Affordable FWD Fun: 1974 Saab Sonett III

Front wheel drive cars are boring. They are built strictly for efficiency. There have been a few attempts to make them more exciting though and Saab was a pioneer in that area. FF was the layout of choice for Saab from the beginning and the Sonnett was their interpretation of what a sports car should be. This particular one is located in Springfield Nebraska and is listed on eBay with bidding at $1,050 and a BIN price of $1,950.

Saab may be most well known for their 96 model. The first examples featured a smoke blowing two-stroke engine and a freewheeling column-mounted shifter. They were different to say the least, but they garnered respect and admiration from their owners. They also proved their sporting abilities in the hands of some of the greatest rally drivers the world has known.

The 96 may have performed well, but it didn’t look like a modern sports car. In the fifties a few Saab engineers started work on a low budget prototype named the Sonnett. Their plans for a lightweight racer fell through though and only six of the original cars were produced. Then in the sixties, the flame was rekindled.

Saab’s two-stroke drivetrain was shoved underneath a small fiberglass body and the Sonnett II was born. Its low weight contributed to decent performance, but times were changing. Emissions requirements and customer demands forced the change to a V4 engine. Then even more changes were needed in 1970 so Saab just redesigned it and called it the Sonnett III. Sonnetts did well in racing, but that wasn’t enough to convince consumers, so 1974 marked the end of Trollhättan’s little sports car.

That brings us to this car. It may have lost some of the charm of the earlier cars, but it did acquire a floor mounted shifter and hidden headlights. The seller does not provide many details about the car’s current condition, but claims that it is sound enough to travel at highway speeds. As long as there is no major rust, this could make a good project for a Saab enthusiast.

Some may prefer an earlier Sonnett, but it is hard to beat the value here. The bright blue paint, tan bucket seats, and soccer ball alloys scream seventies in a strange Swedish way. Change all the fluids, tidy up the wiring under the dash, and you will have yourself an affordable classic that is far from common. It almost makes us want to like FWD car again, almost…

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Comments

  1. skloon

    I love the fact that the radiator tank is also a brace under the hood on these things

  2. paul

    Yikes that’s one from the past, never drove one of these, but I do remember them to have huge panel gaps.

    • paul

      funny I thought the whole nose lifted up for the hood, but it looks like this one has tiny hood, that appears to be quite a stretch to work on.

      1
      • maanders

        The Sonett II (like the red one in the photo above) had the hood that tilted up from the bottom of the windshield and tilted toward the front end. When the body style changed for the Sonett III, the whole front end did not tilt up any more and they added the small “hatch” in the hood to access the engine. If you needed to do more extensive work, you had to remove the whole fiberglass front end.

  3. Robert J

    This is a giveway price for a Saab Sonnet really. They usually seem to start at around $4k here on the West Coast.

  4. Dan Farrell

    I think I recall seeing some Sonnets with a 4 on the tree. I looked at a 96 wagon one time and it is the only car I have ever been in where I could move the driver’s seat back so far that I could not touch the pedals with my 34 inch inseam.

    • maanders

      The Sonett II had the shifter “on the tree”. The Sonett III changed to a standard floor shifter.

  5. scot c

    ~ in my opinion someone got one hell of a bargain at only $1850. good purchase.

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