Junkyard Find: 2002 Saab 9-3 SE

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring my years of documenting discarded Saabs in junkyards around the country (and in Saab’s homeland), I’ve managed to cover the pre-GM American-market models well enough, with a special focus on the 900. In recent years, I’ve been working to cover some of the Saabs from the period of General Motors influence (1989-2000) and control (2000-2010).

I may never find an example of the ultra-rare 9-4x, but it’s easy to find used-up Opel Vectra-based 9-3 these days — and I vowed to photograph the first one I saw on a recent Denver junkyard expedition. That car turned out to be this Silver Metallic 2002 9-3 SE hatchback.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, hatch emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe first-generation 9-3 was a renaming of the second-generation 900, and platform cousin to the Saturn L-Series cars sold here (and many Opels, Holdens, and Vauxhalls as well). I still see those GM-based 900s in my local car graveyards, so I’ll shoot one of those for a future Junkyard Find.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, fender emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars2002 was the last model year for the GM2900-based 9-3 (production of the Epsilon-based second-gen 9-3s continued until just before the demise of Saab). You could get the ’02 9-3 in two trim levels: SE ($27,995, which comes to about $41,000 in 2020 dollars) or the factory hot-rod Viggen ($38,095 for the five-door hatch). I don’t expect to find a Viggen in a U-Wrench yard any time soon, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car appears to have the $1,995 ($2,900 today) Premium package, with power seats, automatic HVAC controls, and an upgraded audio system. 2002 was part of that awkward period between the demise of cassette decks in (most) cars and the appearance of AUX jacks, so there was no easy way to connect a digital audio player into this radio. At least it has weather band, which often proves very useful here in Colorado.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in this car made 205 horsepower, and its ancestry stretches all the way back to the Triumph Slant-4 engine of the late 1960s. The Viggen’s 2.3 made 230 horses, and we hope someone swaps a Viggen powertrain into a Saturn L200.

2002 Saab 9-3 in Colorado junkyard, automatic gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsViggen buyers had to get the 5-speed manual transmission, but those who bought the SE could choose between the five-on-the-floor and a four-speed automatic. American Saab buyers, like their Audi counterparts, were more likely to get three-pedal cars than those who bought Aleros or Maximas, but the slushbox still ruled the 9-3 world in 2002.


Exhilarating handling and gripping traction control, not to mention the addictive 205-horsepower turbo engine.


Just 234,000 kroner in 2000.

You’ll find links to 2,000 more Junkyard Finds at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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