Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2k: The Last Saabfighter: 1993 Saab 9000 Aero

The Saab 9000 was the final vehicle designed in house at Saab and brought to market by the funky Scandinavian OEM before it was fully acquired by the monstrous machine known as General Motors. GM took a 50% share in Saab in 1989, subsequently forced GM global platform based garbage into lineup by 1994, exercised its option to acquire 100% of Saab rights in 2000, and within the decade had run the 65 year old automotive spin-off of Svenska Aeroplan AB into the toilet.  This outcome shocked absolutely no one.  The biggest problem with the post GM Saab era vehicles wasn't that they were less reliable (in truth they were probably better cars) but that they had lost the essential Saabness and GM's corporate bean counters were so busy patting themselves on the back that they forgot to figure out if Saab was going to compete with BMW, Bugatti or a Bangladeshi rickshaw manufacturer.  There was a time when Saab had a game plan and it included building cars like the 9000 that had final gear acceleration from 50-70 mph faster than a Carrera 4 or Testarossa, and selling those cars to wacky professor types who just wanted something different.  Find this 1993 Saab 9000 Aero offered for $2,300 in Northwest Arkansas via craigslist.  Tip from Mike G.

The 9000 is built on the Saab/Fiat type 4 platform (1984-1998 Lancia Thema, Saab 9000, Fiat Croma, Alfa Romeo 164) and features executive class luxury, front drive safety, and Giorgetto Giugiaro styling.  This particular Saab 9000 is the desirable Aero edition, which added a turbocharged engine, body kit, Recaro seats, sport suspension and 16-inch wheels.

This 9000 Aero is powered by a 2.3 liter turbocharged version of Saab's B234 engine that is boosted to 225 horsepower with a Mitsubishi TD04 turbo. The little Saab 4-banger will make torque and horsepower anytime the turbo is spooled up, with a bonus of good fuel economy when the snail is relaxed.

See a better lift gate equipped late model?


  1. Fleetwood T. BroughamAugust 20, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    The thing with these is that there is virtually no price difference between one like the featured one that looks like it's been waxed with sandpaper, and ones like this one that has clearly been babied. (this was just a quick search---I'm sure I could find a 5 speed if I looked enough.)

  2. Ah, the Saab 9000.

    We had a 1992 9000 Turbo. It served us long and well. It was my wife's car, and therefore a slushbox. If it had been a manual I'd have never, ever, ever gotten rid of it. The ZF 4HP18 transmission lasted the nearly 200K we had the car, but it was never a particularly happy match for the engine.

    The rest of the car, however, was magnificent. Nothing short of a VW bus has ever touched the 9000 for the ratio of interior volume to exterior size. Think of it as a big second-generation VW Golf. Tremendous driving position, great outward visibility (something most modern cars utterly suck at). Good chassis, the '90.5-up B234T engine is a great hulking brute with enough beef to go to 350HP on a stock longblock if you're so inclined, the manual transmissions come from the GM F24/F35 family so there's a nice Quaife diff to keep the one-wheel-peel under control, from mid '96 the B234T used the GM Ecotec bellhousing pattern and I think there's at least one 9000 running around with an F40 6-speed box.

    It's not a perfect car - Saab never quite had the money to do proper durability testing so the first year of any new major feature can be troublesome. The B234T engine had some early cam-sprocket problems but was otherwise solid (still needs a cam chain/tensioner every 150K or so), the crappy 4HP18 transmission if maintained less troublesome in the 9000 than in its various other BMW, Peugeot, Audi applications where it'd blow up from being run at 2500RPM in neutral during smog-testing (maybe the fact that the transverse Saab case mounted the gearcase and valving upside-down helped with that?), when GM got their hands on Saab they stuck their benighted little 54-degree DOHC V6 in a few 9000s and ended up paying for 30K-mile cam-belt jobs forever on those cars, suggest avoiding those.

    The electrical system in the 9000 was quite elaborate and sometimes troublesome (and Saab didn't help matters for the owner/mechanic by changing the electrical system significantly from year to year), the two-speed radiator-fan thermoswitches and resistor packs were a notorious problem, as with all Saabs of that day the crank damper would shed its damping ring the first time the bonded elastomer came in contact with even the slightest whiff of oil and the headliner would begin its descent to your ears after a few years.

    The '86-92 cars did not have much front fender room, the '91-92 pre-Aeros came with a 205/50-16 tire and attempting to go larger (even a 205/55) would result in the fender-lip mounting studs carving up your sidewalls. Some quality time with a cutoff tool getting those studs cut down flush with the nuts, and a lot of measuring and trial-fitting, yielded a set of 16x7.5 Ronals and 225/45-16 Goodyear GS-D3s that worked beautifully, no rubbing, tons more grip and better ride to boot. Alas, the 225/45-16 is one of those tire sizes that is dead as a dodo. The '93-up cars have more fender clearance.

    The 9000 was not a pure Saab product, the design was a joint venture with Fiat and (then separate) Alfa Romeo. The cars that resulted - the 9000, the Alfa 164, the Fiat Croma and Lancia Thema - were all quite different from one another, though. Lancia actually pushed a Thema out the door - the 8.32 - with a Ferrari-based 3-liter V8, think it had a 90-degree crank, it was not terribly powerful but then open-diff wrong-wheel-drive couldn't take much more than it put out anyway.

  3. I love these. My Dad had the naturally aspirated version with auto as his company car. She weren't fast but was a wonderful automobile. As I recall Electronics were what did her in. Unfortunately, trying to keep one in top shape today as a dd might be a losing battle.

  4. I have 3 9000s in the family fleet ('95 Aero, '98 CSE and '96 CS), they longest of which I've owned for 17 years. What I like about them is their inherent strength, easy maintenance and all round comfort. They do everything a car needs to do without the gratuitous crap that breaks.
    I have not had any parts availability problems, nor rust in the PNW. Hence it could go on for a long, long with proper maintenance. I've stuck to the 94 and on version for parts commonality and on the basis that Saab got the car fully sorted after 8 years having introduced it in '86.
    The car above is a first year Aero, They were reputedly the fastest. This one may have TCS which was problematic but can be deleted for a couple of hundred dollars and quite a few hours work. I doubt this one would be an investment, but it would be a mighty fun beater/daily driver.

  5. I just picked up a 98 CSE which has aero mechanicals. It is a entertaining drive that has enough Saab-ness to it. It is more of a straight line cruiser, but can swallow a lot of gear with the hatch. Rust is a big issue with all of these cars by now. Resale value is atrocious so you get a lot of car for the money. The aero cars are a ECU tune, 3" exhaust, and intercooler ugrade away from being seriously quick.

  6. Daily drive a 9000 Aero with 270k. 3" pipe from the trombone back with an ECU tune and it's one quiiiiiiick car. Those miles are factory engine AND trumpet!


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