Turbin: Looking for love in all the wrong places

This story came in from a guy in Melbourne, Australia. His nom-de-blog is ‘Turbin’ and his regular drive is a 2006 9-3 SportCombi. He’s currently chasing after a second car and looking for a Saab 9000 as a reasonably priced hi-po fun machine.

As I’d do, Turbin’s looking for something that’s a little bit different, a little bit rare. He recently thought he’d found just what he was looking for…..

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Author’s Warning: Tears may follow.

I’m in the market for a high-end 9000 as a second-car and after narrowly missing some really good buys, I came across this. A white 1992 9000CS Turbo S with a reported 80,000kms in immaculate condition. The VIN checked out as being genuine and the photos indicated a pretty well maintained car with the original leather in fantastic shape.

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As some Aussies might know, this is the model of car that was imported in limited numbers to Australia and came 3rd outright in the 1992 12-hour endurance race at Bathurst after an RX7 and am M5. It was effectively the precursor to the 9000 Aero and came with the 2.3FPT engine as well as deep-dish Carlsson alloys, sunroof, climate control and a beautiful leather interior with suede inserts. At Bathurst it was raced with all fitted options and it is said that one of the drivers was playing with the sunroof down the main straight as well as joking about having leather trim and power windows. This is a story I have been urging Swade to blog (and I’m sure he will after the MY08 hoo-haa settles down). It is said that these cars were faster off the mark than the Aeros to follow due to their gearing. SO here we have a loaded and fast 9000 that still today would be an awesome sleeper even as an auto.

I found one on Saturday night and couldn’t contact the dealer. I even scoured the phonebook for his private number and gave up after some embarrassing calls. After 2 nights of dreaming of myself in this car I was despairing that it was probably sold. I rang up first thing on Monday morning to find that they still had it! I made it clear it was not to be sold to anyone else and got out of work and hightailed it the 25kms or so to the dealer.

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First appearances indicated that it was indeed neat and straight. The hood sat high on one side but later proved to just not be closed properly. The awesome alloys were in generally good condition except for some curb scrapes.

Rubber and trim all looked as good as could be expected. Close inspection showed a couple of dints with rust and the one of concern was on the passenger side just under the windscreen, just in line with the tailing edge of the hood. This tell tail suggested a passenger side shunt hard enough to push the hood back into some fairly tough bodywork.

The dealer opened the car up and I jumped in. The interior was in largely excellent condition with only need of a clean up. Sunroof, electric seat and windows worked fine, instruments were complete and the glovebox door just needed a bit of re-alignment. Unfortunately the dash had a small split right in the middle (on a Saab??! I hear you exclaim). The wheel was in good condition and the dealer handed over the keys and we fired it up.

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Roaring into life was a less than healthy sounding engine. The tell-tale rattle of timing belt issues and a general roughness. I jumped out and popped the hood. Under the bonnet it was not a totally ugly sight, but not great either. Plently of rust around the exhaust and other places, coolant stains, general grime. More passenger-side rust was evident where the quarter-panel bolts on to the guard. Further inspection showed still a very straight exterior with well aligned rubbers and bumper.

So now the moment of truth, I eased it into Drive. Good so far, no shudder or unwanted sound effects. As soon as I put some power down and started to turn out of the car-park, the wheels fell off my dream. The steering was pig-heavy and it had less grunt than my old non-turbo 2.3. I pulled out onto the main road and put my foot down, glacial is the best way to put it. I ran up the road for about 200m and prepared for a U-turn. Prepared is right because I had to wait minutes for a gap big enough to risk pulling out. I crawled up the road, U-turned again and took it back. The salesman was waiting for me as I parked. I handed the keys over and said “pass”

“Don’t you like it?”

“Nope.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Timing chain and no boost, to start with.”

“You seem to know your Saabs.”

I said thanks and goodbye and jumped back into the Sportcombi to get back to work and spent the drive back erasing the dream that I had built up around this legendary but fallen piece of machinery.

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Epilogue

This car is likely still available even though he had another three enquiries that morning. The car was a private import around 2001 from Hong Kong (?) and I didn’t even bother to check the books (if they exist). It is tempting to think that it has been around the clock but the general good interior condition suggest 80,000 genuinely hard kms. It might be worthwhile as a project for somebody who really knows what they’re doing and can benefit from their own labour. Beware that is has the troublesome early TCS. Conversely it might be worthwhile making an offer and breaking the car up, selling the seats, wheels etc. For me it is not something I can even entertain the thought of, as I don’t have the cash laying around. Whatever happens to this car I would love to know the outcome.

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The ad for the car is here. They’re asking just under $7K for it, but with the issues it’s facing I’d suggest a substantially lower cash offer might clinch the deal for a keen self-repairer.

I’m probably going to be checking out a 9000 Aero here in Tassie for Turbin in the near future.

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9 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry Turbin. That really sucks. All us Saab fanatics have those dreams. Or at least I do.

    Lemme tell you though. I was looking for a 9000 aero for 6-12 months. I had ‘missed’ many great buys. Some being my fault, others being the sellers’ and them giving away the cars to someone else across the country even though I was driving up the next day to seal the deal.

    EVENTUALLY, I flew from CA to IL and got one shipped back. Although there is work required to get small things fixed, I’m glad I finally have one.

    Wait for one you think is good. They will come up…

  2. Sad to see a great car stuffed up so bad.
    Most probable cause of lack of boost is the TCS electric throttle which as you say are extremely troublesome, and the reason i will never have an Aero or CSTS,as to find them without TCS and in good nick is very difficult.

  3. What a disappoining tale of woe!

    To be honest, the thought of it being a HK car popped into my head when Turbin first mentioned rust.

    Trust me, anything that comes from HK is full of rust, and after seeing the condition of a shipment of 30 Merc 560SEL’s and 560SL’s from there a few years back, I’ve avoided them like the plague. The cars are appalling, haven’t been maintained, have been poorly repaired (plates welded everywhere), and aren’t worth anything on the local market. Most have had the odos wound back to 70-80Km before shipping, and some Mercs that I’ve seen have travelled up to four times the mileage showing. In HK used luxury cars aren’t worth a butt, and can be had from only a few hundred $AUD (check the HK Post and dealer sites on the web).

    On the road, ex-HK cars are easily spotted by headlamps blackened from soot.

    My best advice is to forget it completely, as even the spares wouldn’t be worth having.

    Drew B

  4. The cheap and easy version of timing chain replacement.
    Undo a link and link it to the new chain, have someone tap the key until the new chain goes all the way around, then unclip the old chain and clip the new one together in the car.

  5. Wow. I wish I had know that technique about a year ago. I just got an entirely new engine.

    Actually, it doesn’t matter that I got a new engine, so much stuff needed to be replaced in the old one that a new one was the cheapest and easiest way to go anyway.

  6. I have found it!

    It is in Bayswater, Vic.

    If anyone wants to know where it is let me know!!

    I was about to purchase it 🙁

    Cheers Mark

    mark @ halloz.com

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