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Saab 900 Carlsson

Saab 900 Carlsson Published: 29th Apr 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Saab 900 Carlsson
Saab 900 Carlsson
Saab 900 Carlsson
Saab 900 Carlsson
Saab 900 Carlsson
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BMW fan switched to Swedish speed in 1996. He recalls 20 (mostly) happy years CAR: Saab 900 Carlsson YEAR: 1996 OWNER: Nic Cooper

I had been a BMW driver through most of the eighties and was looking for something with a similar build quality yet a little bit different for a change. I used to cover 30,000 miles a year between assignments and so needed a car that’s comfortable and reliable.

My wife Sarah and I moved to a village which had a Saab dealership and so inevitably I bought my first Saab 900 Turbo there. I liked the slightly old fashioned feel of it and the fact that it was quite different from anything else on the road.

Having owned the car for a while I was chatting about it with my brother in law, who asked me if it was a Carlsson (named after the famous Saab rally driver Erik Carlsson). Now, I knew about the Saab 9000 Carlsson but had no idea at all that there was also a performance version of my already rapid car. Once I learned this I had to have one. The only problem being even the oldest cars were beyond my budget, persistence however paid off and after looking through Exchange & Mart (remember that wonderful weekly?-ed) for about six months, a relatively high mileage example which was affordable became available. So I bought it (that was in May 1996).


It is a super car, fortunately for me the original owner had got a bit excited with the options catalogue, and had ordered it with leather (which was an optional extra on the early cars), extra gauges, and an upgraded stereo system.

I can’t begin to think how many hours I’ve spent at the wheel, driving it not only in the UK but Europe as well. On one occasion I drove it home from Austria, – over 900 miles in 13 hours – stopping only to refuel twice and for the Euro Tunnel!

Driving it daily though for four years racked up the mileage to a whopping 200,000, worried that it might start causing me reliability issues I decided that I’d trade it in for a newer, second generation Saab 900, this time I spent some time researching the various models available and finally settled on the Turbo S Talladega.

The salesman at the garage was unimpressed with my Carlsson so offered me £500 for it, whether I left the car or not, so I bought the Talladega and kept the Carlsson! I had nowhere to store it, so ever resourceful, I managed to talk the owner of the local car museum at Lower Stondon near Hitchin into having it on loan as a display item – as it was a very rare car. The Talladega didn’t stay long as it proved an inferior replacement.

It went well enough and was fairly economical, but reliability wise it was dreadful – I think I was just unlucky. So I went back to the older style 900s. Meanwhile the Carlsson languished in the museum, I checked up on it regularly but after three years I retrieved it, deciding to use it as it was intended. It has now travelled an amazing 281,500 miles on the original engine with only a new head-gasket and timing chains, the gearbox was rebuilt last year and we’re on turbo number three.


These cars are more than capable of coping with today’s traffic conditions making any 900 a good daily driver. My Turbo returns an average of 31mpg which I consider pretty good. The bodywork is mostly original, the tailgate has been replaced, one door bottom needed welding and two of the wheel arches have had work, too. The front bumper being so low suffers badly with stone chips and has been repainted twice.

There are a few tips which I’d pass on to any owner/potential owner of a Saab 900, the most important being to change the engine oil and filter every six to eight thousand miles and only use fully synthetic oil. When a ball joint fails, replace them in pairs, replacing just one is a false economy. If the clutch master or slave cylinder fails, replace both. Finally, most original interior roof linings will have been replaced by now, if not budget for a replacement.

Having looked out for them over the last twenty years I can say that I have seen less than ten white ones, but at least 25 in both red and black. Also, just to confuse, the 1992 cars don’t have the side decals. But whatever the colour or year, if you find a good one up for sale, snap it up – you may find – like me – once a Saab fan, always a Saab fan. Probably.

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