A Saab Story: 1973 SAAB 96


The Saab 96 was introduced in 1960 with a 3 cylinder 2 stroke, 38 horsepower engine. In 1967 Saab switched to a Ford Taunus 1498cc V4 four-stroke engine with 65 horsepower. This Saab is listed on craigslist in Ventura, California. The $3,300 asking seems pretty reasonable. It’s been stored for 30 years and appears to have survived very well. The owner got it running well, but can’t figure out the clutch. Perhaps it’s because it’s a freewheeling clutch. The clutch was a holdover from when Saabs had 2 stroke engines. Downshifting and spinning up the 2 stroke would be hard on it. They didn’t get lubrication with the throttle closed, necessitating the freewheel. The seller has complete paperwork back to 1973 showing it has only 76,000 miles. It had a repaint sometime and it has a few dents, but it appears straight and almost rust free. There is the typical rust below the windshield.


The interior appears original with the addition of a few gauges. It could use a little cleaning and a few repairs, but it looks usable.


The Ford V4 was an easy fit to replace the transverse 3 cylinder. Things look complete except for the heater riser hose.


The car looks solid from here as well. This could be a unique and fun to drive daily driver. This old Saab might look really nice with a polish and wax. After sorting out the clutch and cleaning it up is there any more to do to it? Perhaps one could shop somewhere like CariD for performance upgrades and make it a really fun car.


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  1. Luki

    Missing one important feature.
    Ring a ding ding ding.

    • Tommy

      I will bite, “ring a ding ding ding” maybe it’s too early for me!

  2. RicK

    ’73 has gotta be the last year for this style

    • Luki

      1980 was the last year they built these.

    • JohnJ

      1973 was the last year they were imported into the USA. They continued production in Europe until 1980.
      I had a 1971 Saab 96 many, many years ago. It was a fantastic and reliable car.

  3. Howard A Member

    I have some experience with these, and the 4 cyl. was a welcome change from the 3 cyl. If you can get past the somewhat odd styling, these were great cars. Solid, well built, dependable, like Volvo’s of the era, and you can’t go wrong here. I remember they had good heaters ( the heater fan is as big as the engine) and literally brought the advantages of FWD to Americans ( look where THAT went) Thanks to David for the lesson on freewheeling. I never knew why they did that. Apparently, there’s a lever to over ride the freewheeling device. I wonder if the owner knows that. Personally, I’d want a wagon, but just a great find here.

  4. Steven C

    Awesome Saab, wish it was mine

  5. Ken

    Looks nice in these photos. I’d want to see floors under carpets, especially at floor/firewall junction and inside spare tire well as both are common rust areas. As mentions in one of the replies, there is a lockout for freewheeling. It’s a little T handle down between accelerator pedal and floor vent outlet. It gets pulled out to lock free wheel hub. The teeth on the lock gear aren’t super robust and suffer if locking is done while things are running. The V-4 tended to be a bit hard on the freewheeling depending upon how the cars were driven and they will slip like a slipping clutch. When those teeth get worn the lock gear may pop out of the free wheel hub. It was common to have a spacer installed behind the lock gear, essentially disabling the free wheeling feature and preventing gear kick back. The original gear oil spec was 70 wt if memory is right and using heavier oil was not good for the box. It is really common for the clutch disc to stick to the flywheel on these after sitting for extended periods. Driven nicely and with proper lubricant the freewheeling is fine. We use it all the time in our 72 wagon and our stroker 96.

  6. z1rider

    The 3 cylinder, two stroke cycle engines that preceded these were not transverse.

  7. Richard Rourke

    The engines were not transverse and the titles were mixed up 66s were sold as 68s. I had a 68 2 stroke.

  8. John

    This very car was bought and refreshed on the tv show ‘ Wheel Dealers.’ Just saw the show recently- maybe they saw the car here first…

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