Saab 96 Sport

I had a strange phone call in June. The caller identified himself as Kari Mäkelä from Mäkela Auto Tuning (

MAT is a well known specialist in restoring old works rally cars and classic Ferraris and Mr. Mäkelä is the owner. So, naturally, I was a little surprised about the call – what would anyone from such a high end shop want with me…

As it turned out MAT had restored a Saab 96 Sport engine for a customer from Monaco (just the engine, rest of the car was done in Monaco). They had sent the engine to Finland to be restored. MAT people had no prior experience with two stroke Saab engines but did the job anyways.

MAT did excellent work on the components and putting the engine back together and it was sent back to Monaco to be put in the car.

But as the French guys in Monaco put the engine back in the car and fired it up they ran into a few pretty strange problems. And that was what the phone call was about.

The mechanic in Monaco had reported that they have great difficulty starting the engine and when they finally get it started it will immediately jump into full revs – screaming it’s head off continuously and refusing to go to lower revs. Also there appeared to be some trouble with the lubrication pump since it apparently pumped too much oil into the engine (or at least the mechanic thought that the oil level was sinking too fast).

Mr. Mäkelä found my site when searching for clues online on how to solve the problems. We spent a good deal of time discussing the potential causes for the troubles. The oil consumption especially sounded alarming. I promised to sent in some documentation about the engine (relevant pages from the workshop manual) and Mr. Mäkelä sent me some photos of the engine in case I might spot some external clues on what was wrong.

The unrestored engine:

And after the rebuild by MAT:

From the photos I immediately spotted one obvious problem; the carburettors were in wrong order. The one that should be in the middle was at the back. I also called a few friends that had Sports or Monte Carlos on what could be wrong. As we went through the technical specs with Mr. Mäkelä we selected the most obvious things for the French mechanic to check (timing, fuel etc.).

But the mechanic in Monaco could not solve the problem despite some phone consultation and instructions, so a few weeks later Mr. Mäkelä decided to travel to Monaco to solve the issues himself.

The first thing after arriving he took the car for a test drive and called me about the problems. They seemed to be exactly what the French had told (continous high revs, difficulty in starting).

He started to check out everything methodically (carburettor fuel level, timing, fuel pump pressure), but the most obvious fault was clearly visible: The french mechanic had refused to change the carburettor order “because that was the order they were in before the restoration and the car worked perfectly”. Ofcourse, being in the wrong order the carburettors had a ton of air leaks causing the engine to rev without control.

So, Mr. Mäkelä took the carburettors off, switched the order, and found out that now the car was running ok, but still had trouble starting. After a bit of head scratching he took the middle carburettor off and realised that the gasket between the carburettor body and intake manifold had no holes for the choke fuel to pass. Effectively the choke did nothing.

That was easy to solve by perforating the gasket accordingly. Also an electric fuel pump and pressure regulator was installed to ensure proper fuel pressure.

And as it turned out, the oil consumption was perfectly fine now that the engine wasn’t on full revs all the time.

So, here’s a few photos from the Monaco trip:


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