Home » Don’t Stop Me Now: 1989 Saab 900 vs 2000 Toyota Camry

Don’t Stop Me Now: 1989 Saab 900 vs 2000 Toyota Camry

Sbsd 6 12 2023
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Good morning, and welcome back! Today we have our very first two reader-submitted rides. Yes, you read that right: you can now suggest shitboxes of your very own! Our Discord is the place to do that; just look for the Shitbox Showdown channel. I don’t think you need to become a member to join, but you should anyway.

If you do want to submit a car, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind. Photos are important; we need at least 4-5 decent photos to work with. You have no idea how many cars I find that I’d love to feature, but only have one or two crappy photos. Also, the weirder the better; one of today’s choices is a bit dull, but its condition makes it worth writing about. Oh, and make sure there is a legitimate price listed, not that “$1,234” garbage that’s getting popular.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

So let’s quickly finish up with Friday’s rarities, and we’ll get to it.

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Oof. Sorry, SWG; the Sebring seems to have been left behind again. It is a cool idea, but I think the non-runningness just scared off too many folks. That Mazda has led an interesting life, but at least you can drive it home.

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Today’s cars both, well, aren’t drivable. But for once, it’s not my fault! Actually, for what they are and how much they cost, you could do worse. But both have one inoperative system, and it’s kind of an important one: the brakes. There’s just no stopping either of these cars. Both of them do run, however, so let’s take a look and see which one is worth fixing.

1989 Saab 900 Turbo convertible – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Mentor, OH

Odometer reading: 132,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Runs fine, but has no brakes

This Saab convertible was suggested by our frequent commenter Rootwyrm. I know he’s a Saab guy, so I’m not surprised to see this. What we have here is one of the later iterations of the original Saab 900, which dates back to the late 1970s. This one is a blessed with a turbocharged engine, but cursed with a very un-Saab-like three-speed automatic gearbox.

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One of the 900 convertible’s most distinctive visual features is the spoiler that runs around the base of the convertible top. I don’t know how much of a difference this really makes to the aerodynamics, but knowing Saab, it must serve a purpose–reducing wind buffeting when the top is down or something. Saab engineers rarely did anything without a good reason, however esoteric their methods. They were also obsessed with vehicle safety, which is important for when things go sideways.

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This Saab’s turbocharged, Triumph-derived four-cylinder engine runs fine, and the unfortunate choice of gearbox works, but the car has no functional brakes. The seller says you can drive it onto a trailer (carefully) but no further than that. Luckily, as weird as so many other aspects of the 900 are, the brakes are relatively conventional, so if you know how to do brakes, you know how to do Saab brakes. On earlier 900s, the handbrake acted on the front wheels, but by this time they had switched to the back like most other cars.

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This Saab has been sitting a while, it looks like. The seller says the top is watertight, but that hasn’t stopped some mildew from forming on the seats and other surfaces. But the sheetmetal is straight and clean, all the glass is there, and the top does look like it’s in good shape. A new set of brakes, some elbow grease, and likely a few other odds and ends, and you’ve got a quirky summertime cruiser.

2000 Toyota Camry – $1,250

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, FWD

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Location: Independence Township, MI

Odometer reading: 166,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yeah, it runs, but…

Reader Dottie suggested this Camry, and while I wouldn’t normally feature yet another beige Camry, this ad amused me. This car needs pretty much everything. Seriously, the list of things that are broken or worn out reads like that scene in Ghostbusters when Dan Aykroyd shows up with their signature Cadillac ambulance for the first time.

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This one doesn’t have any brakes either, owing to rusted-out brake lines going to the rear. The front brakes still work, but they’re shot, it sounds like. One CV joint is on the way out. It needs some suspension work. The exhaust is rusted out too, and the check engine light is on for an O2 sensor. Oh, and it has a terrible oil leak too, from the oil pump housing.

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So what’s the good news? It’s an XV20-generation Camry, a car that typically has an excellent reputation. The engine and transmission are in fine shape apart from the oil leak. It has pretty low mileage for its age. It has been in the same family since new, and has been serviced regularly. It also had a bunch of repairs, including cooling system work, a new timing belt, AC compressor, struts at all four corners, and new tires and wheels. It also doesn’t look too rusty for being a Michigan car.

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Toyota sedans this age are incapable of being fun to drive, compelling to look at, or charming in the slightest. They are appliances, nothing more. But they are highly effective appliances, and as long as you throw an occasional pile of new parts at them, they’ll keep going for pretty much ever.

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Yeah, they’re both fixer-uppers today. But hey, if you don’t like them, you now have the option of sending me links to cars you do like. For today, you’ve got a choice of a Swedish droptop in need of some stopping power, or a beat-up Japanese sedan that needs it all, but should have some life left in it afterwards. What will it be?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Mike F.
Mike F.
1 year ago

Saab, because at least it’s a Saab and the other is about as dull a car as has ever existed. If you’re going to put a bunch of work into something, you might as well have something with a little character once you’re done.

Ricki
Ricki
1 year ago

Maybe that funky lil spoiler on the Saab is literally only for the third brake light? I don’t actually know, but it seems like that’s really the only thing it could plausibly do. Maybe protect the paint when the top is down? No idea.

Kevin B
Kevin B
1 year ago

The headlights on the Saab are very shiny. Are they glass?

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
1 year ago

The interior of the Saab needs to be refitted, and I bet the bottom of those seats sag enough in the middle to touch the floor pan. But it would be a fun project to keep this one going. That transmission has to go, but is there a decent manual that will fit this?

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 year ago

The Camry, especially that generation of the Camry, is automotive Sominex. It’s a car so inoffensive that it actually offends me. To me it represents Toyota’s nadir, a period when their sole purpose as a company was to enable confirmation bias for Consumer Reports surveys. If the Camry were fully functional and the Saab were not, I would buy the Saab and ride the bus.

Astrass
Astrass
1 year ago

Unless it’s an absolute basket case, I will vote for the Saab options all day long. They’re just so quirky, interesting, and distinctive in all the ways that jiggle my brain stem just right. This example appears to need much less work than the Toyota to be driver-ready, so that’s an even bigger plus.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago

The Toyota doesn’t sound so bad in the context of the ad. A detailed account by the owner, and a clean looking interior goes a long way. I hate the smell of mildew, so the Saab would require more than a brake job.

Does Cleveland use any less salt than Michigan? They have a lot of lake effect weather. I am not sold on the Saab, and the Camry is now at $850.

DDayJ
DDayJ
1 year ago

Not much add from what’s already been said. Saab all the way. The auto sucks, but enjoy it as a cruiser and look for a manual to eventually swap over.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Okay i see the SAAB a lesser demon demon burn a little hemp, i mean sage. But a 23 year old Toyota Camry to have this much wrong? You are talking dogs and cats living together, a total apocalypse, i mean stuff that is so scary it will turn you white!.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

I go with the SAAB it seems the more reliable of the two. WHAAAAAAAAT?

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