Wants to Rally: 1969 Saab 96 V4 Deluxe

Starting in the 1950s, Saab was producing rally-tossable sedans with practical features that found fans all over the world. Drivers appreciated the Saab’s surefooted handling, economy, and tough mechanicals. The Saab 96, introduced in 1961, had an incredible twenty-year production run through 1980, with just one major change. That change was achieved through what amounted to mutiny. Rolf Mellde, the chief engineer at Saab, believed that the 96 needed to evolve away from a two-stroke engine. He proposed several four-cylinder options but his ideas were shot down by Saab’s CEO, Tryggve Holm. By going behind Holm’s back to Saab’s major shareholder, Mellde received approval for an engine switch, and the Ford Taunus V4 was installed in 1967 models. Here on eBay is a 1969 Saab 96 Deluxe for sale, with a Buy It Now price of $5,000. The car is located in El Paso, Texas.

The early Taunus V4 displaced 1498 cc’s and produced about 65 bhp. The gearbox was a four-speed manual column shift arrangement that included a freewheel feature, a carryover from the two-stroke days. Saab 96s are front-wheel drive. Despite being underpowered, the Saab’s superb handling and tough mechanicals helped it thrive on the rally circuit, especially in the capable hands of Erik Carlsson and Stig Blomqvist. The seller here says the current owner has had this car for three years and doesn’t drive it much. However, it apparently starts, runs, and shifts well. The brakes are good, and it has new tires and a new battery.

The Deluxe model offered a Monte Carlo gauge cluster and special trim. This car’s interior needs cleaning up, but the dash looks intact and the gauge faces are bright. It’s difficult to see the upholstery from the photos provided. The sills make me think this car was once white. Note that the lower body trim is present, but there’s only one whisker mid-way on the driver’s side front fender. I found cars with no fender trim and cars with fender trim on all four panels, but certainly, just one whisker isn’t correct. A turn signal lens is missing as is the front bumper, but the seller has both in good condition, to go with the car.

The underside appears clean, and the seller promises there isn’t any rust. Several detailed photos are provided showing sill and body seam areas, as well as the rubber seals. These views are reassuring. There’s nothing quite like a Saab 96, or a 95, or the earlier models for that matter. I don’t love this paint job, but if that’s the worst thing about this car, the price seems right. What do you think?

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    ( Crickets chirping) Great writeup on a car that is falling on deaf ears, as the “no comments” may indicate. Oh Saab, you were once so proud, “Born from Jets”, was the motto, today? Bupkis. Again, just shows, younger folks wouldn’t know a good car if it ran them over. Saab was one of the BEST foreign cars you could buy. I rarely hear of a bad one. Most everyone loved their Saabs. Not sure what happened to Saab, it seems after these humble beginnings, the car went downhill, but I’d love to have this. If I wasn’t born a poor carpenters son, I’d buy everyone I know a Saab 90 series, including someone I know that would love one dearly,,,our own Scotty G. Maybe in the next life, pal. HEY,,WAKE UP, folks, a great find here( to repeat, crickets chirping) Maybe they like squarebodys,,,hmm,,

    Like 6
    • Thomas Stricker

      G.M. happened to Saab.The 900 series were wonderful turbo charged or not util then.
      My 96 was a wonderful car just slightly under-powered.

      Like 6
    • Ray

      I was one of this love my Saab people. What happened to Saab was GM. There was a corporate decision to eliminate the brand. Never made sense to me. I had a 2008 9-3. I found the rumors of expensive to maintain and fix a joke. Easy to work on and reasonable to repair at the dealer if it was beyond my capabilities.
      I love the disclaimer in the owners manual that the turbo ceased in influence performance after a certain speed. I wish I could remember what that speed was.

      Like 3
    • PJ

      I like Saabs. I also understand why a 1969 Saab isn’t often sought after. The majority of American cars in 1969 just seem more attractive. 1969 Muscle cars, luxury cars, sports cars, and trucks from the USA are more exciting to me than this little Swedish gem. Plus finding parts….. The rarity is the cool part. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person.

    • Don Moore

      I moved to Marquette, Michigan as a 7th grader in 1961. A lot of Swedes lived there. I saw several of these cars around town. Since the roads were snow packed for 6 months, we would ‘hook rides’ by holding onto back bumpers and skidding our boot bottoms on the snow. And there was a red ’96 (assuming 2-stroke, high rpm) that we grabbed onto several times. The engine sounded unique: like a popcorn popper. Owned a red 99 in the 70’s Loved it for its front wheel drive, but it had a Triumph engine that broke down.

  2. RallyAce

    Good old GM executive inbreeding. Before GM, SAAB had a lot of parts that would be used on all models for years and years. Once GM took over the dealers had to add on to their parts rooms for all of the Opel parts they had to stock. GM’s execs thought they were so brilliant by saving 3 or 4 cents per part but they proved they were not smart enough to tie their own shoes as they tripped over their laces as they took a storied marque and trashed it.

    Like 8
  3. GOM

    Wonderful cars. We had several and would probably still be driving one except that here in the Northeast, they rust away. Ironic, since they were ideally suited to winter driving conditions. Comfortable, sure-footed, much roomier than you would think, reliable and easy to repair when needed. A practical, fun to drive vehicle. I miss that.

    Like 6
    • Michelle H Rand Staff

      They love the snow, just not the salt!

      Like 6
  4. Saabster

    Had one of these. Not great looking, not powerful, and surely not quick, but for some reason great fun to drive and incredibly safe. Loved it.

    Like 1
  5. Dave

    I stole one once. What a mistake.

    Like 2
  6. chrlsful

    wish it were a waggy. I’d put it up in the rally livery, may B add period correct roof rack? Fun AND practical~

    Like 1
  7. Jasper

    Cool cars. This one looks like it’s probably a collection of many different year 96s. Later model wheels, missing spears on the fender etc. Looks decent though.

  8. BimmerDude Member

    We bought a used 96 from the local Chevy dealer in Littleton NH, had to get the plagued Land Rover out of our ownership (a different long story). The sales guy said “Here are the keys” and we took it for a test drive after consulting the owner’s manual to find reverse! It worked well though and was much more comfortable than the ubiquitous Beetles: had better seats and…heat.
    The car had been owned by a local chicken farmer and we found the downside of the gravel road he lived on when the tops of the front fenders rusted through. In ~1970-71 it was easy to find replacement fenders though, so just a short-time problem.

    The bigger issue was the tranny bearings. They would not bear freeway speeds for more than about 10 minutes and started to seize up when hot. We found a used replacement and, under an oak tree with a Power Pull, removed the drive train–3 bolts–in about 2 hours and swapped transaxles.

    4 months later we took the old tranny to the Saab dealer in New Canaan CT where their senior guy rebuilt the original tranny with new bearings. So, 2 strikes and then all was well.

    It was a great combination of design, especially compared to its competition, equal length driveshafts, free-wheeling, a heater almost as big as the engine and the “window shade” in front of the radiator that could be adjusted inside the car to reduce the way cold winter air and keep the engine warm.

    Up here in NorCal I think there are resources available for parts, etc: I still have the factory service manual but no place to park this.

    Like 2
  9. L Lautenschlager

    The car looks ok, and the deluxe model is desirable. I would need to see a walk around video, start up video and driving video to get me to make an offer.

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