1987 SAAB 900 2.1 8-valve 4 cylinder from North America


I'm in love with this car, can't you tell? ;-)


If you want higher-end power -- power for freeway passing -- the 8-valve Saab 4 cylinder engine is not for you. It's downright pokey at cruising speeds -- takes quite a few seconds to get from 50 to 60, for example, and from 60 to 70 is forever. But if you are willing to wind the engine out to its 5500 or so redline, you can get some performance out of it. Shifting isn't very quick or intuitive, though that may just be this particular car's gearbox. A short-throw shifter is available in after-market.

There doesn't appear to be any way to improve the performance of this engine over stock.

The '900 classics' tend to rust in one or two spots that can get structural and ruin the car. This one had rust behind the control arms on the unibody near the right front wheel -- I had a welder do a nice job of 'recovering' what could have been a fatal flaw. Rumor has it that this is caused by the nearby battery leaking acid, plus there are no engine parts on the passenger side that leak rust-inhibiting fluids, such as power steering. Saab mechanics say that small amounts of rust in this one spot have ruined many a car.

Driver's seat cover (velour) had shredded at the door-side shoulder -- replaced the seat with a used one.

Another problem that is ubiquitous for this model is the plastic chrome strips around the windshield and rear window -- they have faded to a color that can only be described as 'bird droppings'. There doesn't seem to be any easy fix for this -- it is a defect in materials that Saab themselves don't have a fix for, except to replace the stuff -- then it supposedly fades quickly again. Something to do with UV rays burning the chrome coating off the plastic.

Heater valve was stuck when I bought the car -- my mechanic freed it up -- not too costly a job unless you let it go and have to replace the heater core. Watch out if your main heater/A/C knob starts to move sluggishly or stick!

Gearbox is mushy coming out of 4th -- hard to find 5th -- mechanic tried to adjust it, but it still has a very imprecise feel -- I often hit 3rd when I want 5th. Something's wrong there... not sure what it is, but it's drivable. I'll live with it.

Car had a slight power-steering leak, not worth replacing the rack ($500) -- I fed it some sealant and the leak seems to have stopped.

Analog dash clock has stopped.

Noice reducer fastened under the hood had started to disintegrate, dropping mushy yucky stuff everywhere -- egg-crate foam insulation that had stopped being foam and become something else. I took it off and threw it away. That stuff could cause real problems if it got in the wrong place.

Car needed a clutch when I got it -- I had my mechanic put in an upgraded clutch kit for a turbo model -- supposed to wear longer.

Bumper clear-coat has largely peeled off.

Black dashboard has heat cracks -- rare not to find them in the 900 classics.

General Comments:

This car was well-taken care of by its previous (original) owner. Miles are very low for its 20 years of age.

It runs like clockwork, smooth and strong in the lower gears -- hesitates just a bit when cold.

Engine is phenomenally tight -- oil is nearly as clear when I change it as it was when I put it in. Does the fan -- the one that goes on automatically after you stop the engine -- help to prevent fluids deteriorating?

This car, driven conservatively, will get 33 mpg on the highway.

Maybe it's the midnight blue color, but this car gets admiring looks everywhere. Classic, understated styling. I took off the steel rims and replaced them with Saab alloy wheels for the same year -- this really helps the looks too.

Car handles very well despite the fact that it's a low-end model and it's suspension is all stock. Fun on these winding Vermont roads! I'd only add anti-lock braking ... but you can't do that with this model, to my knowledge.

I previously owned a '93 900S and I like this car much better... it just has more character.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 2nd June, 2006

2nd Jun 2006, 13:04

Very well written review. It's funny how Saab owners become so attached to their cars.

3rd Sep 2006, 01:00

Thank you very much for your review. I'm considering buying one of these, and this has been of great value to me. Thanks again.

28th Sep 2006, 20:08

I have looked at V40 Volvo wagons, Subaru foresters and alike. Found an 1886 Saab hatchback with 295 km (177 miles)

Mechanic asking $ 2500.00.

New wheels, safety, e tested worn for 20 years like a 1970's couch, but, seems to run well and lots of storage when the seats folded down. 39" w x 5.6" x almost 30" high hatch area.

I doubt I could go wrong with this car for the next few years. And I could never bring myself to a new car @ $ 30,000 these days.

Thanks for the advice very helpful...

Anything else I need to know?

1987 SAAB 900 S 2.0 16v from UK and Ireland




Heater matrix was leaking when I got the car cost about £150 to fix, none SAAB dealer. Boot lock needed some attention, did this myself and it cost nothing. Bulbs on electric window switches replaced by myself (required soldering iron, but cost pennies)

General Comments:

Fantastic, the origional 900 is a true classic it is the best build car ever without exception. But I would not have any of the more recent General Motor SAAB's as they are not really SAABs anymore and are inferior. So you could say that SAAB's are no more.

These cars were well specified in their day, but are perhaps a bit basic now. I had it for 3 years with no real problems. If you can find one of the origional SAABs in good condition buy it immediatly, it will be worth money in years to come and should run and run.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 16th February, 2005