Junkyard Find: 2002 Saab 9-3 SE

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 2002 saab 9 3 se

During my years of documenting discarded Saabs in junkyards around the country ( and in Saab’s homeland), I’ve managed to cover the pre-GM American-market models well enough, with a special focus on the 900. In recent years, I’ve been working to cover some of the Saabs from the period of General Motors influence (1989-2000) and control (2000-2010).

I may never find an example of the ultra-rare 9-4x, but it’s easy to find used-up Opel Vectra-based 9-3 these days — and I vowed to photograph the first one I saw on a recent Denver junkyard expedition. That car turned out to be this Silver Metallic 2002 9-3 SE hatchback.

The first-generation 9-3 was a renaming of the second-generation 900, and platform cousin to the Saturn L-Series cars sold here (and many Opels, Holdens, and Vauxhalls as well). I still see those GM-based 900s in my local car graveyards, so I’ll shoot one of those for a future Junkyard Find.

2002 was the last model year for the GM2900-based 9-3 (production of the Epsilon-based second-gen 9-3s continued until just before the demise of Saab). You could get the ’02 9-3 in two trim levels: SE ($27,995, which comes to about $41,000 in 2020 dollars) or the factory hot-rod Viggen ($38,095 for the five-door hatch). I don’t expect to find a Viggen in a U-Wrench yard any time soon, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

This car appears to have the $1,995 ($2,900 today) Premium package, with power seats, automatic HVAC controls, and an upgraded audio system. 2002 was part of that awkward period between the demise of cassette decks in (most) cars and the appearance of AUX jacks, so there was no easy way to connect a digital audio player into this radio. At least it has weather band, which often proves very useful here in Colorado.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in this car made 205 horsepower, and its ancestry stretches all the way back to the Triumph Slant-4 engine of the late 1960s. The Viggen’s 2.3 made 230 horses, and we hope someone swaps a Viggen powertrain into a Saturn L200.

Viggen buyers had to get the 5-speed manual transmission, but those who bought the SE could choose between the five-on-the-floor and a four-speed automatic. American Saab buyers, like their Audi counterparts, were more likely to get three-pedal cars than those who bought Aleros or Maximas, but the slushbox still ruled the 9-3 world in 2002.

Exhilarating handling and gripping traction control, not to mention the addictive 205-horsepower turbo engine.

Just 234,000 kroner in 2000.

You’ll find links to 2,000 more Junkyard Finds at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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2 of 12 comments
  • Carlos g Carlos g on Aug 26, 2020

    Very interesting article about the 93 almost a nostalgic view. I am happy to say that I currently own a 2002 93 SE convertible top with turbo and a manual transmission. Mine also has the top trim package (Digital climate control, Seat embossed with the "turbo" lettering. How about the 85k miles on the clock for a used car 18 years old? This was the one production vehicle celebrating the 25 years of Saab turbos lineage. Even after all those years, the car rides great (I have taken it to every twist and turn mountain I could find in CA leaving newer BMW, Lexus And the like far behind in those mountain curves. Yes in retrospect, the 93 SE is a time machine transporting you back to a time when cars were made for drivers and not for picking up groceries!

  • Bill h. Bill h. on Aug 27, 2020

    That looks to be a Steel Gray color rather than silver, identical to mine, which is still running well at 223k miles--on the original turbo too, but with the 5 speed. Mine is also Finnish production, my guess being that by late in the 2002 model year production of the last of these hatches and convertibles had been shifted there while the Swedish plants were being retooled for the kickoff of the 2nd gen 9-3 Sports Sedan. So I consider my 5-door one of the last of the old "liftback" style Saab cars that goes back beginning with the 70s Saab 99s.

  • Pig_Iron ASTC 3.0 AM radio was successfully demonstrated at CES. It is a common standard shared with terrestrial television, so the audio equipment is commonized for broadcasters. And no royalty fees to pay, unlike HDRadio which has been a less than stellar success. 📻
  • Art Vandelay Crimes that are punished with fines encourage abuse by those enforcing them. If it is truly dangerous to the public, maybe jail or give the offenders community service. People’s time tends to be very valuable to them and a weeks lost work would certainly make a high earner think twice. If it isn’t a big danger why are police enforcing it (outside of raising money of course). Combine it with a points system. When your points are gone you do a week imitating Cool Hand Luke.
  • Cha65697928 High earners should pay less for tickets because they provide the tax revenue that funds the police. 2-3 free speeding tix per year should be fair.
  • Art Vandelay So the likely way to determine one’s income would be via the tax return. You guys are going to be real disappointed when some of the richest folks pay no speeding fine the same way they minimize their taxes
  • Teddyc73 A resounding NO. This has "Democrat" "Socialism" "liberalism" "Progressivism" and "Communism" written all over it.