Motoring: The day the Saab left us stranded

David Bamber needed a large, comfortable car and thought he couldn't go wrong with a Saab 9000. Eight months later he knew better

IT WAS 1990 and my wife Julia was going on a theatrical tour with Joan Plowright and we decided to buy a large comfortable car to use.

Unfortunately we bought a Saab 9000 and I've still got a file full of correspondence to prove what a bad car it was.

The Saab we chose was not brand new, it was a C-registered 9000 Turbo automatic which we bought from a main dealer with a proper guarantee, so we thought we'd done all the right things. However, within days my wife had got stranded in North Wales and it had to be towed back to London.

Then it broke down outside the National Theatre. We spent three weeks with a loan car, then we had to hire a car to go away for the weekend. Worst of all, it completely fouled up a family holiday to Normandy. We only got as far as Portsmouth. It was a very frightening moment because we were in the overtaking lane when suddenly everything cut out. What made it worse was the fact that we were going up an incline at the time. That could have been incredibly dangerous.

The recovery man said that the alternator had been poorly fitted. It had left us stranded on the motorway and we had to walk several miles on bitterly cold and windy day. My wife wasn't feeling too well either and we later found out that she was actually pregnant with our first child. So at that point it started to get serious, especially after ruining two holidays, my wife's touring plans and our general transport arrangements. It was time for solicitors' letters.

Despite all the trouble we'd had, I was for some reason still prepared to buy a brand new Saab to stop us having any more breakdowns. Unfortunately, the dealer in north London could not have been less helpful. I asked for a test drive in a new model, but they could not be bothered to organise it. I wanted them to buy my Friday afternoon car back, but they were not very interested in doing that either. It was a complete catalogue of disasters during the eight months that we had it, not helped at all by the dealers.

Eventually I managed to part exchange the Saab for a used Honda Prelude. Now I know that a Honda has a very "bungalow and carpet slippers" image, but it was utterly reliable, and never gave me a moment's trouble.

Laurence Olivier award-winner David Bamber is appearing in `Chalk' (the first three episodes are now on BBC video priced at pounds 10.99) and in `The Real Inspector Hound' at the Comedy Theatre in London

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