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Saab 93 – Initial Impressions and Fixes

To say I’m a little smitten with the Saab is an understatement, it’s a very good all round car. I’m impressed.

Its been a couple of days, about 130km of pointless driving for-the-heck-of-it and already I’m getting a feel for the car. I can’t help compare it to my last fast wagon, the Schnellwagon.

The BMW was faster, and it should be with about 100hp over the Saab, and it was built better with less rattles, but the Saab has more character. It’s weird, it’s quirky, and an all-round more enjoyable car to drive. The BMW was serious, and all about getting from A-B as quickly as possible with no fuss. The Saab takes life less seriously and encourages you to play with the boost, seeing how quickly you can get from corner to corner, whilst seeing how far you can push the wide, sticky, front tyres and delivering you to B with a smile on your face.

The Saab is no rocket off the line, it’s all about that mid-range punch. Once moving, it’s deceptive how quickly the speedo climbs, as the car never really feels like it’s going that quick until you look down. Passing is a breeze, just give the throttle a jab to kick down a gear and you’re straight into boost and shooting by the slower automobile. With little to no turbo noises, and little lag, you could be forgiven for thinking the 2.8 was a larger displacement engine, rather than a small boosted lump.

The Bilsteins are Bilsteins…. They’re a tad on the harsh side, but controls roll and bumps well. This has been a complaint about Bilsteins on NZ roads since the dawn of time (especially amongst the BMW groups), but it’s the acceptable tradeoff for the superior control. Handling in the Saab won’t set the world alight; there is body roll, the steering isn’t that direct and is over-assisted, but the wide tires and firm suspension give you more confidence than expected, encouraging you to throw the car into corners and power out of them with gusto.

The interior of the Saab is a more interesting place to be than the BMW. It’s softer and more old-school. No big I-Drive screen here, just a sea of buttons, all lit a pleasing shade of green at night. The displays have that retro green on black thing going on, like you’re about to launch nukes from a bunker in the 70s.

And of course there is the NIGHTPANEL button, which kills all the illumination in the gauge cluster except for part of the speedo, turns off all the other dials, and kills the central displays. It’s quite pleasing at night; less distractions and a darker interior.

I’m having a weird issue with not being able to get my mirrors in the right place; they always seem to be in a different position each time I drive the car. I’m sure that will work out eventually.

But it’s not been all roses, there have been some quirks that I needed to iron out straight away.

First was the indicator. I don’t know why, but for some reason there were clear bulbs in both front indicators at one point, maybe a cheap way to get rid of the fried egg look of an orange bulb? I don’t know, but neither the previous owner or myself liked that. The previous owner had started the job by swapping the drivers side bulb out for a standard orange one, but didn’t have the time to do the passengers side. He mentioned to me that it requires a lot of work to access the bulb, implying that you have to basically pull the front of the car off. As it turns out, it’s much easier than that.

To gain access you only have to remove the filler neck for the washer bottle.

Make sure the level is below the neck, or just make a mess if it’s not, and pull upwards on the neck. It’s only held in my the friction of the O-Ring sealing it and maybe a little indent

This gives ample space to reach down there and twist the bulb holder out and remove it. The required bulb has offset pins, but the clear bulb had straight pins and had been jammed in. That was fun to remove.

Reassembly is the opposite. New bulb in holder, holder in lamp, bottle neck pressed back into place. Done.

Next was a niggling feeling I had, that the low speed radiator fans weren’t working.

The two fans work at two different speeds (and either together, or alone), depending on coolant temps, and whether the AC is on or not. The fans should come on at a low speed when the AC is turned on. Mine didn’t. The high speed did work, but I feel that by the time the coolant is that hot, its hotter than I want it to be. Anything to reduce coolant and under bonnet temps in the 2.8T is a good thing.

A quick check of the fuse box and it was immediately obvious why it wasn’t working. The low speed fuse was AWOL. It’s number 36, between the red and blue on the top row.

I contacted the previous owner asking if he might know why it was removed, but he had no idea it had been, so its anyones guess what’s going on there.

I sourced another fuse (20A MAXI Blade fuse) and popped it in after work.

Thankfully with the AC on the smaller fan was spinning away happily. That’s a good start, let’s see what happens when we get the engine warm.

After a somewhat spirited drive to get some decent temperature into the engine I popped the bonnet to the lovely sight of both fans cooling everything off. So both fans work. Underbonnet temps seemed to be noticeably cooler too.

Interesting indeed. I need to test some more, as there is one more condition that the fans can run in that I haven’t tested, and that’s after run. If the coolant temp is over a certain value, the fans will continue to run for a period of time after the car has been shut off, to help reduce heatsoak.

I can only think of three reasons why the fuse might have been missing. Either it wasn’t there from new; maybe some weird AUS thing (its an Australian import), or maybe a previous owner didn’t like the fans running after shut off (or thought they were broken?) and pulled the fuse to kill them, or it blew and was removed before a replacement was sourced. I don’t know, but at least for now the fuse hasn’t blown, so its a win.

There’s still some more things to fix, like a couple of weeping coolant hoses, an EVAP valve that has failed, oh and the wheel alignment its booked in for on Saturday to fix the off-centre steering wheel, but otherwise, the Saab is proving quite likeable.

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