One-Family-Owned: 1974 Saab Sonett III

The Sonett III was the final iteration of Saab’s fiberglass sports car, and traces its roots back to the six Sonett I roadsters constructed between 1955 and 1957. Officially known as the 94, the original Sonett got its name when designer Sixten Sason first laid his eyes on it and exclaimed,“Så nätt den är!” (So neat it is!). This name stuck when the Saab sports car, now designated as the 97, was reintroduced as the Sonett II in 1966. The Sonett III arrived in 1970 with a body redesigned by Sergio Coggiola, and 8,531 were produced through 1974, with more than 90 percent being exported to the United States. This 1974 Saab Sonett III listed here on eBay in Voorhees, New Jersey is a genuinely nice example from the final year of production.

Claimed to be a one-family-owned car, this Sonett III has been repainted in its original Emerald Green and appears to be in excellent condition. 1973 and 1974 Sonetts are immediately identifiable by their prominent impact resistant bumpers, which were narrowed versions of those found on the Saab 99, and the ones here are in nice condition. They look a bit awkward but do a good job of protecting the fiberglass which does not have any noticeable flaws on this car. A pair of driving lights sit behind the front grille and there are pop-up headlights activated by a pull handle on the dash, but the seller says he cannot get them to open due to possible operator error. The frameless glass hatch opens but will need new gas struts.

The Sonett chassis is essentially a shortened version of the 96 sedan on which it is based. The undercarriage of this one is solid, which is important because Saabs of this era are particularly rust-prone. From underneath, the floorboards and rocker panels appear to be in great condition, with no rust through or bubbling at the seams, only some areas with paint coming off which should be top coated. A common place where these Sonetts rust is on the right front corner of the trunk where the battery is mounted, but this trunk floor looks fine from below. There is a shot of the front suspension which shows new ball joints, tie rod ends, and KYB shocks. The “soccer ball” wheels wear 155R15 Vredestein Sprints which are a great tire choice for these old Saabs; one blue center cap is missing but reproductions are available.

Underneath the small hood sits a 1.7-liter Ford V4 producing 65 horsepower, which was the same engine used in the Saab 95 wagon and 96 sedan that exited the US market after 1973. The seller says the clutch may need to be adjusted and that the transmission sometimes pops out of gear. The latter could be a concern as the four-speed transaxle used in these V4-engined Saabs is a known weak point, though it could be as simple as the convoluted shift linkage needing some adjustment. At just under 40,000 miles, it is hard to imagine there are any transmission issues, but a buyer would still want to ask about any groaning noises that may indicate a loosening pinion nut. No mention is made of the freewheel mechanism which, when engaged, allows these cars to coast when the driver lets off the gas.

The interior is in nice condition with the only flaws being a worn spot in the rug and a droopy headliner. The seats with corduroy inserts and lumbar support pillows are in excellent condition. A leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob help lend a sporty feel, and there is a three-gauge cluster with a tachometer set into a black crinkle finish dashboard.

The values of old Saabs have started to rise in recent years and Hagerty places a #2 Excellent 1974 Sonett III at $11,000. The seller is asking twice that with a $21,995 Buy-It-Now price but there is a Best Offer option as well, so hopefully they will consider letting it go for a more realistic sum. Could you see yourself behind the wheel of this weird Swedish front-wheel-drive sports car?


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  1. Bullethead

    I don’t begrudge the guy flipping this, but a few important items don’t work properly due to “operator error”? I suggest he fix them and not be so greedy with the BIN number. Try $12,500.

    Interior is nice except the seats which look correct and original, but I’ve never seen such a contrast in materials. Odd, and a shame because it spoils an otherwise attractive presentation.

    Like 4
  2. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    Why are so many Sonnets coming out of the wood work lately?

    Besides Dereks, Vice Grip Garage, car, there have been 2 on this site.

    Like 4
  3. Beyfon

    I can’t help trying to de-bunk the common misunderstanding that Nätt means neat. If the story about the name is true it would rather have meant “so lithe” – which indeed was fitting for the first Sonett.

    Like 1
  4. Ralph

    Nice old SAAB.
    But asking way too much money, which is a shame. Don’t know what is a fair price, but with the various mechanical issues it just seems too high.
    We bought a 71 model of this car new, think it was just a bit over 3K (new) but that was 1971 money.
    The rear bumper is not aligned correctly, looks like was backed into something on the right side.
    This would be a cool restoration project, but I think 10K is a fair offer here.
    Lots of work to be done.

    Like 2
  5. chrlsful

    love these. Like to have a monti carlo waggy (model96) and this (actually the I). Imagine wrkin ona bent4 !(became the bent6 essixx so this motor went frm ’66 to ’00). I’d love to tune, may B hop up. Lotsa fun in my world. Just not rich 8^ (
    Ex had the 900. By then subie was “the” AWD co and SAAB “the” trubo co. Around the viggen (GM days) they puta subie in the 900 !

  6. Geoff

    Looks pretty nice but for that kind of coin everything should work well. Can’t open the headlights? The car pops out of gear? I wonder if the seller doesn’t realize that it has a freewheeling mechanism and thinks something is wrong with it…

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