17k Mile 1972 SAAB Sonett


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This submission comes from one of our readers, Chuck F. You have probably read his insightful comments, but now you can enjoy an article penned by him too. If the response is positive, perhaps he will grace us with more? – I remember seeing one of these Swedish sportscars in high school, around 1974-74, in the small town of Kendallville Indiana, population 7500 and home to Kraft Caramels at the time. I always thought they were interesting, but not real excited when I found out they had a 4 cylinder engine. After all, my first car was a $75 six cylinder/three-on-tree 2 door hardtop 1962 Impala, and my 2nd a $500 69 Super Bee.


Being fiberglass, they sort of reminded me of a kit car. You’re never too old to learn something new though and little did I know, 1970 to 1974 Saab Sonetts (not Sonnet), are actually referred to as a Sonett III, which is somewhat misnamed as they started with a Sonet I, a Sonett II, and a Sonnet V4 before a Sonett II. So you could say a V4 should be III, and a III should be IV. Confused yet? I have never seen a Sonet II or V4 before now (after googling it), and they are better looking than a III in my opinion, the front is similar to a Ferrari Dino with round headlights. The front of the Sonett III looks more aerodynamic, but I still prefer the earlier model, although I doubt I could find or afford one.

Nevertheless, this craigslist find seems like a good deal for $4,500, if the original miles of 17,000 can be verified. One way to tell is to look at how worn the brake pedal is. More pictures would certainly help. Drawbacks are emissions controls/lower horsepower and manual retracting headlights. Only 8,368 Sonett IIIs were made from 1970 to 1974 though. So what do you think – average price or a real bargain?

Chuck Foster (55chevy)

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  1. Mark E

    If this is the real deal it wouldn’t be a bad price. My math teacher in high school had a Sonett III and the Saab dealer had a pair of IIs back in it’s personal salvage yard of scrap Saabs in back of the shop. Not bad for a midwest town of less than 20k. Of course the amazing exotic import in town was a Porsche 912 targa and don’t even remind me of the time a guy visited for awhile with a Citroen SM! woo-woo!! ^_^

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  2. Jamie Palmer JamieStaff

    Nice write up, Chuck! Hope to see more!

    These Sonnetts always seem to appear in such period colors! I remember lime green and bright orange in addition to this “harvest gold”…shades of ’70’s kitchens!

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  3. Paul B

    These are fun little FWD sports cars with the German Ford V4 engine SAAB used from the late ’60s until 1980. Check for rust in the frame and sheet metal structures under that fiberglass body. The Sonett III is harder to work on than the Sonett V4 because of the tiny hood hatch rather than the earlier car’s flip-up nose. You have to remove the whole front clip to do anything major. There is a kit available to convert it to flip-up but it is a bit expensive. Transmissions can be fragile if abused and parts for them are getting scarce. But there’s pretty good club and mechanic support especially on the coasts. The engines are tough and can be tuned for much more power. This could be an enjoyable affordable collectible for the right person who goes in with eyes open and the understanding that some money will probably have to be spent, not to mention time and effort, every now and then.

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  4. jim s

    needs a lot more photos and then a PI but very interesting. i would want to see how the A/C was installed also. but if the car is all there this would be a nice daily driver. great find and write up.

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    • Mike V.

      The A/C is integrated fairly well for a low volume car of this vintage. The main problem is the compressor (along with the water pump, alternator, and fan) is driven from the camshaft, so everything turns at half engine speed. Also, the camshaft has a fiber gear which can be problematic even without A/C. There are aftermarket metal gear conversions. I once installed A/C in one of these, and the additional weight of the compressor so far forward was really noticeable (no power steering).

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  5. Vince Habel

    I thought it felt like driving inside a can.

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  6. Paul B

    These are really fun little FWD sports cars. The engine is the German Ford V4 that Saab used for its smaller models from the late 1960s through 1980. If this is a true 17,000 mile Sonett that’s been treated well, it presents a nice opportunity. Be sure to carefully check the sheet metal chassis for rust under that fiberglass, because rust is an issue with these. A lot of the typical rust problems can be repaired, but you should know about them before buying. Transmissions can prove a bit fragile if they’re abused and parts for them are becoming hard to find. In good hands (no slam shifts or clutch popping) with regular oil changes, the transmissions can however hold up quite well. I never had one fail in many years of driving early Saabs, but I was kind to them. There are specialists who rebuild these transmissions, for a price. The V4 engine is admirably tough if not especially smooth, and can be tuned for considerably more power. The Sonett III is harder to work on than the Sonett V4 because of the tiny hood hatch. Any major work requires removing the entire front clip, where on the Sonett V4 the whole front of the body simply tips forward, as on a Spitfire. There is a kit to convert the Sonett III to a tip-up front but it is a bit expensive. Club support for these cars is good and a fairly good parts supply exists. Someone could have a really nice affordable collectible here if things check out. I’d think about it seriously if I weren’t already busy with two other old cars.

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  7. Ken

    If this is rust free and the transmission works properly, not a bad deal. The steel floor structure, a modified version of the can and commonly do have ugly rust issues. The “Dad, why are there license plates under the carpet?” my son blurted out while pulling the transmission for the 72 he has is one of those priceless moments! Alas his car had a couple inches of floor and lower firewall rotted out. On this car, at least the exhaust tail pipes aren’t stock. It appears to be missing the breaks a lot wheel center emblem. And the driver door push button is either now black instead of chrome or missing. BTW, the Sonett II and V-4 were essentially the same car with the II having the 3 cylinder two stroke motor. They added an extra bump in the bonnet to clear the V-4.

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  8. tom999p

    I looked at this car earlier this year when it was for sale by the second owner for $1000. The first owners were in a saab club in the 1970’s. The husband planned to customize it for his wife so he took the body off and stored it in the attic where it sat for 30 years. This third owner must have put the body back on and cleaned it up. The mileage is original…

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