Can Susie Revive Inherited Saab?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 17, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

My dad passed away and left me a 1983 Saab 900 Turbo hatchback in PERFECT physical condition, but it does NOT run. Parts are impossible to find. Can you put a Toyota or Honda engine in a car like that? Am I crazy to consider this? Thanks!

-- Susie

In a word, Susie: yes. Putting another manufacturer's engine in that car would be the equivalent of the 1969 moon launch. Only more expensive.

In general, it's hard to find parts for cars that are over 30 years old. It's even harder to find parts for old cars that didn't sell in large numbers. And it's harder still to find parts for cars whose manufacturers went out of business. So you win the trifecta, Susie.

Fortunately, Saab owners were a very enthusiastic lot, and you still can find Saab clubs and Saab geeks who will be happy to share their hints about how to keep an old Saab on the road. If you find a club in your area, the members may be able to tell you about mechanics who, themselves, are fond of working on Saabs. We were ... because they were good cars, and because they really helped us with our monthly boat payments.

You don't say why it doesn't run, so it's probably worth tracking down a mechanic who likes Saabs and asking him to investigate. If it's something minor, like a fuel pump, you probably can fix it and get it on the road again.

If it's something major, like a blown head gasket or a cooked turbocharger, you can find out what it would cost to have the mechanic rebuild the engine for you.

And then you'll have to weigh the sentimental value of Dad's Saab versus the cost, in time and money, of keeping the car going. Have you considered removing the hood and planting a fig tree in it, Susie?

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