Rare 99 Turbo in West Oz

The month of 99 love might be over, but any time’s a good time for a rare 99 story.

In this instance it’s an uber-rare 5-door 99 Turbo currently residing in Western Australia.

Can I just say to any Aussies reading this that if you own a 99 Turbo and want to sell it to contact me first. Seeing these photos just sets me off on a 99-wanting binge all over again.

Anyway, back to the car at hand. Here it is:

cDSCF1228c.jpg

And here’s the story about it, from Peter M:

—–

I’ve been a Saab fan most of my life, have owned 11 cars from this very underrated and overlooked manufacturer, including 99 Turbo, 900i, 900 Turbo, 900 EMS, 900S, 900S V6 and 9000 Turbo models. The SCCA Saab Missions recently featured the 99 Turbo, so we are always interested in learning about other 99 owners.

I’ve been after a 99 for years, since this was the first Saab I got into when I was 17 and was blown away by how solid and unique this car was compared with the rest of the bland stuff out there. The first car I bought was a 1984 900i 4 door Sedan in Midnight Blue, in 1998 when I was learning to drive in my early 30’s.

We came across this poor little car in the Quokka free ads paper going for $550. We met the lass Anna who owned the car, and her friend Mike took us for a razz round in it. The bodywork had rust holes in places, the turbo was doing regular octopus impersonations, the exhaust manifold and exhaust were shot, the charge pressure regulator was carbonised, the gear lever was lose, the ignition lock had seized and was replaced by a toggle switch to turn on and a push button for the starter. The driver’s mirror was missing, the front seats were ripped, the electrics were dodgy, the air conn unit in the cabin was broken and the condenser missing from the engine bay, the steering wheel trim was shredded, the steering column was cracked so the horn always sounded when doing a hard right lock, the door trims were disintegrating, the battery was in the boot, the wheels were the US Turbo alloys with whopping 215 ‘clown’ tyres, and judging by the size of the holes in the boot parcel shelf it looks like the entire pa system for a Motorhead gig had lived in this car at some time. Despite all these faults we could instantly see this little car’s potential and set about repairing and restoring as best we could. We unanimously decided to call the car “STIG” after the famous Swedish rally driver who won races in the 99 EMS and 99 Turbos. The transmission had been replaced with a 5 speed gear box from a 900.

We initially concentrated on the heart of the car and had a faulty valve lifter repaired, the exhaust manifold and charge pressure regulator replaced, and the exhaust replaced. We stole a few bits from an old 900i for things like the driver’s mirror, window regulators, auxiliary idle, but knew that we really needed another 99 Turbo to get most of the parts we needed. We managed to buy a dead Saab 99 Turbo to cannibalise for the centre column, steering wheel, turbocharger, Inca alloys rear seat and a few other bits and bobs. This came at a price, since the previous owner of the dead 99 had died leaving his ‘project car’ behind. At least his car has improved 3 more Saabs, and one day when we go down South we will look up his parents and show them the car. We replaced all the parts ourselves except for the turbo charger. A close family friend reconditioned the turbocharger from the dead 99, and over a weekend removed our faulty unit and swapped in the reconditioned unit.

The last major hurdle was to get the body work repaired. This took about 3 weeks, and the restorer surprised us, as he had resprayed the entire car, not just the panels that needed the work. We still have to replace the front spoiler with a better one from the dead 99, move the battery to the engine bay, replace the air conn unit inside the cabin and repair the front seats, then everything is done.

We found it impossible to insure the car as a Saab 99 Turbo 5 door combi with any of the main insurers, the nearest they had on their ‘official’ lists was ‘Saab 99 5 door Combi’. We were always asked if we had the car modified by adding the turbo. Recently we solved the puzzle when we learned that Saab had only made 25 of the 99 Turbo 5 Door Combi Coupe models in Marble White, so we have a rare 5 door turbo. Our Saab man Keith McCracken instantly recognised the car, as it once belonged to Peter Sauvage the former president of the WA branch of the club. We have done 337,817 km to date, almost 16,000 km since we bought the car in March 2006.

The 99 Turbo is fun to drive. I don’t really miss the power steering options from the 900, but found using a wider steering wheel and 195 tyres made turning a lot easier. The turbo is only really noticeable when gong up hills or overtaking at over 3000 rpm or over 80 kmh in third gear. When the turbo does cut in it is sudden and fierce. We loved the retro styled interior, the simplicity of the dash board and air/temperature controls. I’d rather spend $5000 per year keeping what I know to be a unique, advanced, safe and solid little car running, than waste the same money on a 5 year car loan for a modern day tin box on wheels. Stig seems to pur along at 80 – 100 kmh, and is clearly a cruising car. We recently had a Subaru WRX full of lads alongside us asking what we were as they couldn’t decide if we were a 900 or a 99 until one of them recognised the curvaceous front bonnet and correcting his companions that we were a 99 Turbo.

We are preparing a web site of our cars so have a more detailed description of things there, so I’ll let you know when it is up and running.

—–

The 5-door iteration isn’t my favourite, I’ll be honest. But any Saab 99 Turbo is an instant classic in my book and a 5-door is a true rarity.

Here’s a few more pics:

cDSCF1225c.jpg

—–

cDSCF1224c.jpg

—–

cDSCF1223c.jpg

You may also like

7 Comments

  1. Good story, great car !

    It’s always nice to see someone restoring one of the less obvious collectible Saabs.

  2. I don’t think you said anything about the gearbox? The original was of course 4-speed, but my son Justin had Keith fit a 5-speed box to it – I think there is only one other in WA?! Justin also put the battery into a box in the back, as he did with all the Saabs he owned. It was my first Saab and a great car, if a little difficult to park with the small steering wheel I had in it (now in my 1993 900 Turbo). I have the Incas from it on my 1983 900 Turbo, and I would put them on my 1993 if they would fit!

    Peter Sauvage

  3. Peter, thanks for adding the update on the 5-Speed gear box. We were hoping you could meet Stig (Erik) in person at the next car club do. When we bought Stig, we thought it was a 4-Speed and so were only using 4 gears, until Keith told us he’d fitted a 5-Speed box. 1st and 2nd are sometimes a bit stiff but then this is an old car.

    We were always puzzled as to why the battery was moved to the boot, and assumed it was to make the engine bay more accessible for changing spark plugs. I have the battery mount and heat shield to move the battery back to the engine compartment, but now I’m not sure I’ll do it.

    Peter also showed us the original steering wheel, now also in his 900 Turbo.

    Even the wheelie bin for house hold waste comes with more HP than yesteryear’s cars, but I’m happy with the horses I’ve still got in my 99 Turbo.

    Pete Moulton

  4. Wow! I never expected to see old Eric (the car) looking so good. I have many fond memories of that car, and many tears and heart ache trying to afford to keep the car mechanically sound while studying full time at Uni and working part time.

    In the time I had it, we (actually mostly Keith the mechanic) installed the 5spd gear box, rebuilt the engine (had a blown piston), repaired a cracked head twice, re-cored radiator and so on. From memory in the few years I owned it I had spent over $10K in repairs.

    I moved the battery to the boot for two reasons, one to help ‘balance’ the car up for handling, but the main reason was that I wanted the battery to last more than 12 months, as the factory location for the battery sitting under the turbo tended to over heat the battery shortening its life. It also made it easier to access the waste gate which seized regularly. Actually from the way you describe it driving it sounds like the waste gate is seized again (ie the car is going like a rocket because it has unlimited boost – assuming the over boost cutout has been disconnected!)

    Not sure where the Incas came from, the car originally had a set of Cosmic aftermarket alloys on it. I did find a set of 5 Incas from another 5 door 99T I bought as a wreck from someone Byford, and I think they were on Erik for a while. Those rims now sit on my Dads (Peter) old silver 900t (Flash Harry).

    Looking at the picture, the rear end has been raised – am curious as to who did it as I was always having trouble the rear bottoming out. Also, what colour is the interior?, when we first bought the car it had a beautiful green velour trim, which was unfortunately very thin and soon developed many large rips. I replaced it with the red trim from the 99T wreck. The red looked awful, but was in better nick than the green. Likewise with the original roof lining.

    Lookout for the fuel tank, as I had problem with internal rust blocking up the fuel pump strainer – I did treat the fuel tank and seemingly fixed the problem, but not sure how long it will last. Keeping the tank full, and adding the occasional cup of Metholated sprits to the fuel will should keep the rust at bay.

    I was sad to sell the car, but could not keep three Saabs simultaneously and being a big 5 door and the slow shifitng 5spd it was a little too heavy and slow off boost to be practical or enjoyable to drive in the city. Also, having AC in the car made it bit of a liability in the summer heat as the engine cooling system could only just cope in the Swedish designed car. At the time I sold it after I purchased my 3rd Saab – a very beautiful and rare (in WA) 1972 99 2 door sedan. I loved the 72 99, but so did the tree that jumped out in front of me on a gravel road. I learned a lesson, and lost a very beautiful car….

    Unfortunately I doubt you will ever get the original steering wheel back, I think my dad has grown quite fond of it, and I still like to think I have dibs on it should I ever buy another Saab… Either way the car was not that bad to drive with the small steering wheel.

    Justin

  5. Hi,
    Nice car. I also have a 99 turbo 5 door but in cardinal red. I have it insured with Shannons and they knew what it was as soon as I told them. If you still haven’t found an insurance company try them. Yours is the only other one I have heard about in Australia. I’m in Brisbane. Have fun with it, I do.

    Cheers

    Shane

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *