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Small Job, Big Problems
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Thoughts:  Small Job, Big Problems
Bruce Turk

Here's a short story that proves once again that Vintage Saab ownership is full of fun and laughs.
During the restoration of my 1961 96, I discovered that the fresh air intake at the base of the windshield was filled with leaves. The air intake is nothing more than an empty box covered by a slotted grill and intake scoop. Since I was painting the entire car and the intake scoop was all rusty, I decided to remove the scoop to make repairing the rust easier. I also thought that once I had the scoop off I could somehow remove the leaves that were trapped underneath.
I knew from past experience that the two screws holding the scoop to the body are often seized from rust. Mine were no exception. One good twist with my Phillips head screwdriver and the screw heads stripped instantly. Screw removal was no longer an option.
I grabbed a pair of tin snips and cut the metal tabs under the scoop, on either side of the mounting screws. The scoop fell off. Now with better access, I locked a large vise grip to the screws head and turned.  Snap!  The nut on the underside of the grill slots twisted free. Apparently the nuts are crimped in underneath the grill slots and twist free with very little pressure. Using the vise grip to pull and wiggle the screw head from side to side, I pulled the screw out with the nut still attached. This left a jagged hole were the nut should be. Repeat process on other screw.
I locked the nuts in a vice and twisted the screw head with the vise grip, snapping the screw in half. This allowed me to gather up the bottom part of the thin metal tabs that I had cut with the tin snips. Turn on MIG welder; reattach the metal tabs to the bottom of the scoop. Place scoop over air intake to check fit. Sorry, the tabs are not welded on straight so the scoop will not lay flat on the car. Cut tabs with tin snips, repeat process.
Now, what to do about those nuts that pulled through the intake grill slots. I have to somehow get the nuts to stick on the underside of the air intake grill. I found suitable nuts and threaded two-inch long bolts through them. The next step was to wiggle the nuts through the buggered up holes in the grill slots.  I Tied a thin piece of string around the bolt heads and attach the other end of the string to a nail hammered into the ceiling. The string kept upward pressure on the nut, holding it fast to the underside of the grill. OK, turn on the Mig, attempt to weld the top of the nut to the buggered up hole, without welding the bolt to the nut. Twang, sparks burn through the string, repeat. Weld a little more, check to see if the nut is attached to air intake grill by pressing on the bolt. burn finger. nut pulls away from grill, repeat. Weld some more, buggered up hole burns through and is now larger, nut and bolt falls out, repeat. Weld yet again, press on bolt with pliers (I learned!), nut is secure.. But the bolt is now welded to the nut! Two days and a thousand #@*! later, both nuts were securely welded to the underside of the grill.
Time to pull the leaves out from under the air intake grill. Using hemostats I was able to pull one leaf fragment out every thirty seconds. At that rate it would take about a year to finish the job. I then noticed that the best way in there would be through the heater core opening, but the heater core would have to removed first. I tried to remove the heater core cover but the
screw heads striped out with the first turn of the Phillips. Hmmm, what about through the fresh air vent under the dash? That hole is not as large as the heater cores but it should get the job done. The vent flap is hidden behind the glove box. Remove glove box door, radio and cardboard glove box. Pull on vent flap handle while pulling on return spring with a pair of pliers to release.
Break Spring.  Remove vent flap and watch the foam seal that was glued to the vent flap crumble into a pile of dust.
Now to remove the leaves.  I inserted a three foot long, �" diameter heater hose in the end of my shop vacs suction hose. This gave me a "snake-like" tube to work with under the dash. A little electrical tape was wrapped around the hose to make a tight seal. The hose was inserted through the fresh air vent opening. I worked it back and forth to suck out the leaves. This worked
halfway decent but under the leaves, lying in the bottom of the intake box, was slimy dirt that the vacuum hose rode over. I needed to press down on the  end of the hose while simultaneously moving it in and out. I thought about shooting water through the air intake grill with my garden hose, blasting the dirt out. This would have filled the car with sludge and taken forever to dry out. I planned on coating the inside of the air intake box with rust inhibiting paint and didn't want to get everything wet.
My front windshield gasket had just arrived from Motorsport Sweden. The windshield had to come out before painting the car so this was as good a time as any to remove it. With the windshield removed, I stood inside the car with my torso sticking out through the windshield opening. Now I was able to get back to work. My right hand was under the dash moving the vacuum hose back and forth while my left hand,  holding a long thin screw driver passed through the air intake grill, pressed down on the end of the vacuum hose. Success at last!
Now to paint the inside of the intake box. but how! I wanted to use "Miracle Paint", because it would neutralize the rust and provide a watertight seal.  Getting it in would not be easy. I tried tying a small sponge to the end of a stick and shoving it through the fresh air vent under the dash. There was not enough room to maneuver; I got more paint running down my arms than inside the intake box. Next, I removed the foam pad from the end of a one-inch wide foam brush. The pad is connected to a plastic insert that is pressed in the wood handle. With the handle removed, I was able to grip the plastic insert with a long pair of hemostats. Totally frustrated, I dumped the miracle paint through the air intake grill and shoved the foam pad through one of the grill slots. By wiggling the hemostat I was able to slosh the paint around. This was repeated along the length of the intake box. The only disadvantage to this "dump and slosh" method was the excess paint ran out of the intake box drain slots and into the engine compartment. A few strategically place rags would have protected the engine compartments paint finish.
Repairing the deep rusty scale on the air intake ribs was comparatively easy. I just wire wheeled the ribs, treated them with Miracle Paint, smeared on body filler with my fingers and sanded them smooth.  A piece of cake!        
Bruce Turk, 4/01

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Last modified: January 10, 2023