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1973 Saab Sonett III With Engine Mods

I’m on the fence with Saab. I guess there’s really no fence to straddle anymore as they are a fallen flag. Different and quirky, Saab had their devotees and their downfall has been debated often – many point fingers at GM’s 1990 acquisition but I don’t want to debate the past and get off into the weeds. There was a plan for a Chinese-controlled electric Saab under the guise of NEVS (National Electric Vehicle of Sweden) but it doesn’t seem to have taken root. Regardless, one of Saab’s more interesting creations was the Sonett, and today, we have a 1973 Saab Sonett III for review.  It’s located in Dallas, Texas and is available, here on eBay for a BIN price of $9,500 and there is a make an offer option too.

Back to the fence-straddling for a minute, the Sonett is as much as a departure from a traditional Saab sedan as the 1800 was from a typical Volvo sedan. Volvo got the 1800 right, Saab with the Sonett – not so much so to my eyes. The styling just doesn’t flow, the body seems to be a series of components mushed together – and that 5 MPH front rammer isn’t helping the cause any. What I didn’t know was that a Saab III, such as our subject car, was preceded by two previous generations, the first spanning ’55 to ’57 and then the Sonett II covering the years 1966 through 1969. Poor sales ultimately killed Sonett III (’70-’74); there were only about 8K copies assembled in its five model years of existence.

This example is a repaint in its original shade but the seller does mention nicks, scratches, contusions, etc. It’s a twenty-footer, the images present pretty well at a distance but upon closer inspection this Saab’s aesthetic demerits become evident. It’s not in terrible shape mind you, but it could use some appearance help. The seller adds, “There is rust in one section of the trunk and both rockers have rust“.

Originally, power was provided by a 65 net HP 1.7 liter, Ford V4 engine but the seller states that the engine has been altered, “with 92mm pistons, a hotter cam, a Sport & Rally valve train with larger valves but no head porting was done. It has a two-barrel carb with a diaphragm clutch and lightened flywheel…” He follows up with, “it’s quite peppy and spins up fast. Starts right up after it gets warmed up”. The four-speed manual transmission has undergone alterations too.

The interior, which looks surprisingly roomy, seems a bit grimy like the oil change guy has been rolling around in the seats while wearing his coveralls. The seller advises, “It does have an original interior with factory seats with bolsters but it is missing some headliner and trunk panels. It also is missing portions of the door/window seals. Speedo, horn, and behind the grill driving lights do not work but everything else seems to“. He adds that this is an air-conditioned Saab but the compressor, mounting bracket, and hoses have been removed. I do like the old-school design of the instrument panel gauges – no reading glasses needed to scope those. The panel itself is starting to peel or delaminate – there’s a lot of interior clean-up that will be needed.

Interesting car and I wish we still had some of the more eccentric brands like Saab with us, as opposed to fewer marques turning out blander, more generic models. Still, this Sonett isn’t one that I would appreciate enough to own but I’m certain that there’s a Saab aficionado out there that will give it consideration. Might that individual be you?

Comments

  1. Kevin McGinness

    Brings back memories, worked at a Pontiac Cadillac dealer that took on Saab in the 70’s, I think I saw two of these, and drove one as being a car jockey, there standard sedan was a pretty hot car, way ahead it’s time, would have fit in with the 90’s american cares much better

    Like 2
  2. Motorcityman Member

    “We make Jets”

    Always kinda liked the Saab cars, never owned one because I heard parts were on the expensive side like a lot of German and other imports, was raising a family and didn’t have a lot of extra $$$.
    Maybe it’s time?
    Naw, I’ll keep playing with my 2012 Redline Red Challenger R/T 6 speed endangered species model for ar least awhile! (Only 42,000 miles)

    Like 1
  3. Rick

    Rust is the killer on these cars. If it’s in the rockers, there isn’t much hope for rescue here unfortunately. Especially at the asking price. Shame, I’ve always liked the Sonetts.

    Like 5
    • Dslad

      Weren’t the 1st Gen Sonetts fiberglass bodied?

      • John

        Dslad, body was fiberglass, but the chassis, including the structural rockers, was steel.

        Like 3
  4. Ralph

    Grew up with many SAABS in the family, including these. For the overall size the interiors are very roomy, with a ton of leg room. It’s a shame this one is so far gone. Maybe would give 2K for it in this shape. (YMMV)

    Like 1
  5. Ralph

    By the way SAAB is currently supplying an extremely effective shoulder fired missile system to the fighters in Ukraine. They say it is far more effective than what the US has been supplying.

    Like 1
    • misterlou Member

      Maybe a custom plate? TANKKILR? LIL NLAW?

      Like 1
  6. Evan

    What killed the Sonett – and the Volvo 1800ES as well – was the cost of US federalization. Both manufacturers were heavily dependent on US sales of their “sports cars”, but by 1973 they effectively had to produce two versions of each car – one for the US, and one for RoW – and it stopped being cost-effective on cars with such low overall sales volumes.

    Like 1
  7. SaabGirl900

    Dslad–

    All Sonnets were fibreglas bodied, from the Sonnet 1 all the way to the III that you see here.

    They were interesting cars, but the rocker rust scares me. It’s repairable, but not cheap.

    BTW, you can still get parts for Saabs….it’s easier to get parts for the newer cars, but ORIO (the folks who sell parts for Saabs here in the US) are starting to manufacture parts for the Classic 900 again.

    There’s a lot of leg room in these cars, but if you’re broad beamed, you will not be comfortable, as these seats are very narrow…………..

    Like 1
  8. BimmerDude Member

    “transmission…alterations”? I had a 1969 96 in Northern New Hampshire to start, had to install a used trans when the bearings stopped bearing the rotating loads. The used tranny then started doing the same but I was lucky enough that the New Britain CT dealer had a tech who rebuilt the first tranny with new bearings. I found new fenders (in ~1972) since there were fist-size holes in the originals but I still miss that car.

  9. Saabatical Member

    I’m 62. Had a 2000 Saab 9/3. One of my favorite cars over the years.

  10. SaabGirl900

    Saabatical–

    I have a 2000 9.3 five door. She is one of 11 Saabs living in the barn, the garage and the back yard. She and I have been all the way out to Colorado, down to Florida, up to Minnesota and all sorts of places in between. She has never failed me…not even when she ate one of the #4 cylinder exhaust valves. I made it to work, parked her and then called a tow truck to have her brought to a local shop to have the engine rebuilt at 192,000 miles. The engine would have lasted longer if the Dreaded Former Owner hadn’t beaten the daylights out of the car. The tinworm is attacking her doglegs and quarter panels, but I refuse to let her go…she has been that good.

    Like 2
  11. David Laker Member

    This fun car earned me my one-and-only CA speeding ticket. Not long after, it coughed up a valve and I bailed. Don’t remember a V-4. Were there other engine options?

    • Evan

      Not in this version, no. The Sonett II had a two-stroke triple at first.

    • SubGothius

      The Sonett III always only had a Ford V4, which debuted in its predecessor the Sonett II, replacing the earlier Saab-made 2-stroke 3-cylinder.

      Like 4
  12. angliagt angliagt Member

    There’s two of these in a wrecking yard in Oak Level,VA.

    Like 1
  13. Margaret A. Soucie

    I have a ’74 Sonett and I am not sure what I will do with it. The body is fibreglass, married to a metal floor ! For a smart company, Saab did some weird things. The floor tends to let go at the firewall and can be a constant repair job. If there is enough good metal to weld to. But the 96’s had the same problem with floor/firewall, rust/separation. I used to have #124 Saab Sonett. A three cylinder engine. I paid $100. for it, pulled the engine, a nice, low milage 875 c.c. with three carburetors. Then sold the car for $200. and hauled it to Massachusetts. I still have the engine and the carbs, used them for ice racing. I would like to have the Sonett on the road, but that floor bothers me. I know of three other Sonett’s in my area, with bad floors, sitting outside, loosing more floor every year. Sonett’s are neat little cars.

    • Bruce

      Margaret, If you would consider selling the engine with carbs, let me know. I can certainly use them. I own a Sonett II two stroke. e-mail me at sonett1@hvc.rr.com

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