As we enter another new year, we start it with another new motor. Say hello to Mike’s new steed for 2019 as his mid-life crisis decrees he must go topless…
Obsolete cars, are great aren’t they? I move out of one and straight into another only this time it wasn’t exactly my idea – a little more about that in a short while. As the title heralds, you will have no doubt by now guessed my Rover 75 has moved on to pastures new – and pastures afar they most certainly are.
To summarise and close the Project 75 chapter, it’s been sold to a rather eccentric top-level Psychiatrist of Greek origin, who resides in the Italian city of Milan and that other grand place known for its stunning history, beauty, fashion cat-walks and architecture of world repute – Crawley.
Dr Dimitrious works as a consultant in the UK for part of the year and scarpers back to Italy when the weather turns sour. It transpired that he is also a serious fan of British cars, telling me about his past vehicles which have included numerous Jaguars, MGs and Rover 3500s. It was the classic scenario of first to see will buy and, dare I say it, the most effortless transaction I have orchestrated in my 30 years of pedalling old tat. He came, he looked, he viewed, we haggled over a pot of tea and a cigarette and within 48 hours… it was gone – text book used car dealing, and to an appreciative owner, too.
Out with the old: Rover 75 goes to a good home
The handover ceremony was a low-key affair. I delivered it to his offices at a nearby hospital on a cold, dark, damp evening. We did the required paperwork, I was handed a grubby brown envelope full of money, we pressed flesh and bode each other a cheery farewell.
At first, there was no real emotion until I walked back to the missus waiting in the car – she had a tear in her eye. Turning to her and glibly saying ‘oh well, that’s that‘ we both knew it would be the last time we would see BD02 EHY. It seems my neighbours miss it as well – three locals have asked where it’s gone.
In with the new: Saab 9-3 breezes in
So what with the Saab? Well, it was all bit weird really. Our very own Keith had done his well-known party trick of buying a knackered car and quickly getting bored of it, so up for sale it went at a very cheap opening gambit – at first, it wasn’t on my radar until the other half, who was flicking through her i-Pad while in bed, asked me if I had seen his Saab up for sale. I retorted that I had and, just as my eyes were flickering into the land of nod, she asked me if she – not me I hasten to add – should buy it. Recalling the moment, I think my answer was something like do what you want.
Awaking the next day for work, I asked her ‘did we buy a car last night?‘ and the rest is history. A couple of days later its power steering pump did something naughty and Keith suggested we cancel the deal owing to potential expense, the aggro of moving it from Cambridgeshire to leafy Sussex and the horrible used car potential scenario: falling out with with a good pal over a clapped out old motor car.
After a moment of risk assessment, we decided to proceed so some pennies were electronically transferred and my wallet checked for my all-important RAC membership card.
Coming to terms with a lack of turning power
Then came the day when we arrived in Peterborough to collect the car. Keith couldn’t be there for the official AROnline hand-over picture, so we discovered the hidden keys and paperwork, kicked the lights and flashed the tyres… and then almost died of horror at the huge pool of power steering fluid covering the engine bay and ground.
The journey back was painful but, in true Bangernomics style, I hadn’t even brought with me so much as a screwdriver. The only equipment I had for the 120+ mile return journey was my missus in tow, a bottle of water and a bag of Rowntrees Randoms.
Poorly PAS aside, there was other issues that we had been told about. The front suspension was making noises like nothing I had ever heard before. With more clattering, banging and groaning noises than you’d hear from an upstairs travel-inn bedroom and with the PAS pump sounding like a sawmill, the 150-mile journey was going to be fun. Stopping every twenty miles or so to top up the fluid reservoir made the journey somewhat tiresome – not to mention that oh-so-evocative and lovely smell of leaking oil on a red hot engine… I can sense your jealousy as I type.
The job of fixing it begins…
What else? Well, the brakes leave a lot to be desired. The front discs have more lip to them than a petulant child, the pads are pretty much life expired and I kind of get the overall feeling that a previous jockey has replaced them at some point with some ultra-cut price aftermarket items.
Considering the car features the EcoPower 1.8t (even though it’s actually a few cubits under 2.0-litres) that’s simply a modified General Motors plant, there was a fair bit of boost noise when you really pushed hard through the middle gears – a good parchment scroll of faults to be getting on with eh folks?
Oh… let’s not forget the non-working front-door audio speakers, the cigar lighter that flies out white hot and disappears under the driver’s seat, the milky yellow headlamps and the temperature gauge which works just like the Clap-O-Meter on that long-gone Hughie Green-presented TV show Opportunity Knocks – and I do mean than most sincerely folks.
Beyond the issues, the story’s not so bad
Joking aside though, it’s generally solid, oozes a rare kind of class distinction and, looking back after taking ten paces (a well-known salesman thing) still looks neat, tidy and above all… damn good looking.
Okay, so I bought a car without seeing nothing more than a picture or three on Facetube…. CORRECTION – the other half has I should say and so far it,s all looking rather promising. A few of the tasks have been dealt with and, as a result the Saab, has become good enough to be daily driver material. Here’s the lowdown to date:
- Replaced broken shock absorbers, fitted new springs and strut bearings – well, one side so far
- O/S anti-roll bar vertical link worn – parts in stock awaiting fitment
- Fitted new cigar lighter barrel – done
- Non-working passenger window switch – done
- Oil/filter and plugs – parts in stock, but awaiting warmer dry weather
- Life-expired front pads and discs – awaiting fitment
- Repaired/replaced front-door speaker terminals and speakers – done
- Power steering pump overhauled – done
- Turbo noise and lack of power traced to a tear in the boost pipe – done
- Climate control panel replaced with a new old stock item – done
- New thermostat and coolant flush – done
- Headlamps de-fogged and polished – erm… kind of done, but needs finessing
It’s yet to break the bank
None of the work undertaken so far has cost an arm and a leg, but the shock absorbers were another story. Good all round egg and site fan Neil Rapsey recently visited us and with his Astra crammed full of tools and offered to lend a hand.
All was going swimmingly until one of the captive bolts that hold the strut top into the inner wing sheared a weld, making removal almost impossible. Various tricks and bodges were tried until we gave up and broke out the angle grinder, miraculously managing to save one the vital 13mm mounting bolts rather than destroying it.
Next on the list will be to replace the aforementioned front discs and pads. There’s a hint of brake judder, the pads are razor thin and the discs have more surface corrosion on them than the RMS Titanic. After that, it’s just a case of beautifying the car and getting the other minor or annoying things put right just in time for spring and summer. Early signs are looking promising I must say, especially the cruising fuel consumption and refinement. The commuting fuel economy is even better than a new MG3 I have recently had on test, it genuinely tops over 40mpg on the motorway.
Working out the General Motors parts catalogue
Being one of the final Saab platforms, there is a great deal more GM content than the previous 98 – 2003 model – not enough to dilute the quirk the brand is known for, but enough to notice. Also, the build quality varies from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Body rigidity is streets ahead of previous rag top Saabs – no longer does following traffic appear blurred in the rear view mirror on poor roads thanks to what’s colloquially known in the trade as scuttle shake. Where the cost has been squeezed out is in the fixtures and fittings inside the cabin.
You still have those large well-padded leather seats with trick head restraints and lots of buttons and switches to press – it’s really well equipped. Where it falls down is in the cheap feeling dashboard and laughably naff-feeling column stalks. The glovebox lid seems like it could snap off with a good yank and the sticks operating the wipers, indicators and cruise control feel loose, flimsy and cheap in action. However, to be fair, it was always the raw production cost of the car that ultimately played its part in the eventual death of the brand.
So, what have we bought? Are we happy?
A great deal has been said along with much mud slinging at General Motors being the sole party to blame for the death of Saab. Those in the trade know differently: on the one hand, GM wanted Saab to become competitive in terms of cost while, on the other hand, those clever but pedantic Swedish engineers just couldn’t drop the habit of re or over-engineering components – sometimes when it wasn’t really necessary.
Ultimately, the reason for Saab being a just warm fond memory boils down to the fact that the market for low-volume slightly strange but wonderfully engineered cars being bought in penny numbers simply vanished.
Where parallels can be drawn with our very own Rover is in the fondness that remains out there in the ether some years after their respective demises in the marketplace – two very different marques offering a little bit of something different from the norm in terms of presentation. Rolling along in the Saab does, though, bring another parallel with a Rover 75 to mind – you either dig ’em or you don’t and, if you have never owned or driven either at length, you’ll find it difficult to counter-argue convincingly.
- Essays : Selling the brand - 18 November 2023
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