Mod Lovin’ – 900 Convertible restoration

After spending a little time wading through all this stuff, I’m inclined to rename Dmitry P as “the bus driver”.

Why? He’s about to take us all to school!

Dmitry recently restored a 1995 Saab 900 Convertible and he’s kept a log on the process. A very detailed log. I’ll let him start at the beginning:

I always admired convertibles, and believed that Saab soft-tops were among the best of their class. Never owned one, but the interest kept building up, and eventually I started looking. Unfortunately, drop tops aren’t the most popular car in Canada, considering the climate, and finding one (especially for such a rare car as Saab) proved to be very difficult.

I spent about 6 months watching autotrader, visiting the nearby dealers and checking out private offers. There was nothing in the right trim and shape. Finally, a buddy of mine who’s a used car reseller, called me to say thay he spotted a semi-alive ’95 NG900 at the dealer auction. I told him to bid, and he snatched it up.

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The vert had a perfect body, but there were numerous mechanical and electrical problems – from low boost and broken 5th gear to clunking suspension and dead soft top. I was actually glad, because instead of buying a car, I got myself a fun restoration project 😉

The goal of the project was not just to fix what’s broken. On the other hand, I wasn’t looking to build a supercar either. I wanted to improve it in a reasonable manner, grow a car that’s a easy to live with. It had to be reliable, fast, have predictable handling and good everyday drivability — all those qualities that would let us enjoy it for a few summers to come.

I started by returning my old modded ’96 NG900 back to stock and selling it. First because I didn’t have enough room for three cars, and second because it had some parts I could reuse for the project. Over the next few weeks, the convertible got completely stripped and taken apart. Then the fun stuff began.

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We drove down to the States and picked up a ’96 9000 Aero engine from a scrap yard. We rebuilt it, paired it with a lightly used 9-3 gearbox and stuffed them into the convertible. The car then received all new suspension – tightened up and lowered, complete with poly bushings, anti-roll bars and braces. In came new brakes, engine mounts, intake, exhaust, many refreshed factory parts and other goodies, topped by a custom stage4 Nordic ECU provided by genuinesaab.com.

After 3 months of casual weekend work, the car started up and came out of the garage for the first time.

The difference in ride and power was so amazing that I kept driving it like that for a week, with no interior except for the speedo cluster, and just the driver seat installed (a real seat rather than a crate!). Then I applied the soundproofing, upgraded the audio components and put the last bits back together.

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Since then, the car’s been a pleasure to drive. It’s done 14000 km since the rebuild so far, and proven to be solid, reliable and easy to drive.

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Like I said earlier, Dmitry’s kept a very detailed log of his work with this car and anyone thinking of undertaking a similar project would benefit from spending some time at his website. There’s a heck of a lot of stuff here, from an engine reinstall through to suspension upgrades and even the installation of a removeable roll bar so Dmitry could participate in some drive days on the track.

Many of the sequences were turned into online DIY tutorials, so other Saab enthustasts can benefit from this and learn something. Another point of the project was to use only off-shelf parts that are easy to find, install and replace. Having no custom built hardware could also serve as an example of what could be achieved within a short timeframe on a reasonable budget, be a guide and inspiration to others.

Click here for the comprehensive photo galleries and descriptions of work performed during the restoration.

Click here for the service and maintenance log for the car, which is mega-detailed with work done and costs incurred during the restoration.

Dmitry’s also got a huge library of DIY tips and tricks, which would be well worth a bookmark.

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I want to thank Dmitry for offering this resto-modification story. I’m sure there’s a fair bit that we could all learn from his experience.

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6 Comments

  1. I like the wheels a lot.

    I’ve never been a big fan of convertibles, but that’s a kickass car. This means I could potentially stuff a 9000 Aero engine in MY car…

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