Rare Swedish Classic: 1966 Saab Monte Carlo 850

When the curtain was finally drawn and Saab collapsed in a sea of debt and company mismanagement, it marked the end of the line for a manufacturer that had produced some of the most interesting and quirky vehicles that the automotive industry had ever seen. Nowhere is this quirky nature better demonstrated than in the company’s Monte Carlo 850. With less than 1,000 examples being built, it rates as one of the rarer offerings from the company. This 1966 model is going to require a lot of work to return it to its best, so take a look and see if it’s a project that you would be willing to tackle. Located in Chillicothe, Illinois, you will find the Saab listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $1,225, and at that price, the reserve has been met.

Let’s not pull any punches here, because this is a car with some pretty serious rust issues. The extent of these is best demonstrated in this photo which shows just how rotted the front floors are. The Monte Carlo utilizes the standard 96 body, and this is one of the known trouble spots. Rust will generally develop from the firewall back to an area just below the seats. Repairing this actually isn’t that hard, because the way these sections were manufactured didn’t include a lot of compound curves, meaning that if replacement floor pans can’t be found, then they can be fabricated by hand. Of greater concern is whether rust has developed in other prone areas such as spring and shock mounts, both front and rear, along with areas inside the front wheel wells. All of these can be repaired, but it tends to be specialist work if it is going to be done properly. The panels themselves don’t look too bad, with little more than surface corrosion and a couple of very minor holes. All of the glass looks good, but some of the exterior chrome and trim may cause the next owner a bit of heartburn. The most obvious of these is the pair of chrome strips that run along the lower body area. These are unique to the Monte Carlo, and due to the relative rarity of the model, sourcing replacements for the damaged and missing pieces might be a bit difficult.

The damp conditions which have wreaked so much havoc on the Saab’s body haven’t spared the interior. It is complete but will require major work to return it to something resembling its former self. The dash isn’t missing anything, which is a bonus. The “big ticket” items are the factory radio and the tachometer, and both appear to be in reasonable condition. However, there is corrosion on the dash fascia that will need to be addressed. The dash pad is badly cracked, while all of the upholstered surfaces have worn and rotted beyond salvation. This might pose a few problems because there were a number of parts that were unique to the Monte Carlo. Baring this in mind, if the next owner is willing to look outside the US, then there are a few suppliers that may be able to help in this area.

Nothing better demonstrates the quirky nature of Saab products than the engine that was fitted to the Monte Carlo. What you got was a 3-cylinder 2-stroke engine with a capacity of 841cc. This little gem, fitted with triple carburetors, pumped out a relatively healthy 57hp, which found its way to the road via a 4-speed manual transmission. As you can see, the engine has been dismantled, and apparently, it has been like this for many years. It does appear as though everything is present. A bit of research revealed that the engine block has the correct number for a 1966 Monte Carlo, while the crankshaft appears to be the right one for a Monte Carlo 850 engine. One unique feature of the Monte Carlo/96 drivetrain was the “freewheel” function. This allowed the car to enter an automatic coasting mode on deceleration and on a trailing throttle on downward descents to help ensure that the 2-stroke engine was receiving the correct amount of lubricating oil. It is a feature that can tend to take people by surprise the first time they encounter it and means that with limited engine braking being provided, drivers are more reliant on the brakes than would normally be expected. It is also a feature that wasn’t really necessary on the Monte Carlo because unlike the 96 at that time, it featured automatic oil injection from a tank under the hood. Speaking of brakes, the Monte Carlo does come equipped with front discs, as opposed to the standard 96 drums. Due to the fact that this was a car designed for competition use, the wheels also received an upgrade. While a standard 96 received steel wheels held in place by five nuts, the Monte Carlo had stronger wheels and only utilized four nuts, but with thicker studs.

So, this Saab Monte Carlo 850 is going to require a lot of work, but the big question really is whether it will be worth the effort financially. Well, potentially it could be. Even though it is based on the 96, a Monte Carlo will command a premium of a healthy 50% over its brother. That means that today it is difficult to find one on the market for less than $20,000, while $30,000 or more is pretty common. Of course, that is when they actually do come onto the market because they are a rare vehicle. It would take a personal inspection to confirm just how solid the car is, but if there is little or no structural rust in the areas that we discussed earlier, then it is certainly a project with some potential.

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  1. RJ

    ..Maybe,a great parts,…car. $$$

  2. Wolfgang Gullich

    Let’s make one thing clear: it wasn’t SAAB’s fault they were mismanaged and in debt… That blame lies squarely with GM who used SAAB to gain access to higher technologies and just like Opel more recently, GM tossed them out with the garbage once they had gotten everything they wanted.

    Like 24
    • CJinSD

      So you don’t know that they would have been dead already had GM not kept them on as a zombie brand? The longer they’re gone, the better they were.

      Like 4
    • CCFisher

      Interesting viewpoint on SAAB and GM. I doubt GM purchased SAAB for “higher technologies.” At the time of GM’s initial 50% share of SAAB (1989), SAAB offered the 9000, shared with Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo, and the 900, which dated back to 1968(!).

      CJinSD is correct – SAAB was in trouble before GM got involved. GM almost immediately seemed to lose interest, at least until Ford bought Volvo in 1999. It can’t be a coincidence that GM took full control of SAAB a year later. Although they were ultimately unable (or perhaps unwilling to invest sufficiently) to save SAAB, they definitely prolonged SAAB’s life.

      Like 4
    • Royal

      Amen to that. I went to the national owners convention in 1990 and the people there were pissed off at GM’s involvement. To be fair, GM did solve a lot of electrical issues which plagued these cars. The 9-3 is supposedly one of the best collision worthy cars on the road. I recall a news report on NBC one night saying you could have a 3/4 front end collision at 40 Mph and you would walk away, in shock, but without major injury. You would have thought GM would have asorbed them into their Cadillac division as Caddy’s are shoddy next to Saab.

  3. JOHN Member

    I remember when I worked at a gas station in the late 60’s, and a customer pulled up in one for gas and handed me a small oil can… I wasn’t sure what they wanted, I asked if I may check the oil, and he said, no put it in the gas tank. I was a bit surprised, well dumbfounded actually, as I never dealt with a two-stroke engine before, let alone a car with a two-stroke engine!

    Like 6
  4. MARK

    Must not have an engine in it being the wooden furniture dollies supporting the car didn’t crack in half!

    Like 1
  5. jerry z

    Was the 850 the big block version of the 96?

    Like 3
  6. Howard A Member

    Clearly a treasure trove of parts for someone. I think the “Monte Carlo” to most, is just a name. Most would like one of these regardless. I’d like to have a Saab, but no ring-ding, sorry, and this would make a great parts car. Try and find a front fender( or whatever) for one of these. No,,ring,,,ding,,,fogging out your neighbors, and in Cal. probably get tarred and feathered for such atrocities.

    Like 2
  7. Tom

    Saab’s demise is much more complicated than mismanagement, or, should I say, management that got complicated. The excess capacity of every automaker – except for Honda and Toyota (and they felt the squeeze too) – especially the excess capacity of cars, when everyone was buying SUVs and still are, led to the demise of many brands far more iconic than Saab.
    Good for me though. I’ve driven the wheels off 2 of them, working on driving the wheels off a third, and my wife’s car – a 2006 9-3 Sport-Combi Aero – is perhaps the best car I’ve ever owned when the purchase price is factored in.
    Total investment for 4 Saabs since 2012 – less than $10K. And not 1 of them owes me a nickel.

    Like 2
  8. Brendan Timothy Gerrity

    Jerry Seinfeld drove a restored one in the Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episode where he met Fred Armiston in Portland Oregon. They were both enamored of the car.

  9. John T

    Saab’s have a history of being remarkably safe and well engineered. I owned one long ago and it was great fun to drive.

  10. Tort Member

    My Dad bought a used one was like this sometime back in the sixties. Nice little car that he drove back a forth to work. Eventually the motor needed work and I remember lifting the engine out of the car without the need of any kind of a hoist. Also remember that the motor also used needle bearings. Can’t recall if they were used throughout the entire motor.

  11. scottymac

    Thought those inline Solexes would be a neat addition to my Capri Cologne V-6, when I came across an 850 in the junkyard many years ago. But less than 1,000 made? No wonder I wasn’t able to find a similar setup for the right bank.

    Had to laugh when GiMiCk Motors marketed the Chevy Trailblazer as the Isuzu Ascender and the Saab 9-7X, ultimate examples of badge engineering. The Chevy, GMC, Buick, and Oldsmobile versions weren’t enough!

  12. nlpnt

    I can never unsee that rear fender cutline. It’s always there on every 92/3/5/6, always making me wonder why Saab thought the looks of a four-door without the convenience of actually having four doors was something people wanted.

    • chrlsful

      panel replacement (& manufacturing)?

      Like 1
  13. Royal

    Anything can be fixed. I have seen other Saabs and VW’s worse than this repaired. Depends on your skill set or bank account.

    1000 for the Monte Carlo which was their dressed up 96. Many more 96’s were made. Second year for the new nose which was done in 65 to pave the way for the V4 which they were planning on putting in.

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