Wednesday, October 24, 2012



Why haven't I posted here in forever? Well here's a major update.

The car is running wonderfully. In fact, as of Saturday evening, it's now running better than it ever has under my ownership. I spent the last week installing a new timing chain and while I was at it, flushed the oil from the cam followers, cleaned up the dizzy and installed a new o-ring, installed a new gasket in the valve cover and re-checked all of the turbo piping. Before that, I had recently replaced the ignition wires with bougicords, spark plugs with proper NGKs, dizzy rotor and cap and all of the vacuum lines (except the big fatty one coming off the PCV nipple... I can't get to the other end of it).

Before taking her on a 2,400 mile journey to Walt Disney World this summer, I also went in and replaced the entire exhaust except for the manifold, turbo, and elbow. She still has the original downpipe, but it's been cleaned up a lot after the shop owner found a massive rust line (about 6" long and 1/4" wide hole). The exhaust is now 3" aluminized steel to the tail with a 3" magnaflow cat and 3" magnaflow muffler. I asked the guy at the shop to shape the tip like the stock one and he did an excellent job (no need for a 6" chrome fart can tip please). Right before going into the shop for the new exhaust I installed new tie-rod ends and tie-rod boots. I attacked one of the ball joints that badly needed replacing while I was in there and have the other 3 ready to go whenever I have time to fit them. All four CV/U-joint boots are in the garage awaiting installment as well.

I've flushed the tranny oil and poured in fresh Redline MTL which has definitely helped smooth out the shifting. I had a brief problem with the steering column's u-joint freezing up but was able to quickly take care of that with some LPS-2 and auto-tranny fluid (??? who would have thought that was the proper lube to use ???).

Anyway, I mentioned boost. I don't know if you recall, but from the time I bought the car nearly 1.5 years ago, I have never reliably had full boost (when the ECU sees poor engine conditions, it lowers boost pressure from 10.5 to 5 psi). I can count on my hand the number of times I was able to enjoy full boost for more than 3 seconds. But never fear! My roommates kicked my butt last weekend and got me to do some serious diagnostic work (with the help of my brand new oscilloscope). We were able to determine my knock sensor was in good working order thanks to the DSO Quad. I installed a knock sensor LED in the cabin that has already proven useful. While the knock sensor was out, we cleaned up the contact surfaces and re-tightened with proper torque.

I was in for a big surprise when I put it all back together and went to test out the new knock LED. I had full boost! The gauge raced to the red and both me and Cody were thrown in our seats as all 165 HP rocketed the car forward in 1st gear. I did my best to withhold excitement until I had some more proof that it wasn't another temporary relief from hell. It's three days later and she still runs like a champ all the way to 10.5 psi!

I'm very much looking forward to upgrading a car for the very first time in my life. I've always struggled, but with time and money, to simply keep up with maintenance on a car. There was always something more important on the car that needed my attention than upgrades. But now... finally... I have the money, I have a worthy car, and I (sometimes) have the time to play with it. I sure as hell have a sweet garage in which I can work and call my own!


First things first, I want to do some more preparations. I'm going to install a proper, calibrated boost gauge before tweaking the APC. I'll likely go digital and build it myself since this is something I quite enjoy doing and can do this far cheaper than buying one. I'm already requesting quotes for steel diff covers to prepare the butter-soft transmission for horsepower figures well over 200. I'm also on the lookout for new shocks - the KYB GR-2s that I installed are softer than the stock 21 year-old Boge-branded tubes. Never again will I waste my money on KYB shocks. Or anything KYB. But, I don't exactly have $350 to throw down on shocks so that'll wait for a while.

That's all for now! Time to study for my Discrete Linear Systems test in 7 hours...


Sunday, July 10, 2011

My new 1991 Saab 900 Turbo

This is a long one, so strap in.


That's right. I finally got a Turbo. It took four years of Saab obsession, including a brief vacation with a VW Corrado, but I finally got a classic 900 with a turbo.

It didn't come at the normal price of $XXXX, though. Many of you reading this have already heard the beginning of my troubles - here I will explain them all.

Let me start by explaining the condition this car was supposed to be in when I bought it. The owner said it was rust free. Spotless. It wasn't. It was extremely clean for a car in Michigan (oh yeah - the car was located in Bancroft, MI), but the lower A-arms are rusted, the rear axle has significant rust. There are a couple other spots as well. For the most part though, its very clean - the least rust you'll find on an $800 car. Second, I knew the car's clutch slave cylinder and master-to-slave hose were shot and needed to be replaced. My good friend and fellow Saab fan, Andrew (owner of a modified 9000 Aero), offered to help me change the clutch at the owner's house. This is supposed to be a ~3 hour job*.

*For those that have changed clutches on other cars, and think I'm crazy for saying 3 hours, you've never seen the clutch on a classic Saab 900. They really are that easy.


So, its Monday, July 4, 2011. I fly to Flint, MI, Andrew picks me up, we run by the owner's parts shop (he owns a branch of CarQuest), pick up a couple tools and the clutch slave/hose, and then off to Bancroft to begin the repair. We arrived at his house at approximately 2:30pm.

It failed. Miserably. The old slave cylinder was so shot, we were unable to make it compress the pressure plate at all, and therefore unable to remove the clutch assembly. Five hours we wrenched, swore, and bled (both blood and brake/clutch fluid). It made no difference though. That clutch was not coming apart without some heavy-duty tools which we didn't have on-hand. No matter! From Michigan to Missouri is nearly all highway! "I can make it!" I said. Does it surprise you that I was wrong? It should - because the clutch had nothing to do with me getting stranded.

I was only 30 miles south of Lansing (65 miles from Bancroft) when the car died. By this time, it was 9:30pm, and I was already upset because I was 4 hours behind schedule and without a clutch. It acted very starved for fuel, as though it was out. This was impossible though! I had just put 8 gallons of gas in. First thing to check then: was there any gas leaking? Was the back of the car wet? Did it smell like gas? I found nothing. I checked the fuel pump fuse. It looked good. No gas spraying inside the engine. What next? Hit the car with my fist really hard, duh! Unexpectedly, it worked. For all of 5 miles. Then the same problem came about. By 10:30pm, I'd given up and called Statefarm for a tow truck: Bud's Towing and Automotive. The driver, Eric, was there in 25 minutes, very friendly, and an all-round great guy. He dropped me off at a motel which was a mere 1/4 mile from the shop, clean, and only $55/night.


It's 6 hours later, and though not very rested, I'm wide-awake and ready to get the car fixed. After eating a free breakfast at the Arbor Inn, I head straight over to the shop. Within an hour, a young mechanic named Brandon (I think) believed he had fixed the problem by swapping the fuel pump relay and systems relay. It worked, and I drove the car into the garage to replace the clutch - now that some seriously large tools were available. Brandon had to do some work on another car, but after lunch we got to work again. Though he'd never before seen a Saab 900, the clutch assembly came right out no problem. It took the both of us, but that's no surprise since we didn't have the proper Saab spacer ring and had to rely on (a lot of) brute force.

Right about four o'clock we finished that. I drove into town to grab some quick food before hightailing it outa there. A classy meal at Taco Bell. The clutch worked flawlessly the whole time - no problems at all! And the transmission? Oh, its beautiful. :) No popping out of gear, no syncro problems. Flawless transmission. Fuel was a whole other issue though. As I exited Taco Bell, the exact same symptoms appeared. I immediately tried to limp it back to Bud's and got ALMOST all the way there when it died completely. I was maybe 300 feet from the shop on a 2-lane road (one each direction) with no shoulder. As I got back to the car again after asking for a second tow, a local riding a moped stopped to ask if I needed help.

I'd like to put out a special thanks to Drew. In the combined 2 hours and 45 minutes that I've spent on the side of the road with this car, all on major roads, Drew was the only person to ever stop and ask if I needed help. And he did way more than just make a quick stop and offer to help push the car to the shop.

Four hours. Four hours this guy, Drew, helped me with the car. He ran to and from his house to grab more tools (since the shop closed soon after towing me back - for free I might add). He did more than just try to diagnose the problem, he taught me copious amounts of information for diagnosing, repairing, and inspecting the car. He showed me how to repair ignition wires. He showed me how to check the compression. He pointed out that my ignition coil was likely losing some energy to carbon traces, what to look for, and how to fix it. Turns out, he used to be a mechanic, then an electronics repairman, and now specifically a computer repairman. Drew, thank you! You're a lifesaver!

By eight o'clock, we had both had enough. We both learned a lot about the condition of the car, and I learned more in those 4 hours than I've ever learned in four hours of class. Neither one of us had had dinner, so we chatted over some delicious pizza at his house before he ran me back to my motel.

Wednesday Morning/Afternoon

How I wish I could have been there early enough to see the faces of the shop employees when they saw my car for the second day in a row. They all knew me quite well by then - I'd spent the entire day before at the shop (where else was I gonna go?). They gave my car top priority and we got straight to work. Thorough electrical tests were performed and it was decided that all electronics were in good working order. It had to be the fuel pump, since nothing else was likely to show intermittent symptoms. Thankfully a Delphi boxed Walbro fuel pump was in stock at Auto Value that morning and NAPA was able to deliver a set of ignition wires (replacing the unrepairably cheap CarQuest branded ones) to Bud's by 2pm.

By 3:30pm the car was running again. Fuel pump, ignition wires, and spark plugs were all replaced and a huge variety of other items were inspected and cleaned. I turned the key and she roared (ok... she whispered... but it was a very pretty whisper!) to life! I drove around town, initially staying very close to the shop. I drove an increasing radius path around the shop, and then came back to let them know all know life was good. A second, longer, trip was taken around Marshall, still without any hint of failure. I made one LAST trip to Bud's, shook hands with the Brandon and profusely thanked everyone I saw... and drove away.

Wednesday Evening

Finally the car was working. It ran beautifully, had decent power (its stuck on base-boost at the moment - a known problem with a new part in hand, just not installed yet), and was very comfortable. My dad and I agreed that driving west first, then south, would be the best route as it would put me right in the middle of lots of family in case something else went wrong. Also, it gave me a chance to show my new car to my grandpa and sit down for dinner where I had duck for the first time ever. It was delicious! I drove all the way home Wednesday. It was a loooong and boring drive, but by 1:00 am I was saying hello to my mom in O'Fallon, and shortly thereafter I was fast asleep at my dad's house in St. Charles.


My dad got a couple quick photos Thursday morning as I drove back to Rolla. The drive was going beautifully, save for a small bit of belt squeal, all the way to Sullivan - that's 3/4 of the way to Rolla.

Guess what happened in Sullivan....
No... the fuel pump didn't quit...
No... I'm not just pulling your leg - the car did die.
The alternator and water pump belts (which follow the same path) broke and are somewhere in the middle of I-44 right now. It was a relatively quick fix though, as the local NAPA had one of the belts in the pair in stock (which was enough to get me to Rolla and home again the next day) and happily delivered it to Chase Co. a few feet from my poor car. It took an hour, a bit of blood, and some gloves to protect me from the hot engine, but I got the new belt on and was, once again, driving down the road in my new 1991 Saab 900 Turbo. I finally parked the car in Rolla at 10:30 am.

A huge thanks to:

Drew Stafford:
Lots of people helped me with my car the last few days. Drew was the only one that helped so much and refused every effort I made to repay him. He didn't know me before, and I'll probably never see him again. But for 4 hours he worked on that car with me, and then proceeded to feed me and invite me into his house. He's a man I only wish I could get to know better.

Andrew Marrack:
Andrew took almost his entire fourth of July off to spend with me working on that car. I'm sure he didn't plan on spending that much time, but he did. He worked his arse off just as hard if not harder than me, and even if we didn't accomplish much, it sure wasn't because he was slacking!

Bud's Towing and Automotive:
What an awesome bunch of guys there. I only wish I knew more people in or around Marshall, MI so that I could recommend them to all go there. Everyone is very friendly, they don't seem to be prejudiced to any particular nationality, make, or model, and are extremely knowledgeable in what they do. Brandon admitted to having never worked on a Saab 900 before (it would have been a huge surprise if he had), but his previous work with an old Jaguar, combined with an incredible intuition for all things mechanical or automotive, got my Saab up and running. He didn't have any of the official "Saab special tools" suggested in the manuals (and why would he? I know Saab shops that don't even carry them), but his natural ingenuity and creativeness got the job done without damaging any parts or running into any serious problems. I can not recommend this shop highly enough!

And finally, but certainly not least...

My family:
They gave me support when and how I needed it most. When I needed to vent (which I definitely needed to from time to time!), they were there. When I needed some extra money to pay for the new parts, the shop bill, hotel, food, etc, they were there. I quite literally would not have been able to get home again were it not for them. Thank you Mom, Dad and Grandpa Norm!


I ran into way more than my share of problems with this car, but she seems to have finally warmed up to me. Three different occasions she broke down. Three different occasions stubbornness, blood, and money fixed her. One long journey.

I left the house for the airport at 6:15am Monday, and got back to Rolla at 10:30 am Thursday. But today, I'm a very happy Saab 900 Turbo owner and hope to never have an adventure like this again!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Saab 9-5 Aero

The car:
2010 Saab 9-5 Aero
2.8L V6 Turbo
300 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
4465 lb
No sunroof (WTF?!?!?!)
Fully loaded (with gadgets)
Fully loaded (with four people)

Honestly... I was rather unimpressed with the speed. We drove to the dealership in a (stock) '95 9000 Aero, and it was at least as fast as the new 9-5 Aero. The 9000 actually felt faster, but that could easily have had to do with the suspension set up.

Also, the 9-5 was an auto.

Which brings me to my next point... horribly slow transmission. Very slow to shift. The paddle shifts are very slow to react (hit the redline many times because of it). Throttle response I felt was... ok. There is definitely turbo lag in this car. Definitely.

Now, aside from those points, it's a downright incredible car! And don't get me wrong, she still hauls @$$ down the road. Soon as I got on the highway, I floored it (in sport mode of course). The car turned on the power, gently set us back in our seats, and we accelerated. And then we kept accelerating. And kept accelerating. At 105 we were still accelerating at the same pace, and I decided to let off the gas a bit... being dead in the middle of Indianapolis. It may not hurtle you like a rocket ship to 100mph, but that sure doesn't mean it has any problems AT ALL getting you there. It's just.... a a gentleman's ride to 100 or a 150 mph.

It was also dead silent in the car at 105 mph. Dead silent. Both because all my passengers weren't saying a word, and because the road, the car, and the other cars on the highway... may as well have been non-existent. Vibrations at 105 mph? Ha! Not there. If I wasn't in the far-left lane, watching the median fly past me (and the brilliantly lit HUD), I'd have had absolutely no idea how fast I was going. A gentleman's ride to triple digits.

The handling... well I honestly don't know really. I was either in downtown Indy, or on a busy highway in Indy.... hard to tell. My friend Andrew (some of you met him at the Save Saab Convoy) went to Aero academy and therefore felt a little more confident throwing her through the super tight, downtown intersections than I did. It sure did hold on. I was thrown quite rapidly in the edge of my (back) seat. The steering was very precise and I always felt like I had a firm grip on the road. Good feedback from the tires all the way to my fingertips.

I found the back seats great by the way. I'm six feet tall exactly, and my head had about an inch to spare. Maybe two... not sure. Plenty of leg room - lots of it!

Now, from a 19 year old's perspective, I think the interior looked fantastic! I didn't see anything I would have considered to be cheap parts. Granted... I've never been on the inside of a BMW M5 or whatever the Audi version is that they're competing against.

Oh yea... it had cup holders! Soooo awesome!

The seats were extremely comfortable. Heated seats worked well and on that 62 degree day, I was warmed up very quickly by the seat while my passengers kept their cool (as they requested). However, I still have yet to find any seats that I like more than a 9000 Aero. I've never been in a seat more comfortable than 9000 Aeros. Even the back seats in those things are more comfortable than most cars' front seats.

And like eevveerryyybody else says, YES the car is way better looking in person than in the photos. Not to say photos make it look bad.... they just don't do it full justice. It is a beautiful car - and SO SAAB.

Pictures available here:

------ Update: This is my reply to someone's comment in a forum ------

I was far more interested in the car, and never really played with the stereo... at all. I just left it the way the dealer set it. The touch screen didn't seem to obvious/intuitive though. I think it would do them a lot of good to put Android OS in there. THAT would be awesome. Put an OS on there that thousands of users are already familiar with.

Personally, I think the styling of everything is great. The only part I didn't like was all the buttons for the radio/temp control/center console. I'm sure, if you read the manual, it's pretty simple. But at a quick glance.... that's a LOT of buttons. It's the kind of thing where, you loan it to a friend or child or wife or something and, if they've never seen the car before, they're going to have REAL trouble adjusting the temperature or A/C while driving.

Scandinavian minimalism? Eh.. on the outside, absolutely. Inside? No. But then again, the 9-5 isn't supposed to be minimalistic on the inside. I do believe it could use some simplification on the inside, but I think the outside styling is GORGEOUS and SO SAAB!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

1989 Saab 900 w/ 20,7XX miles... and it's mine

Well, actually, it's only mine until you buy it. I am currently asking $7,500 for it. You can see it here:

Anyway, to the story behind that car.
About a month ago - maybe 2 - I received an eMail regarding a Saab for sale with only 20k miles. First thoughts, 'Well that's nice. Too bad this kind is always 10x my budget and 1,000 miles away.' Then I actually read the eMail, and learned the car was located a mere 45 minutes from my house... in St. Louis. Now, for those that aren't aware, Saabs are very uncommon in St. Louis. And Saab enthusiasts with enough disposable income to buy such a car are an even rarer commodity. With this in mind, I immediately called the phone number in the eMail, if for no other reason than just to say WOW to the owner.

Turns out the previous owner passed away a few months ago, and her children (let's call the one I talked with, Susie, for the sake of privacy) were looking to sell it. Susie is located on the east coast, and knows nothing about Saab(s) in general, especially this one. When I told Susie that there was no way I could afford such a magnificent car, she understood perfectly, but was willing to let me test drive the car in return for me providing her with educated feedback which she could then pass on to interested (and better funded) parties than I. As far as I was aware, nothing could have made me happier. I got to drive the car I love, practically as it came from the factory.

It was incredible. New cars today make my car feel old. Those that aren't quite as in touch with driving might explain it simply as, "lots of noise over bumps and stuff," but there's far more than that - such as suspension feel, weight of the steering wheel, rigidity of the chassis, the seats, and other aspects. Before I drove this car, I thought new cars were just better. I thought they were better tuned, stronger, more comfortable. They're not. They're just newer. When I recovered this rare artifact and (jumped the battery then) test drove her through Clayton, it felt new. It felt as new as today's new cars. The only difference? It was developed 30 some years ago, and built 21 years ago!

I called some people, and everyone said the exact same thing, "DON'T LET IT GO!" Eventually, I was convinced to do whatever it would take to acquire this car. The end result: I created a business plan with my aunt. She would front all the money to buy and fix the few things that needed fixing and I would do all of the work required to fix and sell it. So I called Susie back and said, basically, "I'm a cool guy and I know you like me. Why don't you sell the car to me for $2,500 and I'll take it out of the garage so you can go ahead with selling the house?" It took some convincing, but she gave it. It was mine.

I spent the entire week before college fixing things, replacing the alternator, changing fluids, recovering some cloth pieces, wash/polish/wax, etc. And driving it. It is so amazing. Anyway, as agreed with my aunt, I now must sell the car. And I have no problems with this. It is a naturally aspirated and automatic version of the car - both of which are big problems with me. There is nothing wrong with them - I just am tired of N/A power and I MUST have a stick shift.

So basically, all I'm trying to say is, BUY MY SAAB!

Saab Guy

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Inner Driver: Replaced

I started last night at about 8pm. It took until roughly 4am to finish. To say the least, I ran into a couple issues. All is good now though - she drives wonderfully. No more vibration under load, and the new transmission oil (Royal Purple) is doing WONDERFUL things. I have yet to try the transmission oil out in the cold though - I'll update sometime after Friday with cold weather info (high in the 40s).

Next step on the To-Do List: check timing and clean out cam followers. Following that will be replacing the out CV boot on at least the passenger side - I'll need to inspect the other as well.

A surprise item has also been added to the list unfortunately: gas tank filler neck. I took her to the gas station yesterday, before heading to the shop, and when I opened the gas cap door, it just fell right off. There's $130 down the hole.

Saab Guy

Monday, March 22, 2010

Quick Tune-Up

I got the chance to do a bit of tune-up stuff this weekend. I got new spark plugs, distributor cap & rotor, and valve cover gaskets. I think she starts a little bit better now, but unfortunately I'm not noticing any major improvements. It still has a delayed throttle response and does not start up immediately.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday) I will be replacing the inner driver and also therefore replacing the transmission oil. FINALLY!

Saab Guy

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Destroyed Inner Driver

My good friend Colan is staying at my house for half of break this week - I drove two hours yesterday to Effingham to pick him up. On the way there, I ran into a slight problem. I still haven't gotten that inner driver fixed, and until yesterday, hadn't even refilled the boot with grease.

The drive started out great - the driver was doing fine for quite a while up at 65-70 mph. And then it changed very quickly - I couldn't give it one bit of gas without the whole car shaking. Forty-five minutes into the drive I had to pull over in Edwardsville at a Napa Auto Parts that I found, and refill the boot with grease. This sure wasn't fun. When I popped the boot off, a small metal ring fell out - clearly badly damaged and broken. It looked as though it used to be a continuous ring - it was now an open ring. Not much I could do though other than pack in that grease as tight as I could and carry on... oh, and pray! The driving improved 100 fold! and I carried on the rest of the drive without a worry. I also made an immediate call to East of Sweden, one of the best Saab shops I've found, and ordered a new driver and tripod (that means both the male and female ends of the joint). The parts should arrive Friday (tomorrow).

I'll be waiting to do the repair until I get back to Rose and have their tools at my disposal. This is not a job I'd like to try and tackle on my own, without the proper tools.

Expect another update once the new driver is installed.

Saab Guy