern) automobile you can think of, and I guarantee you I can find plenty on CraigsList with crazy high miles. It doesn’t make those cars reliable.

      Early Mini Coopers are pretty universally agreed upon to be mostly lemons, yet you can have no trouble finding ones with high mileage.

      FWIW, I’ve owned almost every brand and usually, the stereotypes are dead on. The only stereotype that wasn’t true was “German reliability” but that phrase had largely died out in the 90’s.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        If you want a summary, sure. They’ve had clutches replaced, a couple of ignition cassettes, a wheel bearing pair on both cars, and one alternator. No engine or transmission troubles, and they were/are still on original shocks. The do get regular maintenance, and they were built late in their model cycles, if that makes any difference.

        But if our experiences had been terrible, we wouldn’t have kept buying them. They weren’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        This. There’s a difference between reliability and durability.

      • 0 avatar

        Whitworth! Taking you up on the “name any modern automobile and I’ll find you a high mileage one” claim, SUZUKI KIZASHI!

        Also find me one without a dash that could double as a big-city Christmas display. I’ve seen them for between $2k & $6k with all kinds of electrical/dash light problems, IIRC they only made them 2010-2013.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      The 9-5 wagon was always the top of the Saab food chain IMO. If they had only used the raccoon-face update money on modernizing the dash….

  • avatar
    notwhoithink

    Saab owners are a special breed, and often enthusiastic. I could easily see this being a case of a long-term owner who found a sweet deal on another Saab and picked it up. Or Jack could be right.

  • avatar
    ant

    I say this post could use a soundtrack.

    How about this one?

    https://www.youtube.com
    /watch?v=lqSKVv6YO8g

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    In good shape today, Jack.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Excellent writing, I wish I could pull so many cultural and literary references out of thin air and put together an entertaining essay on something as benign as spotting a late model 9-3 with temp tags.

    Regarding the Saabs, I have a weak spot for the 9-3 wagon but would never risk pulling the trigger. A turbo replacement at 150K wouldn’t scare me away into a CR-V, but an orphaned near-lux offshoot brand seems another dimension of risk.

    Someone I know had a blue 9-5 wagon reaching the mid-100s in mileage and in need of some longer term wear item work like suspension components. He dumped it for a silver FWD Outlander Sport. Whether that was smart or not is up for debate, but a tiny part of me was pained knowing that it happened.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    BTW, Satan descending to Sheol as an analogy for arrival in an office cubicle is really damn funny.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    That female optimism is baked in. We’d have died off as a species otherwise given the inherent pains and pitfalls of childbirth and infant mortality.

    Those basket cases always find some chump to bail them out, sometimes even after they’ve hit the wall. (the Saabs and the crisis mode girls)

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      If women could vividly remember the pain of childbirth each of them would ever only have one. My wife went through 33 hours of labor to bring our daughter into the world and she wants another child.

      33 hours of cussing/threatening/screaming and after leaving the hospital she’s planning out the timeline for the next one.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Whatever happened to people who could learn from experience?

  • avatar
    debaserrides

    I have a 2007 9-3 2.0T w/ the 6 speed manual, 130,000. Bought a lease return as Saab was dying, and it’s been a great car other than hail damage so bad that it totaled the car a couple years ago. We kept it and drive it in spite of it’s dimples.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    “How do you write women so well?

    I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.”

    I like the rationale, however, I find that women are quite a bit more pragmatic when it comes to vehicle ownership than men are. How else to you explain all the pickup truck sales by guys who will never tow or haul a single thing. Its the image of the mountain man, the cowboy. The mystique of pretending to possess a large member, of being a man’s man, being built Ford tough, or like a rock or guts-glory-Ram.

    There are a great many things in life that men may typically demonstrate more rational behavior toward, cars aren’t one of them. Then again, I don’t think Ive ever seen a man behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Eos. But I stand my general stereotype.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      How do you explain the AWD Rav4s/CRVs/Escapes in Phoenix Az?

      Sitting up higher doesn’t actually make something safer – it just feels that way.

      Frankly, the only people I know who make rational vehicle purchases are usually cheap engineers. For everyone else, there’s mastercard.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Hey I’m a cheap engineer and if I truly wanted the lowest TCO/amount of hassle, I’d just drive a newish Camry like my future-doctor fiance. Instead I spend inordinate amounts of time lavishing time and attention on several decade-and-a-half old Japanese cars. Although, in a pseudo-rational way I’ve lined up a $2000 5spd Corolla VE with 141k miles as a replacement for the much more luxurious and powerful but ultimately more flawed Maxima. If I don’t factor in my time spent (I write it off as a hobby that I enjoy), driving mostly-reliable cars at the bottom of the depreciation curve keeps my TCO incredibly low and I get off on that LOL

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          You think your experience will be better spending the $2000 to buy the Corolla rather than plowing it into further improvements to the Maxima?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Most definitely. Maxima has looming rust concerns, a water leak into the passenger side footwell when it rains, a sloppy 2-3 upshift, leaked out rear trailing arm bushings (impossible to correct short of a new rear axle assembly), needs a front lower control arm, a CEL related to coils and rear O2 sensors, an exhaust leak that is the cause of said O2 sensors being tripped.

            Corolla from what I see needs some struts and maybe a new steel rim out back, maybe a rear control arm link (kid driver smacked it into something in the rear). My brother is cautioning me that those 1ZZ motors really drink oil as they get up past 150k. But there’s just so little to break on the Corolla and no structural rusting that they are prone to.

            Another potential option: ’04 G35X Sedan with 137k for $4300. Looks decent, not excited about the MPG but I don’t care about MPG that much anyhow. haven’t seen too many red flags reliability wise with these things in my research.

            yet another potential route to take: ’04 LS430 with 111k miles for $10k. Worthy of a gander maybe, but that is butting up to my limit for how much I’m willing to spend on a car that I know will need some significant investments to make 100% caught up on maintenance.

            Yet another variant to look at this weekend: ’05 GX470 with 131k miles for $13,300. Likewise will need servicing to get it to where I would like (tires, t-belt). Most practical in terms of utility.

            Of course part of me wants to splurge and scoop up a new Passat 1.8TSI SE, it drives like something way more than what they sell them for IMO, and get mind boggling MPG for the size/presence that they have IMO.

            Needless to say I have some very weird automotive likes and rationalizations for my car shopping.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Interesting list. I don’t think any real car enthusiast would have a list that makes superficial sense.

            If that G35x is decent, not a bad deal. Gives you some room for catch-up maintenance.

            The LS is priced a bit high IMO unless it’s a UL or it’s in way above average shape for the mileage. You’re right in thinking that at that mileage it will probably need brakes/tires/suspension to give you that nice cloud feeling.

            I feel like the GX would be redundant with your 4Runner and sort of in a middle ground. Not as rough-and-ready as the 4Runner, not as luxurious as a LS, not as fun to drive as a G35.

            For me, the MuricaPassat is let down by the steering. Even by EPS standards I find it exceptionally dead. But I haven’t driven a ’15 or ’16; maybe they improved it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Yeah believe me the 2 BOF 4wd SUV route seems kind of overkill to me as well. The motivation there is that I’d love to have a newer and more comfortable vehicle for road trips (often in the winter, often hauling dogs) out to see family in NE Ohio, Central PA, Central NY. When I’m out at my parents’ hobby farm in NY, I like to drive around on the fire roads in the state forest there. Certainly just replacing the 4Runner with the GX outright to fill this role has some merit, but man I’m just too attached to the 4Runner. I know that’d be a vehicle that I’d regret letting go of the rest of my life. Also, buying the GX would free me up to put some knobbier tires on the 4Runner and finally use it more as intended offroad. Lastly, I’d love to give my fiance the option of using something with clearance and fulltime 4wd when she has to drive into the hospital at some ungodly hour, driving over some pretty bad urban roads near downtown Indy.

            You’re right, the LS is really not a very good deal on a so-so condition example.

            The G35X is an interesting option as a very capable all-season commuter (especially if I put some snow tires on it) and itches a new scratch for me: an element of sportiness. I haven’t really cared for fun handling/power in my cars since I had a ’90 Civic Wagon in highschool (which had fun handling characteristics but was dog slow). Laugh if you must but that Maxima of mine has actually rekindled a bit of ‘hooning’ if you will, in me.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            A new contender appears:

            http://indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/5756300703.html

            ’02 Montero Limited, original owner(!) with all maintenance records and sounds like they kept up with repairs that it’s needed. Reasonable price, basically the functionality of the GX for less than half the price.

        • 0 avatar
          ThirdOwner

          You’ll have a serious case of post-partum depression once you’ll have finally made your next car purchase. What are you going to research then?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Haha I honestly need to redirect all of this car research energy into something more productive/meaningful. Plenty of house project to be working on to be honest, I just don’t have an innate interest in home repairs, at least not yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      “How do you write women so well?

      I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.”

      I saw what you did there!

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “I don’t think Ive ever seen a man behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Eos”

      I have on a few occasions.

      Yeah, you always wonder about a dude riding in a chick car but every manly man has a chick car preference I suppose.

      I always kinda liked the early 2nd gen Ford Probe GTs. Too bad Ford never figured out how to make them RWD and shove a 5.0 in there while they were around though.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I appreciate their rust-proofing, and the drivetrains (Aisin automatic, transverse 4 cyl) seem fairly straight forward. But some of the engine sludge stories and other niggling issues that seem to pile up with age (of the electrical sort I guess) are discouraging. I’d consider one for a winter beater (as long as I had a backup car).

    Reading through common failure points, it seems that as long as you avoid cars with sludge or stretched timing chains, all the other stuff that goes wrong with them is really not too difficult or expensive for a DIY-er to handle.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    More bilious barf from Baruth.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I’m guessing someone took a whiz in your cornflakes this morning.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        It’s cool, I also get paid on his clicks, and he clicks a LOT.

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          Like most of the stuff you publish here, that statement is demonstrably false. I avoid your articles as much as possible and didn’t notice the byline until it was too late.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            a) thanks for the second click

            b) I can see everything you do here. You’ve had the same static IP for months.

          • 0 avatar
            mattmers

            I have to agree with you. I own a 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0T and it is fantastic. The only big repairs were from damage the previous owner caused (didnt disclose) and standard maintenance.

            I actually went to the location the previous owner went to and of the visits it is all standard maintenance except one item:

            @81k miles
            ISM replacement and 2 keys.
            $452.77

            Since I’ve owned it @87k.

            @98k
            Steering Rack replacement (damage caused by previous owner)
            $1143.30

            @107k
            Radiator replacement (damage caused by previous owner)
            $521

            @109k
            Ignition Coil (arguably maintenance but go out too often)
            117.99

            Maintenance:

            @58k
            Oil
            $87.64

            @68k
            Oil
            $88.50

            @78k
            Oil
            $75.05

            @xxk
            Oil
            $xx.xx

            @87k
            Tires
            $877.27

            @91k
            Oil
            $80.99

            @xxk
            Oil
            $xx.xx

            @xxk
            Battery
            $200

            @104k
            oil
            $89.88

            @109k
            oil
            $89.88

            @113k
            Tires
            $723.35

            @114k
            Oil
            $89.88

            Currently about to get an oil change @124k as well as have my brake vacum pump rebuilt because it is leaking oil ~$200

            Repair Total since 58k (Sept 19, 2013)(mostly from previous owner damage)
            $2433.99

            Maintenance Total since 58K (Sept 19, 2013)
            $2672.08

            I don’t think that is a ridiculous cost to maintain a 6+ year old car. There is 2 Saab Service Centers and a Saab Indie shop all in my city. Part are easily found online for a fair price.

            Also you have to look at it this way, it is probably the safest car you can buy for around $5k-%10k.

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          Bully for you then. You should also be able to see that I don’t click on anybody here “a lot” and certainly not your articles. You’re definitely not getting rich on me. Nice try though.

          • 0 avatar
            Chan

            I understand that you deny being interested in Jack’s writing, and that you feel somewhat turned off by his content. You attempt to dismiss it as nonsensical drivel.

            But Jack didn’t say he gets rich off of you. He only said that you contribute, and he implies that you will click his next article. And the one after that. So will thousands of other people, and that’s how online journalists eventually get paid, indirectly.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Well his screen name is “Red Rocket”!

  • avatar
    slance66

    Great piece Jack. Reading I was immediately reminded of a classic of my youth, Risky Business.

    “Sometimes you gotta say “WTF”, make your move. Joel, every now and then, saying “WTF”, brings freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future. So your parents are going out of town. You got the place all to yourself…”

    I bought a used 328xi with this attitude, no issues, no problems. But those percentages will eventually get you. Cars have become so critical to existence for most of us that we don’t want to risk it.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Still wish I could have gotten one of those last gen 9.5’s I would have bought 3 of them, one to drive two for part.. I loved the way they looked and only got to test drive once at the dealer before they closed. It drove rather nicely and the interior was great.

    Had to look up 5150,… even though I am a social worker here in FL I dont know everyone’s laws for that.
    We call at a Baker Act here.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I think most of these purchases though are people that haven’t been burned yet.

    They think they may have found some sort of automotive loophole where they are able to get a European luxury car for pennies on the dollar.

    After this Saab, it will probably be a used Toyota Camry.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    What I find hilarious is that folks out there are still trying to sell the 2011 9-5 for nearly 20k…really…it wasnt worth 20 new…lol

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      From reading the Saab forums a few years ago (I honestly had been considering it myself), I think the cost distribution is $18k front windshield and $2k car.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right? The final 9-5 doesn’t benefit from being enough of a Saab to feel appreciably apart from its GM Super-Epsilon-based brethren (Impala, LaCrosse, XTS)…and yet because of the fact that it was only around for a little while, it’s probably hard to find repair parts like panels, bumpers and windsheilds.

        I really feel for anyone who had one of the 400 9-4Xs that GM produced under contract for Saab (by that time, GM no loner owned the company).

  • avatar
    NoDoors

    1st SAAB was an ’87 3 door 900. No turbo, manual, bought it from a friend for $500 because he lucked into a 944. Ran it for miles until it developed a weird fuel delivery thing. Sold it for $500 after about 4 years.

    2nd SAAB was a ’92 900 convertible. Top was crap, interior was crap, radio could be pulled out by hand. Wife (girlfriend at the time) said to go for it when I saw it online, and I did. We both loved that car; sold it for a song when I got a new job and a very long commute. Both of us still miss it and refer to it every now and then.

    3rd SAAB was an ’00 9-5 wagon. Still one of my favorite driving interiors, felt invisible to cops, push the little sport button on the selector and could embarrass fart pipe/big wing Civics at the light. Only problem was it was cursed. When it ran great it was one of my favorite cars of all time, but it ran great approximately 8% of the time. A/C died on a long road trip. Alarm would go off for no reason whatsoever. Engine would buck and snort like it was going to die and then run fine, lulling you into complacency until the process would repeat at the worst time and at the worst possible place. Wife called it the SpazWagon. Took it to my shop and they said “we have no idea.” Dealership (back when SAAB dealers existed) said it would cost approx $5k to fix. Traded it off the next day.

    Even though wife has a Prius and I have my Wrangler there are times when both of us miss the SAABS. Her the convertible. Me? Damn it, I miss them all.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I feel like with vehicle ownership there is a large gulf between “super reliable” and “if you buy it you will go bankrupt and be forced to give BJs behind Arby’s to pay for replacement headlight washer nozzles”

    However, many seem to be arguing that Saabs only fall on these two extremes.

  • avatar
    Ratsnake

    On anecdotes and data, it appears that the 9-3 is slightly above average in overall durability (based on 2904 cars going to auction). http://longtermqualityindex.com/vehicles/Saab_9-3.html

    My wife’s ride is a 2004 9-3 sedan with the lower pressure turbo. We chose it based on an earlier version of Steve Lang’s data, because it is an ok car that was priced more like a Maserati Biturbo. After all, by 2003, GM powertrain generally provided reliable basics. We’ve banked the difference for contingencies. So far the only thing on our car consistent with this article is the appalling fuel gauge.

    I got nuttin’ to say about that king of front overhang the last 9-5. Nor manifesting yoga tragedy girlfriends–I don’t miss sitting down at a smoothie bar while she discusses marginally edible ingredients and their imagined curative effects with unwashed strangers. But by the data it looks like the car for her is the Jaguar X-Type…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Low-pressure turbos tend to be fairly reliable.

      I remember back when that other Swedish automaker had low-pressure turbos on its cars, in the form of the 2.5-liter LPT I5. On the XC90 and S80, it was actually the most-reliable engine combo and nearly on par with something from Detroit in terms of being trouble-free…versus the 4.4-liter Yamaha V8, and especially the 2.9-liter twin-turbo I6 that chewed through GM transmissions like there was no tomorrow.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    If your Saab isn’t starting, I’m going to guess it has something to do with well-intended but ultimately terrible, starter ignition being placed on the center console.

    Definitely not speaking from experience.

    • 0 avatar

      A lady friend I know once owned (IIRC) a 2003 9-3 sedan with the ignition on the console.
      Nice car except in a very cruel and random way it wouldn’t start, let alone turn over. Hot days, cold days, it didn’t matter and of course never at home, always somewhere else.
      Complacency was cruelly punished at the most inopportune times and the SAAB dealer (naturally) had no idea how to fix it.
      At the time I really wanted the 9-5 SportCombi Wagon (this was before the bankruptcy)but that 9-3 changed my mind, probably a good decision.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    “There’s a green light ahead. It looks like it could turn yellow. He slows down.”

    This shook me to the core

  • avatar
    dougjp

    ” It’s the closest thing I have to a religious calling at the moment, this strident discouragement of CUV purchases. ”

    Bless you :) The best sentence I’ve read since, oh, the great unwashed masses started buying the Boxes in greater numbers, thereby reducing attention on making real cars.

  • avatar
    NutellaBC

    Reading the Thetruthaboutcars’take on Saabs is a bit like listening to Trump on Foreign Policy….

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    That poor cat…

    Anyway, it’s been my experience that the crazier a woman is, the higher the likelihood that she is a spectacular, freaky sex muppet. Worked with this blond once who was certifiably insane, and the stories regarding her proclivities were legendary. But…you had to be careful because once someone had been with her, they were permanently loyal even if she was currently getting railed by their best friend (saw this happen twice). Ran the place like she was a North Korean dictator by the time I left because she had informants and spies everywhere. Leaving was the best thing I ever did, and I’ve been leery of the cray cray ever since.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      “Anyway, it’s been my experience that the crazier a woman is, the higher the likelihood that she is a spectacular, freaky sex muppet.”

      That’s the general consensus, IMO its worth a ride or two but I always wonder about dudes who repeatedly go in for the crazy. My follow up question to every glutton for punishment is “Was your mom crazy as well”?

      There is a pattern there!

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Jack, this is excellent. I’ll click it 20 times today if it helps.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s possible you’re right and that this person is a unique, dare-taking individual not willing to let life pass him / her by in a CR-V.

    It’s also possible that person has another more-reliable car or quite a bit of spare cash on hand, and simply *wanted* the 9-3. In that case, your description of the quirky owner still stands, since you have to be a certain kind of person to specifically seek out a 2000s Saab if you can afford to get something newer or more-reliable.

    But…it could be the case that the driver bought the car because it was very cheap, and that he / she doesn’t know what buying a Saab entails…or that he / she is well aware, but really needed a car. I’ve had quite a few friends forced into unreliable or quirky European cars because they were cheaper than a comparable Honda, Toyota or Ford. That’s how one of my friends bought a Mk.3 Jetta nearly identical to mine. Another bought a very early E53 X5 that way because the dealer was looking to get rid of it quickly. It turned out that there was a really good reason for that…but you know how that goes.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Guy on my street has a black first gen Saab 900 Turbo Convertible modestly lowered on nice period-correct-looking BBS-style wheels and aftermarket exhaust. I see him come home from a 9-to-5 job in it wearing a suit. I keep meaning to strike up a conversation with him about it; it’s a very nice survivor.

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    No dealer “network.” Horrors.

    Outside of warranty coverage, do intelligent humans really go to a dealer?

    I’m one of those 93 drivers. 2008 Sportcombi. 90,000 miles. Replacements so far? Tires. Wiper blades. Engine oil. Whatever my indy mechanic said to do at 60k miles (belts, yada yada).

    It makes me smile.

    For the record, when Saab was dying under the Spyker scam the endless updates here were most entertaining.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      “Outside of warranty coverage, do intelligent humans really go to a dealer?”

      For service, no.

      For hard-to-find parts, yes.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        In the Internet age, I still say no, if you have a clue.

        As an example, I have owned my ’01 Range Rover for going on four years, and I have bought two parts at the local dealer. A tie rod assembly because I wanted it RIGHT THEN so I could go back and get my inspection sticker the same day, and a lightbulb for the climate control system. I can get most parts cheaper from ENGLAND than I can from the local dealer.

        Even for dealer-only parts, there are almost certainly Internet dealers who sell them substantially cheaper than your local dealer. Unless you are lucky and one of those dealers IS your local dealer.

        If you don’t have a clue, just lease new Toyotas.

      • 0 avatar
        Keith_93

        “For hard-to-find parts, yes.”

        Sincerely, that is a needlessly unpleasant and inefficient approach. Google will find the part. Mr UPS will bring it to your door. And it will all cost less.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          The dealer is not always that bad. I need rear bump stops for a BMW and the dealer was the only place I could track them down. I first tried a popular online vendor and the order sat in purgatory for at least a week while waiting for them to return to stock. I gave up and had the dealer order them. I think I paid an extra $3.

          I also use the dealer for things like T-T-Y bolts. You can get them immediately for the same price as online vendors.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Now, is this article written by the multiple Porsche and Vag owner, or by the guy who finally bought a sensible, but fast and manually shifted Accord. I’ve only once considered a Saab myself, an early 900 Turbo intercooler 16v. Pulled like a freighttrain, with very little lag, but otherwise it felt just like a modified 60’s car. Friend of mine had a first year 9000 Turbo manual, which is essentially a Fiat, with a huge rear hatch and 185 horses and 2 billion poundfeets of torue, from idle, more or less. Pulled like a freightrain on meth, and got 35mpg, mostly because he never reved it above 3000 rpm (not that you really needed to with Norwegian speedlimits.) Only thing it ever needed was the ignition cassette, and rust repairs (Fiat doors?) He later bought a 1998 9-5, basically same engine, worked over by GM, with 35 less hp, an automatic, that got maybe 20 mpg on a good day, and had all sorts of issues all the time (including a pretty catastrophic turbo failure)…I don’t think he’s a huge Saab fan anymore…

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      That’s a nice capsule description of the late, lamented 9000, a Swiss Army Car if there ever was one. I’ve never known a more efficient combination of automotive virtues: comfortable, roomy, fast, good handling, rugged, luxurious, practical. I’d buy a new one today, if I could.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Brilliant Jack! Just brilliant.

    Oh to drink again from the fountain of Baruth.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    It’s strange, I used to rent in a very upper-middle class neighbourhood – lots of Subarus and couples who didn’t have their first kid until after 35. There were also scads of clean older Saabs running around (mostly post-GM takeover stuff, but cars over 15 years old are rare here). I don’t know if it’s some cultural difference, or if their being FWD meant they were better able to establish a positive reputation in Canada when most of the competition was RWD and stability control was conjecture. It doesn’t seem overtly optimistic to own one (it will be in 5 years though), just something where you’ve got to be willing to pay to play. VW’s with better seats (which, I don’t think VW has such a negative reputation here either). Decrepit, deferred maintenance examples can definitely be found, but mostly, those buyers seem to want a badge with a little more equity.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Fantastic read!!! :-)

    I would choose any era Saab turbo over a similar era Jetta/Passat turbo anytime of the week. Why? Because more reliable! I would say the least reliable Saab that I have ever dealt with, was really only a POS Subaru in disguise.

    P.S. I don’t like changing waterpumps on Ecotecs, it is a huge PITA.

    Born from jets!

  • avatar
    SirRaoulDuke

    “I’ve known women like that, ascended Thetans of positive thinking who honestly believed they could “manifest” anything from a free drink to a timely rent payment if they just wished for it hard enough.”

    Applause.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    I first discovered Copart from a post on TTAC. Since last year I have bought three vehicles online from Copart.All have been perfect so far.
    The latest is a 2006 SAAB 9-5 with 46,000 miles and with service records on CarFax. The auction ran the typical four sessions, where the seller (Cars For Causes) would come back with a counteroffer around $4,600 after each auction ended. I did not always have the highest bid, so other buyers were getting similar counteroffers during this process. On auction number five (where the seller has a higher fee I’ve been informed) everyone had stopped bidding (the desired selling “price” was almost retail value). I had a reasonable bid of $675 and won the car for that price.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Or perhaps the new Saab owner here knows exactly what they are getting into and simply likes the cars? Certainly a used Saab will cost much less than a new Honda, especially if you can DIY things on the Saab.

    I’ve got a 1999 9-5 with 210,000 on it. Great winter car with Blizzaks on it there is no need for AWD. I have the 3.0 V6 and it moves a lot faster than the 200 hp spec would suggest it should.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    Jack,

    Vis-a-vis your father’s analyses of probabilities, two quotes.

    Damon Runyon once said that the race is not always to the swift and the battle is not always to the strong, but you will go broke if you keep on betting the other way.

    And Mark Twain once wrote that when he was sixteen, he was surprised that his father had been able to live as long as he had, given that he knew so little.

    Then at twenty, he opined that his father must have learned a great deal in the last four years, given how much smarter he seemed at that time.

    I believe most young men must learn to discern when their father’s “wisdom” has been outmoded by changing circumstances, and when it is timelessly correct.

    And given that, all young men have to deal with the fact that there were times that they were sure that they were right and their father was wrong, but where they were dead wrong instead.

    But if they aren’t too dense, they will also distill some new wisdom that their father couldn’t perceive, as the world he grew up in followed a different pattern than the one the son was beginning to discern on the horizon.

    This was true of me when I was the son, and is true of me now when I am in the role of the father.

    Sometimes Matt just doesn’t get it. But other times, he exhibits a wisdom that transcends what I was able to put together about a situation, even with a decent amount of intellectual horsepower.

    The Catch 22 is you never know for sure which side is right in any given situation, at least not until it has unfolded a good bit.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    As one who fell in love with Saab in the late 80s and finally bought one 10 years ago, it’s nice to see a discussion of one crop up once in a while.

    The future is Saab knowledge is murky – two years ago the 18 year old kid serving me at What-A-Burger commented that she loved my car – what kind of car was it? A Saab I replied; she quizzically wrinkled her nose and asked me to spell it. Of course we are down here in southern Texas, hardly a Saab hotbed.

  • avatar
    donyas

    Entertaining read.

    This fool has 195K on a ’05 vert. No unusual repairs.

    Just sayin’……………..

  • avatar
    vvk

    Life is too short to drive Hondas.

    Worst piece of *** I have ever flipped was a Honda Accord, with prospective buyers to match. Worst kind of people, made me cringe inside.

    SAABs are wonderful cars. SAAB owners are wonderful people.

  • avatar

    Where do these women come from ? I’ve always ended up with women who have a watch and calendar and plan, plan, plan. Unfortunately this sort also tends to count your beers.

    SAAB ? I had a classic 900T and an Opel 9-3 Turbo. The Classic we had five years-bigger than most, great seats, the hatch was like having a small pickup. It was a car designed by people who bought one car every 10 years. We won’t discuss the cellophane transmission. Brakes and handling were German or better.

    The 9-3 was the same ideas, but crammed into an Opel designed by GM marketers. The 9-3 gave good service till about 120k, where there was a sporadic “won’t start” issue. The fourth time I had to rescue mama and kids from a parking lot somewhere it went…even my good indie could not find the intermittent problem. I still saw the car around up till last year….. We liked the car and only the no start issue (with little kids) made us move on.

    SAAB was a worthy addition to the mix. Like Volvo of old, the idea was that the car wasn’t a consumable, that it was built tough and would last a while, not blow something major the second the Federal Emission Warranty was up.

    I saw a last gen 9-5 yesterday. I considered one when they were new, but the SAAB dealer was under the impression that “last of the line” meant collectors item pricing, not the more correct Dollar Store pricing.

    My SIL has the first Opel 9-3, non turbo. It is near 250k, and still chuffing away in Montana. It got a new clutch, and the CE light is permanent, but this is Montana, so no pollution check…hasn’t left her walking yet…

    A good friend is hardcore SAAB. You can pretty much get anything you need…

  • avatar
    pb35

    Back in the early 2000s we were living in Manhattan and finally had some cash to burn. What else do you buy when you have 40k burning a hole in your pocket? You buy a (near) luxury car to replace my wife’s trusty college Paseo. Having grown up on Long Island, I always wanted a Saab or a Volvo like so many of the well off people on the north shore drove. I spent a few years on Saabnet researching the ownership experience and decided that I didn’t want to have to carry a space DI cassette (or a spare anything for that matter). Dreams (nightmares) of me stranded on the 59th st. bridge with dielectric grease all over my hands prompted me to head straight to Atlantic Infiniti where I bought a new G35x that we kept for 8 years of mostly trouble free motoring.

    I finally got my Swedish car in 2007 in the form of a V8 XC90 Sport that’s still in my garage today. It was reliable enough until the warranty expired. I added up the repair bills over the years and it came out to about $18k which cut into the $10k discount that I got when I bought it. Yikes. It’s my wife’s daily now and like a member of the family. We picked our twins up from the hospital in it so it will be hard to part with it someday even though we are discussing its replacement. I’ll let the missus pick this one.

  • avatar
    z9

    We’ve just passed the 17th anniversary of the date of a proposed project a guy I knew wanted to organize: find 99 SAAB 99s to drive 99 miles on California highway 99 on 9/9/99. He also wanted to get Barbara Feldman involved. I doubt he pulled it off, but it was a fun idea. This guy also owned 13 SAABs that he kept on the street. In San Francisco.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Rob W.? I know him too! He did get that event organized and going, though not 99 99s, unfortunately. More like a dozen or so. Was just mentioned on the Saab list I am on, which I think he still owns.

      He still keeps Saabs on the streets out there. Lost most of them to The Man, sadly.

      Rob is pretty much THE Saab True Believer. Good guy.

  • avatar
    Whittaker

    It seems to me that Jack writes like Iverson played…instinctively, fearlessly and with a unique flare.
    I feel a little guilty reading it for free.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    “…storm of red-tinted black hair, her unbuttoned blouse, her dirty bare feet” or “…quiet man” with high future time orientation who will slow down for a green that looks like it could turn yellow.

    I rented a Saab 9-3 convertible back in 2010 only because the Mustang convertible wasn’t available. With a single keypress of the fob, I enjoyed the top goes up, top goes down routine. I also thought it was rather novel that the ignition key went straight down into the center console. Trunk space was by far the roomiest when compared to the Mustang and Camaro convertibles of that time.

    But… the turbo never spooled up, right turns produced a squealing suspension noise, and there was cowl shake. The windshield washer fluid pump didn’t work either, even though I found the reservoir full. True, rentals are abused, but this one more than average.

    A brilliant piece Jack, and thoroughly enjoyable weekend reading. While depicting polar opposites, it also shows there is a broad middle ground. There are percentages, there is Karma, and there can be balance. So the answer from the internet is — again — Miata.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    This isn’t a story about SAABs, interesting as they are. It’s a perceptive examination of two types of people, the righteously risk-averse and the devil-may-care rebels. A milder variety, at least, of rebels who choose an orphaned four-cylinder sedan instead of a reputable, consumer-approved four-cylinder sedan.

    I worry a little about my buddy Gene, who just quit his coffee-shop manager’s job to ride off into the Western sunset, at least the part that shines above western Colorado. He’s bound and determined to leverage small-town peace and quiet to complete some of his dozen unfinished novels and short stories. Would this plan sound any more dubious after I tell you he drives a SAAB 9-3 like the one in this story? He’s poor, and not mechanically inclined, and the chance of finding a Swedish-trained mechanic out there are slim to none. He hasn’t been driving the car so many miles, but that will change with his new, remote location.

    But who am I to tell Gene he’s taking too many risks? I live in an old house, which repairmen visit frequently at $100 per hour. I inhabit an aging body, which has to visit a doctor or two per month. Risk becomes unavoidable in the second half of one’s century. If you can’t accept it, there’s all kind of psychological hell to pay.

    Or, preferably, you decide that if the car quits, it’s not your fault. There’s another cheap car for sale just around the corner, to carry you for awhiie. That’s healthier thinking, I think , than worrying about a thousand-buck repair bill your new car may need in a decade or so.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “I’ve known women like that, ascended Thetans of positive thinking who honestly believed they could “manifest” anything from a free drink to a timely rent payment if they just wished for it hard enough.”

    Jack, you met my ex? If so, run as far and fast as your (damaged) legs will carry you.

    The strange thing is, in a way, it’s fun to believe in people like this, and you let them. They know exactly how to hook you in. But it inevitably ends ugly…like a used 9-3.

  • avatar
    BC

    I have a 2002 saab 9-3 SE HOT 5 speed manual that I bought in 2012 with 52,000 miles for $5,200. It replaced my 2000 saab 9-3 base which I had had for 10 years and 150,000 miles and only got rid of it because of cosmetic damage that cost more than the car. One year later I bought my wife a 9-5 aero wagon that was the best freeway cruiser I’ve ever ridden in. I catalog my ownership costs and they have both been a bargain to drive. In addition, my depreciation costs are minimal. Additionally with owning a cheap car, I don’t need to cary a comprehensive collision insurance policy.

    Like a marriage, a car relationship is far more than a discussion of reliability. Sometimes a car has to hurt you a little to remind you of how much you love it – just ask BMW owners. That said, a well maintained saab is generally a fair deal. You treat it right and it will treat you right. But, you push things a little and start taking it for granted, it will bitch slap you right in the face.

  • avatar
    PolestarBlueCobalt

    This Fool has two Saabs, and it would be more if I had the room. A 9-3 Viggen with 139k on it and a 1996 9000 aero with 158k on it. Not only am I fool for buying 2 Saabs, but 2 salvage title Saabs. Fixed them myself and couldn’t be happier with 3 years of reliability and fun.

    It says something when you buy a car to re-sell and it ends up staying for a long time, as well as spawning some siblings. The Saab community are some of the best people you’ll ever meet (Unlike most other brands’ fanbases).

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    This is a good discussion. I just thought to myself a few weeks ago that I don’t see many 15-yr-old turbocharged cars still on the road. I see a lot of old pushrod pickups and Buicks, but not many turbos. I will be getting a new car in the next year and have been wondering: Does any manufacturer build more durability into turbo’s, timing belts, water pumps, transmissions? If we got together a group of impartial engineers and disassembled a Camry and a Fusion, would they be able to show us where Toyota built in extra durability and Ford didn’t?

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    You guys do know that women are having exactly the same discussions about us, don’t you?
    “That dangerous, unreliable, anti-social loser I went out with in college – wow, he was so great in the sack! But that guy I married – nice, looks after me well, great with the kids and all that, but a bit ho-hum in the bedroom.”

  • avatar
    DirtRoads

    1990 Chevy work truck 4.3 5 speed manual 270k miles and one of the most dependable rigs I’ve ever had. Just sayin…. Had a friend who loved Saabs, but I could never get excited about one. Much rather have had my old Corvette or a Pontiac Bonneville, for that matter (with the invincible V6 in it).

    I’ve had lots of Italian cars, loved my Fiats, worked on German cars for five years as a 20-something, hated Japanese cars all my life so that gives you a taste of where I’m coming from. Although I also at the moment have a Passat GLX wagon 4 motion for my winter driving, and I never thought I would ever, ever, EVER own a damned Volkswagen.

  • avatar
    warrant242

    Nice one.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Talk about a tempting Saab story:

    https://norfolk.craigslist.org/cto/5763866626.html

    For 3 grand? I keep telling myself to stay away.. stay away…

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    A good read to be sure, but according to some other article that Jack wrote a couple of years ago the Boxster was sold, so the timing is confusing and calls the whole narrative in to question.

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