Some of you might remember this car:
I posted on it around three months or so ago during the month of Saab Mod-loving. It’s a NG900 Convertible owned by a guy in Canada named Dmitry and the post was notable for the link to his remarkably detailed log of the rebuild. Dmitry’s actually got a whole bunch of instructional pages on his site and it’s well worth a look.
But that’s not the point of this post. Those of you who were at SOC last weekend will know where I’m going here.
Dmitry packed up his ‘vert and took it down to Detroit for the SOC. I’ll let him tell the story, and it starts right at the sharp end:
During one of the last sessions of the track day I managed to hit a wall while exiting a corner. The reason was quite silly – I got distracted looking at the flagger waving the checkered flag. For a moment I was not watching where the car was going, and then it was too late. Noone but myself to blame, and an extra reminder to never lose your concentration on the track. Later, it turned out that this particular spot is rather famous for its collisions, as every instructor seemed to have his own story of crashing there (often, more than one).
The car clipped the wall with the rear left quarter and bounced back. I did the standard two feet down emergency stomp (clutch and brakes) and rolled onto the grass, backwards, until it came to a complete stop. This was not my first off-track experience, yet a first serious collision.
The impact did not feel like much. Or maybe I just was ready for it. Either way, I was not impressed – just a bump, bounce and turn ;]. I got out of the car and waved that I was alright. The medical crew checked me out, did not find anything wrong. I did not feel any odd effects the following days either (although my chiropractor will certainly be happy to see me ;).
I’d estimate the speed to be about 100 km/h at the moment of the impact (I would normally get up to 120 at that location of the track), so the damage was quite extensive – the whole rear end of the car was twisted and pushed to the right, including the frame underneath. The rear axle was bent, and so was the left tie rod in the front. The car was equipped with a safety cage, but oddly enough, the damage did not reach the area protected by the cage.
The consensus was that it would likely cost more to repair the car than it’s worth (a benefit of having a few Saab mechanics and bodyshop owners nearby), but I was not upset about it much. It was a dedicated car meant to be driven hard, and I anticipating that some of that could happen sooner or later. For that reason, I chose an inexpensive car as a base for the project in the first place, so I wouldn’t regret it if something like that ever happens. All the valuable parts were salvageable, and the labor was all my own.
What happened in the next couple of days was the best community experience of my life. The attention, the help and support from the fellow Saab owners were simply astonishing. It started right at the track, everyone was offering help, advice, tools, a bottle of water, a ride back to the convention, and every other thing imaginable. One of the event organizers lent his trailer to carry the car back to the convention site (about 20 miles away). The car actually ran just fine, but as both of the left side wheels were twisted, it could not drive far. It made it on and off the trailer easily, though.
Until the last minute of the convention, I was often surrounded by our Canadian club members, Saablink regulars and other SOC participants. Everyone has been very nice and helpful.
Friday was spent exploring the alternatives of getting the car back home. The number one option was to rent a trailer and transport the car back to Toronto. After a long and tiring string of telephone calls I arranged for a trailer and a truck to tow it with, and could finally relax and enjoy the SOC activities.
Then, to my surprise and disappointment, the rental company called me on Saturday to inform that then do not have the trailer available anywhere in the state, and have no guarantee of getting it by Monday.
In a moment of insight (mixed with desperation), I thought: why don’t we just fix the bloody thing? A quick search on car-part.com revealed three junk yards in the Detroit area which had the rear axle for my car. Not all of them were open on Saturday afternoon, and we were lucky to hit the last one just an hour before it was closed. After a bit of bargaining, were were heading back to the hotel with a prized possession – a straight and true rear axle from a 2001 9-3 hatchback. All for a fraction of the cost of the rental trailer.
I came prepared and carried nearly enough tools in my trunk to take apart the whole car. Several more people joined in, and we had a new axle installed, suspension re-connected, hubs bolted on and brakes bled. All in just a couple of hours, right on the hotel parking lot, with a crowd of people surrounding us, cheering and taking photographs. Another gentleman lent his invaluable help in fixing a bent tie-rod to correct the front alignment. The way he did it, I could spot an Eastern-European ingenuity from a mile away. Turned out he was Czech.
The job was complete before the final Saturday reception started, and I imagine we offered one of the best attractions of the entire convention – for those who don’t mind having their hands dirty.
All that’s left to do was to enjoy the rest of the evening and drive the car home on Sunday morning. It felt nice and stable on the highway, and the ride was quiet and uneventful. The Canadian folks caravaned to the border together just in case, and SaabScott offered to follow me all the way to Toronto.
The car is now back in the garage. I probably won’t be fixing it, the parts will be reused in the next project, and the rest will retire. The
shopping for the replacement is on.
Reading the forums for the past few days, I seem to be going down in history as the crazy Russian who crashed his car at the convention, fixed it and drove it back home.
As Nikolai Gogol wrote, “what Russian doesn’t like fast driving?”. I know I do 😉
Needless to say, I can certainly empathise with Dmitry’s situation.
The bad news is that Dmitry’s previous hard work has now been almost terminally damaged. The good news is that he’s a pretty smart guy and this gives him a chance to use those smarts on another project!
I wish I had the same talent.
Kudos to all the folks at SOC that pitched in on the repair.
Pics used on the site borrowed from The Saab Link, where Dmitry hangs out a fair bit. That link is to the Official SOC Photo Thread.