Mazdax605
Mazdax605 PowerDork
10/16/20 12:45 p.m.

Hey guys,

 

  I've never owned a Swedish car, but I want to. I really love this car.

 

SAAB 99E

 

I imagine I won't be able to afford this particular one, but I think I'd like to find something like it. I love the simplicity of the car, and while some may think it's dorky looking I really like the styling of it. However I don't know anything about Swedish cars in general, and especially about the SAAB brand. Would buying an old orphan brand like a 70's vintage SAAB be a bad idea? Would finding parts be tough? I'm sorta well versed in this having a Mazda REPU for the past 18 years, but it is a clean truck, and engine wise Mazda's are like legos. Am I making a mistake trying to jump into an old car like this?

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/16/20 2:02 p.m.

I've never owned a Saab and I am semi-ashamed that I ignored/dismissed them for so long back when they were cheap and more plentiful.

Cactus
Cactus HalfDork
10/16/20 2:21 p.m.

They're weird, but they're not that weird. Any 70s anything is going to be difficult to get some parts for. The engine is a Triumph design. I love them, and I'd love to swap a 900 turbo engine into one. The day you have to change the clutch in a Saab is the day you wonder why everybody else doesn't have a weird chain drive transmission.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/16/20 3:13 p.m.

I've owned a couple of 99s and a couple of classic 900s. From a usability perspective, a late 900 16V Turbo is a great car (preferably as a two-door hatch), but the 99s have a bit of purity that the later cars don't quite have. And keep in mind that 99s were pretty competitive against BMW 2002 in SCCA IIRC, so they're no slouches when driven hard.

If you do want a 99, I would go for a later one with the 2L engine, those are considered more robust. While they and the Triumph Dolomite engine have the same family tree (IIRC the base engine was designed by Ricardo in the UK). they're not the same and the SAAB engine is a lot more robust.

The main issues other than corrosion (and they don't rust as badly as other 70s IRON IME) is that the gearboxes are a tad weak, especially once you get into the higher powered turbo applications. Oh, and keep in mind that the engine and gearbox are in there backwards, which makes for really easy clutch changes and makes any work on the timing side a comparatively huge PITA.

If I'd be in the market for one that I didn't want to modify, I'd either go for:

  • A late dual-carb or fuel injected two door 99 sedan
  • A late, 16V full pressure turbo two door 900 hatchback

If I wanted to build something I'd get the nicest 99 two door and drop a 16V Turbo drivetrain into it. AFAIK that is not a Lego like swap, but pretty close.

I'm not a huge fan of the 99 hatchback aesthetically, and not a big fan of the 900 Sedan. You could get either as  four door (hatch or sedan) but unless you have to regularly stuff family members into the back seat, the two doors are easier to get in and out of for the front seat passengers.

 

914Driver
914Driver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/16/20 3:34 p.m.

YES!

American companies redesigned their stuff every 2-3 years just to keep up with the Joneses'.  SAAB poured that money into tweaking the current model = better stuff.  Same body style far a decade before changing. In a country with winters, FWD, huge heater and a windshield like an airplane just makes sense.

GRM had a 99 as a project car, I would read that.  With no frame, rust is the enemy, but I wouldn't hesitate to buy one prior to the GM & Subie intervention.

BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter)
BoxheadTim (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/16/20 3:55 p.m.

Oh, and I would also keep an eye out on the 99 section on Saabnet: https://www.saabnet.com/tsn/class/99.html

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
10/16/20 4:14 p.m.

I've talked about my 900 here - a later car I know, but as noted above, it's sort of an evolution of the 99. Parts are funny; some stuff is surprisingly available and not terribly expensive, and other stuff is unobtanium. I understand the 8V engine is more problematic than the 16V in that regard, and the early car are definitely weirder than the later ones. Mine has been very practical (much of the reason I looked hard for a 2-door hatchback) and surprisingly entertaining.

Depending on what you want to spend, look at CL or FB Marketplace. I found mine on CL and it was cheap (in no small part due to rust issues), and I've seen a number of other ones in better shape than mine was for relatively small prices. Really good ones are still expensive, but if you're willing to buy something a little scruffy - 900 or 99 - you can probably do so for little money.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 PowerDork
10/16/20 4:18 p.m.
Cactus said:

They're weird, but they're not that weird. Any 70s anything is going to be difficult to get some parts for. The engine is a Triumph design. I love them, and I'd love to swap a 900 turbo engine into one. The day you have to change the clutch in a Saab is the day you wonder why everybody else doesn't have a weird chain drive transmission.

So I've read different things about the clutch. One thing said you can change them without separating the engine and transmission, and another thing said the clutch replacement is a complete nightmare. Which is it? 

pointofdeparture
pointofdeparture UltimaDork
10/16/20 5:18 p.m.

In reply to Mazdax605 :

On the classic Saabs it is extremely easy, you can do it over the course of a single beer. It's right at the front of the engine bay, super easy to access.

On the later transverse FWD and GM cars it's closer to a nightmare but still not anything TOO bad.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
10/16/20 5:53 p.m.

Clutch is easy, but has a couple of tricks.  Keeping the pressure plate compressed as you take it in or oput involves a special tool, or an old v belt, or a piece of steel fuel line....

bludroptop
bludroptop UltraDork
10/16/20 6:03 p.m.

Had a green one - nearly identical to the BaT car linked above.  The 99 may have been the last of the Saabs to carry through the aircraft vibe in a way that was unmistakable but was lost in subsequent iterations.

 

That was 38 years ago...  can't remember the last time I saw one.

outasite
outasite HalfDork
10/16/20 6:05 p.m.

Owned a couple of 96s and 3 99s. Taught my sons how to drive on ice with a 99 on frozen lake. They drove a 99 for a couple of years while going to college in Fargo ND. They liked it because they could just drive it out of the parking spot after a major snow storm with out shoveling. If not rusted they are a very strong chassis and were rallied in close to stock condition by the factory and private teams as well.

dabird
dabird Reader
10/16/20 6:19 p.m.

Saab 99 parts availability is getting pretty rough. I've owned two Saab 96s and a Turbo 900, my son currently owns two 900s. They are definitely cars worth owning 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/16/20 6:48 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that I see more 96s out in the wild than 99s.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
10/16/20 6:58 p.m.
Mazdax605 said:

So I've read different things about the clutch. One thing said you can change them without separating the engine and transmission, and another thing said the clutch replacement is a complete nightmare. Which is it? 

I haven't done one yet, but I've looked at the arrangement, and it had to be the easiest automotive clutch I've ever encountered by a wide margin. I'm going to be pulling the slave cylinder soon to reseal it, and I think I could probably pull the clutch in about 15 minutes once the slave is out.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
10/16/20 7:13 p.m.
02Pilot said:
Mazdax605 said:

So I've read different things about the clutch. One thing said you can change them without separating the engine and transmission, and another thing said the clutch replacement is a complete nightmare. Which is it? 

I haven't done one yet, but I've looked at the arrangement, and it had to be the easiest automotive clutch I've ever encountered by a wide margin. I'm going to be pulling the slave cylinder soon to reseal it, and I think I could probably pull the clutch in about 15 minutes once the slave is out.

But you have to take the pressure plate out to get the slave out, if memory serves.

At the least, you have to compress the diaphragm and keep it down.

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 SuperDork
10/16/20 7:52 p.m.

In reply to Streetwiseguy :

You compress the pressure plate first, take out the primary shaft, take out the slave cylinder, and than you can remove the pressure plate if needed. The pressure plate will not clear the slave cylinder. Difficult to compress the pressure plate if the slave cylinder is completely berked. This is a reminder to do it as soon as it begins weeping.

procainestart
procainestart Dork
10/16/20 8:10 p.m.
Streetwiseguy said:
02Pilot said:
Mazdax605 said:

So I've read different things about the clutch. One thing said you can change them without separating the engine and transmission, and another thing said the clutch replacement is a complete nightmare. Which is it? 

I haven't done one yet, but I've looked at the arrangement, and it had to be the easiest automotive clutch I've ever encountered by a wide margin. I'm going to be pulling the slave cylinder soon to reseal it, and I think I could probably pull the clutch in about 15 minutes once the slave is out.

But you have to take the pressure plate out to get the slave out, if memory serves.

At the least, you have to compress the diaphragm and keep it down.

Yes, the PP has to come out.

There's a sweet special SAAB tool (huge lever that pushes against the throwout bearing to compress the fingers, basically) that's impossible to find and was about $400 back in the day that makes really easy. Or DIY it with this alternative:

https://www.saabnet.com/tsn/bb/900/index.html?bID=417119

Note that if you read about special spacer tools to keep the fingers in the PP retracted, there are two types. Most PPs use the thinner one that's still readily available, but I recently encountered a PP that needed the wider spacer -- first time in 20+ years. Of the DIY spacer tools I've tried, a Home Depot bucket handle has worked best; copper home ground wire works but isn't springy enough. For the recent, wider, one, I used a piece of decorative brass from the hardware store.

Honestly, the most difficult part is often putting the clutch cover back on.

Oh, and as for 99s, I wouldn't buy one with a Triumph engine. I think the best 99s were the EMS models in the mid-70s, but not a hatchback.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
10/16/20 8:56 p.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

Yeah, mine's been weeping for a bit. I just need to clear a couple of other time-sensitive projects, then I'll tear into it. I've already got the seal kit and the tool.

mad_machine (Forum Supporter)
mad_machine (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/16/20 10:04 p.m.
procainestart said:
 

Oh, and as for 99s, I wouldn't buy one with a Triumph engine. I think the best 99s were the EMS models in the mid-70s, but not a hatchback.

It certainly is the most distinctive and european looking Saab

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
10/16/20 10:23 p.m.

I have a friend with a 96 and the V4. I've worked on it for him.

It's a fun, weird little car.

I'd have one at the right price.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
10/17/20 5:43 a.m.

I found the 99 far more fun to drive than any 900. But most 99s come with the Triumph engine, which is garbage. Two words:  water pump.

The last few years of production saw the 99 with the 900 engine which is about as indestructible as any engine ever made. Like, Chrysler slant 6 indestructible.

Transmissions are weak. Automatics are truly horrible.

I worked for a Saab dealer back in the 1990s. The 99s were nearly extinct back then!

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 PowerDork
10/20/20 7:11 p.m.

Bidding got up to $5800 with reserve not met. 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/20/20 8:26 p.m.
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