SAAB cult: Getting on the Saab 900 II

Let's talk about that again Saab cult ! Saab as a hobby, beyond the design icon Saab 900. If you want to get in, you could do so with the second generation of the Saab 900. A difficult topic that I dare to tackle ... admittedly! Because the second generation of the Saab 900 had a hard time. Because a particularly bad-tempered troll must have been the godfather when he was born in the Stallbacka. The Saab 902 got the fight against a legend and a fall as a mortgage on its way. That couldn't work! It all started so well ...

Saab 900 SE Yellow Mellow Cabriolet 1988
Saab 900 SE Yellow Mellow Cabriolet 1988

His design makes him recognizable as Saab at first glance. The shape of an aircraft wing redefined and brought into shape, the well-known Saab hatchback. Both his predecessor and the Saab 9000 with its continuous light bands at the rear were the inspiration. The interior also typical Saab, no question. Sophisticated ergonomics, which hardly needs any further words and which is still presentable today.

The first Saab 900 II experiences

My first ride 1993 with a new Saab 900 Turbo is still in my memory today as if it was yesterday. A brand new demonstration car in the luxurious SE outfit. 185 PS's top-of-the-line motoring made for a superior driving experience, and the 902 was actually doing better than its predecessor back then. Much more space, more comfort, better engine and the wonderful Saab hatchback.

The fans and the blogger should have loved the new one.

Should have! But they refused. Great seats, better than the 901? Pah, it doesn't matter. A whopping 185 turbo hp instead of just 160? No matter either. Compared to the 901, an almost eerie calm in the interior? Completely uninteresting. The list could go on and on. I didn't buy one myself at the time, because I lacked the charm of the previous model.

Then the evil whirred "OpelWord in the press, and the first crash tests were a disaster for Saab. Just a turbo and the rest of the nasty suckers? That was too much for me too, I didn't want an Opel or a vacuum cleaner, so I stayed loyal to the 901. Used copies followed and only with the 9-3 II did a new car from Trollhättan come into our garage.

The Saab 900 II - 20 years later

If you drive an 20 today, 902 years later, then my decision does not seem so clear to me anymore. Because the 902 has in retrospect and in comparison with current cars a lot of charm and individuality with a lot of turbo power. Had I decided wrong then? Why was it that the fan community is still pouting and the 902 is the Cinderella of the Saab scene?

Saab 9-5 sports suit and 900 II. Full-length rear strap
Saab 9-5 sports suit and 900 II. Full-length rear strap


Fall of Man in Trollhättan

It was the fall of man at Saab. With the handle on the GM shelf came together, which did not fit together from the image. The Vectra platform was a means to an end, the rest remained original Saab except for a few components. Because with Swedish stubbornness - and to the annoyance of the Americans - local suppliers and traditional relationships were preferred in Trollhättan until the end.

But Opel was more of a curse than a blessing, and the use of Rüsselsheim components permanently damaged the image of the Swedes. For the European motor press, the Saab 902 was an Opel or Vauxhall. That this is not the case can be seen in Anders Tunberg's book “Saab 900 - a Swedish story”. But the flaw remained and continues to burden the 902 to this day.

Fight against a legend

Hollywood always knew! The fight against a legend cannot be won. The classic 900 was out of date in its final years, and the 902 could do everything better. But what good is all objectivity if your gut feeling is against it. The 902 lacks the bubbly sound and charisma of the previous generation. Legends never die. The shadow of the 901 haunted the 902 throughout its life. You always lose the fight against legends.

The better is the good enemy

The 900 II was only built until 1998, a short term for Saab conditions. The successor looked better and more modern. Was “Saabiger” and better to drive. The fact that the 9-3 then got a diesel under the hood in addition to many more turbo variations made the 900 II even less interesting. The Saab 902 was a Swede without a chance. Crushed between the myth Saab 900, the 9-3 I and the fall of Trollhättan.

Anyone looking for an 902 today needs a lot of patience. Because it's easier to find a Saab 900 Turbo 16 S in top condition than a good 902.

The curse of the hatchback

As soon as the Saab 9-3 I celebrated its debut, the 902 was forgotten. The fans preferred to deal with the classic 900 and left the 902 on the left. As a result, prices fell, and the 902 was carelessly used and consumed as a cheap, practical hatchback. Pram in, as a helper on the construction, vans for the move or transporter for material from the hardware store. The 902 puts everything away without complaint, and the curse of the hatchback makes the 902 a consumer car.

Saab 900 V6 at the Saab Museum
Saab 900 V6 at the Saab Museum

Buy Saab 902!

The Saab 902 is better than its reputation. Everything that makes a Saab to the Saab comes from Sweden, and Saab legend Erik Carlsson was on board for the vote of the good-natured chassis. The engines, except for the V6, are Saab constructions as well as the manual transmissions. The Saab 900 Series II is one of the first vehicles where ecology was respected. Asbestos-free, CFC-free, recyclable, and natural materials show how Saab was ahead of its time. Wood filler in the doors, any other car manufacturer would have made a green story out of it. At Saab that was forgotten again.

Where buy?

The Saab 902 is the basement child of the Saab scene. Therefore, you can find it where there is typically no Saab. The friendly flag dealer on the gravel square is a focal point or the backyard of a large car dealership. Saab 902 are often pushed into the second row or in dirty corners! He did not deserve that. The classified ads on the Internet and the usual online portals are a source anyway.

What to look out for?

Those looking for a Saab 900 Series II should have patience, patience and patience. As with many classic cars, the rule here is that the condition of the bodywork should be decisive. The technology is comparatively robust and can be repaired with reasonable effort. The weak points on the 902 are the mounting of the front struts, the rear spring plates and the rear wheel arches. Rust threatens here!

The turbo engine, if maintained, is a tough one. If it is not so, there is danger here. Because many Saab 902 were maintained at the big workshop chains or not at all. Maintenance and repair congestion are the result. When buying, look for defective cylinder head gaskets, bearing damage on the turbocharger and obsolete turbo hoses!

This does not apply to vacuum cleaners with 2 or 2.3 liters. Only the balance shafts at 2.3 come eventually to their limits and call for an engine revision. The kits are available, if available, for a fair price on the Saab Parts AB and make a revision affordable. But there are previous owners who did not want to invest even this money, and simply put the balance shafts, by removing the chains, shut down.

A special position that should be avoided if possible, takes the Saab Sensonic. A semi-automatic and Saab development, which in conjunction with the 2.0 liter turbo should provide for sporty yet comfortable driving experiences. The Sensonic instead caused problems and annoyance among customers. Saab ended the adventure in a short time, and some Sensonic-900 were converted to manual transmission. Hardly any of these variants survived.

The interior of the 902 is robust, because Saab built durable materials. The seats often have nice, thick leather, and nice to find an 902 with original radio. The Saab Infodisplay SID suffers from pixel errors, but they can be fixed for a small fee.

As I said, patience, patience and patience are important. Again and again, though rarely, one finds copies from first or second hand. Checkbook-maintained copies are rare, but not impossible.

The price situation

What price? The Saab 902 is not cheap. He's just cheap, or rather, almost a gift. The prices start at a few euros and climb even for convertibles rarely on the 4 or 5.000 Euro threshold. Good limousines or coupes you get with a little luck for little money. Therefore, you should always take the better or more expensive copy in case of doubt.

Saab Partner with tradition: Saab Bredlow in Berlin
Saab Partner with tradition: Saab Bredlow in Berlin

Spare parts & workshop

The situation is relaxed, thanks to Saab Parts AB. Many parts get new or become with traditional Saab partners, like the oldest dealer of Germany Saab Bredlow, find the unavailable parts on the shelf. In Sweden and at the dealerships there are also used parts, good contacts to a Saab operation and to the Saab scene are also with the 902 advantage. If you decide on the fabulous 2.0 Turbo, then a Saab workshop is mandatory. The turbo needs a knowledgeable hand, the large workshop chains and free screwdrivers without Saab background are overwhelmed.

Which buy?

As with any upcoming young or old-timer, the following rule applies to the Saab 900 II: Cabriolets are more sought-after than coupés and these are more desirable than sedans. A turbo is always more interesting than a vacuum cleaner. Checkbook and traceable history are always preferable.

To speak of an investment would be too much to say. Because even the optimist in me sees little potential in the 902 for the foreseeable future. But cheaper is no longer possible, and the foreseeable market shortage will regulate the price level in the next few years. Vehicles of the last two years are qualitatively better than early specimens.

The 185 hp turbo fits very well, leaving little to be desired. He is the “Saabigste” in the 900 II series with confidence and sporty approaches. These copies were often ordered in the SE equipment, which comes with leather, automatic climate control and many other nice things. There is luxury here for little money.

One possible investment is the Saab 902 Mellow-Yellow Cabriolet, which the Swedes brought onto the market in cooperation with Rinspeed. Limited to 210 copies, it was supposed to build on the success of the Monte Carlo convertibles. Which didn't work out. Monte Carlos are still on everyone's lips, but who speaks of the Yellow Mellow. Is it? Mellow yellows are traded between 7.000,00 and 8.000,00 euros. The trend is rising slightly.

Less exciting, but faithful companions, are the 4 cylinder naturally aspirated engines with 150 or 130 PS. Even the Talladega special model, which is reminiscent of the second long-run, does not (yet) create much desirability. The V6 from the GM Regal splits the scene. A bit rough, but quite robust, it is the only engine that does not come from Saab and that is not powered by chain. There is often a good equipment to buy in the SE level.

The entrance with the 902 into the Saab cult is to have for smallest money. Dismantled vehicles with unclear history and huge maintenance backlog should therefore be avoided. Still the choice is quite large and still we can afford to take the better copy.

The cult factor quick check:

+ Boarding: If you are looking for a Saab for little money and the word image is meaningless. Best with the strong turbo engine.

- Get out: Because the 901 or the 9-3 I are the more iconic or better cars.

+ Insider tip: The Talladega special edition. Unlike later Talladega Editions no marketing scam, but a car with a historical background. Hard to find. Or the 900R. He is not a marketing story, but more. If you do not know the story, learn the background on Monday on the blog.

- Cult ranking: Still low. And honestly, it can only get better.

Text: tom@saabblog.net Photos: Saab Automobile AB (1), saabblog.net

12 thoughts on "SAAB cult: Getting on the Saab 900 II"

  • 900 II, SAAB yes or rather no ?? I think “ER” is part of the Saab story. Although I am sure that the Saabians from Trollhättan were not happy about the ordered handles on the Opel shelf. I myself had the honor of being able to attend the presentation of the 1993 II in Trollhättan in 900. The new car was presented to us under the motto “The NEW 900, very SAAB”. When I think back on it, I still get goose bumps today. It was just awesome ...
    Even though this car appeared more European than a trivial Saab, it has attracted many new customers from other brands who could not do anything with SAAB before.
    Unfortunately, then came the disillusionment, which was the subject of quality. Model year 1994 should have preferred SAAB to the 900 II.
    From the 900II then a 9 3 close was absolutely correct from the perspective of the marketing experts, this car is still well traded. My son, who has been infected with SAAB for some years now, drives an 2000er 9-3 280.000km on the clock, he still looks like he's been pissed off.
    I myself bought a 9000 CS with 170 PS, the best decision in my car life, so that my wife got the same car.
    But everything has an end, now we drive both 9-5 station wagon, one of them an AERO, both great cars in great condition, but not just my beloved 9000er ,,,

  • Beautiful report Tom!
    I can only agree with the positive experiences in the comments. Our 902 Cabrio 2,3i is a very reliable car and so timeless that hardly a stranger to SAAB can tell its age. Both the interior and the trunk are suitable for small families; such convertibles are rarely found today. With my 195cm, I sit really well even on long journeys and get out fit again - SAAB.
    The 2,3i, of course, lacks the turbo steam, but it is by far the most fuel-efficient of our four SAABs and is perfect for cruising with an open roof. If necessary, he already has enough reserves, even on the highway in higher speeds.
    The 9-31 has been further developed and improved in many details.
    The chassis are certainly no Kurvenräuber, but contribute a lot to the long-distance comfort, which is more important to me and give (especially the 9000) a super clear feedback on the road conditions. This has saved me a few times in the winter, because it announces in time, when it gets serious!

  • Our 900-2 new car experience, he was our first SAAB, was consistently positive. He was durable, reliable and left the family for more than 300.000 kilometers. Of course, the 9-3-1 was much better to drive and if today I would resort to pure-mindedness to the Youngtimer, then without question to the 9-3-1.
    Nevertheless, the 900-2 is a piece of SAAB history and who has not understood that until today, who will never understand. The article is very well written on a very sensitive topic. Maybe he's moving something. Thanks Tom!

  • The transverse engine saves space - see 9000, which offers significantly more passenger space than the 900 over a comparable vehicle length. Unfortunately, it also prevents a reasonable front axle if you don't want to escalate the vehicle width too far.
    In this respect, in my opinion, even an “in-house” 900 successor on a 9000 basis would have had a hard time rivaling the predecessor. The first post-900 Saab that drives halfway Saab-worthy, i.e. worthy of the successor to the 900, is the 9-3II, which its steering rear axle actually teaches dynamism. He drove well, but unfortunately initially looked like 90-year-old Opel (and only became more or less bearable with the “Sith” facelift, because intrusive and at least no longer boring).

    The connection with Opel came at the worst possible time. Since the end of the 80s at the latest, “Opel” has been the synonym for “cheapest dirt” for us adolescents. (You will probably never get this assessment out of the minds of my classmates, even if the Rüsselsheim-based company has not started building such bad cars again since the Astra G). Any association with Opel must have fatal consequences at the beginning of the 90s. It still had that in 2010, when the new and really well done 9-5 was received as an inflated insignia, at least in the press.

    • The irony of the matter is that the Opel employees - mechanics / fitters as well as designers and developers - enjoy an excellent reputation in the industry, but unfortunately can only do justice to it to a very limited extent. And yes - from the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, a good reputation was destroyed with great sustainability. And to regain it will probably take at least the same amount of time again.

  • the 902 was our entry into the Saabwelt 1994 with a 2,0i, because I drove no Saab before I was missing nothing, the basic equipment we had only upgraded to fog lights and passenger airbag. Even the sucker (at that time still without balance shaft for it with 133PS) managed without complaining the 200km / h limit. The suspension made a better impression in the snowmulle than the later acquired aero9k. What fascinates me to this day is the shape of the 902, we deliberately chose it with unpainted bumpers. He looked slimmer-longer than with those in body color or the 9-3I.

    It's always a question of where you come from and what your claims are, for me the 94er 902 was a quantum leap and a faithful companion for more than 10 years. Today I arrived with the 9-5IIaero at the other end Saabskala, certainly because the previous Saab-companion were loyal and in total inexpensive companions.

  • It should not be forgotten that Opel had to contend with the launch of the 900-II itself with massive quality problems (Ola, Senor Lopez!). Otherwise, SAAB was once again ahead of its time, platform sharing, even across brand boundaries, is now common practice. Had Opel had better quality standards at the time, the 900-II might be a glorious chapter in SAAB history today. On many pictures certainly looks class, especially the convertible.

  • Just like the 900 9 I, the 3 had the problem that it dripped into the trunk if you opened the hatch after rain and that the seat was wet for the same reason. Not very well thought out. The landing gear rumbled and the door seals didn't deserve their name. These are my experiences after 200000 km in this vehicle. In addition, you can drive significantly faster than 900 km / h with the 100 I Cabrio without tearing your scalp off your head. Unfortunately, this was not possible with the 900 II. And… .. Legends live longer 🙂

  • Thanks for the report,

    The 902 shows how important the image of a product is, the connection to Opel was always on the screen and journalists exploited the story without researching. The book above clearly shows how much Saab is in the 902 All that only a Swede can draw a Saab. After Jason Castriota's attempt, I can only confirm the statement in the book. We ourselves drove two 902. An 2.0 Talladega sucker was after many years of Saab looking behind our entry into the Saabworld and served as a perfect family car. This car could do everything and was rock solid in the years of our ownership! Even a convertible later pulled our fleet and as 2,3l with 150 PS, who refueled with superplus quite a shock on the left lane could be. For me the real insider tip (albeit without turbo), the 2,3 whispers and plays this typical Saabsynfonie, is indestructible and could also be moved very sparingly. Later, we were followed by a 93 1 as diesel and currently it is an 95 sports car with a deer under the hood. Saab is just more than a car, a reliable companion of our family and an integral part of our lives. After Saab comes for a long time nothing. Unfortunately, I'm driving a different brand, a great car, but I'm missing something I can not describe in a few words. I would privately prefer any Saab 902 to a more modern Audi or BMW. In the sum of its characteristics the form was unique. An introduction to the Saab world with the 902? Do! So in the future, please again Hatchbacks with independent Swedish flair! Here is a gap in the market which is currently filled with A5 / A7 and in the future 3GT. More importantly, there is a market in the gap.

  • Difficult topic, well written! Chapeau

  • A very huge minus is missing in the list: the combination McPherson Gelump with Opel rear axle. Already the 9000 did the McPherson front axle not good, which can only drive straight and if it is exceptionally time to go around the corner, the whole just feels angular and wrong. But you forgive that, because he is space-ship and freeway glider, and he can drive straight ahead quite well.
    The 900, on the other hand, can be transformed into a rural road heater if desired thanks to its elaborate chassis with double wishbone axle. To this day I have not driven any other front-wheel drive vehicle that is so agile, turns so nimbly, understeers so little as a well-maintained and adjusted 900 ...
    And that's exactly what the Saab Vectra can not do. It will certainly not be worse than other front-wheel drive vehicles of the time, but who comes from the 900 sets just a slightly different scale.
    Add to that the partly unloving workmanship and the completely horrible hard plastic.

    A pity, because the thing is pretty.

    • This type of front axle design is also a logical consequence of Saab's efforts in the early stages of development (starting with 1986 after the introduction of 9000) to build the 900 with the ground group and components of the 9000. In this way many similar parts could have been used.

      Incidentally, the description of the 900 II in the commentary, which can be understood as derogatory, shows how “well” the press has done.

Comments are closed.