El Turbo Negro. It immediately sounds great. And the story behind it, is just as great. It’s a very nice Saab story about Michiel from the Netherlands and his black Saab 900 Turbo he bought in Spain (and which is now also a valued member of our Saab 900 Club). The complete story can be found (in Dutch) on the Dutch Saabforum.nl. Here, with permission of Michiel, I’m honored to give an English summary of this adventure. Reading and writing, I got taken away by the amazing adventure and eventually found myself writing quite a big part of the original story in English. As a result, it’s a bigger article, but it’s a great story which deserves a good homage.
In the summer of 2022, Michiel was on a road trip with his beautiful Range Rover Classic. Saying this in a story about someone who is also driving a Saab 9-3 TTiD Aero from 2008 and who is going to buy a black 900 Turbo, you know the man has taste. He was keeping an eye at a black 900 Turbo, three door from 1982, on AutoScout and with help of Google Translate he got in touch with the owner. He already knew this was quite dangerous, as “seeing such a black turbo means buying a black turbo”.
Michiel met the owner in a barn/warehouse with boats, Range Rover Classics, Michiel’s Turbo Negro, a few other 900’s of which two were convertibles and a 900 turbo 16S flat nose, a couple of Golfs 2 and a 9000 CC which the owner recently saved from the scrapyard. And there, Michiel met his dream. A little dusty, but a black 900 turbo that was the ultimate car for him after his father bought his first Saab (a 99 combi coupe) in 1978 and a year after that a red 900 GLs.
Almost no way back. Michiel managed to put aside his emotions for a while and checked the state of the car. No rust on the important places. The seller had told Michiel the car should be transported on a trailer. Although the car had a new Spanish MOT, there were some points that needed attention: the steering rack was leaking, exhaust (manifold) was leaking and the TRX tires were very old. But, the amount of steering fluid underneath the car wasn’t that much, the exhaust leak was apparently the rear damper and the tires were indeed old and hard, but did have a lot of profile and no cracks.
Michiel took a short test drive as the car wasn’t registered at the moment, and had to start the Saab with a special series of actions, which although a little strange, worked and could be fixed back home. The engine started immediately and ran good, no smoke, the car drove and shifted well, the turbo gauge moved, a light whistle and the power steering did what it has to do. After a kilometer, Michiel knew this one was his. And he also knew, the car would go to the Netherlands driving. Only thing he had to do, was to get new wheels and (regular) tires, which he could fix in the meantime as he first wanted to complete his trip to Portugal and Gibraltar before returning to Barcelona. He checked the Spanish paperwork of the car, negotiated a bit and made a deal with the seller. In Michiel’s own words: “YES! It’s mine”.
Michiel arranged that a friend of his would get a flight from the Netherlands to Barcelona, so they could drive back home to the Netherlands with the Range Rover Classic and the Saab 900. He visited the Saab specialist in Barcelona who recently prepared the 900 for the Spanish MOT with, amongst others, partly revised and partly new brakes. They couldn’t help him with new wheels, so Michiel had to continue his search for that.
Michiel visited almost all of the Saab specialists in Portugal, but it was challenging to find a set of reasonably priced wheels to (temporarily) put some regular tires on (something Michiel thinks is probably different to the situation in the Netherlands). After this search took some time, it proved to be quite difficult to get some special TRX tires, and where it was possible, delivery time would take a couple of weeks.
So Michiel decided to cautiously begin the journey with the current TRX tires. They didn’t look too bad, so with calm driving and good tire pressure and regular checks it should be ok. Michiel and his friend picked up the 900 turbo after everything was settled with payment and insurance (based on VIN-number), and they would drive with Spanish plates. They got the tires to the right pressure, checked the papers, then they discovered the seller had to keep the originals and gave them copies as he still needed the originals to sign out the car for export. Michiel took some pictures of the original paperwork and tried to remember when was the last time police checked his license plates. As he remembered that was still in the previous century, he decided to take his chances and drive.
After they sprayed most of the dust off car they started with a fill up at the gas station. When Michiel was thinking about the big amount of fuel going in the car, a lady from the gas station started waving at him, pointing out that there was a large puddle of gasoline underneath the car. It appeared that the gasoline was getting out of the breather hose and fuel pump at the top of the tank, and thus the gasoline was pouring over. With a lot of hassle and little material, they eventually managed to get enough fuel and from then on knew that they shouldn’t fill up the tank too much. Again, something to fix back home. Eventually on the road, at a steady pace of 90 km/h on the highway with the Mediterranean to the right and the sunroof open, Michiel just felt like the king of road.
Michiel had found a set of NOS TRX tires, almost on their route. When getting off the highway and driving up an inclining road, the car lost its power. With help of walkie-talkies Michiel and his friend communicated and pulled over. After thinking about the possible causes, they concluded that it had to be the fuel pump. It was recently replaced, and apparently not in the most professional way, which was also part of the reason why the gasoline was pouring over when filling up. They fiddled with the pump and eventually, it worked again. But after a short test, it failed again. They removed the pump and discovered all kinds of parts surrounding the pump were in bad shape, which asked for some cleaning and fixing. After a whole evening and part of the night working on the pump (including Michiel’s arm in an almost full tank of fuel which he wouldn’t recommend anyone), it worked again! They slept in the 900 and Range Rover Classic, got two short nightly visits of the local police and continued their trip the next morning.
They managed to get to the tire guy, after cleaning the fuel pump once more in between, and got two new TRX tires from the guy that seemed to have been active in racing. They took the TRX tires with them, just to have two spares along the way, and got back to the highway towards France. In the background, Michiel kept hearing the fuel pump, so they cleaned it once more during a lunch break. Back on the highway again, traffic was going slow due to a traffic jam, but everything is going fine. But, Michiel saw the temperature rising and the switch of the heating didn’t work so he couldn’t help the car cool down a little bit more. And then, the car stopped again. Luckily, the Range Rover was close. So Michiel turned to the emergency lane. The Ranger Rover reversed towards the Saab. They connected the cars and the Range Rover pulled the Saab towards the exit. In the meantime, they arrived in France. But then, there were toll gates. Through the walkie-talkies Michiel and his friend discussed their game plan: full speed through the gates, that way the Saab would pass the gates as well. According to Michiel, they pulled of a couple of (minor) offences here.
Apparently, that didn’t work, with the barrier of the toll gate on the windscreen of the Saab as a result. The barrier proved to be very flexible, but it did turn on some alarms. Luckily, Michiel and his friend could park their cars in a parking lot right after the toll gates. But there, they also found the gendarme. They were told the towing isn’t allowed, with which they got away after explaining that it just happened before the toll gates and by promising they would stop there and get help. After that, the police officers helped them push the Saab further on the parking lot and pay them a compliment that ‘Saab is bonne qualité’.
The 900 and Range Rover went over to the Saab specialist of Perpignan, after Michiel and his friend temporarily fixed the power of the fuel pump. Apparently, the new position of the pump also had an effect on the fuel supply for the engine in certain corners. The Saab specialist kindly helped the Dutch travelers and soon discovered an old rubber packing seal (which Michiel and his friend previously also spotted) was causing the issues, with all kinds of rubbish getting in the tank and pump. After also seeing the breather hose which was more or less hanging loose, the specialist proposed to replace the tank, but he could only do that after a week. Because that wasn’t really an option, as Michiel and his friend had to be back in the Netherlands in a couple of days, they discussed their options. They could leave the car there and pick it up two weeks later with a trailer. They could buy a second hand trailer, drive the Saab home with it and sell the trailer again. And Michiel’s friend suggested he could bring the car back and reverse the deal. But that last suggestion was absolutely off the table for Michiel. So after a pizza they decided to give the Saab one more chance. Clean the pump once more, and if other problems would occur, then they would park the car and pick it up later on. Because of the rising temperatures, they decided to continue their journey throughout the night.
The Saab started right away and seemed to look forward to the trip. They traveled up the route du soleil, again on a steady pace of 90-100 km/h, with as little as possible stops in between and filling up the car every 20 litres as they couldn’t fill up the tank too much. At the same time watching out for the tires, as the French roads aren’t always as smooth as the Spanish ones. At 2:00 in the night, they were already halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and Lyon, 322 km since the pizza. After a power nap on a picnic bench they carried on. Once in a while, they had to pull over to the emergency lane to fill up the tank with the jerrycan as the 20 litres didn’t always get the car to the next fuel station. According to Michiel, that wasn’t the safest feeling, filling up a car on the emergency lane in the middle of the night with trucks flying by, but all went well. In the morning, Michiel and his friend arrived somewhere between Lyon and Dijon. They aimed at Nancy as their destination for the day, which succeeded.
The next day, they left early, sun was shining and the temperature was still cool. The rear muffler of the 900 already had a hole, but that had become much larger in the meantime, generating a deep soundtrack. At Thionville, they filled up the engine oil of the Range Rover as this classic was eventually also 37 years old and recently travelled to the North Cape with -20 degrees Celsius and Gibraltar with +40 degrees Celsius, so the Range had a well-deserved replenishment. The rest of the journey went smooth, over the hills to Liege, through the tunnel of Maastricht (my hometown) where they heard that the muffler was getting quite loud in the tunnel, hoping they didn’t come across a police officer as the 900 was still driving with its Spanish plates.
At 13:15, they took the exit home and a couple of minutes later, El Turbo Negro was parked in Michiels street in the Netherlands. Michiel remembered he had a true feeling of relieve at that moment, as 48 hours before that they were still pulling the 900 across the Spanish-French border with the Range Rover. Michiels brother had followed them digitally on their journey and welcomed them in his Saab 99 from 1973. When Michiel parked the 900 and switched of the engine, the engine was cooking and as a result some cooling fluid dropped on the street. Strange, but something that would be fixed. The most important thing was that they had made it!
Back home in the Netherlands, Michiel got to clean up the car and look at the souvenirs he found in the car. A couple of Spanish pesetas, keys and… an oil sticker and maintenance card with some interesting information. The maintenance card was from 8thNovember 1993, when the car had 147.400 km on the clock. Michiel bought the car with 149.941 km, on 4th July 2022. A simple calculation points to the conclusion that the car had only driven 2.500 km between 1993 and 2022. Michiel says the seller had told him that he didn’t drive very much with it, and of course that’s absolutely true, but one could say that’s quite an understatement. A true testament to the high build quality of these iconic Saabs, considering that the 900 did visit the shop recently for work on brakes and injection to comply with inspection, but then drove all the way from Spain to the Netherlands after almost no driving during the past 29 years.
Michiel treated the 900 to a thorough clean including the engine compartment and new oil, coolant fluid and a fresher coolant fluid tank. He had to wait a couple of weeks before he could get an appointment with the RDW to register the car in the Netherlands. On that day, the 900 leaked a bit of coolant fluid but luckily it wasn’t much and everything went well. After two weeks, the Saab got his Dutch license plates and was ready to go to Haaima, an authority on the Saab 900 in the Netherlands. At Haaima, the Saab received some much-deserved TLC. They replaced the radiator, heater radiator, middle muffler, steering rack and the fuel pump with all connections to the tank. Based on the dirty coolant fluid tank and the junk in the radiator, concern was that the engine would maybe also be contaminated, but luckily that was not that bad. Now, Michiel could finally start driving this magnificent car on the Dutch (and German) roads (also with a nice visit at another Swedish brand), its new home territory.
Michiel, I wish you lots and lots of joy with this beautiful Turbo Negro!