Re: A compression test will tell you. - Can borrow gauge - Saab 9000 Bulletin Board - Saabnet.com
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Not sure, but it could be a valve, or something nasty like cracked rings or piston. I'd expect a lot of crankcase blowby though if were a ring or piston problem. If you disconnect a PCV hose does a lot of air blow out when you crank? You could also try a leakdown test. (Basically you rotate the engine until valves are closed and pump pressurized air through an air chuck that screws into a spark plug hole. Then you see how fast it leaks down and where air comes out.) Or you could pull the cylinder head and see what's going on.
I had similar symptoms on a C900 years ago. It was running really badly and had zero compression in one cylinder. Pulling the cylinder head revealed an exhaust valve had cracked. A section was actually separating out that looked like a slice of pizza coming off a pie. A rebuilt cylinder head had the car back on the road in short order.
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