PROJECT CARS: Ruby T16S Abbott Racing Service

“Summer time, and the living is easy, fish are jumping and the river is high…” says the sensational Ella Fitzgerald song, and how right she was. And to assist in the living easy bit, we need Project Ruby in fish jumping form. So, it’s high-time for a bit of love and attention for our very own Project Ruby, to get her out and about drama-free. After all, Summer is the perfect time to be enjoying your classic car, before all the salt, rust and gloom sets back in eh?

For us, there’s only one place to go with Ruby, conveniently located off some cracking roads and only 50 miles from Road HQ – that’s Abbott Racing (AR) in Wix, near Manningtree, Essex. As ex-factory race aces for Saab and having been in the business of servicing, selling, restoring and fettling the quirky turbo nutter barges for decades, there’s literally sweet FA they don’t know about them. Plus, they are as nice as they are knowledgable… and it’s a cool place to trek out to, as there’s always something interesting to see; like a P-plate 900 Aero 2.3 Turbo, loaded with their tuning parts, with 318,632 miles on it! Just run-in for a Saab I guess? Whoever said tuning knackers engines? Not if you go to the right places,  get the right parts and look after them… clearly.

Speaking of looking after stuff…

Having bought our fabulous 1993 end-of-the-line Mk1 Saab 900 Turbo T16S Ruby Edition (aka Project Ruby) blind at auction last last year and with us fully focused on fixing some pretty terminal things (ball joints, engine mounts etc.) on our last Winter visit to AR, the time had come for some run-of-the-mill service love.

I say run-of-the-mill, but this is a quarter of a century old car, which always means there’s something to investigate, fuss over, fix and ultimately… pay for. Today, it was the turn of a minor fluid leak in the passenger footwell to fuss over, which stinks and has required me to occasionally top the header tank up (pretty much the limit of my mechanical skill set). Naturally, the Abbott boys were on it in a flash… swiftly ruling out any worrying head gasket issues with a test kit, then diagnosing it as a PITA to get at crack in a tucked away plastic part of the heater matrix, buried behind the dash and a load of pipes. Balls.

Solution? 1. Spend ages & a fortune digging most of the dash out to fit a part that costs a bomb, and which only Abbott have in stock in the UK. Nope. 2. Use a trick and Abbott-tested leak fixing solution, referred to as ‘goop’ in the trade as part of the process of the service, when the old, grubby coolant is changed for the pukka, posh, fresh red stuff = Option 2. it is, and another problem (hopefully) solved. Fingers crossed.

Project Ruby also has had another tribal issue; an intermittent idling malfunction where it is either hunting, or cutting out from time to time. No drama for Abbott: Off comes the idle stabilisation unit for a refurb and bit of loving and another minor problem is sorted in a flash. Nice.

Three of Abbott’s finest then swarm around Ruby’s engine bay on the ramp – changing filters, flushing and replacing the coolant, replacing spark plugs, dropping and swapping the tired motor oil for luscious Mobil 1 and checking the good lady over. And, like any lady, she is loving the attention!

Whilst the lads work their magic fingers on the good old girl, so to speak, I get to wander about and poke my nose into Abbott’s nooks and crannies – this time finding their old (£100K!) engine dyno test bed lurking in the barn covered in spider’s webs, yet still loaded with their race 2.3 Turbo engine on it… one they managed to extract 450+bhp from back in the day. And, further into the yard there’s a battle-scarred 9000 Aero racer in for some work; which might look rough on the outside, but check out the immaculate Abbott engine under the lightweight hood (below). How bloody cool? That 2.3 engine, with all these AR bits on is still one of the greatest turbocharged engines I know – more mid-range punch than a champion boxer. Love it.

After another successful, T16-pampering and enjoyable banter day in Ed and Giles’ fine company (even managing some work in the customer waiting room/hot desk office), the drive home in Ruby is typical of the post-AR experience… a radical improvement compared with the car you arrived in.

Ruby is fresher, sharper, harder and fitter. Money well spent and good times thrown in for good measure. That’s what the call ‘the Abbott difference…’ Cheers fellas. See you soon for more T16 fun and games.

Abbott Racing: