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Medchin None
11/13/17 5:33 p.m.

This, in theory, is going to be my way of trying to motivate myself to finally get around to finishing this project. I've been lurking around the GRM forums now for about a year following a couple of builds (Mazduece, SkinnyG, and maschinenbau's rice rod) and sort of gotten a feeling for the community. I feel this is a place where my methodology is most at home, not on the individual forums for my eclectic collection of projects.

So here goes:

In March of 2013 (Christ has it really almost been 5 years?!) I was a freshmen in college, like a moron I had just wrecked my first car, and was searching craigslist looking for a replacement (like a moron). It was on that ever dangerous search I found what would become the demise of my wallet and spare time for many months and years to come.

There she is as I first met her. I won't go into explicit details on EVERYTHING I've done in the past 4 years but I will give a quick run-down of the major milestones.

It's worth mentioning at this point that I'm not a mechanic. My father isn't a mechanic. Nor is my mother, or as far as I know any relative that I've actually met. I've got an uncle who always wears mechanics cover-alls, but I think that's just a fashion choice. My father had some tools and know-how, but mostly geared towards home-maintenance and minor wood-working. It is fair however to say he is above the average "Dad Handyman" and was still a tremendous help during the early stages of my learning during this project.  Everything I did on this project I learned how to do myself from videos or written guides online, including I'm sure a few from GRM. The SAAB Sonett III was not a great choice as a first project because in almost every way it is not normal, and every part is more or less bespoke and made of unobtainium. I'm not making excuses, I'm just trying to show others that embarking on insane projects like this while not necessarily wise, aren't impossible. Even with next to no expertise or tools.

First order of business was getting the car running. Of course it wasn't when I bought it. All it took was a battery, some carb tuning, and some starting spray to get it to cough over. I then had to have to clutch master cylinder rebuilt so I could get the car in gear (one of the only things I outsourced). After that and a bodged gas tank the car could drive around the back yard. Re-did the brake lines and wiring from scratch through the whole car, pulled out the interior to be cleaned or replaced, did some rust repair, and then decided to embark down the rabbit-hole of paint and body work.

Normally it would be at this point the doors fall off the project, as soon as there is the expectation of something looking "nice" just getting it done will no longer suffice. However in my case that some how didn't happen. I did all the paint and body myself, with no formal training beyond YouTube. I think it came out pretty well and is one of my proudest accomplishments on this project.

I got the rear/main body back on without too much damage to the paint (there was a little, I still need to fix that) and it was at this point the wheels fell off.

Before putting the front body back on I felt it pertinent to test drive the car around the parking lot to make sure everything was in working mechanical order.

It was not.

First problem was after a blast around the parking lot the car wouldn't drop into gear. Then the next day out of gear there was a horrid knocking noise coming from the engine that wasn't there the previous day. Then next weekend when I had time to work again the gas tank had rusted into a colander. This wave of bad news, coupled with increased time commitments from work and school the project fell by the wayside as the car was shuffled from storage unit, to friends garage, to now the small garage I rent at my apartment.

I've finally got some time on weekends and after work to get things done in the garage. The past few months of working around but never on the SAAB has started to drive me insane. So this is going to be my accountability check-off to finally get back to finishing the car. Maybe if others are at the very least asking whats going on with the car I'll guilt myself back into working on it.

In retrospect I think I've traced the knocking noise to (hopefully) not the engine itself. The V4 Ford Taunus, like many ford engines, has torque-to-spec flywheel bolts. Well when I had the engine out I took the flywheel off and like a moron re-used the bolts. So I suspect (read: really hope) that the only problem is the flywheel working its way off the back of the engine. I've got new bolts, a new pressure plate, and carrier bearing, and am out of excuses to not pull the motor and confirm my suspicions. Or cry when it's something else.

If you want a chronological, more in-depth, write-up of all the stuff I've done to the car since I bought it I did make a blogspot to chronicle the process. Here: http://saabsonett3.blogspot.com/

If it tells you anything I haven't updated that blog since May 2016 and since then: sold that Fiero, got my next car (Volvo 242, sorry to ruin the weird cliffhanger I left there for almost 2 years), then got ANOTHER daily driver cause' the Volvo was trying to kill me.

efahl New Reader
11/13/17 5:35 p.m.

I always loved those things, especially the weird V-4 engine.  Moar pix!

Dusterbd13 MegaDork
11/13/17 6:03 p.m.

This should be fun.

And if you succeed in making progress, you may guilt me into touching the duster again. 

NOHOME UltimaDork
11/13/17 6:36 p.m.

Up there with Lotus Europas to see one of these that actually runs. Heroic songs will be sung if you pull this off.

Medchin New Reader
11/13/17 8:29 p.m.

Glad to see I have some support. Even better some folks I recognize from lurking... That sounds creepier than I'd like it to.

I've got everything loose to pull the motor this weekend, hopefully it finally happens. Someone left a comment on my blog ages ago suggesting a better way to pull the engine and trans-axle together than my previous attempts so I'll give that a try.

Stampie UltraDork
11/13/17 8:49 p.m.

Saabs will always have a special place in my heart. I've always wanted to see one of these close up. 

759NRNG Dork
11/13/17 8:54 p.m.

Does previously owning a pea soup green 1973 '99 count as immoral support??? love these...

Hal UltraDork
11/13/17 9:06 p.m.

Probably not the engine, they are very reliable.  Had one in a 96 for ~4 years as my DD.  Engine/trans removal in the 96 was easy but the Sonett was more difficult.

karplus2 New Reader
11/13/17 9:19 p.m.

I really hope you are right about the flywheel bolts. I once pulled the transmission out of my cousin's ranger because it started making a horrible noise about 100 miles after I replaced the clutch. The flywheel bolts were fine. It was a nasty rod knock. He told me AFTER we pulled the trans for the 2nd time that his oil pressure light was coming on periodically. 

Looking forward to the build. 

JoeTR6 HalfDork
11/14/17 6:41 a.m.

This should be epic, or at least a learning experience.  I'm in.

pres589 PowerDork
11/14/17 7:31 a.m.

I believe the V4 shares a lot of components with the 2.6 and 2.8 V6's.  They aren't hard engines to rebuild and 20 years ago the parts like bearing shells and a timing gear set wasn't hard to find.  I'm honestly a bit surprised to hear that the flywheel bolts are torque to yield... 

Take your time, ask questions, this should be easier than the other tasks you've performed already.  Good luck!

Medchin New Reader
11/14/17 8:39 a.m.

I will peruse my own blog at lunch and pick some of the better photos of the process to post.

In reply to Hal :

With the front body off the Sonett isn't too bad. Probably about the same as a 96 from what I've seen. I have the added bonus of the previous owner actually taking care of the engine. That seems to have been the only thing that they actually did right.

In reply to karplus2 :

The knocking doesn't SEEM to be coming from the engine, it sounded more from the bell housing. Which is what makes me think it's the flywheel/clutch arrangement bouncing around hitting stuff. Nothing better than "Do you think that's the problem?" after pulling a trans twice haha.

In reply to pres589 :

This is a task I've already preformed. That's the aggrivating part. This is very likely a problem of my own creation. It was removal and re-installation of the same bolts that I fear has caused this issue.

dculberson PowerDork
11/14/17 10:20 a.m.

Did you use any thread locker on the flywheel bolts? I usually use red lock-tite on flywheel bolts. Even if they're new torque to yield bolts I would use thread locker. You may also be able to get ARP bolts that are not torque to yield, that's what I did for my MR2.

Medchin New Reader
11/14/17 11:22 a.m.

In reply to dculberson :

Check and Check. I've got red flavor thread-locker and ARP fasteners I intend to use.

Medchin New Reader
11/14/17 11:42 a.m.

I'm going through and picking some pictures of the process.

Now this is hilarious, but at the time it was gut-wrenching. I used a gas tank etch-n-seal kit from KBS Coatings a year or two prior and the etching worked great, the sealing not so much. I had tried every home remedy under the sun up to this point: soak it in vinegar, fill it with bolts, electrolysis, nothing really worked. Anyway... the "seal" was a rubberized coating that's supposed to coat the inside of the tank and bond to the metal forming a shield... yeah... 

Well what actually happened was the etcher ate away all that tasty metal and rust leaving a virgin (and vulnerable) surface behind. The coating then formed a sort of tank shaped envelope but didn't bond to the metal. So there was a tiny gap of air between the coating and the metal. Over time gas worked it's way into that gap and happily devoured the metal. Resulting in a colander.

Last time I pulled the motor I dropped the pan to clean the old oil and inspect. The engine internals are in really good shape, part of reason I don't think the engine is what's making the knocking.

The Achilles heel of the SAAB V4 trans-axle. That free-wheeling hub has a tendency to let go. Which scatters tiny roller bearings and springs into the case and the gears happily gobble them up and make a right mess. The correct solution is to "neuter" that hub and basically disable it so it can't break. The hub is only necessary in the two-stroke cars and is a remanent of SAAB's time with a two stroke power plant in these cars. It's an igneous solution to the problem a two-stroke engine presents in a passenger car, just isn't needed in a four-stroke engine.

ask me how I know...

This was the first real welding I ever did. I shelled out for a reproduction truck floor pan because I wanted the joggle steps in it to keep the rigidity.

Full on go-kart with the body off. getting ready to put the carpet in here. I learned after cutting for hours with heavy duty scissors till my fingers were all blistered: just flip it over and cut the back side with a box cutter.

The interior my mother and I did entirely at home. The only thing I outsourced was recovering the dashboard which required some specialized tools I wasn't going to shell out for to do once.

That'll do it for now. If there are any specific things you guys want to know just post it and I'll do my best to post pictures or at the very least write an answer. Hope you're enjoying my reminiscing as much as I've been enjoying going back through the pictures and blog posts.

efahl New Reader
11/15/17 9:05 a.m.

What sort of sewing machine did you use for re-covering the seats?  The stitching along the bolsters and headrests looks awesome.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth MegaDork
11/15/17 9:32 a.m.

These are so cool. With the body off it looks like there is a shocking amount of metal where metal should be. I was under the impression that these tended to turn to dust at an alarming rate. 

Medchin New Reader
11/15/17 10:30 a.m.

In reply to efahl :

I didn't need to re-do the vinyl on the seats, so that's factory stitching. It was in good enough shape that I could just clean it and put on some leather polish. In theory they're basically seat covers glued to the fiberglass buckets, that's what needed to happen to cover the dash. There are specialty leather/vinyl sewing machines but they're expensive specialty tools, that's one of the things I delegate to an expert.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth :

The trunk floor was basically gone so I went ahead and cut out the rest and replaced the whole thing. I got lucky with this car that it was kept in a barn for most of it's life out of the horrible Carolina humidity.

The parts car I bought had only been sitting in a field for a handful of years and I did most of disassembly with heavy boot kicks...

The universe aligned for me to get my hands on that car too. My trans-axle blew up (pictures above) so I needed a new one to actually properly neuter. I found this car <10 minutes away from me in a field on craigslist for $300. The mechanicals were in great shape, the trans-axle had already been neutered cause the guy had been driving it up til the early 2000's until the clutch went out.  He then parked it in a field and let nature reclaim it.

Because that doesn't happen every day I now have boxes and boxes of spares from that car. I literally have an entire car in boxes in addition to the stuff that came with my car.

TheRX7Project New Reader
11/17/17 1:59 p.m.

Sort of on and off topic but what is "the problem with a 2 stroke engine in a passenger car" that SAAB fixed by using a free-wheeling hub?

This is a cool build for a neat car. Good luck getting it done!

Mezzanine Dork
11/17/17 2:18 p.m.

In reply to TheRX7Project :

Deceleration. If you decelerate with a four-stroke, everything is fine. If you decelerate with a two-stroke, the engine isn't getting any oil. Hence the freewheel mechanism.

Recon1342 Reader
11/17/17 2:19 p.m.

Following cause this is possibly the coolest Saab ever...

TheRX7Project New Reader
11/17/17 4:14 p.m.

In reply to Mezzanine :

Ah, the same problem we rotary guys run into. Thanks! Carry on

Hal UltraDork
11/17/17 7:44 p.m.
Mezzanine said:

In reply to TheRX7Project :

Deceleration. If you decelerate with a four-stroke, everything is fine. If you decelerate with a two-stroke, the engine isn't getting any oil. Hence the freewheel mechanism.

But the freewheel mechanism on a four-stroke in a 96 lets you draft a Greyhound bus from Monroeville to the Ohio line on the PA Turnpike and never have the engine above idle.

wheelsmithy Dork
11/18/17 9:24 a.m.

Awesome Thread. Sweet car. Carry on.

ssswitch Dork
11/18/17 10:59 a.m.

Awesome project so far. It's nice to see someone saving a Sonett.

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