Car Lot Oddity: 1974 Saab Sonett III

Saabs have always been known for their handling in winter weather. Being from Sweden, a region not known for its cactuses has its advantages when it comes to engineering a vehicle that performs in the snow. In the sixties and early seventies, Saab used their handling expertise to produce a sports car that is uniquely Saab.  If you are looking for a quirky sports car project, then take a look at this 1974 Saab Sonett III for sale on eBay in historic York, Pennsylvania. Being sold by a used car lot, this orange Saab’s bidding is sitting at a paltry $1,775 with just two days to go. Can this somewhat sultry Saab be bought for a song?

We all know the story of how Saab cars were an offshoot from what was originally a company that produced airplanes.  As World War II wound down, the company designed and built its first automobile, the Project 92.  The design features that were baked in to this original cake served Saab well.  It was lightweight (which you would expect from an aircraft maker), front wheel drive, and well thought out for the region it was to be sold in.

As time wore on and Saab’s reputation flourished, helped in no small part by their rally racing successes, these quirky cars found a following in the United States and Europe.  As the sportscar craze escalated in the sixties, Saab branched out with the Sonett.  Starting with the gorgeous but somewhat impractical Sonett I prototype in 1955, the company soon offered a more conventional (for them) production version called the Sonett II from 1966-1969.

This basic shape was updated in 1970 to take some of the harsh edges off the Sonett II’s design and adapt to changing laws.  Some of these changes, such as simplifying the rear window area, made the car a bit less expensive to produce.  For the American market, the company also adapted the car to make the option of air conditioning possible.  As production wore on, additinal changes were made to “Americanize” the bumpers.  Slow sales eventually killed off this quirky sports car in 1974.

The little orange sports car you see here is one of the last of the breed.  It currently sits at a used car lot in York, Pennsylvania, but there is no interesting back story on how it got there.  Surely it was a good story considereing how rare Saab Sonetts are in general.  At any rate, all we know is that there is floor rust and that it currently doesn’t run.  One reason for that is that they do not have an ignition key for the car.

The good news is that the engine does turn over, but they haven’t tried to start it.  My guess is that they have put a wrench on the crankshaft bolt and the engine does rotate.  Starting it requires the previously mentioned key that is likely on Jimmy Hoffa’s key ring.  I don’t think they want it aound long, as the ad states that it is to be paid for within three days and has to be picked up within seven days.

Of course this car is taking up space that could be filled with a much easier to sell used car than a seldom seen Saab sports car.  With bidding so low and the lot wanting to move this unusual trade out the door, there may be an opportunity for someone to scoop up a bargain.  The condition of the car suggests that it could be made to run, and it diesn’t look bad considering its age and Pennsylvania’s often challenging climate.  The rust damage is the big unknown here.  Hopefully a Barn Finds reader in the area will stop by and look this one over.

Have any of you owned a Saab Sonett, or any Saab for that matter?  What was the experience like?


  1. mike

    This poor Saab is really rough underneath.

    Like 4
    • Dennis

      Mike – have you actually put eyes on it? Dennis

      Like 1
      • mike

        No just looking at Ebay pictures

  2. Rick

    Poor thing. York is a few hours from me or I’d check it out. Terminal frame rust is a given based on the photos. No real way to fix that unfortunately.

    Like 3
  3. Mike

    Had a teacher in Highschool who had a Sonett. All the girls wanted to look under the bonnet. The teacher knew that to touch was uncool, but couldn’t keep from trying to be on it. It cost him his job, but he escaped the law because there wasn’t a law against it.
    True story! It caused such a stir that the lawmakers changed the rules and made it law. They even named the bill after the teacher.
    The Sonett was a cool car for sure, and since it was in Alaska it got around really well. Last I saw of the car was after it had been wrecked pretty bad, and it didn’t fair near as well as the one ton Ford that hit it.

    Like 1
    • Mr. Exotherm

      Good (?) old SC.

      Like 4
  4. Ike Onick

    Just what we need- Another SAAB story!

    Like 7
  5. Terrry

    Sadly, this is a Saab story

    Like 2
  6. Terry

    That car was dragged out of some weeds and plunked onto the car lot. I think the sellers realize how far gone the car is. Yet, the bid is now over 2k.

    Like 1
  7. Wayne

    Mike, Yes poor old Satch lost his job at Autoweek over that impropriety! (by the way Satch’s Sonett was called the PIGGE of Plastice!) These are fun cars but chassis rust is the killer of these cars. (plastic body looks good!) As an aside I have a Layton roller in my possession. When opening up the engine compartment there sits a Saab V4 out of a Sonett! Actually the engine Saab used is a Ford V4 As in a Cologne 2.6 and 2.8 V6. So the engine in my roller says FORD INDUSTRIAL V4! All the tune up parts I had to get for a Sonett. (which O’Reillys had in stock!)

    Like 4
    • Frank Barrett Member

      Satch actually lost two jobs: teaching and writing.

      Like 1
  8. Another Mike

    Looks like it would be a good candidate for an electric conversion. Might as well start over with a chassis and even make a more palatable version of the bumpers.

    Like 1
  9. Jon Kataisto

    Saw a Sonnet on CraigsList once with the body on a 4wd Chevy S-10 chassis. Might have bought it but it was untitled and would be a nightmare to register. Was really looking for an earlier one with the 3 cylinder two stroke at the time.

  10. Big C

    I want some of what Mike and Another Mike are imbibing in!

    Like 2
  11. Frank Barrett Member

    Needs everything, but the rust doesn’t look too bad. Probably a fair price.

  12. Bob-O

    Way back in ’74 or ’75 I test-drove a new Sonett. As I recall, it was orange like this one, although it could have been yellow. (It’s fading from my memory).

    The sales guy drove it off the lot and a few blocks from the dealer had to stop at a light. He was talking about the benefits of front-wheel drive and said, “Watch this.” He dumped the clutch and turned the wheel hard to the right to turn the corner and there we were with the front wheels spinning making a square turn. It was pretty cool!

    Like 1
  13. Lbal96

    The usable parts off if this complete car are worth the price of admission alone. That would be the best purpose of the car if it’s too far gone rust wise.

  14. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    My shop had a similar Sonett 3 in lime green that came in for rust repair. It looked like this car underneath. In order to access the steel body [including the fiberglass supporting steel framework] the entire ‘glass body has to come off. What I’m seeing here is a massive amount of structural steel welding repairs. Car is already at over $3k with the reserve not met. The current high bidder should be lucky it’s not a no-reserve auction, because nice examples are $20k to $25k, and you will be hard pressed to finish this one for anywhere near that amount.

    Like 4
  15. Bridget

    I knew a gentleman many years ago who was a typesetter for the local newspaper that drove one, he would get off work and go to the coffee shop around the corner from where I worked and have breakfast and would get off about the same time and I drove another euro sport coupe.

    Like 2
    • Ike Onick

      That’s it??!! No details on how it worked out for you and the typesetter? Plus where did you live that someone was still setting type in 1974? Stratford-On-Avon? Heidelburg?

      Like 1
  16. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Makes me think of supporting what is left of the structure so that it is square, then doing a bunch of cutting/lightening and adding tubes for rigidity.
    Then, swap in one of the V6’s that bolt up, put on some studded tires, and go Ice Racing!

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.