Saab story: Owning a rare 9-3 Viggen

On June 8, 2018 I sold what was and probably always will be the most rare car I’ll ever own. This is my Saab story.

As many of you are aware I wrote the “Born From Jets” article on here in May of 2017 that expressed my love for the Saab 9-3 Viggen, and after that I was hooked. I relentlessly searched Internet forums, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for a local 9-3 Viggen. With no luck I continued on – driving my Honda S2000 nearly every day while still searching for a Viggen to daily drive. On a lucky August evening in 2017 while running errands, I noticed a red two-door Viggen parked outside a local grocery store. Surprised that I even saw a Viggen, I immediately wrote a note expressing my interest in this unique find and also included my phone number in case they desired to sell it in the future. I placed it on the windshield, never expecting what was to come. Several days later, I received the call. We scheduled a time and place for a test drive. The car met all of my expectations, and we shook on the deal.

I did it. I bought a Viggen. I haven’t had a better “car moment” in my life than seeing my new-to-me 9-3 Viggen parked right behind my prized possession Honda S2000. This was a moment where everything seemed so right, and I wanted nothing more than what was in front of me. The Viggen I purchased was a 2001 model year finished in Laser Red over Black leather. My Viggen had roughly 140k miles on it when I purchased it. Like I stated before, it was a two-door model (three door including the hatchback as Saab calls it), which was actually my preference as I thought it looked a little sportier. Laser Red was a very uncommon color on Viggens in general, as it was not offered for all of the model years. My Viggen was 1 of 29 Laser Red two-door hardtops in the U.S for the 2001 model year.

I spent the first month or two of ownership just getting used to the quirkiness that is Saab. If you have owned a Saab before you know exactly what I’m getting at. I started looking around for things to set my Viggen over the top. After searching for alternatives to my stock rear spoiler, I ended up on a Saab forum, where I found an old for-sale ad. We’re talking about posted-10-years-ago-old. Unsure if this was still available, I decided to message the seller, only to find that not only did he still have the spoiler, but also he was the owner of Genuine Saab in Springfield Missouri. After some emails were exchanged, I found myself on a road trip to pick up my new Realcar EVO II rear spoiler for my Viggen. Beyond the spoiler, I installed a Genuine Saab machined oil cap, Genuine Saab roof rails, and Rally Armor mudflaps. I also replaced all of the “Saab” and “Viggen” badges around the car since they had become weathered over time.

Mechanically the car was a headache for a good chunk of my ownership. It seemed that on a weekly basis it had a new check engine light for a different reason. The previous owners had extensive service records and documentation so I know that the car had excellent care over its lifetime; however, it was a nearly 20-year-old car from a defunct manufacturer, so problems are to be expected. A few of the components I ended up replacing were the throttle body, heater hoses, and ECU, with the ECU being the most expensive. With that being said, I still loved the car, but it just became such a financial burden and I desired something more reliable for my longer commute that I was soon to have.

In April of 2018, I painfully posted up a “feeler” on a Saab Viggen owners page on Facebook to gauge interest in my car. I was overwhelmed with interest from other enthusiasts, many of them very serious. One of them seemed more interested than any of the others and reached out to me through a private message. The man who reached out to me was a Saab collector from Illinois and he just had to have my Viggen. We exchanged some information and I sent him some additional photos of the car. After negotiating a deal, his flight was booked and I had a pending sale. Several weeks later, he was driving away in one of the coolest and most obscure cars I’ve had the privilege to owning. Though I genuinely miss that car, it makes me feel good to know the collector who purchased it from me is restoring the car to its showroom glory.

Though the car had some ups and downs throughout my ownership, nothing could top cruising down a back road in the Viggen on a cool autumn night. Fond memories of hearing the turbo spool up to 20 psi, the laughably unpredictable torque-steer, and the analog-driving feel are a few aspects I will miss the most.

That’s my Saab story.

Nathan Christian lives in Lee's Summit, MO and enjoys driving his Laguna Blue Honda S2000 and his 2010 Civic Si when he's not assessing your vehicle's trade-in value at CarMax. Check out his Instagram account (@speedenthusiasts) to view more of his work.

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