Lovely stuff: 1990 Saab 9000i

Strange how things work out. A few weeks ago, the PetrolBlog Fleet consisted of four cars, each one seemingly here for the long term. But with the Land Rover doomed by a literal lack of gas, the S6 reaching the end of its serviceable life and the Accord a victim of my standard ‘six months’ itch, the only member of the ‘fab four’ to remain is the AX GT. And shamefully I’ve just let the MOT expire on that. I’ll soon be writing a few words on the three cars that have departed, but in the meantime it’s time to unveil the next ‘shed’. Bangernomics 2.0 if you like!

Saab 9000i and Honda Accord 2.2i VTEC
Out with the old, in with the older

I’ll start by saying that this is the last time I’ll mention the word ‘shed’ in conjunction with this car. The Accord seemed to fit the bill perfectly, whereas this car on the other hand, is far too lovely to call a shed. The 215 mile journey back from Devil’s Bridge to home gave me ample opportunity to get used to my latest acquisition and as I made my way back down the M5 I searched for a first impression. I decided on ‘lovely stuff’, preferably in the way that Alan Partridge muttered the words.

The lovely car in question is a 1990 Saab 9000i. It might be as fashionable as a pair of creased jeans, but the 9000 is right now, the cheapest way into Saab ownership.

As is the norm for me, I started off with a brief for my second Bangernomics purchase. Put simply, it needed to be German, rear-wheel drive and under £500. So why is there a distinctly Swedish, front-wheel drive Saab sitting outside?

On a drive to work a few weeks ago, I was passed by a red flat-nosed Saab 9000. It had been ages since I’d seen one and I was struck by just how good it looked alongside the stream of modern motors. Within minutes of reaching the office, I was on Car & Classic and eBay looking for suitable cars. From that point onwards, it would have to be a 9000. That’s one of the beauties of Bangernomics. Such is the budget associated with a purchase of a new car, that ideas can quickly turn to reality. No need for savings plans, finance deals and waiting. Bangernomics provides instant gratification and in true National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation fashion, ‘it’s the gift that keeps on giving’.

1990 Saab 9000i in mid-Wales
The start of the journey home

As luck would have it, a fellow retro and classic fan was selling his 9000i. He’d only had it since April, but a desire to fund the purchase of a Citroën BX meant that the Saab would have to go. I was attracted by a number of things. Firstly, the condition of the car looked very good. Secondly, it sounded like it had a comprehensive service history. The price of £500 ono was also attractive, as was the car’s location – Devil’s Bridge. Another chance to visit the beautiful Mid-Wales roads and countryside.

A price of £450 was agreed and I made my way (slowly) up to Aberystwyth by train. Following a short but brilliant lift from the station in the seller’s Citroën 2CV, documents and cash were exchanged and I made my way back home. With heavy rain and mist covering the area, this was not a time to enjoy the roads. But as I soon discovered, the Saab 9000i isn’t a car to enjoy the roads in – B-roads are not its forté. As The Supremes probably sang, ‘You can’t hurry Saab’. Instead, the 9000i likes careful and considered approach to driving. I swear that my average speed has already dropped by 10% and I’ve become a more tolerant driver. That’s the Saab effect.

First impressions are very good. The 21 year old Saab is as good on a motorway or dual carriageway as many modern counterparts. In fact, such is the 9000i’s calmness, smoothness and quietness on a motorway, I’d go as far as saying it could actually shame some new cars.

1990 Saab 9000i interior
Deal clincher: heated seats for winter 2011/12

Build quality is excellent. Perhaps not in the way you’d expect a German car from this period to be, but it’s incredibly well put together and manages to hide its 128,000 miles very well. The interior is absolutely spotless and immaculate. Absolutely everything works, right down to the gloriously-retro headlight wipers. Seriously, were it not for the fact that the mileage is quite clearly displayed on the dashboard, you could honestly believe this was a sub 50k mile car. Much of this is down to the fastidious way in which the first owner looked after the car. Looking back through the extensive and almost ridiculous service history, you discover that the Saab went back to the main dealer for absolutely everything. This car has never been neglected.

And herein lies a problem. Unlike the now departed Accord, this Saab is arguably something that needs to be cherished. The number of flat-nosed 9000s is in decline and as the ‘last real Saab’, it is arguably quite collectable. The words ‘cherished’ and ‘collectable’ are strictly off limits in Bangernomics world, so I may have already dropped my first clanger. Forgive me Mr Ruppert, for I may have sinned.

1990 Saab 9000i rear
Original dealer plates and sticker – win!

But it’s mad that a car as wonderful as this can be bought for as little as £450. What’s more, there are even cheaper options out there, which make my 9000i seem overpriced. What a crazy world we live in where a perfectly serviceable and respectable car can be bought for the price of a couple of months depreciation on a new car. I admit that H38 GRD isn’t a desirable Turbo model and may be looked down on by purists. But it’s this factor that makes it all the more appealing. A base spec model with a few options that has survived the passage of time. And Scrappage.

What needs to be done? Well not a lot. I’ll want to inspect the timing chain sooner rather than later and it needs a jolly good polish. I’m also looking at a set of winter tyres, which at £50-£60 a corner represents excellent value for money. When I think of snow and winter, the first car that springs to mind is a Saab. I have visions of this thing making its way around Dartmoor with the temperatures at minus 18, when everything else has ground to a halt. But winter tyres will be a must. More on this soon.

In the meantime, I’m getting used to life in the slow lane again. The 9000i could be the perfect partner for my AX GT – a case of opposites attract. Time will tell.

A more comprehensive review and better pictures to be uploaded soon.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

22 comments

  1. September 26, 2011
    Ton

    Ha! I didn’t see that one coming. Maybe this is something for me, too, as I fear I might have been subject to another speeding-ticket-frenzy this very morning.

    Reply
    • September 26, 2011
      MajorGav

      It’s a little left-field – I grant you! 😉

      You’ve picked up a speeding ticket?! Do you have a points system in NL?

      Cheers for the editing help by the way. I’ve fired the spell checker! 😉

      Reply
      • September 26, 2011
        Ton

        I’ll have to wait and see, but odds are against me. All sources except the one I relied on, showed a sneakily hidden speed camera. I know I was wrong, but I can’t stand the fact that I trusted information that cannot be trusted.

        Points system was introduced for new drivers, I think, not for me. Though, when speeding more than 30 km/h over the limit, law enforcement does look at your history. So whichever way I look at it, I’ll be without a driving license one day, unless I get me a Saab soon 🙂

        Reply
  2. September 26, 2011
    Simon

    Excellent choice, the one and only SAAB I’ve owned long term, with the 2.3 lump too. Surprisingly good on fuel, for the oversized monster it was pulling around too. Didn’t like corners much, I think that’s how I lost mine! Long may it wear and I look forward to seriously good SAAB banter.

    Reply
    • September 26, 2011
      MajorGav

      Cheers Simon. The computer is claiming an average of 34.2MPG, up from 34.0MPG when I left Wales. Not bad at all for an old and as you say, heavy monster.

      Corners are not its strong point, but I don’t think the budget tyres on the front are helping. Strange, considering the history, that the owner put budgets on. Will soon be rectified.

      So, what happened to yours? Was a corner and a hedge involved?!

      Reply
      • September 26, 2011
        Simon

        It was loaned out to someone who couldn’t calculate large cars and sweeping bends 🙂

        Reply
        • September 26, 2011
          MajorGav

          Ouch 🙁

          Reply
  3. September 26, 2011
    Roland

    Fantastic choice… back in the early noughties I came close to purchasing a 1990s Saab 9000 but ended up with a Rover 620 (Honda Accord!).

    The Rover was a good car, but I still lust after a Saab.

    Reply
    • September 27, 2011
      MajorGav

      Thanks Roland. It’s certainly a different animal to the Accord. Still still seems mad that both cars are worth less than £450!

      Reply
  4. September 26, 2011
    David Milloy

    Very nice, and for less than 450 packets of Hobnobs!

    Reply
    • September 27, 2011
      MajorGav

      Indeed! 😉 Might be a good test – is it possible to fit 450 packets of Hobnobs into the boot of a £450 car?

      Reply
  5. September 27, 2011
    Steve Favill (@Noisy_Tappet)

    You just don’t see these any more over here, more’s the pity!

    Reply
    • September 27, 2011
      MajorGav

      Surprisingly rare over here too, certainly in flat-nose form.

      Reply
  6. September 27, 2011
    Matthew Hayward (@mhayward1990)

    My 9000 EcoPower was probably the only car I regret selling… It was a facelift model, and after I fitted a set of Aero wheels, Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres and new brake pads, it was surprisingly good on A and B-roads.

    I would seriously consider selling my 205 for a nice 9000 Aero or 2.3 Anniversary manual… Even an earlier Carlsson would be a lovely thing. Plus I still have all the kit for reprogramming the ECU! 300bhp through the front wheels… Hmmm!

    Reply
    • September 27, 2011
      MajorGav

      Nice!

      There are a quite a few facelift models left, with many of them driven by those in search of cheap motoring, as opposed to genuine enthusiasts. Like yourself, I’ve always fancied an Aero. Maybe next year? Seriously cheap motors at the moment – probably at the bottom of the depreciation curve?

      Reply
  7. September 28, 2011
    darrenvleslie

    An excellent choice. I approve (not that you would particularly care if I didn’t). Now you’re in the same position as myself, in that you have a car that in monetary terms is near enough worthless, but you have a strong bond with, meaning that you spend more on it than it’s ever going to be worth….

    Reply
    • September 28, 2011
      MajorGav

      Indeed. I’m already developing a bond with the old girl, much more so than the Honda. The Saab has character and charm and there are lots of little things I’m rather fond of. See future blog…

      Reply
  8. October 12, 2011
    Rafael

    Now you have a trouble.
    I bought a 9000 Aero in 2005, expecting to be “a nice car” and own it for “only a couple of years”.
    We´re finishing 2011, I´m member of the local Saab Club, and I can´t bear thinking to part with my 9000. The combination of confort, space, build quality, relax, performance and surprisingly good fuel economy is unbeatable. Even it´s not expensive to mantain, if you look around.
    In a few months you´ll end joining a Saab Club and, perhaps, buying a 9000 Turbo. These cars are totally addictive.
    Yours seems a very well preserved one, perfect for this winter.

    Reply
    • October 12, 2011
      MajorGav

      Ha. I had no idea you also owned a 9000. Your description of the car is spot on and whilst my 9000i doesn’t have the pace of your turbo, it has comfort and charm by the bucketload.

      I’m growing quite attached to the old thing already, so won’t rule out club membership! Who knows, perhaps I’ll take it to Spain?!

      Reply
  9. May 29, 2012
    Stuart

    Don’t take it to Spain yet, take it to Northampton for the 2012 SAAB Nationals like I will be taking my 1987 9000i. Yep, your on the slippery slope into SAAB addiction, welcome friend!

    Reply
    • May 29, 2012
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Sounds like a plan! Any pics of your ’87 car online anywhere?!

      Update on my 9000 coming up very soon…

      Reply
  10. July 19, 2014
    Tony

    In my view no better driver car exists than the 9000…definitely the best driving positioning of them all, pretty from all angles.. quite unusual and can hold its own in any company if clean.I have owned over 150 motor vehicles and have little love of front wheel drive types….all developed to
    get rid of the floor hump and as a secondary, to save on driveline loss. Instead we tolerated torque-steering which worsened with wear of course. only 2.3s he only fwd car I will ever own will be the SAAB 9000. I have Carlsson, Aero, Anniversary and Executive. My service costs have been little, I have chosen to do useful personal changes such as Bilstein suspension, new hydraulic engine mounts suspension for example and have replaced one turbo (low mileage anniversary…these things happen) and two clutch kits on different 9000’s. If your car doesn’t work well on “B” roads…get your suspension overhauled…don’t use poly bushes…use originals, use Bilstein gas shocks set for your car and make sure your engine mounts are working well and get good quality tyres…a low mileage car typically has old tyres and they harden and if left sitting for long periods get flat spots. The best of all in most ways is the Carlsson, more sporty than the Aero but if you want a really good drive get the 1997 Anniversary, quick spooling turbo boost, beautiful car, airbags, wood rim steering wheel and trim….goes like a scalded cat. Bilsteins, good tyres and you’ll be in love. NEVER buy a SAAB that has been repaired from a decent hit…they are so safely made that they cannot be returned to the original inbuilt safety…however good they look.The rest is all to fo with good common sense on mileage and wear…yes these cars will do a million miles but they also get ‘hooned’..best to have an expert check and written examination on the one you really want….Don’t buy one with increased power unless seriously well inspected…(SAAB says 250HP is the tops for FWD cars..not 350 or 450 or 750). Don’t tolerate rust in guards…if you want a good car…you can never stop it and these cars have galvanised metal bodies (did you know that?) so rust means exposure to serious salt issues or left on kerbs without doors regularly opened and perhaps with blocked drain holes. Make sure the automatic climatisation works perfectly (check with thermometer) and have your incoming air filter changed…most don’t get done. There are good ones out there….get a good one, it will last you perhaps your lifetime and they were the best set up front wheel drive car in the world as well as several times the safest road car in the world. Addictive you say…? YES!!..YES>>YES …I liked my BMW’s very much and Turbo Renaults and BX’s and all the rest but I NEED my SAAB…that’s why as I downsize heading for 70, I will sell the Aero, the Anniversary but never my Carlsson…only 329 made (some say 346) and only with the Fabulous 234L engine…some had B212’s. Only 25 exported to Australia. I have had a Cosworth Sierra on blocks for 7 years in France but which was my road car there…lowish kms..and Rear Drive like all cars should be……which I will also sell as too dear to take with me to Australia and which I really like but as far as looks go no Cosworth ever looks as good as a 9000 SAAB…Voila.

    Reply

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