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How To Buy a Two-Stroke SAAB
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How-To:  How to Buy a Two-Stroke SAAB


   Don't ever let anyone convince you that buying a two stroke is a bad idea.  Once properly restored, a two stroke is reliable and a pleasure to own.  Lets face it, Saab sold tens of thousands of two strokes to be used as daily drivers for almost two decades.  If they all fell apart, Saab would not be in business today.  Two Stroke horror stories invariably involve poorly maintained vehicles that often sit idle for months at a time.  When buying a two stroke, you must make a commitment to rebuild the car structurally and mechanically to insure years of safe enjoyment.

Bruce Turk, 7/00

The Decision... Which one?
   To me, the older the Saab the "cooler" it gets.  Mechanically, the cars improved a little each year, but definitely at the expense of "coolness."
   The "Longnose" cars (1965- 1968) were the last of the two strokes and consequently the most refined.  Given a choice, a Monte Carlo 850 would be the way to go since they have extra body trim, a sportier engine and a more comfortable interior than a standard car.
   The "Bullnose" cars (1964 and earlier) are much quirkier than the longnose cars.  The front end treatment is strikingly "different" and the "overhead fanshaft" will keep your friends talking for years.  The last year for the Bullnose was 1964.  The 64's had round gauges on the dash, arguably not as cool as the "ribbon speedometer" found on the 63 and earlier cars.  On the plus side, the 64 was the first year for the dual circuit diagonal braking system.  The 1960 through 1963 95's and 96's were basically the same.  Notable exceptions being the GT 750 and GT 850/Sport.  The GT/Sport cars have extra body trim, a modified engine and a more plush interior than a standard car, making them much more desirable.
   I would be remiss if I didn't mention those elusive 1966-67 Sonett II two strokes.  They are in a league all their own. Cool?  You bet!  Hard to find a good one?  Oh yes.  Hard to find parts?  If you need to ask, you're not ready to own one!
   1960 saw the last of the 93's.  The 93 is much more cool than a 95 or 96, just one look at the cars rear end and you will know why.  The 1960 93F is arguably the least cool of the 93's (with the exception of the 93F GT 750) due to the conventional front hinged doors.  The 1958 and 1959 93B's are basically the same, the "suicide doors" make them a personal favorite.  GT 750 93B's are just about as cool and rare as you can get.  They have an incredible interior, modified engine and lots of neat body trim.  The 1957 and earlier 93's have a "split" front windshield, a huge  "improvement" over the boring one piece windshield found on later cars.
   Then you have the 92's.  It just doesn't get any better than this.  Two cylinders, 28 horse power, no water pump, suicide doors, split front windshield and on the early ones� no trunk lid!  Fantastic!
What to ask before looking at the car
Proof of ownership - Clean title or transferable registration?
Is the car complete and fully assembled ?  If not, what's missing?
Can the car be test driven?  If not, why?
Has the car been in storage?  How long?  Where?
How bad is the rust?
Has any recent mechanical work been done?  Receipts?
How many miles are on the engine and transmission?  Rebuilt?
Condition of the interior and body?
Any spare parts included?
Has the car been altered from stock?  If so, how?
What to look for once you get there
   Be an educated consumer.  Don't show up to look at a 1966 96 Monte Carlo 850 without knowing what one looks like!  I suggest buying one of the many books that have been written on Saab to become familiar with the car that is right for you.  Once you have your choice narrowed down, buy an old sales brochure for the car.  Old Saab brochures can be purchased from Walter Miller's Literature Shop in Syracuse, NY.  Telephone # (315) 432- 8282, Fax # (315) 432- 8256.  A sales brochure will give you important specifications that can be checked for while looking at the car.
At the very minimum, you should know the following before you look at the car:
The type of engine - 750cc or 850Cc, oil injected or pre mix?
The type of clutch and transmission - cable or hydraulic, 3 speed or 4?
The type of carburetor - single or triple?
The type of brakes and hubs - drums or disks, four bolt or five?
The type of interior - know the color choices and overall appearance for that year.
The correct body colors and exterior trim for that year and model.
The Test Drive
   If the car can not be test driven, Buyer Beware!  Purchasing a car that can not be driven, opens the door to all kinds of problems.  I'm not saying that you should never buy a car that can not be test driven.  If you do, be prepared for the worst and make sure that the price reflects the fact that the car is not road worthy.  Remember... listening to an engine run in a driveway is not the same as listening to it while under load going up a hill.  Likewise, roll testing the brakes on someone's front lawn is not the same as bringing it to a stop from 65 MPH.
   Pull the choke, start her up and get settled behind the wheel.  Make sure that the emergency brake works because you will have to use it when parking the car with the freewheel engaged.  Two strokes have very little power and run rough when cold.  Don't judge the motors performance until after it has fully warmed up.  Listen to the motor, you should not hear any clicking, knocking or slapping sounds.  The clutch should be light compared to most modern cars unless it has been equipped with a heavy duty pressure plate.   Having to let the clutch slip to get the car rolling is normal.   Clutch "judder" upon take off is common but should not be considered normal.  The clutch should never slip once on the move. The car should pull smoothly in all gears without hesitation.  Engine RPM's should be kept rather high before shifting. Sluggish performance at low RPM is normal.   A transmission in perfect condition will be almost silent in all gears at any RPM.  A moderate whine at certain speeds is very common and does not necessarily mean that a rebuild is in your near future.  A loud obtrusive transmission whine that makes conversation difficult is NOT normal and will require immediate attention.  1st gear is not synchronized on three speed box's so a "kachunk" sound when going into 1st is acceptable. Although using the freewheel is not absolutely necessary on oil injected cars, check it out anyway.  Freewheel IS absolutely necessary on non-oil injected (mixer) cars.

   If the car has four wheel drum brakes, you are in for a real surprise!  Even with the brakes working perfectly, you can expect to build up your calf muscles bringing the car to a stop.  The car should not pull to one side and you should not feel pulsation's through the pedal.  If the brake pedal slowly sinks to the floor, the car has a hydraulic leak and should not be test driven.  If pumping the brake gives you a "higher" pedal, the brakes need adjustment.  Cars equipped with front disc brakes should almost stop like a modern car.    Make sure that all the gauges work, the most important being the temperature gauge as two strokes often run hot.  It is normal for the Amperage gauge to go into the negative range on a generator equipped car when the car is at idle, especially when the headlights are on.   The car should feel tight and vibration free at speed.  The steering should be precise and without "play."  The suspension should respond to bumps like any other car - without drama. Exhaust fumes should not enter the passenger compartment while the car is moving.

   The overall feel of a properly maintained stroker is like know other car.  If you are fortunate enough to ever drive one, you are in for a real treat.
Buy one!

Bruce Turk

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Last modified: January 10, 2023