Blog : The joy of classics

Keith Adams

Saab 900 T16S (1)

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…

Keith Adams


  1. Nice car. a proper Saab before GM ruined a company. how many miles has she done? oil change every 3K….really

  2. Nice to see it back on the road and being used. But come on, why have you gone quiet about the Lancia 😉

  3. Do you know what? Seeing the Saab 900 again reminds me of how good these cars looked – and still look in the case of Keith’s. Great shame that Saab has folded – there’s no justice.

  4. The Lancia is fine. It’s in need of a new set of brake lines, and then it’s ready to go for MoT. I’m not even going to think about that until the spring/early summer.

  5. @12,They may be back soon minus the griffin logo, a partnership between chinas modern energy holdings and japans Sun investments.The holding company will be NEVS -national electric vehicles sweden.

  6. Nice SAAB Keith, brings back memories of my College Lecturer who swore by the old 99s and 900s calling them indestructible, He wrote off a Peugeot 205 and yet only slightly bent the massive front bumper, after looking at the state of the Pug and how the driver got out with all limbs intact was scary…

  7. @ 12 – Hilton D. Yes, they do look good. Surprisingly so when you consider that the 900 was hardly a ground up design but simply a lengthened 99! Keith’s looks especially good with the later sloping front and ‘turbo’ trim.

    @ 17 Francis – good to hear that they may be back!

  8. I had a 1986 900T16S in silver and loved it. it went like stink and was so stable at high speeds. It cost quite a bit in maintanance and the Police & I used to disagree on what was a sensible speed (I think I got 8 points for speeding in that).

    The turbo boost was addictive and was accompanied by a wonderful turbo whistle too.

    I did note that sitting at 95mph, the turbo whistle was constant.

    I need another one.

  9. Electric cars aren’t really taking off. Sad, but this ‘new’ Saab could be a bit like MG, a limited half-hearted rollout with little direct relation to the company of old.

  10. I am glad to read that your example has needed little work to it and not cost you much in terms of recommissioning it.

    A friend of mine recently sold his much loved 1990 T16S convertible version after the bills became unbeareable, despite looking after it meticulously and driving it regularly. Genuine Saab rear brake callipers were very expensive, despite their superior quality over aftermarket parts. The instrumentation pack lighting had packed up (a common fault) and Saab, in their wisdom, had created different variations of instrumentation packs for each model, including a specific one for the T16 which is no longer available. That would have been an MOT failure. I remember when we were driving back from Birmingham in 2011 and me having to periodically shine a torch on the instrumentation display so that he could see what speed he was doing.

    Corrosion was starting to appear in some of the oddest of places where you would not expect it, such as on the sides of the outer facing of the clamshell bonnet. Many of the Saab specialists in the Westcountry did not want to undertake restoration work and did not know who to recommend, while a certain well-known classic Saab specialist in one of the neighbouring counties was rather pedantic in wanting to offer their help.

    Reaction to it at car shows was rather mixed too (perhaps that should be taken as a compliment towards how modern they still look) although the annual Swedish Day held at Haynes Motor Museum was rather enjoyable.

    Make no mistake, he absolutely loved the car and it certainly drew plenty of attention with its white exterior and very rare feature of a body kit colour-coded with the main exterior colour than finished in grey. He still has a love for the 900 but the cost of many of the servicing parts and spares were horrendous and easily on par with a Porsche 911. This, together with needing to attend to other issues that were emerging and spending £5,000 plus to achieve this, on top of the other bills he had already paid, became the deciding factor to let it go.

  11. A truly great and under-appreciated classic motor. I had a 9-5 3.0V6 TiD for 3.5 years and it was pretty good despite the GM bits. Unfortunately it had to go because the nearest place I trusted to service it was a 45 mile journey (each way) after the local dealers were bought out by Lookers and A&A Brook Saab shut their doors.

    I always really wanted an early shape 900 and I’ve seen several with over 275,000 miles on the clock. Oil change every 3,000 miles will really help as that engine is intolerant of any sludge. I would always change the filter at the same time. Remember it’s only a Dolomite engine reworked by Saab 😉

    The 900 is definitely one of those cars you buy to keep!

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