Fiberglass Fun: 1973 Saab Sonett III Project

Hollywood’s weirdest productions occasionally turn into cult classics. So it is with vintage cars – a lucky few models ignite a fervor completely out of proportion to their performance, sales statistics, and popularity at the time. The AMC Pacer, the Avanti, and our subject car, the Saab Sonett all have gained a following in recent years that belies their awful upbringings. The Sonett’s childhood was spent as a belching two-stroke with a column-shift manual and a free-wheeling clutch. At the time, this arrangement did not fly with Americans. The grown-up Sonett III, introduced in 1970, sported Ford’s Taunus V4 and a conventional floor-shift manual. Redesigned by Sergio Coggiola to eliminate the hood bulge of the earlier Sonett V4, the new car sold marginally better than prior versions. Alas, the gas crisis terminated Saab’s ambitions for its sports car, with the last Sonett III rolling off the line in 1974. Here on eBay is a 1973 Saab Sonett III project car, bid to $2950 with reserve met. This car is located in Escondido, California. Thanks, T.J., for the tip!

The German-made Taunus 1.7-liter engine isn’t quite ubiquitous, but let’s just say you will not need to worry about parts. In factory form, the 60-degree cast iron V4 made about 65 hp; notably, the power rating was down versus the earlier 1.5-liter V4, thanks to creeping emissions regulations. A four-speed gearbox drives the front wheels. The car weighed only 1900 lbs, so performance was adequate, with zero to sixty coming in about 13 seconds and a top speed of around 105 mph. This car does run, but the seller warns that it requires a full restoration.

This car has the base vinyl and cloth interior; a luxury version was available with leather but is very rare. The dash is clean and appears free of cracks; the seats and carpet are decent if a bit dirty. The rear cargo area hides the spare tire. Have to hand it to the seller – at least he vacuumed the car to present it for sale. I appreciate that as a hallmark of respect for the upcoming transaction.

This car has the famous “soccer ball” wheels and, unfortunately, the hideous 5 mph bumpers that arrived in 1973. Owners have been known to – ahem – remove those. The paint has seen better days, but it’s a small car and rust is present only in the battery tray. If you have a tolerance for fiberglass work and sanding, this is a great opportunity to hone your painting skills. The lenses appear to be intact, and the glass is good. No doubt mechanical work awaits the new owner, but the price isn’t in the stratosphere. Of course, though we bashed the two-stroke Sonett above, that turns out to be the most collectible of these cars. Still, there’s plenty of fun in this package for a reasonable price.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Drove one of these to see if we wanted to take one over to Norway. Front wheel drive is good in snow and the V4 has reasonably good power. They are good driving cars. Decided to take our Porsche 356C instead and bought a VW Notchback to handle the snow.

    Like 2
  2. Glemon

    I had one of these for a short time about five years ago. Have to say I was surprised it felt a little closer to the kit-car end of the spectrum than the sophisticated little GT end. They are certainly good looking, and the engineering is different, the cross member fill tube for the radiator, and brake pads with pads thicker on the leading edge that the trailing edge by quite a bit, as well as the longitudinally mounted V4 in front of the front axle. Tiny cars, tiny peddle box, only cars I often hit two pedals with inadvertently on a regular basis, and I have had plenty of tiny British sports cars over the years

    Like 1
    • Don Foote

      I could not drive my MG wearing shoes due to cramped pedal box buy my shoe on passenger floor board made a good drink holder. Only Saab I ever owned as a two stoke…it was cool. Miss both the 53 TD and the 65 Saab 95 wagon.

      Like 0
  3. Craig Baloga Craig Baloga Member

    Most anything SAAB puts out has a good “cool factor”….I love it.


    Like 5
  4. Don Hulse

    I had one of these and loved it. (Partially because it was small enough to compression start alone if necessary, and once you learned to duck as you jumped in it was all good). It was light enough in the rear to also bounce it across the garage floor if you needed to move it with the engine out although in retrospect I wouldn’t recommend that. In all it was a fun car and this one actually looks pretty promising.

    Like 0

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