Blog : The joy of classics
Seems silly doesn’t it. I’ve had this little old Saab 900 T16S for seven years, and as yet, have not even come close to selling it. For a serial car buyer like me, who’s riddled with CHPD (Compulsive Heap Purchasing Disorder), this must be something of a record. Well, it would be if it weren’t for a certain Alfa Romeo Alfasud I have tucked away.
But of course, the dear old Saab isn’t really mine. It belongs to She Who Must Be Obeyed, and it forms part of her own little fleet alongside her very tidy 2011 MINI First. But since early 2011, it’s been off the road – the list of jobs that needed doing on it grew and grew and time became ever shorter – so I parked it up, and promised to get it back on the road ASAP. Then months passed. And then years. And before long, the poor old Saab took root in my front garden, looking forlorn and unloved, just like Onslow’s Hillman Avenger in Keeping Up Appearances.
It couldn’t go on.
So, come the end of 2012, when the man from Vauxhall came to take away my trusty Astra Sport Tourer long termer, and with my Citroen Xantia covering miles in the hands of Mike Humble, I was left without wheels. Sorely tempted to buy another car, I started ploughing the classifieds – as well as the used car emporiums in my home village. Then I thought to myself – and had what can only be described as another boring sensible attack – why not fix the bloody Saab and just use that?
When I last looked at it properly, it was just after my brush with a manhole in Romania, so I wasn’t really best advised to start changing the knackered radiator. But I did. Except that on a broken foot and with a dislocated shoulder, I didn’t get very far at all. Deterred, I parked it up, with the radiator unplugged – and got on with my life. So coming back to it in the Christmas break, over a year later, lacking a radiator, and countless clips and fittings, there was a certain amount of re-acquaintance needed. Like, er, what goes where.
But once up to speed, I ordered a new Nissen’s radiator, along with various other sundries needed for a mini-service, and set about putting the thing back together. Little did I know, that damned radiator proved rather troublesome to take out. The bottom coolant hose was pretty much welded to the radiator, and ended up taking an hour to remove. And in total, every aspect of getting the old one out took three times longer than it should. In the end, the simple job of changing the rad took over an entire weekend.
As well as that, it needed new tyres – so the Continental ContiSport Contact 2 tyres that had taken so long to arrive when I ordered them (they are very specifically-sized 195/50s on a 16in Super Aero-shod 900), and which had been languishing in my garage since 2011, were fitted by a local mobile fitter for £60+VAT. A quick service, oil and filter change, as well as new leads, cap and plugs, and I wheeled it down to the MoT station (City Call, Burton Latimer – very good, classic friendly, and free biscuits) expecting the worst.
As it happened, it didn’t go too badly at all. Well it failed. Of course it did. But actually, it was down to rot – and that was my fault for leaving it parked up. It needed the base of both B-pillars welding up, as well as one of the rear strut towers. The cost all-in after a couple of days: £360. For 12 hours of welding, I consider that a pretty good MoT performance – and a welcome return to the road for my (missus’, sorry) Saab 900 T16S.
It could be argued that I’ve gone against my own deeply-held belief in the theory of Bangernomics, but hear me out. We’ve owned this car since 2006, and in that time, it’s never really missed a beat. It was used day in, day out, as a commuter car – and aside from fresh oil every 3000 miles, a set of brake discs, and a water pump, it’s needed nothing. And that is classic driving at its best if you ask me. So who am I to deprive such a faithful old Swede some TLC and a few weeks serving as my daily hack before SWMBO takes it back and uses it on a cherished basis?
For now, I am enjoying the old Saab, and as you can see from the above picture, I’m not afraid to take it out and use it in the weather and conditions it was designed for. And you know what? It was brilliant in the snow.
Now – what do I buy to replace the Xantia? Hmm…