1999 Saab 9-3
Turbo 4dr Hatchback
My fun turbo powered European "hatchback". Daily driven but slowly getting built up for more performance
|Curb Weight||3020 LB|
|Drivetrain||Front Wheel Drive|
|Engine Size||2 L|
|MPG (City/Highway)||24/27 MPG|
Wheels & Tires (4)
Wheels & Tires (2)
Dewhel B00VVF6HSC Blow Off Valvemore info
Wix XP 51516XP Oil Filtermore info
Kenwood KFC-1694PS Speakersmore info
Kenwood KFC-6965R Speakersmore info
Abbott Racing 3" catback Cat Back Exhaustmore info
Saab Steel Wheels (Rims)more info
Hankook Winter i'cept evo Tiresmore info
Tell us the story behind your ride. What made you pick this particular one? Where did you find it?
My wife and I were searching for a project car to work on together after having nothing but issues with the '99 Prelude we had. I wanted something non-Honda and she wanted something turbo. We had looked around at quite a few cars on various for sale sites (craigslist, Facebook marketplace, etc.) and even went to look at a promising Audi A4 which turned out to need a lot more work than first anticipated and the owner wanted way to much for it's condition. She found Saab 9-3's online and fell in love with the way they looked, I researched into them and was blown away but what these motors could handle (the stock block on some variants could handle ~400bhp with just bolt-on parts and a tune). I was hooked. I got a text one day at work from my wife with a link to the craigslist ad for this car. Relatively cheap, turbo, and the right year ('99 models had the "better" block). It was down past Baltimore, almost on the Virginia border which was about a 2 hour trip. I left work early that day, picked my wife up and we went to look at it. After seeing it's condition I negotiated back and forth with the owner. This diamond in the rough was mine for $750 and had less than 95k on it. Score!
Describe the modifications you've made. Where did you start, what’s the most recent mod and what motivated it?
It started with probably the most ricer mod I could have done: a blow off valve (gotta have those mad turbo noises, yo). It was probably a dumb idea at first (considering I had never worked on a turbo car before this) but I still love the noises it makes when I drive, it just has some more mods to back it up now. Then I went on to replacing the entire stereo system. The head unit that came in it was lacking and I had another from a previous car that was amazing in sound and connectivity. I put in the speakers from the same car (all of that stereo had been bought brand new together and matched up to get the best out of the system as a whole). Then came the cat back exhaust that I drove from pretty much 5am to 11pm in one day on a round trip to get. It was a brand I'd never heard of but it was cheap and ended up sounding great. I later found out that Abbott Racing (my exhaust's manufacturer) was a top quality imported brand and was worth every minute and cent I spent getting it. Then my turbo went out and being cursed with the constant desire to modify I went with a bigger turbo instead. It was a nightmare to get installed as it needed some rigged fittings and hoses to make it work (everywhere I looked online said it was "practically a bolt on" item. Right). Looking back I wish I would have had the time to order the hose conversion kit for it. Once that was properly installed I took it for a quick test drive and it became absolutely clear that every hour of frustration, every trip made to the parts store for "just 1 more part", and every curse word uttered during installation was totally worth it. The smile that was on my face during that 5 minute test drive was all the reaffirmation I needed.
Of all the mods you’ve made, which do you think offers the biggest bang for the buck?
The bigger turbo (TD04HL-15T) I just put on the car. I spent $100 on the turbo and the necessary "King Cobra" inlet pipe from someone on a local forum. It was an incredible price as I had seen other used turbos go for at least $250 and this one had about 85k on it. I spent probably another $60-$80 on little bits just to get all of the fittings sorted (oil/coolant feeds and intake pipe adapter). After getting it installed it was immediately clear that this was by far the best mod I had ever done to the car. It spooled up much faster than the stock Garrett T28 and feels like it has a ton more "punch". I wouldn't hesitate to do this upgrade if I had another Saab.
How did you go about selecting the specific parts for this build? Any installation tips to share?
I have an extensively thorough process I go through to pick each part. I call it "whatever is cheap" haha. I usually just wait awhile for whatever type of part I'm looking in to putting on my car coming up for sale at a reasonable price. Whenever I find something I'm interested in I do tend to do a little bit of research into the specific make/model of the part and make sure that at the very least there will be some quality to it. The only installation tip I have for parts I have installed is on the 15T turbo: do yourself a favor and pick up the conversion line kit. Just getting my lines/fittings sorted was enough of an issue that the $70ish price tag is totally worth the frustration it would save. For a general tip(s) I would suggest always having a box of latex gloves handy, always have a roll of paper towels nearby, and save your family/significant other a lot of headaches but getting some hand cleaning wipes (gojo/tub o' towels) and get cleaned up for the most part before going back in the house.
What are you planning next?
I currently have a JT-Tuning 3" down pipe that I'm getting ready to install, I just need to modify it a little bit. After that I'm looking into an upgraded intercooler, some new boost lines, new wheels/tires and finally a tune to make it all work together much happier.
What’s been the biggest challenge with this build?
Saab engineering. I swear some of this stuff is designed intentionally to never be messed with (I'm looking at you, upstream oxygen sensor connector hidden on the back of the engine block)
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