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Orange You Pretty! 1972 Saab Sonett lll

left rear

This Saab listed on craigslist sounds very promising, although the $8,900 price seems a bit steep. They are somewhat rare, as only about 8k were built in its four year run from 1970 to 1974. This one was a one owner Saab that was stored for 20 years. It was started occasionally and driven around the block. This didn’t stop all the damage caused by storage, of course, but it must have helped some. There are very few pictures of the car, so one can only hope it’s as nice as the pictures show. Perhaps a picture of the front was not included because the snout with it’s safety bumper is not very attractive to many. The current owner (flipper?) has changed all the fluids and done a tune up so it is ready to go.


From what you can see in the picture it appears the engine compartment is unmolested. That’s a 1700 CC Ford V4 with 65 HP. Could the white underside of the hood indicate the hood or perhaps the car was repainted? This orange color appears to be a stock color though.

right rear

The left side looks as nice as the right but leaves one wondering what the rest of the car looks like. The interior, for example could be nice or it could be a mess. Hagerty shows the average resale of these is $5,700. Could this one be nice enough to be worth the premium price? There have been a few sold this year for around $10,000, so someone seems to be willing to pay more for a nice one. Even though these are rare, the market is limited. On the other hand, Saab fans can be passionate about their devotion to Saab. Comments about this car should be very interesting.


  1. jim s

    i wonder what the white car in the background is? if the seller wants that kind of money they need to work harder on the listing. if it is all there this is a nice find.

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  2. The Chucker

    Growing up in rural Iowa, there was a SAAB dealer a mere 30 miles from my childhood home. It was in a town about the size of a postage stamp with a bar, a church, about 5 homes, and the SAAB dealer. My oldest sister was a SAAB lover, and I recall going there in the late-70’s/early 80’s and seeing these (a few years old at the time) and other cool SAAB offerings brand new. To this day, you can drive through the area and still see SAABs parked along the streets of little, rural towns.

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    • z1rider

      My work takes me to rural parts of Iowa. What town was that SAAB dealer in?

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      • The Chucker

        Meyer, Iowa. Possibly listed in McIntire, Iowa…northeast part of the state in Mitchell county, I think. I believe the garage is still in operation.

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    • Scotty G Staff

      Iowa knows its Saabs! http://www.meyersaab.com/

      And, don’t forget one of the most famous Saab shops in the US – Tom Donney Motors in Ft. Dodge: http://www.tomdonneymotors.com/

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    • Marty

      Would that have been the Meyer Garage?

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    • Marty

      Yes the Meyer Garage is still open! We are an authorized service center for Saab yet. Anyone in the Midwest NEEDS to stop at Fort Dodge Transmission/Tom Donney Motors. We were just there this weekend and his collection of vintage Saabs is unbelievable!

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  3. angliagt

    The White car appears to be another Sonett – look at the door handle.
    Why don’t these people ever keep these cool finds for themselves?I just
    hope he didn’t lie to the seller about how he’d never sell it………

    Chucker – When we drove through Iowa in ’79,I almost never saw an
    import car in the Midwest,except in the bigger cities.

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  4. Dan h

    Call that a hood? More like an access panel….for the air filters, maybe.
    Cool car but that tiny engine bay gives me anxiety.

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  5. angliagt

    It’s a V4 English Ford unit,used in the Corsair.
    The story I got,was they used the Sonett as a test bed
    for the engine,& it worked so well,they adapted it.

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    • Roger Owen

      Not sure about the Sonnet being a mobile test rig for the Ford Cologne (Taunus) V4 engine, I think it’s use in the Saab 96 and 95 (to replace the 3 cylinder 2 stroke engine), predates the Sonnet. More possibly when the ‘teardrop’ Saab models became replaced by the 99 with the Triumph slant 4 engine, a stack of V4 lumps were left over and some bright spark came up with the idea of the Sonnet – but that’s just my fervent imagination!

      There’s a list of vehicle that used the V4 here;

      Funny enough the Ford Corsair is not mentioned! And, I definitely remember them being used in that model.

      I like the Sonnet – But I expect someone will find it as ugly and ill conceived as the Lotus Europa.

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      • z1rider

        From Wikipedia:
        “Initially the V4 engine was designed by Ford for a new entry compact car intended for the US market to be called the Ford “Cardinal” which eventually evolved into the Taunus 12m P4. Ford abandoned the “Cardinal” project and sought other uses for the V4 engine which was initially tested in the Saab 96. Ford bought several SAAB 96’s for testing and eventually sold the cars back to SAAB with the V4 engines in them. SAAB tested the V4 SAABs at their Trollhattan Sweden test track which stimulated SAAB to acquire the V4 engine for their model 95, 96, and model 97 (Sonett) cars starting in mid-year 1967 production.”

        I suspect the motivation for Ford to choose SAABs was as much for the front wheel drive as for evaluating the new V-4 engine, as they were planning on starting production of their own FWD car designs. In fact, the original Mustang mid-engine prototypes (aka Mustang 1) used the FWD powertrain from the Taunus/Corsair moved to the middle.

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      • Bruce

        The V-4, a Ford product, came out in the Saab in 1968. As I remember, there were three horsepower configurations differed by valve size, camshaft and carburetion. Saab used the lower hp engine.
        The Sonnett originally came out with the 3 cyl. two stroke engine.

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  6. Francisco

    Listen, Mr. Craig’s List Saab Flipper. 80k miles is not “…super low.” Not by any standard. This example of hyperbole is becoming boring in auto ads lately. Don’t you agree Barn Finds?

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    • PaulG

      Francisco, It’s likely that the seller is referring to 80K over 44 years, which is less than 2K per year. So, this would be low miles for a ’72…BUT, it was parked for twenty, so the number goes to 3400 miles driven per year…

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  7. Howard A Member

    I had a friend with a couple of these. Cool cars, but horribly underpowered, and the “free-wheeling” device took some getting used to. Still better than the “ring-ding” motor, but it’s odd styling threw a lot of people off. Not many around today, and this seems like a good deal.

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  8. Bill

    Decent price for a rare car. Problem is that it’s so slow, dogs will pee on the wheels even when you get into third gear.

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  9. Roger Owen

    Thanks Bruce, I had no idea about the Sonnet 1. Beautiful looking car!

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  10. Ken

    I owned a ’71 Orange Sonett III in the mid-70’s, coincidentally in Iowa, with the local dealer in Mason City IA. First thing I did was lock out the freewheeling to get some longevity out of the brakes. It was underpowered but handled like a go-kart. As I recall, the V-4 was half of a Ford 289 V-8′ or was that a Swedish myth? Good memories!

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    • z1rider

      Definitely not half of a 289.

      That would amount to 144 cubic inches or around 2.3 litres, or almost 45% more than the largest (1.6L) version. Also, the v-4 was a 60 degree V, the 289 was, like nearly all v-8’s a 90 degree.

      No the V-4 was 2/3’s of the Cologne V-6, both of which were made on the same line at the Cologne engine plant.

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  11. D. King

    I loved the freewheeling in my Sonett II. I only locked it out in snow. I generally averaged about 36 mpg, driven spiritedly, and that was without any kind of pollution devices. (That year’s pollution requirements were satisfied by the freewheeling.)

    And I would guess that it used to be white. My Sonett II came from the factory in white, and the dealer painted it Ford Fairlane gold for the first owner! After one too many people pulled out in front of me, I decided that I would have it repainted if anything ever happened to it. And shortly after that, I did suffer a rear-ender that pushed me into the car in front. Not much damage, but it did require some fiberglass work and a full paint job. After a long time considering my options, I picked a burnt orange very much like this one–looked great!

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  12. Jubjub

    A friend’s dad had one of these up until recently up around Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I always expressed some interest in it but they’d never take pictures of it as I was concerned about its condition having been “covered up” outside long term as well as being a Pa. car. There were some sentimental strings too. Probably ended up being flipped if any good or parted out.

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    • Keith

      Was the one in PA you are referring to green? If so, it’s been for sale on CL off and on for the last couple of months…….

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  13. DLM

    This looks like the original color to me, as I had the same car, orange 72 Sonett, in the 70’s. They were indeed white on the inside of the hood, and the entire car was coated with a white gelcoat type of product over the fiberglass and under the paint. Looks clean under the hood and yes, a real pain to work in the small opening to the engine compartment. But gone from Craigslist, so maybe sold.

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  14. Chris A.

    Tom and Patti Donney Saab of Ford Dodge IA are the current record holders in their class at Bonneville. Slow? No, their 2 cycle Saab Sonnett II turned 121.2 to set the record. Free wheeling takes some getting used to and is not needed on the V4’s as it is on the 2 cycle engines for lubrication. Neat car.

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  15. Tom Hall

    I really need to get to Iowa….Fort Dodge for Saabs and Knoxville for sprint cars.

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