Oulton Park Gold Cup 2017

Every year we go to the Oulton Park Gold Cup, and this year was Helga’s turn. Had a very eventful journey, blew off a boost hose early on and that started a cycle of constant stops to refit it. I think it must have blown off a dozen times. Got so fed up that I disconnected the APC valve to drop to base boost but the pipework is a bit stretched and doesn’t have swaged ends, and disturbing it once seemed to start the cycle.

Grabbed a couple of Mikalor clamps from the track shop to try to hold the pipes together a bit better which was working great on the way home until I went for a full bore overtake of a corsa, and as I drew level, -pssst!-. This time it was at the other end of the offending pipe. Much easier to put back though because it wasn’t underneath the washer bottle. To effect a proper fix I just need to find a longer silicone jointer that is stepped because one pipe is ~56mm and the other is 51mm, plus there’s very little overlap of jointer into pipe and the pipe isn’t swaged.

As I stopped at the next junction I came to after putting the pipe back, a cloud of white smoke plumed from under the bonnet. The distributer chose that moment to blow its seal and wee oil onto the turbo heat shield. I’ve got a couple of other spare distributers but from later cars, so I’ll have to work out if they’re compatible.


Head gasket false alarm

Dirty expansion cap

So half way back home with Helga I noticed the coolant level was just above the minimum line, then when I stopped to check it yesterday the header tank was empty. Filled it up and kept a close eye on it. It was using about a litre per hour’s driving, and the header cap was collecting sludge.

However, happy news for once! Having bought a head gasket kit I noticed a damp patch where the coolant lines enter the bulkhead. Turned out the hose had rubbed through on the alternator bracket, then been taped over with electrical tape. I drained and flushed the system, replaced those hoses with silicone from Babs, correctly adjusted this time to avoid the alternator. As a double check I popped the cam cover off to find no evidence of water in the oil so I’m going to see how she runs now.

As a bit of a treat I swapped the side indicators back to orange, replaced the bonnet badge and ground back and kurusted some of the surface rust from the inner wings. Also replaced the temp gauge sender so the gauge works now.


Helga the 1986 Saab 900 T16

Recently I collected a replacement for Babs the Saab 900, found on the UK Saabs forum. Pretty much everything was exactly as described, though we found a couple of holes in the boot floor that’ll get repaired. Babs went in the exact same place so it seems a common problem when water collects through the antenna hole. On the trip home it was blowing a bit of oily smoke on the overrun. Luckily I’ve got the spare TE-05 turbo from Babs that I’d just rebuilt.

Other than that she drives really great and feels very tight – plainly she’s been well looked after. God she’s quick when the boost finally comes on! I’ve not yet fully decided which direction to go with her, and probably never will! One thing for sure is that I intend to keep her for a long time, so I’m going to first focus on sorting all of the bits of corrosion to make sure it lasts, and also make her look as presentable as I can while adding my own stamp.


Erika the 1989 Saab 9000 Carlsson

In April I picked up a 1989 SAAB 9000 Carlsson from a chap in Birmingham, though it was originally registered in Belfast. It was sold as in daily use, with a MOT ’till October. A nice rolling restoration, so I thought. As soon as I saw the car it was obvious it would need a lot of work, so I probably shouldn’t have bought it, but as always happens when I buy a car, I was smitten and hadn’t bought a return train ticket. The real fun started as soon as I set off and slightly touched the brake pedal, at which point the ABS went mental, chucking the car about left and right. Somehow the seller had been driving it like that?! Located and pulled the ABS fuse, and gingerly drove her the rest of the way home to begin the inspection.

First job was to repair the collapsed driver’s seat. Forgot to take any during photos (never attempted a project thread before!) but here’s the finished result, after replacing the base, swapping in a newer cushion and heater element from another set and stitching up the split leather.

While the interior was out, I started to pull back the carpet and that’s where things got bad.

The back arches and shock mountings were pretty much completely replaced with a combination of fibreglass with sheet steel glued on top.

Rotten suspension mount
This is the exact moment I decided to throw in the towel

When I found the back axle was hanging on by a prayer, I decided to throw in the towel and break the car.


Babs the Saab 900 T16s

My first Saab was Babs, a ’93 900 T16 in ruby red with the aero kit. Over the two and a bit years I owned her, I poured a huge amount of time and money into making her as good as I could. Refurbished some super aero wheels, added Kilen springs, 9k brakes and lots of forgotten improvements and fixes.

Babs the Saab 900
Babs the ruby red 1993 900 T16

This was taken during a shoot for a music video she was used in!

Being around for the filming of this was a fun experience

Now for the period of disaster! In early 2016 she blew her head gasket after a rad hose split, so I replaced that and fitted a full silicone hose kit. A handful of weeks later she failed her MOT on rust around the rear shock mountings. So I spent a good couple of months with friends replacing a lot of the rear arches and bootfloor, and also treated her to new Blistein B4s all round. She sailed through the MOT after that, and straight off I went to collect my then new girlfriend for our second date. A few miles into the trip I noticed a slight gearbox whine which very rapidly turned into a howl, shortly followed by seizing in the middle of Sheffield. Luckily the lady didn’t mind travelling home in an AA truck!

So after that string of events I decided Babs and I needed a bit of time to cool off, so I decided to pick up an early 9-5 Aero to use while I sourced and fitted a new box. I did all my research, made sure to choose a car with the modified breather and lots of documentation. The only slight concern was that it had supposedly been remapped but they didn’t know who by. Fair enough, the rest of the car looks very clean and tidy and I need wheels quickly.

Babs and Helga the 9-5 Aero
Babs and Helga the 2000 9-5 Aero

Cut to four days (!) later, driving at a steady 60, loads of smoke from under the bonnet and down to three cylinders. Limped home and started diagnosing to find no compression on cylinder three. Brill. So, engine apart, and, just as expected, a big chunk of the skirt is cracked off and only held on by the rings. Managed to source a second hand piston in the right size code, and built it back up with new rings.

Broken piston
Ouch. 9-5’s broken B205R piston

It ran okay after that but I’d lost confidence in it and the MPG was killing me on a 40 mile commute so not long after I swapped her against a Volvo S60 D5.

Anyway, while the 9-5’s engine rebuild was going on, Babs was sat on some land outside of the garage. One Tuesday I was at work when I got a text saying a branch had fallen on the car and I’d better go through and look. Expecting maybe a dented bonnet, I arrived to find this.

Needless to say, that was the end of Babs. Annoyingly now, I didn’t save nearly enough parts from her. But somehow I still hadn’t had enough of Saabs.