Saturday, May 27, 2006


Above is a picture of my first successful performance modification: I have added an "intake" to my old Saab. Perhaps this isn't so impressive, since really it just consisted of removing the factory air filter assembly and bolting the new, larger air filter in place.

Translation: I have found another geeky obsession to bore you with.

Well...that's all for now. I was really excited about it for a minute.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'm a friggin' mechanic all of a sudden.

So this monday, after spending the weekend ordering stuff for the "new" car and getting its oil changed, I was greeted by an unwelcome occurance: a terrible squeal from the engine compartment, followed by a small "clunk," heralding a major change in the material status of the alternator belt, and ushering in a new era of tool-time for yours truly.

Despite the $92 pre-purchase inpection and around $500 of work done on the car since then, my reputable but perhaps overworked mechanic in Sonoma had no idea that the alternator belt was on its last legs, or even, apparently, that the car is meant to operate with two belts instead of one. Oops. This does not bode well for the aforementioned timing chain rattle.

Flash back to Monday morning, around 8:30 AM, (nearly the same time and day of the car accident that has caused the automotive content of my life to rise so drastically). Myself, calling the shop that works on Brett's car:

(Ring ring)
"'s Auto Service."
"Yeah, I've got a question for you -- how are you guys with older Saab nine hundreds?"
"Uh...we don't work on Saab 900s (you idiot)."
"Um...ok, thanks..."

Next shop no answer.

Next shop:
"Selbach European."
"Uh, yeah, do you guys do Saabs?"
"What's the problem?"
blah blah...
Them: "Yeah...well, we could take a look at that. Thing is, we're just really busy right now. I mean, wow, we are plowed under..."
"O.K. well, thanks, maybe if I can't get anyone else to do it, I'll call you back."

Moments later I order a set of replacement belts from a Saab website, resolving to do it myself. Today, Friday at 6:30 pm, they are on the car and took me to work today. However, that was not before a mishap with the order (two power steering belts, one alternator) that delayed all of this by two days.

Not to mention all the grease and dirt on my hands, and teaching myself with the help of a book how to do it. That said, it really wasn't too bad, despite the Saab "backwards engine" setup, where all the belts are right near the firewall. All the bolts turned easily, and I didn't even cut myself; as long as I get home tonight, I'd say it was pretty much a success. Now, here's the big question: will I now be emboldened to tackle further projects with this (my only) car? I've heard that it may be possible to deal with the timing chain rattle by replacing a guide accessible under the valve and timing cover; this may have the fringe benefit of clearing up a major source of possible vacuum leaks, the valve cover gasket. And of course, here's the big question: could I deal with the project to convert the car to a light pressure turbo? Most of the parts come from the turbo engine and are a direct fit, although it involves replacing a whole lot of them. It would mean a probable 10-15 hp gain, and a gain in fuel efficiency as well (so far the 2.1 naturally aspirated engine is getting worse mileage than the old car with its far more powerful 2.0 turbo.) But would the gain in efficiency offsetthe price of super?

I have spent a whole hell of a lot of time thinking about this stuff since my old reliable auto was destroyed. And money. Back in the day in NYC I spent about $60 to $70 a month on transportation, a little more if I took the bus out of town or took a cab somewhere. Furthermore, it was all electric and I could read while I went to work. Sure, I've caught the car bug, and I love the joy of the open road and all that, but I could sure do without the extreme cost ($3.25 for 87?) and the life-threatening auto accidents.