1985 SAAB 90 5-speed 2 litre
Quality, style and character at a bargain price
Front brake calipers/cradles partly seized/worn.
Carb diaphragm failed (limps home on idle when this happens - I now carry spare and top up with recommended auto trans fluid, eg Castrol TQF, not engine oil)
Side/indicator light bulb-holders damaged by someone forcing in single-filament bulbs (doubles needed for both lights on eash side)
Five or six dashboard switches replaced.
Headlining drooping/torn, so board taken out and new cloth attached.
Broken/faded/damaged exterior trim bits, eg wheelarch trims, a door handle, front grille/headlamp surrounds, bonnet badge etc.
Minor rust to front edge of one rear wheelarch.
Surface rust to parts of engine compartment - repaint, prime with redox & waxoyl this and other body areas.
Slight leak into boot & surface rust only in rear corners - seal, prime & paint.
Brake servo pipe bush blew out of cam cover.
New exhaust needed.
Otherwise service items only.
Saab 90 is unusual model - basically a small-production run-out model of the 99 with a 900 saloon rear end. So 99-type dashboard etc.
Fantastic car all round - good value (cost £600), well-built, solid, lots of character, really intelligently thought through (eg 6' flat floor when seat down - ideal for house moves and emergency camping).
Good performance for weight, engine smooth-running, car very stable at speed, very reliable. Excellent long-distance car as quiet & comfortable; great seats.
Running costs: 25-30mpg. Parts/service not as cheap as a clapped-out fleet car, but very cheap for quality of car and the long-term reliability you get. Many more parts available than for a lot of 1980s cars. Many minor bits (shared with 99 and 900 saloon) still available from scrapyards or s/hand specialists.
Dealer service: reliability/helpfulness of all 3 dealers used to date (depending on my location) excellent. Repair work can be expensive so small jobs (eg fitting trim etc) done at home; parts supplied in excellent packaging.
Only possible negative is if you are not physically big - the controls are heavy by modern standards (eg no power steering and clutch & brakes quite meaty) Ignore gear whine - it's normal apparently!
A bonus: engine has timing chain, not cam-belt, and engine is renowned for very long life if oil and filter changed regularly. Gearbox long-lived provided oil kept topped up and not driven brutally. No trouble from mine.
Really excellent car all round; I can't think of a 100,000-mile 18 year old car which would have lasted better or be less trouble/expense to run, and have as much life left in it. Recommended!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 27th July, 2002
19th Feb 2004, 04:53
A Saab 99 or 90 H-engine generally wears out at 250.000km because of oil consumption caused by valve seat wear. You need a new head gasket then. That is too expensive, so they and up at the scrapyard. Running cost is very high, many repairs needed. I know of several 99 and 90 owners who had to replace a gear box at least three times. Third gear generally jumps out. I needed "only" two gearboxes. Horridly expensive to repair, because the engine must come out of the car then. But... I never had a nicer car to drive!
27th Jun 2005, 16:22
Yep, Ronald. The gearbox is a common problem on Saab's with a H-engine. Actually it is not the gearbox, but the fact that the whole engine has to be removed for a repair. For the rest it's a good car to drive...
I have driven 265.000 kilometers with a 90 without problems with the gearbox, so it can be done. And another advantage is that the H-engine has an excellent durability on gas (LPG).
By the way, if you buy a 90, buy a blue one. These are produced in Finland and they had a better treatment against corrosion...