One day while snooping through the webs for interesting Saab-related media, we came across a Facebook page called “The Old Girl Saab 900,” and we were intrigued. It’s not everyday you come across a car that writes posts for its own Facebook page! Jokes aside, The Old Girl 900 deserves her own social media pages if you ask us, she has quite a rich history and has traveled to more countries than either Frankie or Chris.
To touch on a bit of her background, The Old Girl, as she’s affectionately referred to, has lived in Oman, England, France, and technically Sweden, where she was built. The Old Girl also visited the Netherlands a lot as, her original owner – a character who will come to be known as “dad” – used to work for a big Dutch company and occasionally had to make trips to the head office which was located over there.
The peculiarities of The Old Girl’s story start here, as she was purchased by her original owner after the original buyer got tired of waiting for his special-order Saab and opted to buy a Lamborghini instead. There’s even a bit of drama; like when her owners thought she was tucked away inside of a garage, but was actually weathering outside under a tree. There’s even a story about burglars, and another about how she lost her highly coveted Inca alloy wheels, and how she came to be fitted with another set later on.
Since this peculiar story has piqued our interest, and since the owner has agreed to sit down and talk about it with us, we’ve decided to give The Old Girl 900 her own segment on Saabros.com. Here we’ll share some of the more specific details from the story, or parts that were left out for the sake of brevity on social media posts. In our first discussion, we find out more about the owner, Kirsty, and her life growing up with The Old Girl.
Until then, you can familiarize yourself with a timeline of the entire story, as told by the owner, which we’ve shared below:
My dad worked abroad in Oman in the Middle East, where he bought a beige coloured 900 GLS, but he had his heart set on a turbo, a new one, as all his cars before were second hand.
And that’s where The Old Girl came in…
A local Omani sheikh decided he wanted a Saab 900 Turbo. Oman in those days was an emerging oil-rich country, and infrastructure etc was still in it’s infancy. As a result there were few car dealerships, and they tended to sell more than one brand. Shanfari Automotive was Oman’s only Saab dealership, but also sold Fiats, Kenworth trucks and was about to start selling Lamborghinis.
The sheikh wanted an exact specification of features on his turbo, and the car he described simply didn’t exist. As a result, Saab in Sweden agreed to hand-build the exact vehicle he wanted, which would already take more time, but he also wanted just about every option on offer at the time, some of which were rare on even high-end vehicles back then. Of course this took time.
The gentleman would occasionally drop by the dealership to ask where his car was, only to be told it was still being made, or still on the boat on it’s way from Sweden. He grew bored of waiting, and one day when he popped in he saw an unusual, new car in the showroom. He asked what it was. “A Lamborghini Countach, sir,” he was told. His response was “ok, forget the Saab, I’ll take that instead.”
So, the 900 Turbo arrived in the showroom with no buyer after all. My dad saw the brand new turbo in the showroom and knew he had to own it. He was on his desert rotation the next week so he sent my mum to pick it up instead once they had the funds from the bank. I still remember admiring her on the showroom floor, I was in love, even as a little kid.
In 1988 we left Oman and flew her back to England. I remember the roadtrip down south from our home in county Durham in the old brown 900GL to Heathrow to pick her up from the airport, and even the hotel we stayed at, which is now the Holiday Inn near Harmondsworth. It is near where I live now.
From then on the car that would eventually become known as “The Old Girl.” She was kept garaged, and meticulously maintained – my granddad taking over maintenance duties while we were still living abroad for most of the year, so she was only driven a couple of months a year.
My dad even demolished the old garage and custom designed a brand new, bigger one especially for her, which was double-skinned, insulated and even centrally heated.
In about 2004 my parents sold the house and moved to France. A friend promised to keep The Old Girl in his garage until they were ready to have her sent over, but unfortunately he didn’t, and she was parked under a tree on a farmyard for the next 4 years.
My parents asked me to retrieve the car, get her MOT’d so my sister could borrow her for a couple of weeks, and then drive the car out to them in France. That was when I found out how she had been kept. I was furious and cried my eyes out when I saw her. She was covered in moss and algae, and had spots of rust starting on almost every panel, although luckily her underside was solid thanks to her regular waxoyl treatments previously.
I had her trailered to my friend’s garage, where he changed the tires and brakes, flushed all the fluids and gave her a service. I had my own car detailing (valeting) company at the time so I cleaned her up, and she sailed through her first MOT in 4 years without so much as an advisory – she’s never failed one in her life yet.
My sister needed to borrow the car for a couple of weeks, and in that time I planned out some restoration to return her to her previous condition, which involved a full respray and some other minor things. I supervised the restoration work and then in Easter 2008 I drove her out to France to hand her back to my dad.
It was very difficult however in France not just to find parts (it can be hard enough for a classic car to find parts even in the UK), but also a mechanic willing and able to work on her – as most French mechanics flatly refuse to work on non-French vehicles. Eventually my parents found a British expat mechanic who did basic maintenance work on her, but it was not ideal, and they felt they couldn’t keep her to the high standards that they used to when she was in England.
So in October 2016 my parents handed her down to me so that I could bring her back to the UK and give her the life she deserved.
I sent a car transporter to bring her back as logistics were awkward, and she hibernated over winter under her nice new cover. Now I want to get her smartened up again for some summer shows and fun drives. She’s retired and doesn’t need to be a daily driver, but I know there are lots of enthusiastic fans who want to meet her in person.
There are some minor repairs to be done here and there due to not being looked after as well as she could be while in France. One thing I need to sort is a tiny dent and some chipped paint on the roof where a chimney fell on her in a storm last year, but being a Saab she simply shrugged it off with a little cosmetic damage. She needs a roof respray which hopefully will get sorted shortly.
Other than that we have new CV boots and brake lines to fit, an iffy back door to fettle, and an annoying smoky exhaust to investigate, wish us luck!
Stay tuned for more on The Old Girl 900, including current updates, like her trip to Lego Land or the Saab Museum. Of course, you can also check out The Old Girl 900 for yourself by visiting any of her pages or profiles below.
Facebook: The Old Girl 900