My Saab journey started with a guy named Nathan and a Saab 9000 Turbo

Saab 9000 Aero

This is a very special post. I’ve done a lot of things in life that I never thought I’d do, largely thanks to my work revolving around Saab Automobile. I’ve travelled quite a bit, covered some wonderful motor shows and other events, I’ve worked in Sweden for Saab and most importantly, I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people all around the world.

Maybe all of that would have happened anyway, but it didn’t all just “happen”. It happened primarily because a friend of mine bought a Saab back in the 1990’s. That guy was Nathan.

In the beginning, there was Rachel. We met in our early 20s at a college in Melbourne and were part of a group of friends who did a LOT of stuff together. From the car races to the bakery at morning tea to hanging out at Philip Island, it was a great time. Rachel’s family had a farm in Gippsland, in Victoria’s south-east and we’d visit there occasionally, too. It was at the farm that I first met Nathan, Rachel’s brother.

Nathan’s a few years younger than me and I was in my early 20’s at the time, so it came as a fairly big surprise to see him roll up one day in a 1986 Saab 9000 Turbo. The car would have only been 5 or 6 years old and worth a fair bit of money in early 1990’s dollars. European cars seemed to run in the family, though. Rachel had a Peugeot and Mum, Judy, had a Volvo 760 Turbo.

Nathan’s 9000 was the first Saab I ever rode in myself and the first Saab I drove. I’ve written about the experience once before, a post called The Damascus Road (at 200 km/h). We had an absolute blast in that car and for a kid who was only used to old Holdens and Fords, the Saab was a revelation. That car was so much of a revelation, in fact, that it shaped much of my adulthood and those driving experiences carry a fair bit of responsibility for the fact that you’re reading these words on your computer screen right now.

Time marches on. I moved to Tasmania in 1995 and haven’t seen much of Nathan since then. I’d heard that he moved to South Australia and had done a few other things with his life, as we all tend to do. Just before I moved to Tassie back in the mid-1990’s, Nathan had been tempted to trade his 9000 on a Toyota Rav4. I was with him at the time and talked him out of it. Because of that, though, I didn’t have any high expectations for him staying with Saab for very long thereafter.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Nathan and I recently got in touch again via Facebook and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that not only is he still rolling in a Saab 9000 (albeit a later model), he’s probably got one of the hottest Saab 9000 Aeros in Australia.

When I picked up my Alfa in Melbourne a few weeks ago, I took a drive down to Gippsland to catch up with Nathan, see the rest of the family and of course, go for a drive. It was one of the most pleasurable weekends I’ve had in ages. We had some good laughs, some fantastic drives on the country roads down there and talked a lot about the past, the present, the future, pancakes, elephants, our shared love of the Carlton Football Club and of course, Saab.

Nathan’s had a couple of Saab 9000s since I last saw him but this latest Aero is the one he’s spent the most time (and money) getting to a standard that he’s happy with.

The car is like a rolling advertisement for Abbott Racing. When you see the modifications list, you’ll understand why:

Saab Red painted rocker cover
Trionic computer power upgrade
Wossner forged pistons
Sports camshaft upgrade
Cometic cylinder head gasket
Abbott Racing gas-flowed cylinder head
Upgraded Hi-flow TD04 HL Turbo
Abbott Racing Hi-flow Intercooler
Abbott Racing 9000 Induction kit – full carbon fibre
ITG Performance foam air filter
Abbott Racing 9000 delivery pipe kit
Polished Dump Valve
Abbott Complete 3 inch stainless steel exhaust
Sachs Saab 9000 uprated pressure plate
Motorsport clutch
Custom driveshaft (3 original Saab driveshafts were broken due to excessive engine torque)

Front strut brace
Polyurethane engine mounts
Polyurethane gearbox mounts
Front Anti-roll bar drop link bushes
Front anti-roll bar upgrade
Front polyurethane anti-roll bar bushes
Polyurethane butterfly/wishbone bushes
Quaife limited slip diff
Motorsport grooved front discs
Brembo brake calipers
Lower/stiffer springs to fit 18-inch wheels
Koni adjustable dampers
Polyurethane anti-roll bar bushes, rear
REAR anti-roll bar upgrade
Kahn Design RS-R 18-inch 5 spoke wheels

Full walnut and leather interior:
Facia, gear surround, custom door switch trims, door cappings, center glovebox, ashtray, vents, master switch surround, gear knob and leather boot, leather and wood steering wheel, Alpine DVD with satellite navigation & reversing camera

Bi-Xenon HID lights
Tinted clear side indicators
Red painted mirrors
Aluminium front grille and spoiler mesh


Below is a gallery of photos. Click to enlarge.

Tomorrow….. Part two: a quick driving video and some thoughts on how all that stuff listed above has worked out.

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  1. Sweeeet! Will part 2 have any magic numbers on those engine mods?

    I had a 9000 Anniversary 2.3t in Amethyst mica metallic with cream leather. Lovely car – roomy, comfortable, quick. Sadly I emulated one of my heroes in it – Eric “on the roof” Carlsson – 🙁

  2. Your friend has certainly invested some time and money on this project. Hats off.
    Looking fwd to part 2: It will be interesting to hear how the 9000 and the Alfa compare (you must surely have switched over in the pilots position?) in terms of involving the driver, despite being so different in layout and concept – and generation.
    If it’s true (per Top Gear) that SAAB ‘lost money on every 9000 they sold’, it’s not hard to believe when you look at the interior of the Aero and Anniversary models. The Aero seats are amazing. I’ve only ever driven an automatic version of a 1996 9000CD, which was nothing short of pedestrian, despite being an eco-turbo.

  3. Nathan’s 9000 is certainly a stunner and not withstanding the under the skin modifications the subtle changes to the car’s outward appearance have, in my eyes, been tastefully done and it looks a class piece of work.
    Seeing the pictures brought great memories of my first Saab; a MY 92, Imola
    Red 9000 CS. Admittedly it was only a 2.0 litre lpt but oh, those leather seats were the most comfortable car seats I have ever sat upon.
    A friend’s nephew once remarked, “Cool car!”; please pass that sentiment on to Nathan.

  4. I sure hope some day SAAB will became ones more the synonym for 5 things that brought us to the brand originally:
    – Comfort
    – Quality
    – Performance
    – Practicality
    – Reliability (incl. long warranty)

  5. It’s hard to believe that with a car as awesome as this 9000 that Saab is bankrupt. What the hell happened. That car design looks better than 90 percent of the new cars on the road today. I couldn’t help but take notice to the Direct Ignition. My 07 9-5 Aero needs a new DIC. The dealer in the US is having a hard time getting a replacement. Has me worried about future parts availability if already getting scarce.

    1. Hop on over to Saabnet and see the discussions going on about sources for DICs. There’s no shortage, and the prices can be pretty good. Don’t rely on a dealer to find the parts for you… you’ll be paying too much (often) and might not even get the part you need.

      I just bought me a spare (you do keep a spare in your trunk don’t you?) for $335 (USD), delivered.


  6. Awesome looking car. Strange, though… every time I see a Saab with the steering wheel on the right side, it takes a few seconds to get used to it.

    1. Ahaaah! I get exactly the same feeling…except, the other way around….if you see what I mean. Anyway, early SAABs were RHD, were they not, since Sweden drove on the left unil the mid ‘Sixties…?
      Lovely, lovely 9000, anyway.

  7. Love the 9000 Aero. Even with my 9-5 Aero (’04 Combi), I miss my 9000 Aero. The seats in the 9000 Aero put the 9-5 Aero seats to shame… and the 9-5 Aero seats are among the best I’ve ever sat in or seen.

    Wonderful cars. Nathan’s looks to be one o the best of the breed.

    Even today, the 9000 Aero looks just right. Love the wheels on this one.

  8. what a great build on a great car the pose of a well sorted 9000 aero is hard to beat and youve certainly done this one to perfection. Im currently doing a blue 95 aero and a 91 carlson total rebuilds both of them. cheers