New York Classic 900 Aero

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It’s been a while since my last post, and a lot has changed. The 9-5 Aero Hirsch got sold and collected to a great couple who were just beginning their Saab journey and I’ve embarked on my next Saab saving project – a 900S 16v LPT 3 door coupe, which I’ll scribble a LOT more about very soon.

In the meantime, I couldn’t resist sharing this New York based 900 Aero with a few mods, like it or not, it’s had plenty of attention lavished on it.

Full story here

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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

Is 4 better than 1?

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A couple of years ago, I embarked on a Saab tuning journey with my 9-3 Aero convertible. On its first appointment with the Saab gurus at Malcolm Miles I took the leap and had them install a Stage 1 ECU upgrade by NoobTune. For an exceptionally reasonable cost, it has to be one of the most noticeable and worthwhile things you can do to an already rapid Saab, I enjoyed the benefits for a few months before getting the urge to do a little more.

Fast forward 2 years, a complete engine rebuild with a 2.3 bottom end, new suspension and brake set up and a good few thousand pounds later, it went in yet again for its final tuning (for now).

This time it had a large Do88 intercooler, MapTun pipes, BSW Induction kit, 3” handcrafted ‘Albert’ downpipe, big bar full pump and its 4th remap by NoobTune. I’m reliably informed it’s now running at around Stage 4 / 5, but is it really that much better than the initial Stage 1 upgrade?

Hell yes, the moment I got a clear B road and pressed my foot down a little further, I knew it had all been worthwhile, this is a seriously quick car with all of the rawness and grin inducing torque I wanted it to have and more. The induction kit and downpipe have managed to add the missing audio and now has a satisfying grunt to compliment the surge of never-ending power.

The turbo dial spools into the red with absolutely no lag and the speedo seems to match the rev counter, spinning up at ridiculous speed until you quickly realise this Saab could get you into serious trouble, fast. I now appreciate all of the effort that went into changing the brakes to 308mm’s from a 9-5 Aero, you need them. All of the suspension upgrades also mean it handles as it always should have done, it sits lower to the road and holds turns beautifully, you still have to concentrate to keep control of the front end as you accelerate but that really is part of the Saab experience “if you can’t handle it, don’t drive it” my Dad always used to say.

So, is Stage 4+ better than 1, speaking personally, I’d do it on every Saab I ever own, yes, it’s worth it.

Objet D’Aero

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For the past few months, I’ve had everything required to take the 9-3 convertible to its next stage of tuning including a DO88 upgraded intercooler, Maptun hoses and BSR induction kit. But there’s been one item that has taken rather longer to arrive, a handcrafted down pipe by APH Performance.

When it finally arrived last week I realised it had been worth the wait, it really is a thing of beauty, in fact, it’s almost a shame to hide it away deep in the engine bay of the Aero, so I decided to take a few photos of it first, makers fingerprints included. It’s an all stainless steel construction, TIG welded and purged, v band joints and 3” free flow throughout, beautiful.

The convertible is already booked in at Malcolm Miles who will get it running close to 300hp when everything is fitted. It’ll also have another remap by Karl at Noob Tune just to make it run as sweet as it can.

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An Acquired Taste

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Let’s face it, we all know Saabs are an acquired taste, you either love them, live with their shortcomings and spend entire days refining them, or you just don’t. To me I quite like that there are no half measures, no middle ground. Ok, so people don’t get why we love them so much, but hey, that’s life.

I recently found this episode of TUNED featuring the seriously cool Matt Farah, I love this film, not least because it features 2 of my favourite Saabs – a classic 900 SPG and a 9-3 Viggen, but because it shows the ‘either you get it or you don’t’ Saab thing. The owner, a real Saabist, loves them, so much so he’s taken the SPG to a different level of sorted, and when he was faced with having to accommodate a family, he plumped for one of the ultimate 4 door Saabs, a 9-3 Viggen. On the other hand, although Matt Farah has some great things to say about Saabs, they just don’t float his boat.

A great film just for the sound of the 900’s turbo alone.

Saabotage DynoDay

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Folks, barbecue, Saabs and the odd chilled beer – what a perfect combination.

The members of Saabotage over in Poland seem to do things properly, a gathering of Saab folks to talk, tune and test their great collection of Saabs, all accompanied with proper food, my idea of heaven.

As their next DynoDay will be on Saturday, June 4th, I thought I’d collect a few past photos to share and also a great film short.  Wish I could be there to join them!

Saab at heart

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All cars, no matter how extreme, need a beating heart. This amazing rat rod from England just happens to have one of the best hearts around – a Saab B204 Turbo.

It’s the brainchild of Urchfab, a custom designer & fabricator from the depths of Somerset, England. With a minimal budget, he set about acquiring suitable components including a 1953 Ford Anglia shell, Vauxhall gearbox, Volvo 240 rear axle and Ford steering gear, as the creator explains “the car is 75% junk parts, a load of steel and a few shiny bits chucked in the mix”. He also made the grill, radiator and intercooler as one complete, bolt on unit to make removing the Saab engine easier when fast access is required.

“Cruising around the countryside on tight British roads is lots of fun driving a powerful Saab rat rod based on a junkyard Ford, but hitting the track with it takes the build to whole new level”.

Ok, so it doesn’t look like a Saab, but we all know it’s a Saab at heart, fantastic.