Two good reasons to add an old Saab to your garage

Saab 900As a Saab enthusiast, the number one reason you should consider adding an older Saab to your garage is the pure appreication of the brand’s heritage.

Why am I so passionate about the Saab brand? Because I know where they came from, and that place was full of excitement and innovation from a company that dared to think different. That difference was built into every car and the best way to appreicate that is to drive one.

Every enthusiast that can pick up an older Saab helps to ensure that these older cars remain preserved in decent condition. We never really own a car, we just hold on to it for the next guy. Keeping these classic Saabs in good order means that someone else can experience and develop the same appreciation that you had.

It’s not always easy to do, though. It’s all cost related and if, like me, you can’t do your own work on it then it’s a potentially expensive proposition. I’ll be doing everything I can to hold on to my 900 after the Viggen is repaired, but one has to be realistic sometimes. Cost is an issue and so is space, but I’ll be exploring all options. Fingers crossed.

The other reason it’s great to own an older Saab is that it’s a reminder of a time when driving was quite rudimentary – just man and machine and the laws of physics.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about my Saab 900 is the fact that by today’s standards, it’s a fairly basic car. Back in 1985 in Australia, electronics for cruise control, power windows and mirrors, heated seats and other gadgets were for high-end cars only. A garden variety Ford or Holden was lucky to have disc brakes. The inclusion of these features, thankfully, didn’t detract from the driving experience. So now I’ve got a high-end car from my teenage years at a pretty low cost and best of all, it’s a great car to drive.

Today, there’s a whole bunch of new gizmos that not only interfere with the driving experience, they detract from the skills needed to drive a car. Cars are learning to park themselves, they’ve been braking without skidding for some time now, they keep you a safe distance from the car in front and all sorts of other things that interfere with the act of driving.

This article on the Drive blog expands on the situation quite nicely, including this little insight that made me laugh. Tim R, take note and have puppy treats at the ready!

Similar systems are already available on commercial aircraft. Most planes these days have collision avoidance technology. If two aircraft are on a collision course, one will climb and the other will dive.

There is an airline industry joke that one day planes will be flown by a pilot and a guard dog. The dog will be there to bite the pilot if he tries to take the controls.

Is that where driving is heading? Sounds a bit mundane to me. While all the technology sounds fantastic, I just hope it doesn’t ultimately take the fun out of driving.

The Saab 900 in my driveway provides me with a great reminder about how much fun a Saab was ‘back in the day’. Modern Saabs are fun as well, with most of the gadgetry focused on safety and cutting in only if things look like getting out of shape. The 900 shows me where the company’s come from and lets me drive the way driving should be – man and machine having a blast.

So, if you’re in a position to possibly care for an older Saab, give it some consideration. Not only will you be helping to preserve the heritage and history of the brand, you’ll be doing yourself a favour by remembering what it was like to Just Drive.

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  1. Well said Swade.

    I can’t explain it but I really look forward to the days I give the Sportcombi to the missus and drive the 9000 on my daily 160km round trip commute. I didn’t consider any pre ’93 Saab as a driver’s airbag is the minimum safety requirement I have for a shared car. Being a ’98 9000 the troublesome TCS was deleted so one has to be more respectful of road conditions. Lots of fun and really does feel like an armchair on wheels. While it is only the low pressure turbo it is still fun when you get used to it and still catches people by surprise.

    On top of all that that the 9000 is soo bloody solid!

  2. I feel the same about almost any ‘premium’ make of car, whether it be a Saab, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar…etc. The cars all those companies made 20 years ago had a unique character that wasn’t defined by the number of electronic seat presets they had or how good the directions on the navigation system are. They were each slightly different, had different dynamics, and had a different interior design philosophy.

    Saab never really seemed to have a thing for electronics until the 9000, and even then it wasn’t invasive (like I would argue it got to be on some of the 90’s Audi’s and BMW’s). Mercedes was always a bit like Saab in that aspect (useful features, but not overkill), until recently (*cough*2007 S-class*cough*).

    Either way, interesting post.

  3. Personally, I think braking without skidding is a pretty important feature to have. Otherwise, I totally agree with everything you said.

  4. Nicely written Swade.

    I totally agree with you. As a young chap, I am fortunate to own two lovely c900. My wife drives the Black LPT (auto) while I enjoy driving the Silver HPT (manual) every single day. I’ll try to maintain both cars as best as possible so that future generations can appreciate it.

    Enjoy your Aer 085 Swade!!!

  5. NIce thoughts indeed! 🙂

    I believe it has been mentioned before, but according to Folksam (the swedish insurance-company), the C900 is still 15% more safe than the average car, and that includes ALL c900, – even the ones without airbags and antilock-brakes! (

    By the way – good joke! As a professional pilot I could mention that the collision avoidance system requires the pilot to disengage the autopilot and follow the instructions from the system manually – but that would probably ruin the joke, so I will not.. 😉

  6. I have to say, there’s pro’s and con’s each way.

    I own a ’05 9-3SS, and a ’74 MG-B, and I love to drive them both, and each day that doesn’t look like rain, it’s a tough choice which to take to work.

    The SAAB’s got ABS, TCS, Airbags, FWD, A/C, crumple zones, Etc., Etc. and it’s a blast to drive.

    The MG’s got…um…well..uh.. No roof…? Despite it being 30+ yeas old, it’s a blast to drive as well!

    To me, the biggest difference between a modern car and a one with a few more miles on it, is that the older cars have much simplier systems that I, or the average shade-tree mechanic, can tend to. Where as I’m a bit intimidated to do much more than change the oil and the occasianal light bulb in the SAAB. Luckily, the SAAB hasn’t needed much more than that.

  7. I can speak from experience on this.
    In my household, we have 3 saabs. My ’88 900 Turbo, my old ’65 Saab GT850, and my wife’s ’06 9-3 SportCombi.

    My two cars are very easy to maintain. Even better, there’s a special..connection between the car, driver, and road that’s hard to put into words that don’t involve a horrible amount of clichés. My wife’s old car delivered this same kind of experience (a Volvo 245 from 1979 or so).

    However, even getting at vital parts of the engine for regular maintenance on the 9-3 is a very hard time. You can’t change the lightbulbs yourself (they’re the Xeon ones,) nor can you easily get at most of the parts. The drain under the body for changing the oil on one’s own is very hard to find.
    When driving, there’s still some of that Saab-ish connectedness, but it’s rather hazy, and like most luxury brands, too pampering.

    Therein lies the problem. GM’s tried (and done a rather good job) of making Saab into a luxury car brand.
    It wasn’t like that before.

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