Garage Find: 1974 Saab Sonnet

As someone who has been enlisted to help friends sell vintage vehicles, it’s of no surprise to me that I see a fair number of listings where another individual is managing the sale. Many owners are older, or just plain tired of dealing with the army of tire kickers that the internet has made possible. This 1974 Saab Sonnet is another example of a fine car done in by years of neglect, but thankfully, stored indoors, likely with grand plans for restoration by its current owner. The listing is brief, but does share enough information to note that the engine was rebuilt in 1987 and that the Saab was parked shortly thereafter, not turning a wheel since that time. Find it here on Facebook Marketplace for $4,250 in Monaca, PA.

Supposedly, the transmission was rebuilt at the same time. Whatever the story, it’s plainly obvious the Sonnet has not seen much action in recent years. I’m always amazed at how many listings mention the drivetrain being substantially rebuilt and then noting that the car was parked shortly thereafter. However, when I look at my own history, I tend to stop driving my projects once they are largely done, as if the significantly reduced risk of the car dying in traffic has somehow made it less interesting to drive. Whatever the reason, I can’t be the only one who feels this way, as so many vintage vehicles are listed as having been parked not long after being mechanically restored.

The interior doesn’t look terrible, but it’s hard to get a clear sense of how how bad it is. The steering wheel is either very dusty or has a light coating of mold; either way, it should clean up pretty easily. I always loved the deeply bolstered bucket seats in these things, which looked like they belonged in a Formula 1 car or a Porsche Speedster, not an oddball Saab coupe. This is the lone photo that’s provided of the cockpit, which does look complete, but it’s hard to say just how rough or dry it is. Fortunately, indoor storage would suggest it’s quite dry unless it was left outside for a spell since being parked in ’87. It looks like the original, or at least a period-correct, radio still resides in the dash.

Any guesses on what the Saab is parked next to? Overall, the body looks pretty straight, and while the fiberglass shell won’t rust, these can still be crusty underneath. The Pennsylvania location doesn’t absolve it from having rust issues, but one would hope the time and labor spent on a drivetrain rebuild in the late 80s was undertaken because the car was a solid example. These oddball Sonnets don’t ever seem to catch much fire in the collector car world, and even Saab enthusiasts seem to have moved past them. Are they still worthy of revival, or is there a reason why so many of them end up like this?

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  1. Howard A Member

    I had a friend in the 80’s that had 2 of these. This was the last year for the Sonnet, not that they set the world ablaze with sales anyway. My friends cars were inoperative at the time ( one was a 3 cylinder parts car) and was waiting on some part, at THAT time, so I never rode in it, sat in it, and was really neat, he said it handled fantastic. The V4 was a much improved motor over the 2cycle 3 cylinder. So what was it about these people didn’t go for? Saab was still a not so popular car, with many remembering those smokey 92’s and the styling was just too far out there. Also, I believe the cost, like the Opel GT, you could get a 2 year old Corvette for the same money. You’re a brave soul taking this on. And the car next to it, looks like a mid 80’s Olds something.

    Like 4
  2. Ken Kittleson

    Owned an orange ’71 Sonett from ’75-’81, great quirky little car, freewheeling, front wheel drive, no ground clearance so terrible in snow but fun and comfortable to drive in nice weather. Had a lumbar support in the driver’s seat that you pumped up with an air bulb! I hope there was a vapor barrier between the concrete and the car’s underside for all those years.

    Like 2
  3. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    This must be the week for Pennsylvania barn finds.

    Like 3
  4. Tom Hall

    One thing for sure: “quirky” will always be mentioned somewhere in a Saab story

    Like 5
  5. JolietJake

    Quite a hodge-podge of components on these. I owned one from 1977-79, my friend said it looked like a kit car! English Ford v-4 engine (prone to overheat), borg-warner 4 speed tranny, and the dreaded Lucas electrical system. Most fun-to-drive car (like a go-kart) that I have ever owned, never left me stranded anywhere, always needed a repair of some kind. Looks very cool…like a mini-vette (saab version of Opel GT)

    Like 2
  6. luckylugnut

    I think these are neat little cars. But rust issues and a munchkin sized cockpit keep this 6+ footer from buying one.
    I seem to remember the foot pedals are designed for a 7-1/2 shoe size as well, so that doesn’t leave much room for my size 13 EEE boats to work with.

    Like 4
  7. chrlsful

    yup alota barns in PA (state w/highest rural pop too? oldest citizens…may B that’s Fla?).
    I remember the Sonnet (II, III, never saw the I) as they tended to be the sort I wrenched/drove – buddies back then had the muscle (stang, 442, vette). Any “sports cars” turned my head and being in the NE there was all ways a good supply (alfas, saabs, karmen ghia, datsun 2000, fiat were my brand).

    We gotta a guy here that specializes in finding/restoring these ol cars today:

    He hasa string of these so I enjoyed following him around on several of them. Seems to be several notches above Shadetree II (I’m still workin on my I) which was enjoyable for me (hope you too). May B just his Boston accent will B interesting?

    Like 2
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      So that video is 5 years old….what about the Sonnett since? Presume no answers, no extraction, no backstory? I enjoyed listening to the guy’s accent and that he drives a Sonnett. But the last 1/4 of the YouTube video could have been edited out. I don’t need to hear the audio of dogs barking while his cell phone is buried in his pocket. I want to see that purple Saab scooped out and assessed! Thanks for a new YouTube/rabbit hole/diversion for me to dive down!

      Like 1
  8. Robert Woodward

    I had a 74 that was identical to this one. I have always liked Saab and even daily drive a 2008 Saab/GM Aero. The 74 Sonnet looks interesting, but was painfully slow and had way too much body roll to be a sports car. The V4 did have some overheating problems. I ended up using mine as an Car Audio demo vehicle in the 1980’s because it just couldn’t compete with my X/19 or 914 in the handling department.

    Like 1
  9. DLM

    It’s a Sonett, not a sonnet. Shakespeare wrote sonnets. The name is said to come from the Swedish “sa nett” which means “so neat”. And they are.

    • Robert Woodward

      I remembered at as Sonnett, but saw how it was spelled in the article and went with Sonnet…….I second guessed myself.

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