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Wednesday, June 24

900 Reasons to be cheerful

♬ Heaven, I'm in heaven… ♬

You'll have noticed that my decorating/DIY/home improvement efforts have left the OD a little impoverished from a photo point of view. Thankfully, things are gradually winding down now and I'll have the house in best saleable (I hope) condition in a few days time.

Time for full disclosure now. It's not just the decorating that's side-tracked me: I also managed to locate a Saab 900 classic - the original version before General Motors' disastrous involvement. I've seen a few of them on Ebay and the like but they're usually either mobile skips or 400 miles away.

This one was neither, however, being just a 90 minute drive from where I live and in very nice condition. It was just too good to pass up even though it's not the model I was after. I really fancied a manual 900 Turbo but will have to settle for a bog standard auto 900i instead.

The Saab in front of the North Sea. Somewhere in the background is the land of
its creator - Sweden. Can't see it? Hint: it's hiding behind Norway.

I've already given it a suitable 21st century name. I've been running about in a 16-year-old Renault Clio (it's been in the family since new and has done only 37K miles) that we called Willit, as in "Will it start?" Given that the Saab is 26 years old and takes a little bit of cranking to get going it's known as Willit 2.0. It was actually my 16-year-old daughter, Freya, who came up with that one but she doesn't read the blog much nowadays so I'll claim it in her absence.

The car is going well at the moment but the auto box is a killer when it comes to fuel consumption. An average of about 25mpg is no laughing matter with petrol the price it is here in the UK. Just as well I'll not be doing too many miles in it. Mostly, I'll be staring at it through the window blinds in the moonlight and giving it the occasional wash and polish.

I've written before about my favourite Saab - a 1982 900 Turbo five-door I bought when I was in my early 20s and the car was just a few years old. Well, in the right light, Willit 2.0 looks just like my original when I catch a glimpse of it sitting in the drive.

Saabs - I've now had eight of them - are, for me, the motoring equivalent of the Olympus OM1 and OM2. They're a big part of my early 20s and have the ability to "transport" me back to my prime, the way all good mid-life crisis purchases should. My next door neighbour's son is a car designer in Germany and currently has his Porsche 911 sitting in his parents' drive. If he were to offer it to me, I'd gladly take it, sell it and then buy the best Saab 900 Turbo classic I could find. That's how much I love Saabs.

Crucially, for an old car, the electronics are kept to a minimum. There's no immobiliser to go wonky and leave me stranded in Asda's car park, no alarm to trip for no reason in the middle of the night, no transponder key that might break if I drop it and require a £150 replacement (I can get a key cut anywhere for a fiver) and no remote central locking that threatens to activate of its own account if I leave the keys in the ignition and leave the vehicle.

New cars do absolutely nothing for me. I wrote a weekly motoring column for about 15-20 years and have played with well over a hundred brand new cars, often for days at a time. I've forgotten them all except two - a cheap-as-chips Skoda Rapid from the mid-1980s and a £110,000 Mercedes 600 SEL. I've always preferred classic cars and that's never going to change.

Another fine summer's day at Arbroath harbour! You certainly can't confuse
the 900 with all those anonymous-looking boxes that populate today's roads.

I know there are lots of readers who won't get this car thing at all. For them, a car is an A to B machine and nothing more but that's like those photographers for whom a camera is just a light tight box. If you're the type who likes to work with an old camera for a particular reason - this should chime with Leica users - then you might appreciate why, for some of us, the type of car is as important as its capabilities as a form of transport. Jeremy Clarkson wouldn't understand it but he is the motoring equivalent of a photographer who is obsessed with pixels. James May, on the other hand...

My intention is to keep the Saab forever although it's always possible that the dreaded ferric oxide or some hideously expensive mechanical melt down will have a say in that. I've only had it a week and I'm still wary of something untoward and expensive to repair lurking beneath that distinctive Scandinavian exterior. But so far, so good. The bodywork seems practically rust-free and the mileage, although high for a newer car, is a very low 79,000 miles for a 26-year-old.

Hopefully, we will both have plenty of life left in us and go on to forge a lasting relationship based on affection, trust and loyalty - the way of all good relationships.

You might also like:

Project Saab

For The Love of Cars


Michael Carberry said...

Had to toss a Leica reference in there didn't ya? Careful you're becoming one of them.

Jim Wolf said...

Nothing better than a classic pre-GM Saab. Perhaps you should go a back a bit further and get an 850 GT?

Bruce Robbins said...

Ha! If only. It's hard enough just trying to find a mere 96 V4.

wirrah said...

I have a 1952 vehicle, a 1971 vehicle and a 1991 vehicle (as well as a cabinet of old working cameras). I get the car thing!