Project Or Parts? 1974 Saab Sonett III

Some of us have put too much money into the wrong cars. We haven’t started with the best example that we could find and we ended up being way over our heads in restoration costs. I’m wondering whether this 1974 Saab Sonett III is a project car or just a parts car at this point. This blue Swede can be found here on eBay in the capital city of Kansas: Topeka. There is an unmet opening bid price of $750.

My M.O. is to find a car, usually online, after reading that it’s “rust-free” and “just needs a little work”, and then when it shows up on a trailer my heart sinks and my secret car fund (shhhhhhhh…) winces and I end up blowing money on something that I should have kept in the cyber world. The first two or three photos of this Sonett III make it look like a fairly easy restoration project, but then again…

The Sonett III was available for the 1970-1974 model years and just under 8,400 of them were made. That should make them fairly popular and collectible today but, being Saabs, it’s often a different type of collector who buys these cars. They have a distinctive shape and the cool, hidden headlights are joined by even cooler somewhat hidden additional lights behind the grille. The mandated huge rear bumpers were added in 1973 so many buyers look for 1970-1972 cars or modify the bumpers on newer Sonett IIIs.

The interior looks like it has been a Welcome Wagon for generations of Kansas mouse families, but maybe it’s just generations of plant life. The seller says that the floorboards have rust and they’re known for having rust in the compartment under the hatchback. They mention that there is no title for this car so be prepared to do some work on that, too.

There are no engine photos but they show all four wheels. The wheels do look great and if this ends up being a parts car they’ll help to pay off the seller’s bid price if they part it out once they check out the rust and mechanical situation. The engine should be a Ford Taunus-sourced 1.7L V4 with 65 hp and there’s no mention of it at all so I would assume that it needs everything, which is usually the case from my experience. What are your thoughts on this Sonett III? Can it be saved without breaking the bank or is it a parts car?


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  1. r s

    Parked on dirt.
    The underside is likely destroyed.

    Like 10
  2. Rx-7 TurboII

    Why do people cover up their license plate when they take pictures of their cars for sale? I just don’t get it!? You drive your car everyday on the road, where everybody can see your license plate, and you think that once you try to sell it you should cover up your license plate so someone doesn’t hunt you down in the middle of the night based off your license plate that you had on your car everyday, on the road, in Plain view! LOL


    Like 37
    • That AMC Guy

      It’s very simple – driving your car everyday doesn’t expose you to every potential nutcase on the internet.

      Like 9
      • Rx-7 TurboII

        AMC guy, yes , just every nutcase on the road instead, which is worse?

        Like 5
    • James

      To prevent number plate fraud. Those looking at creating a fraudulent plate search online for a similar vehicle to replicate – making it harder to detect on the road. Car sales websites here in Australia have software to do it for you when you upload the pics.

      Like 4
    • CanuckCarGuy

      Too many bad deeds have sprouted from a seed found on the internet…thieves and fraudsters especially, use whatever they can find on-line to take advantage of others. Why risk giving a criminal the resources they need, to take advantage of yourself or someone else?

      Like 2
      • grant

        Because it’s required, by statute to be on public display at all times anyway. Try driving without it and see what happens. If someone wants your plate number, how many people can see it right now?

        Like 2
    • Dovi65

      @ RX-7, I’m just as confused by this as you. What information can an average citizen glean from a license plate/tag? No matter if the car is parked on your property, or plying the highways of the world, it’s still exposed to ever ‘nutcase’ out there with access to the internet. If you’re so inclined, I guess you could hack into the DMV database to obtain the owner’s name/address. Seems like a lot of work/risk.

      Like 3
      • Tesla209

        Give me a tag number on a car, my wife will have a car fax, history of the car and owners data in no time. Could affect purchasing approach

        Like 1
  3. sir mike

    Why no title??? You have a lic plate on it…something not correct.

    Like 3
    • grant

      Well, the plates are bolted to the car. Pretty hard to lose them. The title likely got shuffled around in moves and is in the back of a forgotten drawer at this point. Titles get lost all the time. Nothing nefarious about it.

      Like 1
      • Juan

        @grant Then the seller should apply for a new title. It is usually very cheap. and probably will result in a higher price for the car.

      • Kevin

        A reason not to get a replacement title in Kansas is that the dude would have to pay back taxes and penalties. They recently changed the tax structure so we are paying more taxes on untagged title-only antiques than tagged antiques!

  4. Wayne

    Yes, the metal parts underneath need to be viewed to determine terminal damage. But I always thought that these had wood floorboards. Am I wrong?

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars

      Nothing wood about it. You must be thinking of the Citroen CV or MGA. Don’t believe any car still had wood as part of its make up by 1974. I think the most valuable metal thing in the photos is the ring being worn by the photographer.

      Like 2
  5. Rex Kahrs Member

    This ad reminds me of Saab story. A guy called me up to ask if I would be interested in two old Saabs, so I went over there to see what he had. He was about 85 years old, and was pretty vague.

    When I got there, we hiked behind the barn, and he pointed to what appeared to be two haystacks. Evidently the cars had been there so long, they were just mowed around, and now they looked like haystacks. I dug into the brush/grass, only to find two Saab 9000s, which I had no interest in , much less resurrecting out of two haystacks.

    A few months later the 85-year-old guy’s face come on the the news, he had shot his son dead on Christmas day. Evidently the two weren’t close, as the old guy had shot the son once before about 20 years earlier after he was beating up on his Dad back then. Weird story.

    Like 3
  6. Howard A Member

    Ok, lot’s about everything BUT the car itself, including Rex’s story, sheesh. I drove truck for guy that had 2 of these. The “parts” one, I believe was a 2 stroke, and the “good” one, a V4. I never did get to ride in it, but I sat in it, and seemed pretty cool. Like the Opel GT, too far out there for most, and that’s a shame, because they really were good cars. People didn’t want them then and with $750 bucks and no bids, not much has changed

    Like 3
  7. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Nice work on the hatchback hinges.

  8. Ian Evans

    I was working in a SAAB dealership in the 70’s. Always thought it might be fun to transplant the Capri V6 into one of these. Not sure, don’t recall if they had retained the freewheeling feature by the time this was released.

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      I am not an expert on these by any stretch. But I thought the freewheeling was on the older two-stroke models. Was it also on those with the V4 engine?

      Like 1
      • Porkchopzz4

        It was on my 1973. The plastic thing was broken so it would freewheel whenever the heck it wanted to. I really hated mine.

  9. Porkchopzz4

    I had one of these as my first car in 1989. The rockers are the entire support (there is no frame) and they fill with water and rot out. Also, because it’s front wheel drive, it’s not worth the work to do a performance swap. No one should want this.. but someone will buy it.
    In other news, people who think their license plate, which is on public display all day long, is somehow “private” once they put their thumb over it in a photo, are a very special and specific type of person – emphasis on special.

    Like 2
  10. JoeNYWF64

    I would think that a v4 would be superior to a strait 4, but i guess not, since no modern car has one.
    Odd the side window behind the driver opens, but the BIG [phony] vent window up front does not.
    Those seats are incredibly thin – wonder how comfortable they are.
    Racing mirrors from Ford possibly – mounted a little too far forward IMO.

    Like 1
  11. JagManBill

    wow… that license plate sticker is a 94 expiration. Probably no title because they lost it and the state purged the data after so many years so can’t get a duplicate. Colorado purges after 10 years.


    En Europa ese coche por 750.- es un regalo. Con documentacion o sin ella .
    El cuadro y las llantas ya valen ese dinero.
    Hay que ver si tiene el motor y ver detalles de interiores.

    Like 1
  13. Little_Cars

    Roughly translated:

    In Europe that car for $750 is a gift — with or without documentation.

    The frame and tires are already worth that money.

    You have to see if you have an engine and see the interior details.

    Like 1
    • Porkchopzz4

      There is no frame…

  14. Little_Cars

    Hello Tesla209. Do much scavenging of vintage cars in 2019? This isn’t some Honda sedan from the 1990s. It’s a friggin’ Saab sitting in the grass on someone’s property. Doubtful if not downright implausible that anything would pull up on a Carfax! They probably would be looking for a standardized VIN anyway, but someone on BF will chime in and tell us how far back Carfax goes. Now if your wife works for the DMV, she might have some luck with the metal tag on this car but only if she works in the state where it’s located. I’ve purchased cars with metal tags still attached and taken them to locate the last known owner. If you are real lucky, that person will attest to your rightful ownership and go with you to stand in line at the DMV. Or, hand you a notarized bill of sale stating same.

    Like 1
  15. JagManBill

    In 2014 I bought a 71 GT6 from a guy on a bill of sale. Per the guy, he knew of at least 4 previous owners, all transferred on a similar BoS. Well, buried in all the stuff in the back was a 1986 license plate from Idaho. After about 6 months, on a whim I contacted the Idaho DMV. With a bit of digging, the DMV in Idaho said there was still an active title on the car. The lady there gave me the contact info (last known address) and I sent a Certified letter to the gentleman.
    About a week later I got a phone call from him. He couldn’t believe “his” old car was still out there. I gave him a link to the photos I had of the car on my Flickr account. He was amazed and yes it looked like his old car. So I sent him $20 and about 2 weeks later I got a signed duplicate title from him…and $10 in change.
    Sometimes it does happen folks.

    Like 4
  16. chtlsful

    nice car! buncha different models in the short run (5 yrs?).

    mechanic here in E. MA finds’n restores ’em, Got some great stories on the uTube…

  17. Little_Cars

    On the really sketchy Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace vehicles with dubious claims to ownership, I wonder how many of these sellers would want you to contact them years later with the “after” pictures? Most might want the car off their property and out of their…uhmmm…clearing throat….”possession.”

  18. JFM

    A comment on the original question. It is almost always more expensive to buy a “fixer-upper” than to buy a restored vehicle, especially for a Saab Sonett (I own one). Recently on bringatrailerDOTcom there was a Sonett III and it sold for $10,250. The car was about two hours away from me so I contacted the owner and saw and drove the car. It was in perfect shape and everything you would want updated was updated. It drove perfectly. NOTHING WRONG with it. Bidding started slowly. I had a bid at about $6K and then it jumped in the last half hour to $10K and the $10,250 and was sold. It was a great deal. When you buy a rusted Sonett that isn’t running, you can easily spend $3,500 – $6,000 and up on painting and repairing the exterior. Fixing rust – at a minimum can cost you $1,500 (with very little rust) to a whole lot more. Engine work? Electrical work? Buying parts? Before you know it your inexpensive purchase has cost you $15,000 or even a lot more. Sure if you can weld and you do engine work and you can do interior leather/vinyl/cloth work on seats (which are always in bad condition on sonetts), well then perhaps you will only spend another $5,000 but I don’t think so. AND how long will it take you to get your cheap fix-it car to be drivable? And can you register it if you don’t have the proper paperwork for the car sitting in the field? I love working on my Sonett and after three years I am very very close to having it on the road (it does run well now).

    Like 2
  19. Todd

    From the looks of the lower body I see no rust or corosion so it’s best to jack it up to look for frame rot. In Kansas if the previous owner was the titled owner you can get a lost title affidavid and then do a walk through and get the title the same day however the must sign as registered owner and titled owner in front of a notery public. If you cant do that you can do a title search and send 3 registered letters, keep the returned ones then go file for lost title but in the letters sate it is on your property and put a daily amout for storage. The title place in Topeka should still be on the west side of the capitol bulding across the street.

  20. Derek

    Sold for $760.

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