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Quirky Driver: 1971 SAAB 96


Since Saab went under, it seems that the market for old 96s has waned. Maybe it is just our imagination though because this well-used one is seeing a lot of action on eBay. That could be because it is the only one on there right now, or because it is claimed to be a good running driver. Whatever the reason, we like these old Scandinavians for their unique engineering and quirky looks. We know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but do yourself a favor and read up a little about why owner’s loved these things.


  1. jim

    if i were buying a saab i do newest but pre GM,with low miles. something like this on ebay

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    • Horse Radish

      I loved the Saab 900 when we owned one.
      The bad part was that the gears popped out (I think 3rd and 4th?) and a ‘new’ (to us) replacement tranny would have been ridiculously expensive.
      So that and a head gasket gave our 100k (low)mileage car it’s death sentence.
      My brother donated it, which pretty much comes out the same as selling it for a couple hundred dollars… l

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    • Horse Radish

      TRUE SAAB Story:
      My brother had to go on a grocery run in busy Holiwood.
      So he walked down the block (parking was scarce) at nighttime and got in the car. After unlocking the car and driving half a block, he thought the car strange, smelled and felt unusual.
      After he studies the interior some (hard to do at night) he determines something was wrong.
      So he drives around the block to park in the same spot only to end up passing OUR car along the way, parked in a spot just a few car lengths behind of where he started out !
      Our key had actually unlocked and started somebody else’s Saab with near identical color paint !
      I guess a good indicator of Saab anti-theft safety was the fact that the (ignition)key (down by the center Emergency brake) could be removed while driving…..

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      • Horse Radish

        *Hollywood (duh)

        *he thought the car felt strange and smelled unusual. (duh, again)

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  2. Charles Gould

    These are fabulous cars, both to drive and to look at, and they can be driven very fast and aggressive. They have been extremely successful in rally racing. Lots of torque, front wheel drive, four speed column shifter, and that wonderful freewheeeling device!

    Just research Erik “On the Roof” Carllson, who raced the three cylinder, two stroke models successfully for many years. He got his name because he often rolled these car on the roof by being too aggressive. He would simply jump out, and push the car back onto its wheels and finish the race, often winning despite the rollover delay!

    Check out these Saab rally videos.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMFvn0lSKvM (Notice the “four on the tree” column shifter!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXVRdSbKDT8 (The two strokes sound great. Play it loud!)

    Sure, the earlier three cylinder, two stroke engined cars are much faster and more fun, but the relatively tame Ford V4 is also a great little engine, and with the freewheeling device, these cars are a blast to drive.

    You don’t have to use the clutch for upshifts or for downshifts, and there is no engine braking as the freewheeler places a centrifugal type clutch behind the regular clutch to allow the transmission speed to override the engine speed. There is a little “T” shaped handle to disable the freewheeler if you prefer to drive it like a conventional standard transmission car.

    The freewheeler devices was necessary on the early two stroke cars because as they descended the mountains in Sweden and Europe, the gravity and engine braking would overrev the engines while the throttle was closed or at idle. As a two stroke engine gets its lubrication from the oil mixed into the fuel (Petroil), the engines would seize from insufficient lubrication.

    When Saab changed over to the little industrial Ford V4 four stroke engine in 1967, they left the freewheeling device intact, basically to avoid the cost of redesigning the transmission, but it was later touted as an economy feature, and it does work quite well at saving fuel as you can cruise for miles on deceleration. The little V4 is an incredibly tiny engine because of the “V” design with only two cylinders on each bank.

    I have five of these cars, three two stroke triples, and two V4’s, and I love driving them as much as almost any other car which I have driven. This example at the current price of $1,400 is a real bargain, and should not be overlooked.

    Check out my 1962 Three cylinder, two stroke barn Find Saab story here:

    Let me know if youy want to read chapters 2 & 3, and I will post them here.
    and the first start videos here:


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    • Jesse Mortensen

      Thanks for all the info Chas. It is comments like yours that make this site interesting.

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  3. Charles Gould

    @ Jim,
    Respectfully, I disagree. the early Model 93, and model 96 cars are the best vintage Saabs, and the newer model 99 cars are far less interesting, much less fun to drive and quite problematic to maintain, with issues relating to the steering racks, cooling problems, automatic transmission faults and rust issues, and much, much more.
    The early Model 96 cars are absolutley bulletproof, and a blast to drive hard, and so simple to maintain, and parts are readily available and cheap.
    There is almost nothing as much fun to drive as an early Model 96 Saab, and certainly Model 99 or later 900 doesn’t even come close.

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  4. DLM

    Saabs are great, this one looks decent as prices go today. Actually they seem to be going up for Sonetts and 93/96’s. I grew up on them as my Dad bought a 93 new in 1960, learned to drive on that in the NH snow. He was going to buy new another in 1966 but managed to convince him to get a used 1964 GT850. Absolutely beautiful, white w/red interior, Recaro seats, wood wheel, Blaupunkt radio etc. Later had V4s. The 93 had 38 hp if I remember, and the 850GT had about 65hp. So the V4s weren’t slower as mentioned earlier, and the GT850 tended to self-destruct. Two engine rebuilds in 4 years. But all had that great Saab very direct steering. Later I bought my own V4s and then some 99s new and otherwise, the best being a 1978 99 turbo, bought it wrecked in 1979 and built it. They were heavier than the 93/96s but still felt like Saabs to me. Sad to see the company end. My daughter drives a 2008 Aero Combi and my son a 2007 9/3. Still unique. If you like them, save this one.

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  5. paul

    I had an 89 900 it was a great car, the engine was shared with another car I owned, the Triumph TR7, but turned around backwards, for it’s size & 4 drs it handled quite well on the twisty roads. What ever fabric they used on the seats they where indistructible because even with 130,000 miles there was 0 wear & the car was tight as a can be with no rattles.

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  6. Horse Radish

    My Saab 96 story:
    We had a couple of these show up in a local Pick-a-part simultaneously !
    Rust free as on day one from the factory but obviously been sitting some years in the California desert.
    Too bad my resources at the time did not allow me to even save parts of them……
    though I really wanted to.
    I think they are unusual and neat cars.

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  7. Carl W French

    I can confirm that this car is on the road as I believe I saw it only two days ago driving through a town not more than 15 or so miles from the listed town.

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  8. Chris

    My brother in law had tow or three 96 series two strokes and they were great to drive. The interior felt more like a small plane. So much better a car than the mid 60’s VW sedan. I tried to talk Dad into buying one, but he couldn’t get over the “add oil” feature. My BIL bought a GT 850 that was just a super car. Quiet, quick enough and much better brakes and handling than the earlier cars. The Recaro seats, big enough for Erik Carllson’s rear end, together with a really nice interior made a nice sports sedan ahead of its time. Reclined too. As I recall, the 850 came with Pirelli tires as original equipment. The V4 was such a disappointment after the 850.

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