On Friday afternoon, I received an urgent Slack message from Hagerty Drivers Club magazine’s senior art director, Matt Tierney.
“I need you to hold any ‘Saab is on the Rise’ stories until I’m able to get one.”
The reason for his desperation—and for rejoicing among those who already own vintage Saabs—is the 1991 Saab 900 SPG that sold on Bring a Trailer last Thursday for $59,850, including fees. That’s the highest sale at auction we’ve seen for the iconic Yuppie-mobile, which has managed to fly under the radar even as contemporaries like the E30 BMW 3-series hit the stratosphere.
More than the price, however, it's the tight-knit nature of the Saab community and its reaction that has us wondering if this is the sort of spark that lights a whole segment on fire.
We've seen this movie before. Air-cooled 911 Turbos, Dodge Vipers, MK IV (1993–98) Toyota Supras. All followed a similar trajectory from a car appreciated by a small band of cognoscenti to high-dollar collectible, seemingly within the space of a few sales.
The Saab 900, senator, is no 930 Porsche or Dodge Viper—we're talking about a front-drive hatchback that in "Special Performance Group" guise produces 175 hp from a 2.0-liter turbo four. Yet like those cars, it has a rabid, highly knowledgable following that closely follows every notable sale. There were more than 400 comments on the Bring a Trailer sale, many of them from existing Saab owners.
"Much Saab community chatter on this one," emailed Keith Price, a longtime automotive journalist and PR man who always has a Saab or three in his garage. "Every 900 went up a little."
Now all we need is some influencer saying these cars are the next big thing, and we'll have a full-on rush on our hands. Wait a minute...
OK, let's take a deep breath. There are plenty of reasons why this sale falls more into the category of "outlier" than "breakout." Start with the condition. The car was represented with just 67k miles and looks, in pictures, like it has much fewer, with pristine paint, a clean underbody, and an interior with little visible wear save for some wrinkling on the drivers seat and bubbling on the glovebox cover. Safe to say very few 900s—renowned for their performance in bad weather—survived in this shape.
The dealer is also exceptional. Matt Crandall, aka 911r, aka "The King of Bring a Trailer," was the number one seller on the platform in 2021. His recipe for success is on full display here—high-quality example, excellent detailing, car-magazine-quality photography. All to say, this is a long way from the salty four-figure Saabs on Facebook Marketplace.
Yet perception often bleeds into reality. We're facing high inflation right now in part because people expect there to be high inflation. If enough 900 owners decide their used cars are actually collectible then, well, it just might become so.
All to say, Matt probably shouldn't wait too much longer.
Can you even find new brake pads for a Saab? We had a 1990 Saab 900, 3-door on a cheap 3-year lease. My wife loved that car and purchased it at lease termination. A month after purchase the car simply stopped in the high-speed lane during our morning rush hour. I called the dealer to have the vehicle towed from its precarious situation. The dealer asked, “What color is the Saab”. My response was, “How many Saabs are broken-down on the Tollway that you need to distinguish by color”? After that, the Saab was determined to be unrepairable due to an undeterminable “electronic glitch”. Owning a Saab is a Love/Hate relationship.
I had a company car that was a ’90 or ’91 900S. I always joked that the S was for Slow. Also, I lived in Houston where it is very hot and very humid for at least half of each year. The only way I could stay cool (which WAS possible) was to run Max Air and Max Fan. I could not use a cell phone and stay cool because the A/C was too loud; my alternative was to sweat. It was a great car (which I inherited from the employee I replaced) but not suitable to a hot climate.
Four years ago my cousin gave me her 1991 900S. I went to FL once to get it, butt found the fuel pump doesn’t work. Then while looking for parts and accessories for it, I found a 1988 Turbo Convertible 5 speed, which didn’t run. I bought it and got it running. I still have to run to FL to get the 91.