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2004 Saab 9-3 Aero: Joining the High Miles/Orphan Brand Club
by Steve Friedman
When I leased my Saab 9-3 in 2004, I had no idea it would still be in my driveway after ten years. I always enjoyed Saab’s quirky image and unique style, but figured after a 36-month lease I would move on to some other car. After racking up many miles in the Saab for work, I came to realize two critical things:
- I was well over my allotted mileage and would owe the dealer extra $$ when I turned in my car for a shiny new one.
- I had grown to really like the Saab and decided that I would rather keep it than part with it.
The second revelation lead me to a new maintenance regimen. As I crept up on 75,000 miles, I started looking for ways to prolong the life and protect the health of the Saab. Especially because my oldest son Matt began Drivers Ed. and my wife and I realized that we were going to need another car in the Friedman fleet soon.
During my research, I found that Valvoline’s MaxLife formula offered the kind of benefits I was looking for: extra protection for older motors from most of the maladies they encounter (like shrinking seals and sludge build-up), as well as additional additives that a 75K plus motor needs. I started seeing maintenance in a different light and looked after the Saab like the member of the family it had become.
The other thing I realized was that the Saab is the third “orphan” car brand I have owned. My first was a sweet Pontiac Tempest in high school. It provided transportation to many memorable football practices and various shenanigans. Unfortunately, GM shut down the Pontiac division in 2010. My second “orphan” was a very eccentric Peugeot 505 STI, (you know the sporty one!) that was loaded with luxury features like a leather interior and a power sunroof. The Peugeot got me hooked on European design. I learned a lot about proper maintenance, as it required frequent care and trips to the shop. The Peugeot taught me about oil changes and the importance of keeping an eye on the basics like vital fluid levels. Since I was newly married, an up-and-coming manager, and considering starting a family, I worked hard to afford the Peugeot’s care and feeding on a tight budget.
While the Peugeot was an interesting car, it didn’t really get under my skin like the Saab has. I love its handling, turbo punch, and safety rating. Its Scandinavian design has held up well too. While it’s not going to win any car shows, it’s in good shape – actually, great shape – for a 10 year old car. I go out of my way to use the highest quality parts I can find, including Valvoline motor oil. My mechanic, who handles the bigger jobs like brakes and shocks, has said that even though Saab was shut down by GM most of the “wear” parts are available and that the only tough items to get are body panels like the hood and fenders.
Of course, I have tried to instill a “pride of ownership” attitude in my 17 year old son and while he does seem interested in cars and driving I’m not sure that he feels the same way about the Saab as I do. I hope to see the Saab in my driveway for years to come, and with just over 87K on the clock, it may just be one of the last you ever see on the road.