Jeff Proposki was four years old when he was first infected. The year was 1974, and his Dad brought home a brand-new Saab 99LE. Over the years Jeff learned about cars, and this olive green Saab in particular, from his father. "Dad fixed it himself. Many nights as a kid I helped him work on it. Everybody who knows Saabs knows they need their TLC. He's a large part of my interest in Saabs," said Proposki.
When Jeff finally got his driver's license, his Dad handed him the keys to the faithful little 99. By then the prognosis was hopeless, and Jeff was fully infected with the "Saab Disease."
"We're all weird in our own way when it comes to Saabs," Proposki continued. "It's a different ownership. I don't know what it is about Saabs."
Proposki now owns and runs the Rockport Service Station (Rockport, Mass.), where servicing Saabs is a specialty. "I had an opportunity in 1991 to purchase an already established business. It was perfect timing. I had just graduated (from Franklin Institute in Boston) with an Associates Degree in Automotive Technology. I built the Saab business myself, just by word-of-mouth," he said. "There are a lot of Saab owners in this area and in New England for that matter."
It was in 1991 that Proposki also purchased the 1988 Saab 900 SPG (Special Performance Group) featured in this story, "Just through my own expertise, owning my own shop, I started to modify it, a little here, a little there. I had started to get into amateur road racing, doing driving schools at places like Watkins Glen, Lime Rock and New Hampshire International Speedway. I always wanted a little more power, a little more performance and kept up-classing myself."
A regular at the Saab Owners National Convention, Proposki installed a new suspension in time for the 1997 meet in Waterville Valley, N.H. Heavy-duty Bilstein shocks were teamed with 1.5-in. lowering Jamex Springs and located by new reinforced lower A-arms and TRW balljoints. Polyurethane bushings replaced the stock units and also hold the Swedish Auto Specialties (SAS) 25mm swaybars. Proposki finds the suspension "always impresses passengers on the track."
He had already started to think about freshening the rest of the 900 when "Saab came out with its Viggen, in that BLUE," said Proposki. "I'm such a fan of the classic 900 that I figured I would make my own Viggen. I based a lot of the changes on that car. That's why I did what I did, but I went the whole 9 yards, keeping my car somewhat streetable but fully ready for the track at all times."
In the fall of 1999 Proposki started his project. The car now had 180,000 miles on the clock, including 20,000 "tough duty" track miles. "As I got into it, my body guy said, 'We need to paint this car.' That's when the snowball happened." With visions of Lightning Blue Viggens guiding the way, "The car came apart-totally, absolutely totally apart." Everything came off or out, and the remaining metal was chemically stripped. The shell went to Dan Page Race Cars (known for its Top Fuel and Pro Stock dragster chassis) for a full rollcage. There was just enough room after the black cage was welded in to allow Proposki to sneak in a new headliner.
Julian Miller's shop, Sublime Restorations in Rowley, Mass., is responsible for the re-born 900's perfect Lightning Blue paint. The 900's exterior is 100-percent Saab despite the unique look. The "Airflow" body kit (bumper covers, side vent covers and rear dcor panel) and "whale-tail" spoiler are rare and desirable factory pieces once offered for the 900. The side cladding and flares are stock SPG bits. The gill-like air intake is a 900 hood vent Miller seamlessly grafted into the left front fender. Even the antenna is from a Viggen.
Held snugly in the carbon/Kevlar MOMO Acropolis seats by Crow Enterprises five-point belts, the lucky driver gripping the MOMO "Race" wheel has a clear view of nine extra gauges supplementing the stock instruments. In addition to the stock tach, speedometer, boost, fuel and temperature gauges and, of course, idiot lights, accurate measurements are taken of boost, air/fuel mixture, fuel pressure, volts, oil pressure and exhaust, transmission, coolant and oil temperatures. The gauges fit nicely in the center console and radio slot. There are no rear seats, just a large expanse of new carpet and the top of the relocated battery box. The wood-paneled dash adds an unexpected hint of elegance to the otherwise purposeful interior.
Of course, this car is no trailer queen, and Proposki is tantalizingly close to his goal of 300 bhp. The last dyno run showed 298 hp and 326 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged 2.2 liter. Starting with the normally aspirated 2.1-liter Saab engine (instead of the 2.0 liter the factory turbocharges) in order to take advantage of the larger intake and exhaust ports, Proposki ordered a set of custom JE pistons. The pistons lowered compression from 10:1 to 8.5:1, and a .040 overbore brought the displacement to 2.2 liters.
Custom-grind Crower cams reside in a stock head that has been carefully ported, polished and gasket matched by Lesco Automotive in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The rest of the engine internals are stock pieces, balanced and stress-relieved by a local drag motor builder, Boucher's Machine Shop. The 45-lb/hr injectors are controlled by a programmable Haltech E6K computer, an MSD ignition delivers the spark, and a Greddy Profec Boost Controller keeps things from blowing apart. The Garrett T-3 hybrid turbo uses a Q-Trim compressor wheel to pump the intake charge through mandrel-bent Custom Tubes (Woburn, Mass.) aluminum pipes to a 1000cfm Spearco intercooler. The big-bore throttle body is from SPG9 in Atascadero, Calif
Power flows to the stock five-speed (with a beautifully finished Swedish short-shift kit) through a Mueller Fabricators aluminum flywheel and dual friction Centerforce clutch to a custom limited-slip differential from S+J Automotive in Atlanta. The 16-in. wheels, with their polished lip, were only made for two years in the early '90s, and Proposki has two sets-one gray set shod with 205/45-16 Falken GRs for the street and one black set with Hoosier R3S03s for the track.
Modified Saab 9000 front calipers replaced the stock 900 calipers-Proposki would smoke a set of pads in a day and a half of track time. The 9000 units have a larger piston and larger pad and grab slotted KVR Performance rotors with PBR Metal Master pads. Stainless-steel lines and ATE Super Blue brake fluid round out the brake system modifications.
The local dyno has been sold, but as soon as time allows and the dyno is back up and running, Proposki plans to go back and find those missing ponies. Meanwhile, expect to see the winner of the 2000 National Saab Owners Convention Modified and People's Choice Award at a track near you soon. And log onto www.NESAAB.org for more info on the New England Saab Association.
And no, as of yet there is nowhere to contribute to help find a cure for the "Saab Disease."