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Saab 99 restoration

I inherited two Saab 99s, a 1976 LE and 1978 EMS. They have been sitting around my parents place on the West coast since 2005, since at minimum one needs a new starter and the other a water pump. By now they need the seals, gaskets, gas tank and electrical checked out. The problem is that even though I can probably get aftermarket parts at discount, I lack the tools and space to do it myself. And I’d have to transport one/both to the East coast. I’d really like to have a working 99 though, there certainly aren’t many around. I miss driving one and could really use it in the snow out here. Any ideas?

Sell them both and buy a good running one on the east coast. Not that hard to find.

Consider that Saab, at least at this date, is no more. It is dead, defunct, extinct, and pushing up Swedish daisies. Unless someone else steps up to take the company over, you won’t find any dealer support. What few aftermarket parts that are available now will dry up with time.

Your cars are virtually worthless if they won’t run. You can sell them by the ton to a scrapper, or for less to a salvage yard. The catalytic converters (if so equipped) are worth as much as the cars. Running, the cars have SOME worth, but they are still OLD cars. Most Saab buyers are not looking for OLD cars. I would suggest doing (or hiring) the bare minimun to make them run, and then putting them on ebay. Buy a much nicer one back east with the cash.

They’re fun cars to drive but with no expertise, no tools, and no space you’re between a rock and a hard place on these cars.

Just to pick on one item in particular since you mentioned it and that’s the water pump.
The pump on these is recessed into the engine block underneath the intake manifold so the intake must be removed to access the pump.

One the intake is off you may be facing several huge battles. One is removing the pump cover which is also recessed. It’s aluminum and over time can practically weld itself to the cast iron block. It’s quite possible to destroy the cover while removing it.

If the gods are on your side and the cover comes off without being wiped then you’re facing battle number two. That’s the actual removal of the pump itself and it requires a special tool which is a draw hammer and adapter. The adapter is a left hand thread affair (and if the pump is really stuck as is the norm) then you can count on destroying the tool before the pump comes loose.

There are a number of other very specialized tools involved in servicing these cars also.
My vote is with the others; sell them and buy one when you get there. Preferably one not in need of a water pump. :slight_smile:

If you really like Saab (I think 99 was a great car) it isn’t that expensive to ship one coast to coast. California cars might be rust free which makes restoring them feasible. A new starter and water pump aren’t that big a deal. But, there are likely fuel issues now too due to fuel deteriorating while sitting in the tank all this time.

Sometimes you can drain the old fuel and replace with a few gallons of new fuel and get lucky and find a car will start and run fine after all those years. Then again, sometimes not.

I’d find a Saab knowledgeable mechanic (or good foreign car shop) in the area where the cars sit now. Find a way for the mechanic to get access to the cars and give them a look over and give you a report. Towing them to a shop and getting them running might not be out of the question. Once running, changing out all the fluids with fresh stuff could get one or both of them back on the road.

I’d make some effort if one or both had manual transmissions. Old Saab’s with stick shifts are fun and last great. The auto trans in a car that old can get dicey to repair.

I like Saabs - I had two. Loved the way they drive.
Didn’t love the way they required maintenance. They are a little picky.
If you’re not in a position to repair them yourself, you will be spending a fair bit of money getting them back to life. I agree it would be easier to sell them in CA and buy one on the east coast because shipping itself will likely be around 2 grand. I’ve done it for one car and that was one grand two years ago.

If you’re in CT, there’s a guy that specializes in Saabs in Guilford. This one is factory trained and worked for their racing team. He’s really good but not cheap.
There’s another guy in Fairfield.
I kinda lost track of them but could probably find them again, should that fit your need.

One more comment, you mention the Saab in the snow - it’s no better than any other fwd car, really. Just get a good set of tires. And a modern car is much safer in many other ways. If money’s not an issue, fine, find somebody to check them out and repair as needed, fine, but it could be $$$$.

What Texases says is absolutely true. With the right tires, Saabs can practically climb trees. It must be the weight distribution that does it. I’ve seen plenty of other cars flip flop all over the place, not make it up hills when it snows, etc.
You’ll never get stuck, especially with a stick shift.

Money-pits that no matter how much time and effort and money you put into them, they STILL are not worth squat…These are 35 year old cars that have been sitting for 7 years unused…It’s going to take A LOT more than a starter and a water pump to “restore” them…“For Sale For Parts. Two Saab 99’s, a '76 and a '78” Take them both, best cash offer"…

@WemcoW “What Texases says is absolutely true” Think you meant to say “NOT true”, right? I know of nothing ‘special’ about the Saab different from other FWD with good winter tires. The 70s had lots of American iron with rwd and bad tires. I know my '83 GTI with winter tires never had a problem, and that my friends with Saabs had no advantage over it.

Ah, good catch. I read what you said wrong.

No, I think there is a bit of a difference in snow driving with Saabs. They do seem to get you out of trouble where other cars are slipping and sliding.
That’s just from my experience, commuting over two hours a day from NY to CT in the winter. I’ve seen too many cars not being able to make simple hills when it is slick out there.

I always assumed it wasn’t me but the weight distribution, non-automatic and good all weather tires.
Are you suggesting it was my driving prowess all this time?? :slight_smile:

To the OP, consider what you’re doing bringing these cars to the east coast. It will cost you thousands, just to transport to inoperable cars here that aren’t worth anything in their current condition.

Why not read up on them, fix the simplest problem first: the starter one.
Learn how to replace a starter and fix them during your next vacation. If it simply is a starter, you’ll be able to do this in a couple of hours, even if you’ve never done it before.
Then determine what shape the car is in and get it in good shape, bleeding brakes, coolant, etc. If it can make its way back to the east coast, drive it home.
Make it a road trip. It’ll be fun. A couple of tanks of gas, some hotels and fast food along the way and you’re home. If successful, you may want to try it twice and come get the other car during a next vacation.

Saab people tend to look out for eachother, since the car is quirky and soon to be dodo. You can probably get some emergency addresses off of forums, once you state your intent, for the unlikely event that the car breaks down.

… but remember to bring your tools along and directions to the nearest Greyhound station, just in case.

The only reason I see for you pursuing these two cars is if you have the time, money, and passion to turn these cars into your hobby.

“The only reason I see for you pursuing these two cars is if you have the time, money, and passion to turn these cars into your hobby.”

This is an excellent point. These are schmomobiles that are of no particular interest to anyone but possibly you. If you like them and approach it as a hobby, that’s fine.

I had a SAAB 99. Though it was advanced for it’s time, I wouldn’t give or spend two cents to prepare, drive or own one now. They were decent in snow, not just because they were fwd, but because they had narrow tires and a little higher clearance. Same with the other SAAB models. By today’s standards, they don’t handle that well as a result and are about as reliable as an MG or Triumph of old.

Thanks for all the suggestions and advice. Both the 99s are stick (I learned to drive on one of them, I don’t drive automatics if I can avoid it). I agree that in terms of salvageability, the one with the starter problem is probably a better bet although I remember the starters being a chronic problem with the 99s. After a quick look on Ebay, there seem to be all kinds of Saabs except 99s (however there were Sonnets and even a 96), so either there are none left or there is no demand. The cars actually belonged to my dad before he passed, and probably 10 years ago a friend of his told him to abandon the 99s and take up a 900. Maybe he was right. But to those who drove a 99 and didn’t like it: I bet the car you drove was orange.

I’m amazed, no 99s on ebay. I’d sell them and go for a 900. if I needed my Saab…

I’m not surprised to hear no 99’s on ebay. During the run of 99’s Saab was a very small and virtually known car brand in the US. Likely only a relatively small number made it into the US. Those that did often were sold in NE and other snow areas where salted roads would have rusted them out eventually. To me it makes these cars interesting, but I’m not sure if there is enough interest in them to call them “classics” and valuable.

The 99 and the 900 are essentially the same cars with a variation of mechanical and trim tweaks over the years.

I’ve never seen starter motors to be a chronic problem with SAABs but it’s possible for one of them to suffer issues with repeated key cycles and the proximity of the turbocharger to the starter motor.
It’s also possible that some starter issues were misdiagnosed the cause was the ignition switch. Problems with the switch due to the placement between the seat, the interlock, and the constant parade of dust, cookie crumbs, and spilled soda pop can do them in.

There was a fair number of 99s sold in Oklahoma. Not as common as a garden variety Ford or Honda but they were around.