For sale: 1987 Saab 900 Cabriolet, red over black interior, 130,000 miles before odometer broke, dash lights don’t work, dies in hard left turns, a few dents, dings and scratches, seats show some wear, parked for about a year, $50,000 obo.
If the price seems a little high for a 30-year-old car that needs work, there’s a good reason: This one is a movie star.
The Saab co-starred in the movie “Sideways” that brought attention — and tourists — to the Santa Ynez Valley after it was released in 2004, winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and being nominated for four more.
For those who forgot or aren’t familiar with “Sideways,” in the movie the car is owned by Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), a wine lover and depressed near-alcoholic, who visits the Santa Ynez Valley with his former college roommate Jack Cole (Thomas Hayden Church), a fading actor who is to be married soon.
After numerous escapades with waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen) and wine server Stephanie (Sandra Oh), whom they meet and mislead, Stephanie breaks Jack’s nose with a motorcycle helmet when she discovers he’s engaged.
In order to cover up the real reason his nose is in a splint, Jack rams Miles’ Saab into a tree to make it appear to his fiancée they were in a car crash.
While it figures into the plot in other ways, the Saab is hardly a supercar that might be found in chase-filled action movies.
And like many other less-than-spectacular cars used in movies, it could have faded into obscurity and been lost, maybe even wrecked and sold for scrap, or sat rusting and forgotten on the backlot of some movie studio for decades.
Indeed, it was living a quiet life in Los Angeles when it was purchased by a couple who had recently moved to the area and found it by accident.
“We love the area and the people,” said Hagan Blount, who moved to Los Alamos in 2016 with his girlfriend Katie Smith-Adair. “We always were fascinated with the movie ‘Sideways.’ We’ve been everywhere that’s in the movie.
“We loved going to the ostrich ranch,” he continued. “We’ve been to all the wineries and to where they ran into the tree. There’s a storage place there now.
“When family comes to visit, we always watch ‘Sideways.’ Well, once,” he added. “We don’t make them watch it again the second time.”
The couple operates PlaceInvaders, a business that “hosts parties for wineries where they aren’t.”
Working with wineries like Refugio, Demetria and Carhartt, Blount said the couple finds interesting residential spaces in the greater Los Angeles area where their gourmet chef pairs food with wines for small private dinner parties.
“We’re really living the life,” Blount said.
So perhaps it’s natural they came up with a business idea that combined wineries with the cultural impact of “Sideways.”
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if we had a fleet of Saabs, all red, and we could give tours of the wineries,’” Blount said. “With the self-driving cars coming, people could just go jump into convertible Saabs and go for a wine tour.”
That sent them on a search for red convertible Saabs, and a friend just happened to come across photos of what was purported to be the one from the movie, owned by Walker Wong, of Los Angeles.
Blount and Smith-Adair contacted him and visited him once to see the car.
“He said he was not looking to sell it, but he might sell it to a good home,” Blount said.
They visited him a second time and then a third, when he agreed to sell them the car.
“He kept good records of who previously owned the car,” Blount said. “It’s got the original registration from Sideways Productions on Industrial Way (in Buellton). We watched the movie closely and looked for little dents and scratches. Then we went around the car and looked at it. We found them all.
“It’s got a couple of lights in front that were not in the movie,” he added. “But those are easy to remove.”
Blount said they drove the car around for a while, taking family for rides and visiting places from the movie. But with really no need for another car, they ended up parking it, registering it for nonoperation and saving on the insurance costs.
“It’s been parked in the garage, waiting for the time to create the business, almost a year and a half,” he said. “It’s always interesting to keep a piece of history in your yard.”
But the business never materialized.
“It’s not exactly the right time for us,” he said.
So the couple, reluctantly, is looking to sell the car, “maybe to someone with a similar vision or one of the landmarks, one of the wineries in the movie.”
The only sticking point might be the price.
Blount said they got a rough price by an appraiser from one of the major car auction companies.
“He said he wouldn’t accept anything less than $50,000 because of its iconic nature,” Blount said. “He said if it was pristine, it would be $100,000. But the car in the movie was supposed to be a junker.
“The lights in the dashboard don’t work,” he said. “And if you take a left turn really hard, you lose power. You might have to start it again.”
Although the odometer reads about 130,000 miles, the former owner said not to trust that because it had been broken for a while.
The engine also has some performance additions that would have to be removed to get it smog checked.
But Blount said the former owner offered to do that, noting, “He’s a Saab mechanic.”