Gathered under stormy skies

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This weekend saw an impressive gathering of Saabs, new, old and rare for the 2017 Saab Owners Club SaabFest UK. The gathering took place in Hatton Country World, Warwickshire, which proved to be a pretty special location – plenty of space to really showcase our cars.

Sadly, being my disorganised self, I only found out about the event two days before so could only go for one day, I would have loved to get stuck in, chatted Saabs and drunk a few beers for the night, next year maybe.

Needless to say, it was an absolute delight to see so many cars, I’d say close to 500, including a handful of beautifully turned out Sonnetts a unique Saab Friction Test car, some super rare Carlssons and enough others to represent the entire Saab line up from beginning to end, even a spectacularly beautiful 9-3 Independence convertible turned up.

Even though I’ve owned some 15 Saabs and counting, I still feel inspired when I see how much love and attention goes in to keeping these cars on the road. In recent years many Saabs have been scrapped for various reasons, but there continues to be a loyal cult following with an unfading appetite to care for, customise and manufacture bespoke kit to keep the rest going for many, many more years to come – including myself.

Part of the pleasure of these events for me, is being able to take a few photos of other owner’s Saabs – collected to share, inspire and reference against on future projects, I usually over indulge, so will need to spread the love over a few posts.

Thanks to Saab Owners Club for organising such a great gathering, I’d suggest Hatton might be an ideal location for future events, with room for plenty more cars to join us.

p.s. If your Saab’s featured, I really hope you don’t mind, and congratulations, they’re all amazing cars, we should be massively proud of them.

 

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More photos to follow soon.

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Things take time

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It’s been a while since my last post, sadly, motivation has seemed to be rather low, but in the meantime, the 900 has been well and truly put through it’s paces. We’ve done almost 3,000 miles in it since it’s recovery, everything from driving lessons to road trips to Wales, it’s sat in heavy traffic, darted along winding country roads and cruised happily along motorways.

For the life of me I can’t understand why more people don’t embrace older cars as daily drivers, the 900 is ridiculously comfortable, it has electric windows and a quiet sunroof, it’s well mannered around town and has a gorgeously distinct burble when you put your foot down, it also commands quite a bit of attention. Young and old just can’t help giving it the thumbs up, from a bunch of hipster skateboarders to a very smart gentleman who couldn’t resist telling me how much he loved Saabs – he’d owned a few in the past and longed to own another.

The work continues though, the sunroof leaks when it rains heavily, the windscreen washer pipes have become brittle and keep falling off, and the new Turbo cluster still isn’t quite right, what I mean by that, is that smoke starts pouring out if I turn off the lights, and there’s no illumination at night.

We’ve also discovered the passenger side arch still has some rust that needs sorting, but lets face it, it doesn’t stop you driving and things just take time.

I’ve managed to source a set of roof bar towers and will be attempting to find some nice spotlights to keep the ‘Swedish Wilderness’ look on track.

The search also continues for something aptly unique to replace the 9-3 Aero convertible, although I’ve been wishing I hadn’t sold the 9-5 Hirsch, that was pretty rare.

Saab vs. Porsche

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Before people start ranting that this is a blog purely for Saabs, let me validate the reasoning behind the post. I happened to mention that when not driving one of my Saabs, I also drive a classic Porsche 911, this got picked up by a fellow Saabist who asked if it would be appropriate to compare the experience? So, here we are, Saab vs. Porsche.

The Porsche is ’91 964 Carrera 4, 3.6 flat six, air cooled, modified and tuned to kick out some 280hp, in my eyes, it’s one of the most iconic cars ever crafted, I used to dream of owning a 911, and this was the model that did it for me when I was younger.

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I don’t own the Porsche to have it sitting around, it was bought to use and abuse, all year round, in all weathers, and that’s what I do on a regular basis, I don’t need a destination in mind, I just jump in and head out, often for a 50 – 100 mile B road blast, this is a car bought purely for pleasure.

Midway through a recent drive, I got a phone call to collect my son from an estate he works at, the Porsche isn’t the car to go in, so I made my way home, hopped out of the Porsche and in to the Saab 9-3 convertible, with a similar bhp of 300 – it seemed like the perfect opportunity to compare 2 very different (but similar in many ways) cars.

I won’t waste time debating the aesthetics of either car, both are beautiful, and imho, neither have ever been bettered, which brings me directly to the driving experience.

The Porsche is raw, I mean really raw, I like to call in an analogue experience, although it has PAS and ABS, we’re talking minimal intrusion, it manages to connect you directly to the road, you become part of the car quickly and with ease, you feel every trace of the road, every curve. It also feels exceptionally low and rather small compared to most modern cars.

The 3.6 air cooled, flat six produces a very distinct soundtrack, the shear noise is heavenly – although reasonably subtle at lower rpm, at around 4000 rpm it breaks in to the purest scream which keeps on building and building right through to 6500 rpm, it really is captivating. The steering is so on point it’s hard to imagine anything better, the gears are again, pure analogue, you feel the beautifully engineered H box as it slips from gear to gear, and the handling gives you the confidence to power on through corners in pretty much any weather.

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I did a 1000 miles in a week recently, I drove it up to North Wales, through Snowdonia and to the coast, I took it in to the city, to meetings and home again, not once did I get bored. The Porsche is a real, time honoured driver’s car, it has earned its reputation as one of the finest sports cars ever made, and I for one feel completely privileged to be the keeper of one, even just for a little while.

Hop straight in to the Saab 9-3 and I realise just how high it feels, not just its stance, but its general seating position too, high, but also ridiculously comfortable. Everything is easy, the gear change is light and smooth, the steering sharp and accurate, with the suspension work it’s had done, the Saab also handles amazingly well, less analogue, but still manages to feel involved.

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The power delivery seems utterly immediate, rather than building like the Porsche, foot down and it continues to endlessly pull until it hits 6000rpm, it needs control and attention to drive, less stuck to the road, but equally exhilarating, the Saab feels faster than the Porsche, and although less involving never fails to make me smile. The 9-3 can never compete with the Porsche for sound, although with the addition of the APH downpipe, full stainless steel exhaust and BSR induction kit, it still has a hugely pleasing one with enthusiastic driving.

By no means a full comparison, but one that might give an insight in to both cars. Which do I prefer? both. If I’m honest it really depends what mood I’m in, the Saab provides exceptionally fast, easy driving and with the roof down really can’t be beaten for style and pleasure, but the Porsche, the Porsche still offers a unique and uncompromising experience that modern cars just don’t offer.

The Porsche on Instagram

Pimp My Saab

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So, it was the last local car meet of the season, and possibly the largest turnout I’ve ever seen, clear skies over nearly a 1000 cars of all shape and sizes, likeminded folks talking exhaust fabrication, stance and tyre stretch and the evening was finished off nicely with a perfect setting sun.

Last month there were a handle full of Saabs present, most were there again, but this one I hadn’t seen before, an immaculate black 9-3 saloon, from the interior, it looked like a standard Linear model, but that’s where standard stopped, twin exhausts, tints, dropped suspension and 18” alloys with heavily stretched rubber.

Love it or hate it, it was definitely a very well loved Saab and another one kept on the road for us all.

Park Life

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Being a fully paid up petrolhead, any chance to get out and meet up with likeminded folk is always a pleasure. Luckily for me, there’s a local car and classic meet held nearby in a village called Earls Barton. It’s grown over the years and attracts a seriously varied collection of cars, including an unbadged 2016 Aston Martin work’s car, a stunningly beautiful 1960’s Nissan Skyline GT-R and a whole array of iconic Porsches, Ferraris and other exotics

Obviously what caught my eye, were a number of Saabs happily sitting alongside the great and good and holding their own very nicely. What’s so refreshing about car meets like this is that they appeal to all, from the old folks sitting in their picnic chairs next to an immaculate 99 to the slammed and anything but standard 9-3 with the biggest gold alloys I’ve ever seen squeezed on to a Saab.

A host of others from a beautiful classic 900 turbo, 9000 Aero and 9-3 convertible proved that our Saabs really do look great anywhere.

RAT Look Saab, Netherland Style

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Always love hearing about unusual Saabs from around the globe, especially ones that don’t conform.

A few years ago I featured some RAT Look Saabs, a style not often associated with or applied to Saabs for some reason. These aren’t pristine, Concours cars, or in contrast to popular belief, not badly maintained either. It’s a style that has to be considered and designed, the base car often better and faster than most everyday cars.

I received a great email from P in the Netherlands recently, he’s currently turning his ’96 trackday 9-3 into a RAT Look Saab. It features Independence rims clad in Toyo intermediate rubber, sitting on Koni / Eibach lowered suspension. TD04 turbo, forge dump valve, sport downpipes, upgraded front brakes, strut bar and is running stage 3 to around 250hp, whilst the interior features a set of Porsche race seats. Oh, and it’s covered some 250,000 kilometres throughout it’s exciting life.

It also features a rare Saab bike lift to keep P’s Ridley road bike safe, and perfectly finishes off this RAT Look Saab.

Bridgestone over trouble water

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A few would tell me new tyres on the 9-3 have been a long time coming, too long, in fact I might have got into trouble if I hadn’t changed them!

The 9-3 Aero has been in need of new tyres pretty much since I purchased it 2 years ago, not that they were illegal, more the combination of Summer and Winter tyres and varying degrees of wear.

Concentrating more on the fun things – 2.3 block, new turbo, exhaust, lowered suspension, springs (the list goes on), but obviously each and every upgrade puts more emphasis on the tyres to perform well, so it was time, new tyres.

This might be painful for some Saab folk to hear, but both my Lexus (sorry) and Porsche (sorry) run on Bridgestone, both perform amazingly well, so the Saab had to have Bridgestone too. After a bit of research, I found a wonderfully gorgeous type called the Potanza Adrenalin. Reviews gave them seriously high ratings with great grip in wet and dry conditions, a more connected drive, low road noise and excellent longevity.

A very reasonable £320 and a few hours later, the Saab is now proudly sitting on brand new rubber, and from a short drive, it already feels so, so much better. I’m looking forward to a proper, spirited drive home later to see how they really enhance the Saab.

‘Saab, because you’re worth it ‘.