Was rolling road to blame?

A blown ex­haust man­i­fold gas­ket side­lines the Saab and calls for surgery

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

1989 SAAB 900 TURBO T16

It was the noise that first told me some­thing was wrong. With old cars, it’s gen­er­ally sub­tle vari­a­tions in tim­bre or the odd new ran­dom squeak or creak from nether re­gions that alerts us that all is not well. This time though, it sounded like a griz­zly bear was trapped un­der the bon­net of my Saab when I started it up one cold morn­ing. And it wasn’t at all happy to be there.

It got worse when the car got warm. Be­cause that’s when the jud­der­ing, the mis­fires and the lack of power kicked in. I man­aged to nurse the 900 to Elling­worth’s Garage in Peter­bor­ough, where the cause of the noise, at least, was traced to a blow­ing ex­haust man­i­fold gas­ket. The other is­sues might be re­lated. Or they might not be.

Ex­haust man­i­fold gas­kets can be quite sim­ple things to put right, but sadly not on my era of Saab. Be­cause the lon­gi­tu­di­nal B202 2.0-litre en­gine is canted at a 45-de­gree an­gle in or­der to fit it on top of the front-wheel drive gear­box and get it un­der the bon­net, ac­cess to the man­i­fold bolts is lim­ited and have to be worked on from above and be­low. A tur­bocharger partly in the way doesn’t help much.

There was a lot of dis­man­tling for Andy at Elling­worth’s, although he re­mark­ably man­aged to get the man­i­fold off with­out hav­ing to also re­move the tur­bocharger.

This re­vealed the true ex­tent of the gas­ket’s is­sues – it had blown in two places and more or less broke up com­pletely when he pulled it away from its home of 28 years. Af­ter thor­oughly clean­ing up the area and the man­i­fold mat­ing sur­face, a new re­place­ment gas­ket was put on, and re­assem­bly be­gan.

It didn’t go quite that seam­lessly, as a man­i­fold stud broke off in the process, but af­ter a to­tal time of about three hours, the job was done.

For­tu­nately, the an­gry griz­zly un­der the bon­net may have gone, but the other run­ning prob­lems re­main.

So what caused the gas­ket to blow? Apart from sheer old age, I don’t think the Saab’s ad­ven­tures on a rolling road did it much good at all, be­ing revved to a level with which I was very un­com­fort­able. It’s turn­ing out to be an expensive way to find out that the car re­ally does have 193bhp.

’Be­ing revved to an un­com­fort­able level prob­a­bly didn’t do it much good at all’

Re­plac­ing the gas­ket meant work both un­der the bon­net and from be­neath the car.

The con­trast be­tween the new gas­ket and the old – un­cleaned man­i­fold at the top.

It took a lot of time and ef­fort to get to the man­i­fold, thanks to the en­gine’s 450 an­gle.

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