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Long Term Project (Part 7): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

March 2017:

Well here we are, an almost current event, (as I write this roughly a week old), but anyway. Last Friday and Saturday saw the final pieces of the puzzle fitted, but this part of the story actually starts some months ago when I had a conversation with a colleague at Orio North America. He informed me that the parts distribution center had a number of unused Hirsch IPRO tuners sitting collecting dust and that they were hoping to get rid of them. Following some negotiating with Orio and a dialogue with Hirsch, I secured the IPROs and registered one for use. A proper Hirsch tune was something I had been after for a long time, even when Saab was still in business, I could not convince my bosses at the dealership to invest in one. After registering, setting up and paying for the software, I set up the IPRO in the car and pressed the “Performance Upgrade” button and the fun began…

Within 15 minutes, the IPRO was done working its magic and there was nothing left to do but take it for a drive. The car was completely transformed, a real night and day difference in terms of acceleration, torque and boost pressure… It. Was. Awesome. Felix at Hirsch, (whom had been helping me through the registration/setup process) followed up with me almost immediately with certificate/documentation for the car showing the upgrade had been performed.

Of course, now that the car had the power and torque, it was lacking in the braking and handling departments… The following day, some packages arrived from CYC HQ in Munich:

With the Hirsch XWD suspension and 345mm brake upgrade kits in hand, I set to work disassembling the front suspension/brakes allowing everything some time to soak in penetrating oil. With the larger 345mm brake discs, it becomes necessary to replace/update the brake dust shields. In order to do this, you need to disconnect the axle shafts and remove the wheel hub/bearing from the knuckles:

After a few hours, there was a pile of old parts on the floor:

And things were starting to take shape:

A little before and after comparison of the fronts (sorry for the upstate NY road salt and 18″ Hirsch ‘winter’ wheels):

After allowing the suspension a few days to settle, I performed a 4-wheel alignment to bring everything within spec and have now had a few chances to really drive and enjoy the car. It’s a weird feeling for me to be here at this point. In just under 2 years of ownership and 5 years after Saab (as most of us knew it) had gone away, I managed to ‘fully Hirsch’ this car.

I don’t generally get sappy and sentimental, but in this instance, I have to express my sincere gratitude for two things: the man behind CardYourCar, Till Drescher and our loyal customers from all over the world. Without a Till’s enthusiasm and dedication for the Saab and Hirsch brands as well as the continued support of our customers, none of this would be possible for any of us.

 

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Instructional Videos on YouTube

Tonight we added some instructional videos from the archives to our YouTube Channel. These videos were made for Hirsch Performance as detailed installation procedures for their various leather interior products. These of course can also be applied to the non-Hirsch branded stuff that you can find here in our store. The current selection of uploads are all dubbed in English, however there are also a set to be uploaded tomorrow dubbed in German.

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Long Term Project (Part 6): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

May 2016:

There seems to come a time with every single one of my project cars where I might have gotten a little carried away, and this car would turn out to be no exception. In retrospect, this part of the upgrade process started months earlier when (after paying a visit to Hirsch in Switzerland) the boss returned with a few odds and ends to sell that Hirsch had found on shelves in their warehouse, among which, was a carbon fiber bodykit. At the time, I had shrugged it off because it was an incomplete kit that was missing the rear bumper extensions. As I would later come to find out this was one of the early prototype/test kits that Hirsch produced (which also explained why it didn’t have their trademark deer logo embedded in the rear side skirt pieces). Originally slated to go on Till’s 9-3 Sport Sedan, we decided to go in a different direction with his car (more on that in another post), so that allowed me the opportunity to take the project to a new level.

Once the kit arrived, I armed myself with a fresh tube of SikaFlex 221 and got busy…

After allowing the bodykit to cure in place overnight, it was time to see how the finished product came out…

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

What was that I said a few posts back? The wheels maketh the car? Yup, that’s what I said, so let’s fast forward a few months…

November 2016:

Having spent an awful lot of time looking at this picture:

…well you can see where this is going…

By sheer chance, a customer of ours had a set of these wheels (Hirsch 19″ 6-Twins in Diamond Black) set aside and offered them to us in exchange for some parts he wanted for one of his cars. Having concluded that deal meant that these wheels would go up for sale on our shop, so after crunching some numbers, I decided to go for it.

Once they had arrived, it was time to go shopping for tires, again… This time I selected Nokian ZLine high performance summer tires.

Soon we were ready to rock’n’roll.

All that was left to do was fit them to the car…

(Photo credits to Mark McCourt of Hemmings Motor News)

The photos do not do the 19″ rims justice, but they have changed the whole personality of the car. Before with the silver finished 18″ 5-Twin wheels it was a very subtle, refined car. Now it borders on an unhinged monster. In short, I love it, though… I can’t help but feel like something is missing…

 

To be concluded.

 

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Long Term Project (Part 5): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

February 2016:

Having spent some time in Munich at CardYourCar HQ doing some upgrades to the boss’s car (more on that in a future post), I returned home to NY with a few goodies and started with a few of my more ambitious upgrades to date…

March 2016:

From day one of owning the car, I had always wanted to fit the car with the full front end treatment from Hirsch. For those who don’t know, it consists of the 3-piece upper honeycomb grille, a match lower honeycomb grille and either paintable splitters or optional carbon fiber bodykit which looked something like this:

Unfortunately, having a TX package car is a bit of a hurdle as the lower halves of the Aero and TX bumpers are contoured differently which means the lower honeycomb grille and splitters do not fit. The only solution was to switch to an Aero bumper. After sourcing and painting a new Aero bumper, I was lucky enough to find the now discontinued lower honeycomb grille and then it became a question of whether I would opt for the standard paintable splitters or the carbon fiber bodykit. It became an easy decision as while I was trying to make up my mind, someone bought the last carbon bodykit.

Once I had received and painted the front splitters, I could set to work on Phase 3: the front end upgrade…

Bumper and splitters painted, test fitted with the lower honeycomb:

The splitters are affixed using the same SikaFlex 221 as I used during my spoiler installation:

  

The installation:

The finished product:

Overall, while this was a major project, upgrading the front end delivered rather subtle results. Would the average person notice a difference? Probably not. For me it was very satisfying to see this part of project through and in fact it inspired me to push on with even more upgrades to the car. More to come next week.

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Tutorial: Upgrading Interior Trim

Tonight we received an email from Markus, a customer of ours who decided to do a tutorial/DIY video of how to change out the stock center console and glove box trim in his TurboX for carbon leather pieces. Catch the video below, a selection of trims are available here.

 

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Long Term Project (Part 4): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

As with my post from last week, this post will document “Phase 2” of the exterior upgrades done to my 9-3 Aero.

November 2015:

To summarize Phase 2: “The wheels maketh the car”.

Having previously fitted my 9-5 Aero combi with some rather unique wheels (European accessory 18″ Double Blade wheels) not available in the US, I wanted to do something special for the 9-3. With winter approaching and knowing that I was going to need new tires anyway, my colleague (Till) offered to loan me a set of wheels. I agreed and within a few days some boxes arrived via FedEx from CardYourCar HQ in Munich. As I opened them, I was very excited with what he’d sent…

…Hirsch 18″ 5-Twin wheels. Having mounted and balanced my new tires (Nokian WRG3s), I quickly set about fitting them to the car. It was a night and day difference from the stock 17″ wheels, the 18s added to the character of the car and gave it an aggressive and more sporty appearance. In short, I was very happy:

More to come…

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Product Review: Saab 9-3 Interior Ambient Light Kit

As some of you may know, we recently added the interior ambient lighting kit for 9-3 SS/SC/CV to our catalog, a link to that product can be found here. At the end of last summer, I decided to use my 9-3 Sport Sedan (see our Long Term Project blog series) as a guinea pig for fitting this kit. I had read several people’s comments and concerns about it being too bright and distracting, so there was a little fear in my mind that I was not gonna be happy with the kit once I had fitted it. As it would turn out, I was very pleased not just with the end result but also the installation process was quick and painless too.

The installation took roughly 45 minutes from start to finish and required a T25 screwdriver, a battery powered drill with a 25mm drill bit and a handful of zip ties. Fitting the LED lights required removing the front outer kick panels and (following the directions) measuring/drilling the holes for the LEDs to be mounted. Once the holes were drilled and the LEDs fitted in place, it was time to run the wiring harness. This meant removing the upper kick panels along the base of the dashboard and I found it helpful to remove the center console storage space and climate control panel. I chose to run the harness for the LEDs in parallel to the existing wiring for other components in the car and secured them using the supplied zip ties.

With everything plugged in, secured and the interior panels refitted, it was time to see how it worked… Overall, I was pleased with the consistency of the green ‘under glow’ effect and how well it matched the instrument panel and switch lighting. After playing with the buttons for a few minutes, I found that the brightness could be controlled via the dash rheostat switch as well as via the Night Panel button which dimmed the LEDs down to their lowest setting. Additionally I can report that you can power it on or off via the headlight switch and (if your car is so equipped with the automatic lighting feature) they will turn on when it becomes dark enough for the solar sensor to trigger your headlights. Below you will find a video from our newly established YouTube channel that details the various features of the kit.

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Long Term Project (Part 3): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

Seems like it’s been a bit since I posted about the long term project of upgrading the 9-3, so let’s pick it back up again… where was I…

August 2015:

After completing the interior upgrades from Hirsch, the next major change for the 9-3 was to the exterior in 4 major phases.

Phase 1 would consist of adding three items:

  1. Hirsch rear bumper diffuser
  2. Hirsch dual stainless exhaust
  3. Hirsch trunk spoiler

These three items improved the overall presence of the car giving it a more sporty appearance and aggressive sound.  Perhaps the easiest parts of this uprade were the exhaust and rear diffuser. With simple loosening of a single exhaust clamp and removing some rubber hangers, the old exhaust was off in less than 5 minutes. At this point, before I fitted the new Hirsch exhaust, I opted to change out the stock Aero ‘diffuser’ for the Hirsch diffuser, (this was not a 5 minute task as part of the installation involved trimming the rear bumper down to allow the more streamlined Hirsch diffuser to fit properly). Once the diffuser was fitted and secured, the Hirsch exhaust was loosely hung in place and adjusted for the optimal fit before tightening down all the clamps.

The most stressful part of this phase of upgrading was the trunk spoiler, for two reasons: on the white Hirsch show car that debuted at Geneva, the spoiler was finished in a two-tone scheme, with the upper surface being painted body colored and the lower surface being finished in black. Only a handful of images showing this color scheme exist, so it was very difficult to get a 100% match to how they did it. The second issue was the fitment: Hirsch recommends fitting most of there spoilers/ground affects pieces using an adhesive called Sika-Flex 221. It is a tricky substance to use which basically gives you one shot (so there’s a lot of pressure to measure and get everything lined up perfectly). Having looked at multiple high resolution images of the color scheme for the wing, my painter set to work priming and painting it completely in Arctic White, then clear coating it. Once that was completed, we chose where we wanted the color break to start and proceeded to mask off the wing and apply a coat of matte black exterior trim paint to the under side of the wing. After allowing the wing to dry and cure, we began the process of testing fitting and marking out where the wing would sit on the lid. Finally with an extra set of hands to help align the wing, we applied the epoxy to the to the mating surfaces, aligned everything, took a deep breath, set the spoiler in place and secured it with some painters tape.

The next morning, I returned to the shop and was happy to find the wing had adhered and set up to the trunk lid perfectly overnight. There was nothing left to do at this point except fire it up and go for a drive. The initial cold start with the new exhaust was fantastic, a nice rumble while the car casually idled from 1600 RPM down to it’s usual 1000 as it came up to temperature. Out on the road I was smiling like a fool listening to the exhaust as I accelerated hard up through the gears and was happy to find out that at cruising speeds on the highway, there wasn’t the constant droning/booming usually associated with most sport exhausts on the market). It was actually very subtle until you tipped in on the throttle.

Stay tuned for the next weeks installment…

 

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Long Term Project (Part 2): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

June 2015:

Following my return from Germany and Sweden, having spent almost two weeks around some very heavily modified 9-3s and NG9-5s, I was re-energized with enthusiasm and eager to get busy upgrading the 2011 9-3. My goals were simple: At this point, I wanted to finish off the interior, and begin upgrading the car’s exterior appearance and powertrain.

I set to work disassembling the interior (removing the door panels and glovebox) so I could fit the carbon leather door panel insert trims and the glovebox decor strip. Once I had completed those installations, I measured and drilled the brake and accelerator pedals so that I could fit the Hirsch aluminum pedals (a set that I had previously fitted and removed from my 9-5 Aero). Once those were fitted, I removed the plastic “Aero” branded door sill plates, drilled out the inserts and fitted the Hirsch branded aluminum inserts (a replacement for the long unavailable Hirsch all-aluminum door sill plates). The last piece of the interior upgrades (for now), came in the form of the Hirsch steering wheel which replaced the TurboX steering wheel that came in the car originally.

Carbon leather door panel inserts:

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Carbon leather glove box trim:

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Hirsch aluminum door sill inserts:

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Hirsch steering wheel and pedals:

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With the interior finally finished, I could move onto the exterior… Here’s where the fun begins…

You can find links to some of the products used in this car’s build at the links below.

Carbon leather door inserts:

Door Trim Carbon leather, 9-3 II Sedan/Combi

Carbon leather glove box decor trim:

Glove Compartment Trim Carbon leather 9-3 07-

Hirsch aluminum door sill inserts:

Hirsch Performance Door Sill Inlay 9-3 03-

Hirsch steering wheel:

Hirsch Performance Steering Wheel 9-3 MY 06-

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Long Term Project (Part 1): 2011 9-3 Aero XWD

Having worked behind the scenes at CardYourCar for a while now, it’s given me the opportunity to get a lot of unique items for my cars over the years. Since May marks the one year anniversary for owning my 2011 9-3 Aero XWD, I thought I would take an opportunity to share with you the car and some of the upgrades that have been done along the way. This will be the first in a series of posts that I hope will inspire some of you and even give a little direction when it comes to upgrading your Saab. (You will find links to some of the items I have used in my upgrades that are available for purchase from our shop below).

The car started life as a 2011 9-3 Aero Turbo4 with XWD. It was decently optioned with dual power front seats with memory, electric folding mirrors, and even the TX Design Pack which gave me carbon fiber interior accents, all black leather seats, TurboX front bumper and titanium finished exterior treatments to the front grilles, fog lights and trunk handle. All in all, a pretty nice car to start with, but having come out of very special 9-5 Aero wagon, I wanted something unique, so…

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May 2015:

Having taken delivery of my new to me 9-3 and made a 6 hour drive, I returned home to find a box waiting for me that contained a Hirsch Carbon leather wrapped dash panel and shifter surround as well as an eSID2. Within an hour or two everything was fitted and at that point, I started trying to decide what would come next. A few days later, the Hirsch honeycomb 3-piece grille arrived along with the leather wrapped handle set (all subtle but very nice upgrades to interior and exterior of the car). At this point my mind started to race and I began to ask myself “what should I do next??” Well the answer came about a month later…

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A front shot showing the TX finish/Hirsch grille.

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Hirsch carbon leather wrapped shifter surround and leather wrapped handle set.

eSID2 can be found here:

eSID 2 for Saab 9-3 MY 07-