Ran When Started? 1974 Saab Sonett III

Styling is always subjective. There can be agreement at either end of the spectrum, as in a knock-out look, or something that is so ugly it would make a freight train take a dirt road – but there’s a huge in-between where the appearance debate resides. Enter the Saab Sonett…before passing judgment, let’s take a quick look at this supposed barn find example. Located in Toms River, New Jersey is this 1974 Sonett Model III and it’s available here on eBay for a BIN price of $5,500. There is a make an offer option too.

Saab Automotive was one of those manufacturers that always went their own way – you knew one when you spied it. Quirky? Sure, but that was part of their charm. Unfortunately, their ownership by one-time overlord GM, and their ignominious 2009 bankruptcy, pretty well flushed Saab’s auto business down the drain. They got passed around and ended up under a Chinese consortium with a plan for electrification and that has essentially gone nowhere. One of Saab’s more notable models was the Sonett which saw three iterations, with the final one (1970-1974) identified as Sonett III. Total Sonett III output was low with only about 8,300 examples finding homes over its five-year span.

The seller advises that the 65 net HP, 1700 CC V4 engine “is not running at the moment, the motor is free and was in running condition last time we started“. Well yes, it would be in running condition when it was started; perhaps the seller means the last time he attempted to start it. The mileage is recorded as 59K miles but no claim is made to its authenticity. Assuming that the odometer has probably been once around, the engine may need major servicing. A four-speed manual transaxle gets all that horsepower to the front wheels.

The seller mentions that this Sonett was originally orange but it’s now finished in a screaming yellow zonker hue (though the door jambs are still orange). The body is actually in pretty fair shape – there is some peeling paint but no obvious signs of corrosion or crash damage. The black trim is typically faded but the exterior appears to be completely intact with the exception of a missing front left side marker light. A close look at the exterior would leave one to believe that this Saab has spent an extensive amount of time under a tree.

And looking at the interior, which could use a good raking, further lends credence to the tree theory. The seating upholstery shows pretty well but the passenger side door panel has problems, perhaps a downed window that let in rain and leaves? The instrument panel is weathered and has indications of bird poop scattered about – that’s a first for me and I’ve seen thousands of stored outside cars. I would describe the interior’s condition as gross.

Now for the elephant in the room, and that’s the styling. I would define a Sonett as goofy and awkward-looking but that’s just a subjective opinion. So, how about a show of hands regarding exterior styling, for or against?


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  1. Bob Lays

    If this was a 2021 car I would agree that it looks a little funky but it seemed pretty sharp to me in the early 70’s! It’s too bad they came with basically a European Ford tractor engine!

    Like 4
  2. Rodney - GSM

    It has always looked to me like the younger, less attractive sister of the 280Z that you ended up taking to the dance anyway.

    Like 3
  3. Mark

    In 1974 I was 14. We had an Air Force couple that attended our church. He had a yellow SAAB like this. I got to ride in it one weekend.

    Like 2
  4. Alan Brase

    Autocross kings.

    Like 1
  5. c

    Most car run “whenever” they were last started….LOL

  6. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I’d believe the mileage claim. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over the number of Sonetts I’ve seen with 100k+ miles…mostly because, well if you’ve been in one you’d understand. These are not “long haul” vehicles if you value comfort (think Europa for size and comfort). The condition of the seats bears this out as well

    Would probably be easy to sort out the non-run on it and as long as there’s no real rust, no fiberglass stretch and no broken glass, making an offer on it wouldn’t be a bad investment because it does look pretty complete. And they are a blast to drive.

    Like 2
  7. luckylugnut

    After communicating with the seller, I am of the firm opinion this particular example is not for the feint of heart nor a neophyte.
    They advised that it “needs new floors and probably more”.
    You have been warned.

    Like 2
    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Rust is the killer on it. If the floors have rot guarantee other key areas of the car do as well. As an investment you’d end up underwater even if you got it for 2k

  8. Steve RM

    Besides being real ugly, it’s a Saab. What’s to like.

    Like 1
  9. Margaret A. Soucie

    I would worry about the floor. Especially at the firewall. Early Saabs were noted for the floor/firewall “bend.” Sonnets are interesting, probably because there were not too many made. But a fibre glass body married to a metal floor. Eh.

    Like 1
  10. Bruce

    It’s all about the floor pan rust with these things. Buyer beware. If the floor is shot, save your money.

  11. BB

    I had a 67′ when I was younger.Great car although at 6 feet I had to bolt the seat to the floor for headroom. really fun driver.

  12. Bob

    I owned a 1973 Sonnet III It was actually very fun to drive. The down side was fuel filter location between body and radiator support. Got into a very low speed collision fuel filter ruptured and car burst into flames.

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