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!
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’.
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.
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.
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.