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First pictures from NYIAS: The 2010 Saab 9-3x

Posted on 09. Apr, 2009 by .

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While I slept like a baby last night in the comfort of my Ikea bed, our venerable Saab expert and site owner Ryan was traveling the empty roads from Maine to Manhattan to get to the 2009 New York International Auto Show for the North American debut of this new addition to the Saab lineup.

Here are the first pictures of the 9-3x from the floor of the Jatvis:

Saab 9-3x at NYIAS 1

Saab 9-3x at NYIAS 1

Good stuff, Ryan! Enjoy the auto show — I need to be at work in 23 minutes…

MVH,
Carl

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Saab Sighting of the Week – Rye Beach, New Hampshire

Posted on 14. Aug, 2008 by .

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I spend a great deal of time on the roads — mainly testing firmware for work in the car (by the by, if anyone out there knows a nice way to make a time delay in C without using Nop, please let me know). Today was no exception and as I wound my way up Route 1A along the short coast of New Hampshire for the third time, I saw this:

Saab 95 on 1A

I am no stranger to this car — I’ve seen it in Stratham, New Hampshire numerous times, as well as at an independent Saab mechanic’s shop in Berwick, Maine.

Some runners up today included a family heading to the beach in a 2000 Silver 5-door Viggen on 101 Eastbound with VT plates (which I affectionately referred to as the “Happy Family Viggen”), a late 80s Cherry Red 900T convertible with NH plate JANET about half a dozen times, a sweet black 9-5 SE V6 with BBS RK-2 rims like I have on my 2003 9-5 Aero, a 2006 20th Anniversary 9-3 Convertible and a 1992ish Nocturne Blue 900S sedan on my way back to the office to write this very post!

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Handen av Öde – The Hands of Fate

Posted on 24. Jun, 2008 by .

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Uncle Carl dIslikes car crushers
The 9000CS Before The Tow Arrived

Was it not 36 hours ago when I posted about the grave matter of sending perfectly good Saabs to the crusher or cars that suffered an unfortunate ownership at the hands of a negligent owner? Yesterday was one of the rare occasions that yielded a happy ending for both the seller and the buyer!

So I was working out in the cloudy, cold and rainy environs of my screened-in porch around lunchtime yesterday when the cell phone started buzzing away flashing “Ryan” on the screen. Well, sure enough it was Ryan and he told me about this guy who had just called his buddy’s shop looking to offload a 1997 9000 CS. By offload, I mean it in the worst possible way… the guy was on the verge of calling the junkyard to have a perfectly running and driving car sent to the crusher for the lack of a “proper buyer”.

Granted, the 9000 is a really nice car, but it’s not for everyone. I had one sitting on my front lawn for four months a few years ago before someone came and bought it on Christmas Eve. The parts can be a touch expensive and hard to find, and that naturally strikes it off the lists of many would-be buyers. This guy selling the car knew that; knowing that the hood was chipped, headlight was cracked and it sat for a year, Ryan and I went to save it from a fate worse than sitting in a driveway for all eternity waiting for a buyer.

When we arrived, the 9000 was purring in the driveway as the clouds started to break. The car was beautiful – black paint in need of a little TLC, sand beige leather interior, manual tranny, 220k miles (hardly broken in!) and nothing of any major significance wrong with it. It didn’t take long to walk around the thing and think up a quick offer. Offer accepted, Ryan called for the trusty AAA Plus tow back to the central part of the state so his mechanic could start fixing it up for road use.

The 9000 is safely in the hands of a trusted Saab mechanic at this time, getting ready for Ryan’s fiancée to drive it as a daily driver.

Up, Up and Away

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The Endangered Saab

Posted on 23. Jun, 2008 by .

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saab84tcombi-005.jpg

Photo Credit: Carl

It’s been a little while since I’ve made a post up here, but given the disappointment as of late, I felt it was time to talk a bit about a concern I’ve been having.

I’ve been driving Saabs for ten years and the majority of that time was spent at the helm of the quintessential Saab, the 900. As with any aging populous of car model made between 1979 and 1993, the number of Saab 900s on the road have decreased naturally for some time. However, it seems that as of maybe the last 5 years, more and more 900s have fallen into the hands of people who, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t have had one.

Today, I went on an excursion with my good friends Ali (escalator guru for all the forum-goers out there) and her fiancé Brian to look at what appeared to be a very nice 1984 Saab 900 Turbo. Complete with Uncle Bob’s “Special Black” as indicated by its facsimile Monroney sticker and a clean bill of legal health from CarFax, it looked like we had a great day lined up that would end with a C900 coming south in the coming week. We drove 80 miles north from where I live here on the coast of New Hampshire to a town in the White Mountains to examine this spectacle. Gas prices being what they are, we had to really trust the Craigslist ad for what it was worth, as well as the email correspondence from the seller. There was a claim of a “rusty rocker panel”, and that was about it.

That was not the only issue with the car. We rolled up and saw it parked about 30′ away, to which I jokingly uttered my catchphrase “It’s good from afar, but far from good”. There is truth in every joke, however. The car had been repainted, badly. Where that paint job had failed, mainly as a result of improper surface preparation and the ensuing rust bubbles, the paint was “repaired” with a tube of touch-up paint. That’s all well and good for a little chip, but there were spots easily 2″ in diameter that were brushed in. The seller greeted us and showed us around the car. Upon opening the driver’s door of the car, the “rusty rocker panel” was visible. Honestly, had the rust been fixed right the first time and not slapped together with Bondo, it wouldn’t have crumbled upon contact like the asbestos pipe coatings they had in the old Jr. High school I went to ages ago. The man snapped at me, ordering me not to touch it. I promptly snapped back and said, “how else can I determine if this can still be fixed?”. He then grudgingly started the car, which sounded awesome. I asked him about the warm-up regulator, knowing full well that an 8-valve Saab will start poorly with a malfunctioning one. He had replaced it… with one from another one of his old 900s.

I was getting a really bad vibe about this guy, so I called for a team meeting outside the little boys room in the guy’s workshop. The rust seemed fixable, but it would take some exploratory work to determine the full extent. We asked to take a test drive, and then to use the lift in the shop afterward to inspect the undercarriage. Ali and Brian took the first drive and I stayed behind and chatted with the guy. “You know,” he said, “this is the first time I used Craigslist to try and unload a car and I got like 50 responses. I should dust off my other old 900s in storage, fix ’em and sell ’em off too!” I just sort of gave him the boilerplate “Yeah, everyone wants fuel economy these days” line and waited for the duo to return. Upon their arrival, I climbed into the driver’s seat and strapped in. There was no dealer plate on the car, so we were only limited to the industrial park we were in. Nevertheless, I took it out to the road and slipped into 2nd gear… the boost slowly creeped into the first third of the yellow as a haunting sound that I hadn’t heard in nearly five years came from the motor. Rod bearing failure was enough for me to say “*four letter word* this, we’re outta here” but being behind the wheel and 200′ away from the person holding the checkbook, I had to save face for a minute or two.

I pulled back up out front and left it running so the dude could pull the car in and show us the rest of the disaster. While he did that, I pulled Ali and Brian aside and said “We need to walk, this car is on its last legs and is an absolute piece”. For some reason, we decided to stay around and see the undercarriage and that sealed the deal. The four of us stood under the car speechless for a second and I yelled out “THIS THING IS HOLIER THAN JESUS!” Not only that, the catalytic converter was long gone — much to the joy of the sketchy technician. So here was a guy, buying up rotten old 900s that were never really dealt with properly in the early days and passing them off as reliable transporation. I made a remark about the rod knock… “OH! That’s pinging, all Saabs do it. I’ve been working on Saabs for 40 years and I know ping when I hear it! YOU MUST HAVE BEEN OVERBOOSTING!!” I was genuinely insulted at this point and said, “No, that was rod knock — same sound my 1987 900 Turbo made in its dying days. That car never got a third of the way into the yellow. Guys, let’s go!”

We walked.

So what is the moral of this story? Classic 900s are an endangered model. A-Arm rust, dead transmissions, rusty bodies, blown head gaskets, my generation’s affinity for the Turbo and SPG models… all these factors have played a part in the disappearance of the 900. Another trend, which has me all fired up right now, are these people stripping the cars for parts when there was a very small issue to begin with. Instead of buying the $60 head gasket set, a case of beer and taking a Sunday afternoon to get down and greasy, they write the thing off as junk, part it and send another 100-hour’s worth of 1980s Swedish labor to the crusher.

Kids, these cars WILL NOT EXIST in a few more years if this keeps up. I saw my little 18-month old nephew (Sister’s friend’s kid, they still call me Uncle Carl) today and I got sad for a minute thinking that if he didn’t have an Uncle Carl to educate him, it’s not very likely he’d ever know what a Saab 900 is by the time he’s old enough to care.

Henceforth, I am issuing this decree as a long-standing member of the worldwide Saab community: Stop parting out potentially good-running 900s! I don’t care if they are 8V Automatic 4-door sedans or Commemorative Editions, they’re all special and worth saving regardless of how they came equipped from the factory.


A little hometown love for the Turbo-X

Posted on 03. Jun, 2008 by .

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Small Turbo-X Gravel Roostertail Action

Growing up around the Seacoast area, Saabs never seemed to get the respect and admiration from the press that one would see as befitting of such a magnificent marque. I would be so excited to see some press about a new Saab in the newspaper, only to be disappointed by buzzwords like “quirky” or “torque steer”. Over time, I became jaded and just stopped reading the automotive section all together.

So the other morning, Ryan was by my place for a quick visit and saw the Portsmouth Herald on my kitchen table. Well sure enough, there was the picture you see above with a great article by Gerry Miles, a local correspondent for Seacoast Media Group. Gerry, a Saab enthusiast in his own right, had this to say in a quick email to Saab History about his own Saab history:

“…I’ve owned 2 Saabs, a 900S 4-door and 900S hatchback. I miss them both, notchy gearbox and all. The 900s Hatch lost its drivers window during a winter storm on a trip to LL Bean and the passengers in the back got buffeted with brisk air. We borrowed some cardboard in Maine and blocked the driver’s window. The local dealership laughed like hell when I told him how I went to put the window down at the York Toll’s and the window stuck and then twisted on an angle and sank slowly before I could grab it. I appreciated the heated seat like heck then!”

And now, without further ado, here is Gerry’s take on the tantalizing Turbo-X:

Turbo X goes back in time to Saab’s future: “Black is back”

ANDOVER, Mass. – In a nod to the past with a keen eye on the present, Saab Cars USA showed off its latest, and greatest, way to fight the snow since they standardized heated front seats here last week with a national press introduction.

Cross Wheel Drive, or XWD for acronym aficionados, is the best adaptation of front and all-wheel-drive in a tidy package produced for the limited edition retro version of the old Saab s now found in the a retro version of the classic black 1985 Saab 900 SPG. Saab, which made its international intro of the vehicle last fall at the New England International Auto Show in Boston , returned to the northeast because 40 percent of its stateside sales are derived from the six-state region and the firm was headquartered in Orange , Conn. , for 37 years.

Saab historical fans may know, or know of former CEO Ralph Millet displaying the first Saab at the New York Auto Show where the car was meant only to generate interest as a static display. It drew so much interest than when a man pressed him on the price, he hesitated, walked away for a bit, came back with a price and thus the first Saab was sold in the USA .

Imagine a new 9-3, swathed in deep rich black paint and matching black interior – like the black 99 and 900 Turbos – and you’ll find the retro turbo boost gauge on the right side of the instrument panel, in its white/yellow/red curved stripe, all the better to show how much of the 295 foot-pounds of torque at 2,150 rpm are churning through the turbo-powered four-cylinder mill to generate a peak of 280 horsepower from the 2.8-liter V-6 engine.

Sitting behind the wheel of the fastest Saab ever produced – yes, it’s quicker than the torque-steer ridden Viggen that wore out tires and nerves wrestling the steering wheel – zooming up to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, it’s every bit a Saab, swift and sedate.

Driving up to the test site from Boston , we zipped through Storrow Drive , up the Big Dig ramps and onto 93 North where the expansion joints every 25 yards or so gave the suspension a real world test that even a marketing guru had not experienced but likened to the cement roads of Detroit . It was there that we surmised the Turbo X, which crossed the suspension joints but didn’t jar our fillings loose, had passed its first real world suspension test.

At the test site, we discovered just how good the car was – especially for its given mission – staying planted in slippery conditions.

With sand spread on a parking lot, I first pushed the automatic Turbo X through a slalom and then hammered the apex of a corner, trying to push the rear end out of control. No dice.

Just when the sand flew and the back end started to feel a tad light and slide, with my foot still on the gas, the X corrected and moved out towards the next set of cones.

The magic comes from a proprietary fourth generation Haldex unit that mates to either the auto or 6-speed manual transmission. What happens next is an alphabet soup of techno wizardry but it works all the time and at high speeds in dry-land zipping through cones or repeated passes through the sand in the apex of the sweeper.

First, consider that XWD can send up to 100 percent of the power to either the front or rear wheels if needed. Under normal conditions, expect no more than 10 percent to be sent to the rear wheels. Then, consider that the cross-over features allows up to 40 percent of the torque to switch to the rear wheel with the most grip.

“If you had two front wheels on ice, say, and one in wet snow and one wheel on gravel or something with better grip than the other three,” described Saab engineer Tommy Sundin, “this XWD would get you out. It’s as simple as that.”

What sounds simple is really a neat interaction of new systems. Chiefly there’s a version of electronic limited slip differential called eLSD. It also works in dry or wet weather to help cross deeper than expected puddles or with cornering aggressively.

How it works

When you select a gear, the PTU (Power Take-off Unit), which transmits power through the prop shaft to the rear axle and the RDM (Rear Drive Module, which includes a TTD (Torque Transfer Device) and the eLSD (electronic limited slip differential).

At the gear selection, the systems synergize whereas previous systems needed to detect any wheel slippage before engaging the backside. This also means one will no longer find the snowflake symbol atop the auto gear shift. Pressing this button on past models in winter started the vehicle in third gear to prevent wheel slip at takeoff.
Underway, the TTD , RDM and eLSD “talk” back and forth – literally – depending upon traction or lack thereof for sure-footed driving.

Torque between the axles is handled by the TTD, depending upon “slip.” The RDM and eLSD perform similar functions by laterally and in concert with the ABS/ESP programs that monitor yaw ratio, steering angle, speed and other factors.

Retro-fit

Sundin explained that getting the systems to fit underneath, without becoming bulky was a trick that was mastered. Just six tiny brackets were needed to hang the Haldex. The gas tank was modified, but is still a one-piece unit with a sending unit to keep pressure taut and steady.

The rear suspension got reworked and has a self-leveling feature Sundin said was necessary, as is a big anti-roll bar.

Why they did it

Saab, according to marketing guru Roger McCormack, is hoping to become more of a premium niche player and a graphic showed that it’s all new money for parent firm General Motors. Saab released a starting price last fall of $ 42,510; the SportCombi wagon is priced at $43,310 according to trollhattensaab.net.

The move to all-wheel-drive, along with most of the premium import segment, was a natural, especially after the failed experiment with the 9-2X Saab-aru variant from Subaru.

Of the 2,000 Turbo X’s produced, a limited number that may well establish it as a “Classic Cult Car” too, but 600 are to be sold stateside and it’s estimated that half of that allotment is already sold.
As the only premium European brand in the GM family, XWD gives Saab another quiver in its all-weather versatility perception and reality. XWD will migrate to the 9.3 2.0t and the 9.3 Aero this fall and the rest of the Swedish portfolio, including the 9.4 that was shown off in Detroit this winter.

Exclusivity

The Saab Turbo X will be limited to 2,000 production units worldwide. Known market allocations are as follows:
US – 600 units
UK – 500 units
SWEDEN – 175 units
CANADA – 125
SWITZERLAND – 120
GERMANY – 90
AUSTRALIA – 30
FRANCE – 50

Model: 9-3 Turbo X
Body style / driveline:
Sport Sedan : 4-door, 5-passenger, all-wheel drive;
SportCombi: 5-door, 5-passenger, all-wheel drive
EPA vehicle class: premium compact sport sedan and sport wagon
Engine:
Type: 2.8L V-6-cylinder high-output turbo
Displacement: 170 cu. in.
Horsepower: 280 @ 5500 rpm
Acceleration 0-60: 5.4 seconds
Chassis/Suspension
Front: MacPherson struts, gas shock absorbers, anti-roll bar, hydroformed sub-frame
Rear: independent, 4-link (including toe-link), coil springs, self-leveling shock absorbers, anti-roll bar, sub-frame, Re-Axs rear-wheel steering system
Steering type: power-assisted rack and pinion
Brakes
Type: 4-wheel disc, hydraulic, dual-circuit with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), mechanical brake assist (MBA), vacuum booster, anti-lock braking system (ABS), traction control system (TCS) and electronic stability program (ESP), ventilated front discs and rear discs
Rotor diameter x thickness
front: 13.6 x 1.18 in.
rear: 11.5 x 0.8 in.
Wheels and Tires
Wheel size and type (in): 18 x 7.5-inch alloy
Tires: P235/45 R18

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Production Concept