Saab 900 Aero: The long drive….

The idea of driving a car you’ve never driven before for over 800 kilometers in day can be a little daunting. Especially when the car’s 22 years old and has done a shade over 260,000 kilometers. Given my recent run of bad luck (the most recent of which concerned my attendance on a later flight that morning), I had my first visions of doom when the plane took off. I’ve always been a reasonable flyer, but I starting thinking how really, really heavy objects aren’t necessarily meant for movement so far off the ground. No need to worry, though. Everything was fine.

One day later and I’m safely on the highway out of Sydney after a great night with the Saab nuts gathered there. I started thinking about the fact that whilst this car had a well-documented history and a meticulous prior owner, none of that would mean a damn thing if it broke down in the middle of nowhere on a 10-hour trip. 22 year old cars are given to doing that sort of thing sometimes.

I’m pleased to report, however, that this car, this 1985 900 Aero, proved without qualification that all of my fears and worries were completely unfounded. It took the entire journey in it’s stride and didn’t miss a single beat. And that made me a very happy camper.

I’d love to be able to offer you all a bunch of pictures of incredible Australian scenery, but truth be told the journey from Sydney to Melbourne is somewhat featureless unless you get off the main highway and explore the various towns and other attractions, which I didn’t have time to do. Aside from a couple of stops to catch up with a few people, this was my view for most of yesterday:

Click any of these photos to enlarge.

Saab 900 road trip

The red Renault in front belongs to Brendan B, who graciously guided me out of Sydney as he was off to Canberra for a club event (yes, in a Renault – I believe the purchase decision was made to avoid turbocharged cars for insurance reasons for a few years. he’s a young’un).

Memo to the New South Wales government, the Hume Highway is in crappy condition. Half of the roads in NSW seem to be made of concrete rather than tarmac. It’s like you’re on a train and I was fearing for my aged suspension (and the 900’s as well!). Here’s a sample, a transition from concrete to blacktop:

Saab 900 road trip

The first stop was at Goulburn.

Here in Australia we have a lot of ‘big’ things. The Big Banana, The Big Pineapple. If a region is noted for producing something, there’ll be a big version of it somewhere as a tourist attraction. In Goulburn they have The Big Merino so I figured a picture with the Saab was worth taking. It was tricky to get, though, as they’ve moved the wooly mammoth from the main street to a smaller spot closer to the entrance into town and the site is stull under construction.

Saab 900 road trip

Out of Goulburn and back on the highway, I guess you can advertise anything……

Saab 900 road trip

Next stop was a town about 200km down the road called Gundagai. There’s a song called The Road to Gundagai and there’s a famous little statue there of a dog on a tuckerbox. I’m pretty vague on the song nowadays and I have no idea if the song is related to the dog, but it’s all very Australian so was pretty happy to stop in there and have lunch with a couple of Saab owners and perusers of this website – Bill and Jane P. They were on their way up to Canberra for the same event that Brendan was heading towards.

If you clicked on the statue picture and are curious about the story behind it, click here.

Saab 900 road trip

Bill’s got around 5 or 6 Saabs at home in various states of repair. His main driver is the 9-5 wagon, below. It’s a 2005 model that he picked up with very low kilometers. Bill and Jane live on a farm so it sees some less-than-optimum terrain but has never let them down – aside from the time it got 20 litres of water rather than fuel in the tank, but that was the service stations fault and the car’s been fine since.

There should be some more from Bill coming in the near future (please send on those 71st birthday photos!!).

Saab 900 road trip

Back on the road again, luckily they have these little arrows to point where home is…..

Saab 900 road trip

Next stop was Holbrook, which wasn’t totally planned, but it’s not everyday that you’re driving along and see a submarine embedded in a public park. Seemed a little too different to just pass by without snapping one off.

Saab road trip

The final stop was near the Victorian border, where I met up with Simon A, a 9-5 owner and another peruser of the website. Simon works in IT, servicing a 250km radius from his base in Wangaratta so he’s doing a lot of miles everyday. The 9-5, quite possibly one of the first of the model to arrive here in Australia, covers them in comfort. He’s had a few hoses etc to attend to but things seems to be running sweet now.

Saab 900 road trip

Simon’s done the BSR upgrate to his ECU and he gave it a little squirt on the way down the highway. Defintely seemed to have that something extra. Thankfully, he hung around long enough to snap this shot with his cameraphone on the way.

Saab 900 road trip

The rest of the trip was in the dark and it was around 3 hours or so of driving before I got to Melbourne and surprised my sister by calling in.

It was one heck of a long day of driving and whilst I had my fears about what might happen along the way, the Saab 900 was flawless and just ate up the road.

I averaged around 7 litres of fuel per 100 kms and am still on the same tank that I filled up with at Gundagai, which is pretty good as far as I’m concerned. The seats were magnificent, as all Saab seats are, and it was interesting to drive the car at night for the first time. The interior lighting was a lot dimmer than I remembered from my old 900, but on a long trip like that it was perfect.

Everything seems to be working OK, which is a big relief. Whenever I buy a new car I always factor in around $1,000 for unexpected repairs. I know there’s going to be a CV joint to fix in the near future and I could do some work on the stereo if I chose to, but apart from that everything else seems to be in great order.

More on the car a little later, but suffice to say I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s certainly different to the Viggen, which I’m missing more now that I have a slower alternative. Despite this, though, it’s got heaps of character and a fair amount of poke.

Vive le 900!

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks for stopping in. Not very often I get to converse with another Saabisti! Most of the locals in my area can’t get past their Commodores or Falcons…

    Philistines!

  2. Did you move past some of the areas that have been hit with the drought? I happen to see the documentary Remembering Rain from ABC Australia earlier this week. Sad to see…

  3. ctm, it was pretty green along the way, so it looks like the drought has passed, though that’s not really the case. The couple that I met along the way, Bill and Jane, talked a little about it but didn’t elaborate too much. But I think it’s basically the fact that the grass is greener again doesn’t mean it’s over. I think they consider it closer to being over when the farmers can raise and reap a crop, and when the water catchments are getting closer to full again.

  4. congrats swade. i’m glad to see you’re in a REAL saab now :). Just kidding viggen’s are great!

    I have CV waiting to die on my c900 as well. I might just replace the boot and re-grease and hope that keeps it running for a bit.

  5. Your drive of 800km is reminiscent of the distances we have to cover here in Namibia. I work for Anglo Base Metals on a remote location in south-south western Namibia and to get to my house I often have to cover the distance of 868km in one single afternoon. Great the seats were fine as Saab seats always are and the car behaved. This probably has more to do with the previous owner then anything else who took meticulous care of the 900. Enjoy the acquisition though as it allows you a dip into the history of Saab.

  6. Hi!
    In a comment to an article about environmental cars I just read someone wrote that upcomming SAAB 9-5 ethanol top engine will be a 4.6 liters V8 and approx. 600 BHP…That got to be a wrong, right?!?

  7. vector – Of course that’s not right. No way GM will greenlight a car that out-horses the Z06.

    I think if Saab wants to use a V8, it should be in a totally new model that isn’t an SUV, like that 9-9 thing that GMI thought up.

  8. It’s still Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, isn’t it? Did you have the chance to test-out the heater and it’s excellent feature of blowing outside air out the center vent?

    Did it get cold enough to activate the automatic seat heaters? In ’85 there was no manual seat heater switch which allows you to choose from variable settings. It was one level and automatically was activated when the temperature inside the car dropped below a certain point (I think it’s around 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Centigrade), but I’m not sure of that). Later models of the 900 added manual switches with adjustable levels of heat.

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