With the demise of Saab in 2011, finding an example of Sweden’s odder marque is pretty unusual, unless you live in a major American northeastern or western city. But what to do if all your friends drive Saabs, and you want to stand out? How about trying to find a two-door sedan, only offered for a couple of years in North America? Well, those are nice and light, and structurally probably quite stiff, but not as utilitarian as a Saab could be. So let’s go one step further back in the history of the 900, and find an elusive Saab 5-door hatch. No, it’s not a 9000, it’s this this 1979 Saab 900 GLE 5-Door for sale for $2395 in Estacada, OR.
A first-year model of the 900, this is a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder B-engine-powered GLE, good for about 115hp. It’s said to run and drive well, and being an early car, it avoids the popular metallics of the 1980s for a shade called Midnight Blue. The registration is current, while the odometer is broken, and the car is said to have a salvage title due to a bumper impact. As with any old car, you’ll want to look the structure over carefully, but take some extra time with this one to make sure the bumper impact is the only issue – it’s quite possible a bumper impact would have damaged the actual body before the massive bumper sustained any damage. Ask about the missing headlight surrounds, as these may be quite hard to find for early non-turbo cars.
Compared to many older Saabs, this car’s interior is in very good condition, though an online search suggests the original upholstery would have been tufted. It’s hard to assess the condition of the dash top, but the instrument panel is all there, and the steering wheel and front and rear seats are excellent. As you’d expect, the glove box door is somewhat distorted, but this is a minor quibble given how good the rest is. No mention is made of the headliner, so if you buy it, a box of thumbtacks from the nearest office supply store should be in your glove box toolkit, right next to fuses and a random washer.
Here you can see the current historic-style plate, along with the 1979-only 99-style tail lights, which were augmented with additional inboard lights for 1980. Even the top of the rear bench is in good shape, and the luggage cover is still present. Perhaps the salvage title is due to a rear impact – note the position of the SAAB and GLE scripts, which are too far inboard, and the lack of a 900 script. Metal trim seems to be escaping from its home on the bumper face.
For lack of an engine shot, here’s an ironic hipster in-car phone for this 1979 Saab, rotary dial and all. The original-style Michelin spare is cool, but this shot doesn’t show what a tremendous amount of stuff this car can carry when the seats are folded down. As for the actual engine, this 1979 car would have a B-series engine carried over from the 99 – the H only debuted in 1980. So get ready to learn the mechanical quirks of the 99 – water pumps, fuseboxes, and the gearbox are some of the weak points – while enjoying the somewhat updated styling of the 900.