At heart, I am a Chevy guy. Over the past twelve years I’ve gotten a little lost in other brands, but still I maintain my Chevy roots, which come naturally with a healthy rivalry with Ford. I have never owned a Ford, nor did I ever want to own one. They seemed to lack the quirky wild personality that I’m drawn to. Chevy hasn’t been so great in that department either. The Camaro looks like a Belgian Blue Bull and has disappointed me since 2009. The Corvette is a fantastic machine, especially since the Stingray rebirth, but it’s a whole galaxy away from practical DD fun machine. About seven years ago a riddle was born: what car is quirky, fun, fast, practical, technically GM but exists largely because they gave The General the finger? I’ll tell you this, the answer is not a Pontiac. My first car was a 1986 Saab 9000 Turbo, so I had already tasted the funky pickled herring that is Saab. I was drawn towards 230 horsepower of Scandinavian turbo-lag torque-steer five-speed Lightning Blue fun; the Saab Viggen.
Target acquired and sights locked. Nineteen year old me was GOING to have a Viggen, and no color but Lightning Blue would do. In total, 2,954 Viggens were imported into the US, of which only 507 were LB. I searched forums, eBay, classifieds, and ultimately bought a gorgeous 1999 tan cloth interior base model 9-3 because that’s all my broke ass could afford.
A small part of me died every day I drove that car. The search continued, and two years later I found her:
She had 142,000 miles, the original engine killed by sludge, but that didn’t matter. There was a hole in the exhaust flex pipe, and wear through on the drivers seat bolster, but that didn’t matter. The instrument cluster was cracked, along with paint on the front bumper, but that didn’t matter. The SID pixels were 80% gone, and the passenger door lock worked 50% of the time every time. But none of that mattered. Climb into the black and blue leopard print seats and put on the only track that deserves to come over the speakers:
Put that little yellow needle in the red zone and feel the twinge start at the back of your head and trickle down through your neck like phosphorescent desert buttons, through your shoulders and into goosebumps on your arms. Feel your heart rate jump, your head get light, and the tunnel vision start. Your right foot is connected to a syringe of adrenaline, and I dare you to stop pushing it down.
I fixed as many of the items as I could afford to and enjoyed the car for four years, but it became apparent that I was an addict and my judgement was being clouded. The car felt like teenage boys had beat on it for 160,000 miles, and that’s because it was the truth. There was about 60 degrees of rotational slop in the drivetrain and the shifter felt like stirring a bowl of mashed potatoes when there are still big chunks. Rust had started to creep in on the bottoms of the doors, and in the spare tire well. I held on to the notion that I would fix all of the problems and keep it forever, but like all addicts when their drug of choice fails to fulfill, I was already seeking out my next fix.
The story continues next time with the first Bavarian Beauty...