Saab gets a spring clean – and it’s only Jan­uary

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics - RICHARD GUNN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

1989 SAAB 900 TURBO T16

When my Saab last ap­peared here a few weeks back, it had just sur­prised every­body by record­ing 193bhp dur­ing a rolling road test. That was 18bhp more than it should have had when built in Fin­land (at Saab-Val­met’s Uusikaupunki plant – try say­ing af­ter a few Fin­nish vod­kas) 28 years and nearly 155,000 miles ago. The mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the test was that I was about to have the en­gine car­bon-cleaned, us­ing the mod­ern tech­nique of pump­ing a hy­dro­gen so­lu­tion through it – sort of a colonic ir­ri­ga­tion for cars, if you will. I wanted a full set of ‘be­fore’ and ‘af­ter’ fig­ures to see what, if any­thing, might change. De­cok­ing cars used to be pretty stan­dard prac­tice once upon a time – once ev­ery 20,000 miles was the norm prior to the mid-1970s when oil and fuel tech­nol­ogy was less ad­vanced. If you had a side­valve-en­gined Ford Pop, it was prob­a­bly closer to about 1000 if you wanted any sort of per­for­mance at all.

The main rea­son for the en­gine clean was to ex­plain and fol­low the process for a fea­ture in CCW’s sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Car

Me­chan­ics. But, al­most since I ac­quired my Saab five years ago, I’ve never quite felt it’s been giv­ing its best. And now that I know it was pack­ing around 200bhp (de­spite the en­gine ap­pear­ing to be com­pletely stan­dard), I wanted to find out if I could un­leash all those un­ex­pected horses out on the road. UK Car­bon Clean­ing (­bon­clean­ duly turned up at CCW Tow­ers in Peter­bor­ough where Matt, who runs the busi­ness, con­nected up the pipework from what looked like R2D2’s more an­gu­lar, hi-vis safe­ty­con­scious cousin to the Saab’s air in­take. The en­gine was then started and al­lowed to idle for 30 min­utes or so, with the oc­ca­sional bout of mod­er­ate revving – although I was re­lieved that there was noth­ing like the shock and awe throt­tling demon­strated on the rolling road. There was no dis­man­tling and sub­se­quent wor­ry­ing scrap­ing and grind­ing nec­es­sary – the hy­dro­gen so­lu­tion ap­par­ently burns away all car­bon de­posits within half an hour.

At the end of it, a quick check re­vealed that the ex­haust emis­sions had dropped, and the 900 cer­tainly felt live­lier and more re­spon­sive. The plan was to get it back on the rolling road the fol­low­ing day to see if re­al­ity lived up to the­ory. But the Saab had other ideas…

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