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Mixed And Matched: 1969 Saab 96

One of the fun things about the Saab 96 is that it’s easy to customize one to your liking by mixing and matching parts from different years which are easily interchangeable. I’ve always had a thing for the 1969 models which received a new front grille and fender treatment that year but kept an earlier dashboard design that was replaced in 1970. I like this combination so much that I’m in the process backdating my own 1972 96 with a dashboard out of a ‘68 96 Deluxe. This 1969 Saab 96 here on Craigslist in Southern California is an example of one that has parts from a few different years and models. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L for the tip!

Despite being listed as a 1969, the smaller windshield and rear window indicate that this 96 is at the latest a 1967, as enlarged glass was introduced on V4-equipped models for the 1968 model year. It could also be a V4-converted two-stroke “Shrike” model that kept the smaller glass in ’68. In addition, a few things stand out which contradict the ad’s claim of this car being an “all original survivor” with “all original paint.” First, there is the fact that this car has a facelifted grille from a ‘69 but front fenders from a ‘68 or earlier without integrated turn signals. Non-stock turn signals have been placed below the grille instead. More importantly, it has been repainted in a shade of yellow that was not a stock Saab color. It rides on soccer ball wheels from a Sonett that have had their recessed areas also painted yellow; they would either be unpainted or painted black from the factory. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they are not original. The body appears to be in good shape except for a big dent on the rear left fender, below the fuel filler. The seller’s assertion that this car is rust-free, which is not unlikely considering its location, would be a big plus since Saabs of this era were prone to rust.

A peek under the hood of this 96 deepens the mystery of its origins. The Saab 96 received power brakes for the first time in 1969 but this one is fitted with an earlier non-boosted brake master cylinder as well as an earlier clutch master cylinder that is mounted lower down and necessitated a different firewall design which further indicates that this is actually a 1967 model year 96. The V4 engine should be a 1.5 liter but could be a 1.7 if it is from a later car. The transmission is a strengthened “ribcase” design from a 1969 or later which is good news, and it also has the higher capacity radiator of the later models.

The ad also says that the “interior is all original” and this is simply not the case at all. The seats have been reupholstered in a non-original fabric and the front seats are from a later Saab 99 model. The door cards and side panels have been redone in the same material as the seats and the floor is covered in a thicker pile carpet than stock. To put it bluntly, the interior of this 96 resembles the inside of a custom 1970s van more than anything that would have rolled off the production line at Trollhättan. The dashboard, which was originally painted gray, is now finished in the same yellow as the exterior, and contains a Deluxe instrument cluster with a tachometer. The smooth style dash cover is in nice condition with no cracks. Finally, a leather three-spoke steering wheel from a Sonett has been fitted, but it hides under a steering wheel cover that should be removed.

Assuming the mechanicals are sorted, it’s truly rust-free, and the paint job is decent, the seller’s firm asking price of $5000 would not be too bad; just be sure to have some money set aside for a new interior. How would you personalize this mixed and matched 1969-ish Saab 96?


  1. alphasud Member

    You know your early Saab’s Jonathan. I’ve gone to look at some but like you mentioned prone to rust. This one however has promise. That interior would have to go. Looks like a mid 70’s refresh. The California sun really wrecks havoc on the interiors. Fortunately that’s easier than body work. 5K is the upper limit in its current condition.

    Like 9
    • Jonathan Dennis Jonathan Dennis Member

      Thanks! I’ve had a few of them and finding one that is rust-free is the most important part, everything else is relatively easy to sort out. This one seems to have good bones, agree with you on the interior, though.

      Like 10
  2. nlpnt

    I’d throw on a set of the big fender-side turn signals and give the existing interior a good clean, it’s over-the-top in a way that really suits the car.

    Like 4
  3. Evan

    When I come across an ad like this, I have to ask myself if a seller is ignorant or if they’re trying to hide something.

    Like 11
    • Jonathan Dennis Jonathan Dennis Member

      My guess is that it was a rusty or totaled ’69 that was reshelled using a ’65-’67 body with the smaller glass. The VIN would provide more clarity.

      Like 3
      • Dave

        Maybe they worked at a Saab dealership and got it one piece at a time…?

        Like 3
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    That’s one I hadn’t thought about in years. Grew up in a farming area where everyone had a Chevy, Ford or Chrysler product except for the HS science teacher who had a Saab. We joked about how it made a Ring-Ding-Ding sound as she went around town with it. IMO it was so ugly it was cute. I don’t know anything else about them.

    Like 3
  5. oilngas

    Now that is an A++ write up. Knowledge available only through experience.

    Like 10
    • Karen Bryan

      That interior hurts my eyes.

      Like 1
  6. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. I had a neighbour years ago who had one. At the time, I didn’t find the car very attractive, at least not compared to the later 900 and 9000. But later, I began to admire the car.

    Like 1
  7. Geoff

    The interior is something else. Someone went through a lot of trouble to get that ’70’s look. I think I’d leave it as-is. I’d probably laugh each time I got in and saw that pattern. I’d be inspired to add some other ’70s flare like a front air dam. Can you fit an 8-ball on the column shifter?

    Like 3
  8. GOM

    Looks are not the primary virtue of these cars. The driving experience was great, handling and roadholding were remarkable, performance in snow was excellent, and they had enough clearance and a smooth enough underbelly to be unafraid of back roads. The packaging and aerodynamics were superb – plenty of rooms for most people in the two front seats, and with the back seat folded and the trunk pass-through utilized, they could carry a remarkable amount of “stuff” while averaging around 30 mpg. I put thousands of miles on two of these years ago and would still be driving one today if the New England rust problem hadn’t demonstrated that it could consume them relentlessly. They were an extraordinary vehicle.

    Like 5
    • Steve Clinton

      And like escargot, you had to acquire a taste for them.

      Like 1
  9. Mark Mitchell Member

    My guess is that this is being sold by a flipper that just picked the car up from an estate sale or auction. He probably has no idea what is correct or incorrect on the car. It has no plates, so it isn’t currently being driven.

    Like 3
    • Bill Tubbs

      Mark, curious if you still have the 1960 93F?

      Like 0
  10. Steve Clinton

    Those wheels make the car funny-looking…wait, the car IS funny-looking.

    Like 0
  11. jmg

    It is killing me… I know I stumbled across this Saab listed somewhere else recently… maybe FB or proxibid or copart… It was this car plus a parts car I think… damn. Must have been one of the auction sites since they typically delete the listing after sale. I bet he has not had the car for more than a week or two…

    Like 0
  12. Guggie 13

    I had several of these in my youth , fun little cars , great in snow and ice , this one would be a fun ride !

    Like 0
  13. Kurt Member

    2 cycle or 4? Can’t tell from the listing. Hideous interior.

    Like 1
    • Jonathan Dennis Jonathan Dennis Member

      Four-stroke V4. The two-strokes were an inline three.

      Like 2
    • Rick

      If it’s got valve covers it’s got valves, and 2 cycles don’t have valves.

      Like 2
  14. Bimmerdude Member

    I bought a used 1969 in late 1970 from the Chevy dealer in Littleton, Northern New Hampshire and this is not a 1969, with the deltas noted by Jonathan. We were replacing a Series 2 Land Rover and had to get out the manual to find out how to shift into reverse! The car had been owned by a backroad chicken farmer who lived down a dirt road and we later found out that the gravel had worn away the tops of the front fenders , soon had fist-size holes at the top! I found clean used fenders and it was a simple bolt-on replacement. The car was total fun in the snow. The only issue: tranny bearings sucked, had to get a used one to swap in while living in CT and then that one started to tighten up.
    There used to be a Saab dealer in New Canaan and there was one of the senior mechanics who rebuilt my tranny so the second exchange was successful. I still have nostalgia for that car, it was delightful. I also like those engine compartment photos: the heater fan is almost as large as the engine.

    Like 3
    • duncan irving Member

      My folks bought two cars from that New Canaan dealership. A 96 and a Euro delivery 99. First year I think. I don’t remember the years but the cars were robust and the mechanic (Tony?) was very knowledgeable.

      Like 0
  15. Ed VT

    It’s a large windshield, rear window model 96, ’68 or newer. The interior rear view mirror is above the windshield, the ’67 had it on the dash.

    Like 0
    • Jonathan Dennis Jonathan Dennis Member

      The location of the mirror threw me off at first but it’s definitely an earlier smaller window body. Compare it to this photo of an actual ’68 which has the larger windshield and rear window.

      Like 1
  16. Sunshine

    Jonathan Dennis, insightful review with a keen eye for details. This is what we all want to read to gain knowledge.

    Like 1
  17. Donald Levesque

    I have a 1972 for sale photos available $12K

    Like 0
  18. t-bone BOB

    Located in Edgemont, CA

    Like 0
  19. michael cox

    The apparent VIN (493603) listed on one of the service documents says it’s a 1968. Although the second digit “9” is a little fuzzy and could be something else.

    Like 0

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