Welcome back! It’s the second day of the week, and it’s already Wednesday! How cool is that? Every weekend should be a three-day weekend. If I ever run for office, that will be my platform… Anyway, we’ve got a couple of far more interesting cars today, after yesterday’s snooze-fest. Let’s see how the vote turned out.
So that means Rowdy won? He was in the Ford, right? I know it wasn’t the Dread Pirate Roberts, he shows up later in the movie. (I had to make sure I got in a Days Of Thunder reference, after missing the opportunity yesterday.)
Now. It has become a rallying cry among enthusiasts: “Save the manuals!” And believe me, I’m right there with you all; I’m wearing a T-shirt that says “Two Pedals Are For Bicycles” as I write this. (Not kidding.) So it’s encouraging when someone goes to great lengths to keep a manual-gearbox car on the road, and an opportunity to keep the worldwide fleet average up when a manual car shows up that needs to be revived.
Today, we’ve got one of each: a Saab that’s been to the moon, and a Fiat that’s a bit of a fallen star. This could get interesting: we’ve featured two Fiats and two Saabs before, and they’ve both won both times. Someone’s undefeated record is about to fall. Let’s see whose.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter inline 4, 5 speed manual, RWD
Location: Garden Grove, CA
Odometer reading: unknown
Runs/drives? yep, but has been off the road for a while
Last time we looked at a Fiat Spider, it was a basket case. This time, it’s at least all in one piece, and even runs! It does look like it’s been sitting a while, and possibly with the top down. The interior is nasty. It’s all there, at least, even the amusingly tiny back seat. They call this a 2+2, but the back shelf-with-seatbelts is completely useless to anyone who doesn’t represent the Lollipop Guild. Might be a nice place for your dog to ride, though.
By 1981, the Spider’s Aurelio Lampredi-designed twincam four had grown to 2 liters and gained Bosch fuel injection, so at least there’s no carb tuning to worry about. You’ll have to smog it, though, if you live in a state that requires it. And as always, “runs and drives” doesn’t mean you can hop in it and head straight for a run up PCH; depending on how long it has been sitting, there might be all sorts of soft bits that ought to be replaced. And you absolutely, positively must replace the timing belt immediately, if not sooner.
It looks like it’s worth saving, though; I don’t see any obvious rust, and while the interior is ugly, all that is fixable. Or gut it and go for the race car look. The outside is faded, but more or less straight; I’m pretty sure it used to be sage green, but it’s hard to tell. That lovely Pininfarina coachwork deserves to shine again.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter inline 4, 5 speed manual, FWD
Location: Sacramento, CA
Odometer reading: at least 240,000 miles
Ah yes, our old friend the Saab 900, the sport sedan market’s weird uncle. This is sadly not a hatchback, nor is it a turbo, but all the Saab greatest-hits-of-oddities are present and accounted for: the backwards-facing engine, the ignition switch in the center console, the gearshift that has to be in reverse before you can take the key out, the massive ’50s style wraparound windshield. But there too is that sure-footedness and that rock-solid feel.
The seller says they saved this car from the crusher in non-running condition, got it going again, and then the transmission “kersploded,” to use the seller’s term. After that, both engine and transmission were replaced with lower-mileage used units, along with a new clutch and a bunch of refreshed seals. It’s said to run and drive very well now.
Inside, things aren’t quite as rosy: the seats look like they had a date with Jack The Ripper, and the airbag is disconnected. But a thirty-year-old airbag is a little suspect anyway, and seats can be reupholstered. You could even throw some cheap covers on them and ignore the tears, if you want. Outside, it looks just fine; I swear, Saab 900s don’t age. They all seem to look about fifteen years old, no matter how they’ve been treated.
Ignore the “Turbo” badge on the hood, by the way; the seller says the hood has been replaced.
So there they are: one manual that needs saving, and one that’s well on its way to being saved. Both are worthy of some attention, and either one would make a cool runabout with some elbow grease. Which one will it be?