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4-stroke Swede: 1971 Saab 95 V4 Wagon

You’ll have to pardon me, I am not overly well-read on vintage Saabs. When I saw this car submitted, I jumped on the opportunity to do a write-up on the car. Early Saabs like this one here on craigslist are not common, although they never really were too popular. This car features station-wagon styling with the face-lifted grille.

There is not much to be said about the interior of this car – the padded dash appears to be in good condition. All the switches and gauges are there. The only glaring issue appears to be the worn driver’s seat – unsurprising for a nearly 50 year-old car.

Aside from their quirky looks, Saabs also were unique in that many had two-stroke engines. This car sports a V4, which is borrowed from the Ford Taunus. The owner does not say much about the mechanical condition of the car unfortunately, aside from it having a V4 and a 4 speed transmission.

This angle of the car is one of my favorites. You can just barely see the classic Saab mud flaps with the plane underneath. The “fins” are reminiscent of 1950’s American cars, but the taillights appear completely out of place. I love the color too. What would you do with this Saab?


  1. Curis

    Now this with a big bag of $$$ could be turned into a heck of a sleeper…..

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  2. Royal Ricci

    This is a nice one and won’t last long. I wish I had the money as I would go snap it up pronto. The key thing when buying one of these is to check the body where the floor meets the firewall as the corners rot out from dirt and moisture collecting under the mat and carpeting. Same applies for the rear corners too. Next area of concern it the front wheel wells where the shocks meet the body. A third area is the body around the lower corners of the windshield.

    The dash pad here is aftermarket. Seats can easily be redone at most interior places.

    Looks like the back cargo area is rough. I am more familiar with the sedans, but it looks to be good.

    These Saabs gave them a cult following as they were robust little winter cars that could go anywhere with narrow tires on a FWD setup. They were designed for the snows of northern Sweeden, Finland and Norway. My Dad was the first in his office at IBM to buy one in November 66 (A 67 model) and withing four years several of his co workers all had one as their job entailed them to make customer calls to service computers that were off site.

    There were a lot of these imported into the states through Connecticut and you can find many still throughout New England as well as other areas in the country.

    The national Saab Owners Club who produces the monthly newsletter NINES, is a good group to belong to as they have access to a vast network of parts. They are very simple cars to work on and the Ford V4 was a good pick for them as opposed to the Lancia V4 that was also being considered at the time. Weak point of the V4 in this baby is the timing gear setup as they were made of a fiber material that would let go. However this can be solved with installing a steel gear system which can be found online. This is also a non interference engine too.

    The weak point of the early Saab 95/96 V-4 units was that the transmission couldn’t handle the added power from the beefier V-4 compared to the smaller less powerful two stroke. However within two to three years they fixed much of this with improved interior components and a reinforced outer tranny casing. They has developed this through their racing efforts in rallies around the globe.

    I would be willing to make the two hour trek East from NY to hartford in order to look at this car for anyone who is interested and I would be able to take photos. Not sure but the engine looks shot and may have issues. However, when I was 17, I managed to get my Dad’s running with his help and advice. The tank on these can be drained and the line blown out with a compressor hose shoved down the gas filler with a rag around the opening and the line removed going into the fuel pump. Plugs are easy to remove so you can put some WD40 down the cylinders to remove and lubricate the pistons so they don’t score up the cylinder walls. Something you don’t see on Gas Monkey Garage.

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    • Puhnto

      Why do you say the dash pad is aftermarket? My 1968 Saab 95 had one just like it, but it had a grey steel dash. Somewhere in storage, I’ve got a NOS dash pad in the original plastic bag, and again, it looks just like that one. Just curious, thanks.

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      • Royal

        Saab went over to the black dash in either 69 or 70. Although the pad from the cars with the black dash had a similar looking pad, it wouldn’t line up perfectly with the earlier models with the gray dash which dates back to 1965.

        The aftermarket pads don’t have the lines molded into them like the original ones but they are similar in shape.

        Perhaps there is someone more knowledgeable about this who can back me up. I am 49 and my Dad would be 93 now, so they would have to be on the older side unless something got passed down.

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      • puhnto

        Thanks, Royal. I didn’t even know they had aftermarket dash pads for those. Nevertheless, I think if you’ll look closely at the dash photo in the ad, it HAS the grooved dash pad. They just don’t “pop” in the photos. (Or maybe I just want to see them. But it looks like it to me. Either way, great car.)

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  3. Blindmarc

    Thumbs up on the info RR!

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  4. Paul B

    Yes, all good info Roy! These are good little cars and I drove them for years, mostly sedans but one wagon. This one looks like a good basis for either a restoration or better yet a survivor driver. You would have to check the areas Roy mentions plus the rear shock absorber and spring mounts. There would be plenty to do to bring this up to reliable driver status plus cleaning and refurbishing the interior. But this one appears complete, relatively rust-free and a perfectly OK starting point for your project. Club support is good, the V4 engine is tough and easy to find parts for, and the cars are quite straightforward to work on if you have good mechanical skills. Transmissions, which are a bit weak, are hardest to get parts for but there are a few people around who can rebuild them with combinations of new and used parts. Get a shop manual and pay careful attention to proper adjustment of everything, drive it respectfully, keep it out of salt and your Saab V4 will run for years.

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  5. Larry K

    Same here

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  6. Puhnto

    These are amazing little cars. Solid as a rock. None of the flimsy-ness you’d experience in other small cars of the period. The 95 (wagon) had seating for seven people. The third seat faced backwards. You could cruise all day long at 80 miles an hour across the Nevada desert and get 35 mpg. One of the best cars I ever owned. Comfortable, solid, practical (seating for seven and the seats would fold down to haul stuff) economical. Took it from California to New England and back and all over the west without a hiccough. Loved that car.

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  7. Royal

    Sorry folks but this one was already sold as is often the case on here.

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  8. Car39

    New Haven Connecticut was the port of entry and corporate headquarters for many years. My Dad was one of the first SAAB dealers in the US. He used to pick the cars up at the port to save the trucking fees. No matter what else we sold, he always drove a SAAB until 73 when we gave them up. Great little cars, this one looks pretty complete.

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  9. Rock On Member

    A dealer in Oregon has one for sale here.

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    • Royal

      Very nice restoration or original. The exhaust is not original but looks better that the setup that came with it.

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  10. Ken

    Given the rust appearing in the cargo area, engine bay and some of dash bits, this one warrants a close look at the floor areas mentioned in another comment which are prone to rust on these cars. The wagons have lever rear shocks rather than the tube shocks on the rear of the 96 sedans. Looks like the trim strips along the lower sides are missing. Those tail lights are correct for the later wagons. Third seat isn’t shown in photos, they are often in very good condition on wagons that usually have them folded down out of sight as in the photos for this car. Quirky practical cars that are pleasant to drive.

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  11. scottymac

    Question for the SAAB experts. Will the Ford Cologne V-6 slip in place of the V-4? Always wondered what a Sonnett with a Capri 2.8 or Explorer 4.0 would be like.

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    • fogline

      I have the same question. Looked at a sedan the other day with a seized up motor and was wondering if you could even put something more modern in to really tweak the power. The original engine as a V4 was tiny so I suspect that any changes would require some pretty serious reconfiguration, but there is plenty of room for it. I would wonder if it might also affect the handling with increased weight but again, I have no idea.

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      • Royal Ricci

        Ford of West Germany would later build a V-6 based on the V-4 design for the Tanus and I saw that someone was able to shoehorn one of those into a 96 with some radiator mods. I always thought you could slip in a Mazda Rotary, but I am not sure the tranny could handle it.

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    • Royal Ricci

      Yes you could slip in a V6. I would rather do an ev conversion though as the power is doubled and you can get 110 miles on a charge due to the aerodynamic design of the body, something that other companies didn’t care about at this time.

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  12. Rustytech Member

    How do you spell UGLY? That they were never really popular is an understatement. I’m surprised any of these are left around, let alone one this solid. Definitely deserves saving though.

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  13. Royal Ricci

    BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. I love the look of these cars, especially the 65 to 67 models as well as the Bull Nose units that came before. In 68 they enlarged the front and rear windows which somehow destroyed the look of the car.

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  14. sebtown

    In 1972 my then wife’s parents bought her a brand new 95 Wagon. We picked up at the dealer in Marin but I drove it out as she did not know how to drive a stick. We drove it all over the west coast of the US and Canada. We learned the hard way about fiber timing gears and “freewheeling” transmissions. I think the biggest quirk was column shifter and having to shift into reverse to remove the key!

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  15. Royal Ricci

    Never knew about having to be in Reverse to remove the key.

    What happened with the “freewheeling” feature as this is something I never fully understood quite frankly.

    Getting parts from the dealer wasn’t always optimal either.

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  16. Gear Head Engineer

    This was on my local CL for at least 3-4 weeks. It was reasonably priced so I’m not surprised it has sold. I was tempted briefly when I first saw it but decided it wasn’t really my cup of tea.

    I’m not a Saab expert but I would guess the freewheeling transmission is left over from the two-stroke engines. If you coast a typical two-stroke engine at no throttle and the momentum keeps the engine spinning you can seize it up. That’s because with the throttle closed there is little or no fuel and oil flowing, so the piston and bottom end don’t get lubricated properly.

    – John

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  17. Quentin the Nevis Beeman

    Legend has it a Saab 95 (estate) like this, but in two stroke form, was driven to a credible fourth place in the famed Monte Carlo Rally of 1961.

    The following 2 years a two stroke Saab 96 (saloon) won the event outright, also in the hands of the legendary Erik Carlsson, a real “David & Goliath” effort. Throughout the 1960,s and early 1970,s these Saabs in both two stroke and V4 form, won rally after rally right across Europe.

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