New clutch (120,000 miles)
Fuel pulsation dampener became clogged which caused very strange stalling behavior - I just removed it! (130,000 miles)
Main radiator fan died (140,000 miles) - replaced with a used unit.
Tie rod ends and ball joints (150,000 miles)
Water pump (155,000 miles)
CV Joints (160,000 miles)
Used Main radiator fan died along with the sensor that kicked both fans on when the AC was turned on... I replaced the fan with another used unit (new ones are scarily expensive) and rewired the car so both fans come on with the AC and when needing to cool the car. (160,000 miles)
Various electrical gremlins during my ownership due to the biodegradable wiring harness generally seen in the 1985 model.
AC relay died (180,000) but to the system's credit, the original AC still works!
Somewhere in there the following items were replaced - brake master cylinder, heater control valve, cold start assist solenoid, O2 sensor, distributor cap/rotor/plug wires and brakes.
That's a long list up there, but don't let it dissuade you from owning a classic Saab. Most of the items above are general maintenance that just have to be done to an older car and none were unexpected. To the car's extreme credit, many things have never had to be touched like the timing chain, bearings and, if treated well, the rather stout manual transmission.
Texas heat does no favors for this car, however, and the paint is beginning to simply get thin, and for most folks, the AC is not adequate - but since I'm typically the only person to use the car, I can put all vents on me and I say quite cool.
I have loved this car dearly and am certain it has at least another 50,000 miles in it, but it is becoming a bit ratty. The cloth seats just don't stand up to heavy use.
My car has the 8-valve, single cam motor without a turbo, which has all the acceleration of a sleepy turtle. But the car cruises at highway speeds effortlessly and the engine is so unstressed, it will likely last longer than the car around it.
While the upholstery is a bit iffy, the seats are easily the most comfortable I've ever had in a car on long trips. They don't look special, but every time I've run the Saab on road trips, I've been amazed at how comfy things are.
My car is the bottom of the line version, with nothing automatic, so it is likely to last forever as well. Still, even the high-dollar 1985 cars were very spartan by comparison to other vehicles of the time. Creature comforts are few with a very basic climate system when most luxury cars of the time were already experimenting with thermostats in the cabin.
I'm currently looking for another Saab to replace this one - simply because I'm vain enough not to like driving a ratty car. I will definitely look for one of the same series (1985-1993, known as the "classic 900 series) with their longitudinal engines and the clutch out at the front of the car.)
Standard trannies are the only way to go as autos were known to be highly prone to early death.
Since I drive this car round trip 70 miles a day to and from work in Houston traffic, it has been rear-ended a number of time... and has been a tank enough to never show a single mark. Amazing.
I would definitely not suggest this car to someone who didn't do their own work. They are VERY simple cars that most shade-tree mechanics can keep running with ease, but if you have to have a mechanic do the work on the car, you should be ready for shocking prices. Parts range in price - some are cheap and others horribly expensive... and most of the parts are easier to get on the aftermarket than from Saab. Overall, however, nothing is really out of line compared to today's new cars...