Assembly Required: 1963 Saab 96 Project

The 1960-64 “bullnose” Saab 96 is the car that cemented Saab’s reputation as a rally winner. Behind the wheel of a 96, legendary driver Erik Carlsson won the RAC Rally three years in a row in 1960, ‘61, and ‘62 as well as the Monte Carlo Rally in 1962 and ‘63. An evolution of the 1956-60 93, the 96 had a larger trunk and wraparound rear glass for better visibility. Like its predecessor, it had a short front end with minimal overhang owing to its radiator location behind the two-stroke three-cylinder engine that drove the front wheels through a three-speed (later four-speed) transmission. In 1965, the nose would be extended eight inches, and the radiator moved out front, in preparation for the arrival of the V4 engine in 1967. Some Saab aficionados argue that this “longnose” design threw off the better balance of the original configuration. If you’re looking to build your own rally-inspired 96 in the style of Erik’s, this 1963 Saab 96 project here on Craigslist could be a good starting point. Special thanks to Barn Finds reader Geoff for the tip!

The seller of this bullnose 96 project says that they have owned it for some time, but know that they will never get around to completing it. The body is said to have had the small amount of required rust repair completed, which is good because despite being made of thick sheet metal, these old Saabs were prone to rust, especially in northern climates where they were so effective in winter. From the photos, it looks like a small section where the rocker panel meets the wheel well has been welded, but a potential buyer would probably want to ask for more details and photos of exactly what has been fixed. Having owned a few Saab 96s myself, I can say that finding one without rust is a big deal!

This project appears to have more than enough parts needed to at least assemble a complete 96. There are three transmissions, as well as boxes of parts that contain multiple flywheel/clutch assemblies, starters, distributors, and “waternators.” Yes, the bullnose 96 models had a “waternator” combination waterpump/generator assembly that was driven by the same belt which also drove the “overhead fan shaft” that cooled the radiator mounted behind the engine. The photos also show at least one disassembled 850 cc two-stroke engine in a box as well as another box full of headlights and taillights. The seller says that they have started sandblasting and powder coating the suspension parts and some of these can be seen in the photos too. The doors and fenders are present, though removed from the body. There is also a claim of a “new interior straight from Saab” which sounds interesting, to say the least.

The seller is asking $4500 for the whole project which isn’t an unreasonable price if the body is in good shape and there are enough parts to make a whole car. It’s always a bit of a risk picking up someone else’s unfinished project, especially when it’s not a car that runs or is put together. Still, for the right buyer this could be a good way to get into one of the most desirable vintage Saab models. Would you restore this one to stock or build it into a Swedish rally machine and go blasting down some logging roads?


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  1. Bob W. I.C.E. Man

    Neat little car. I remember when the ice racing clan would mount snow tires with what seemed to be two inch long spikes in them. The Saab’s seemed to be glued to the ice and left a trail of ice chips, he size of potato chips in their wake.

  2. Geoff

    Nice summary Jonathan! Turn it into a rally car – I love it! I’ve had the rare experience of being airborne in one of these cars and I can attest that they handle the rough stuff quite well!

  3. Donald Levesque

    I would love to bid, but cannot find where it’s located

    • Jonathan Dennis Jonathan Dennis Staff

      It’s for sale on Craigslist somewhere in New York. The link is in the article.

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