Stored Since ’94: $3,500 1974 Saab Sonnett III

For those of you who might think of Saab as a quirky little manufacturer of sedans, it’s important to remember that the company had a heritage quite different from any other manufacturer, save perhaps Bristol in the UK. Saab first and foremost was an aircraft manufacturer, and the Sonnett III was the last sports car the company built. This 1974 (the final production year for the Sonnett III) is located in West Valley City, Utah, and is listed for sale here on Facebook Marketplace for $3,500.

It’s surprising to me that Saab didn’t use their own aircraft in the promotional brochures, but I guess in the early 1970s a military aircraft may have been somewhat controversial. In any case, the Sonnett III ended up having a successful last year, with the production of 2,483 of the 8,351 taking place in 1974. The Sonnett III was logically based on the Sonnett II, with a freshened front and rear styling courtesy of Italian Sergio Coggiola. As with the Sonnett II, the body was fiberglass over a metal chassis. While the body doesn’t rust and is generally considered to be of good quality, the metal platform and chassis components are reportedly very prone to rust and should be examined closely.

That’s a practical opening frameless glass hatchback, and it’s good to see that spare “soccer ball” aluminum wheel back there as they can be hard to locate. We don’t know much about this particular Sonnett III other than that it has been stored since 1994 and that the seller was able to get it to fire up by pouring gas down the carburetor throat. That throat is attached to a German-sourced Ford V-4 (no, that’s not a typo) that is quite an unusual and pretty robust engine by all accounts. I’ve heard that the mechanical weak point of the Sonnett III is its transaxle, and after reading that it’s difficult to check the fluid level on and fill, I can guess why.

I’ve liked the interior of the Sonnett III ever since I saw a lime green one parked outside one of the NC State Engineering buildings in 1985. It’s extremely low-slung and smaller than you think. I never saw which teacher owned the car despite looking every day. Have you ever seen one of these Swedish fiberglass marvels in person? Intrigued? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. Christopher Gentry

    Never had one , but one of my favorite “odd” sports cars. And for that price I ALMOST could get away with. Afraid Utah is a little far from Tennessee

    Like 4
    • Mark keefer

      i had one 74 i really loved that car

    • Strommer

      I knew somebody that had an older rounder One probably a 72 . What was strange is that it had a four on the tree.

      • Paul

        I learned to drive stick in my brothers 68 Saab 95 with 4 on the tree

  2. Ralph

    My Dad had a new 1971 model bought out of St. Cloud, Mn. Think he paid a bit over 3K if memory serves. Moved to Colorado in 72, got 40 mpg at 70 mph on the trip out there. A great handling car, very comfortable seats, excellent power for the weight of the vehicle. Only troubles in 4 years was the wiper motor died at 6 months age from new, never could get/obtain another despite years of trying. Also the fiberglass was very fragile, the hood and front fenders were not designed to bear the weight of 10 year old kids walking across them.
    Been searching for one of my own to buy for decades now, very clean, exceptional condition examples are extremely hard to find anymore. I believe this is due to most of the production began life in salt road winter locales. Those who knew SAABS knew what a safe, great snow weather car these were. Better performance for a good bit less than a PORSCHE 914.

    Like 9
  3. Ralph

    Also came from the factory with a roll bar just behind the seats. SAAB also pioneered the safety windshield around 1960. It was designed to pop out upon impact by ones head in an accident. These were very simple, yet advanced cars for their time. My Dad could get well over 40 mpg drafting semi trucks at 70-75 mph before the 55 mph speed limit was instituted. The Sonnett also only came with one color interior, the tan color…

    Like 5
    • Ike Onick

      Not sure I would want to test that windshield “safety” feature.

      Like 2
  4. Scott W.

    Looked at one these several years ago near Greensboro, NC, and researched them some out of curiosity. Intriguing and very unique car.

    Like 4
  5. PeteL

    Always liked the Sonnett. At 6’2, I always wondered on the fit. This reminds me to find one closer and try it on for size. This looks decent if the potential rust on the frame is not bad.

    Like 1
    • Ralph

      Pete, don’t worry about the height at all. This will easily fit most folks up to about 6 foot 4 inches. The seats are rather narrow though, so the width of one’s rear can be a factor when it comes to a comfortable fit. Hope you are able to find one worthy of your money and attention.

      Like 4
  6. Ken Kittleson

    Had an orange ’71, tee-boned a ’68 Chevy wagon with it in ’76, picked up all the fiberglass chunks from the shattered front clip and bought it back from the insurance company as a total for $300. Did a real crappy job of jigsaw-puzzling the front end back together with fiberglass strips and bondo, put a pair of headlights in the grille where the driving lights used to be, and kept driving it until ’81, when I swapped it for a ’39 Pontiac coupe, which I still have. Was a fun car, but terrible in the snow.

    Like 4
  7. Rex Barrett

    We bought a used ’74 in 1979. It was always a blast to drive even in the snow! It was the only car in which my wife got speeding tickets. We drove it on 1500 mile trips without a second thought. With those slick lumbar adjusters on the seats, it was comfortable and held a surprising amount of cargo. The only problems we ever had related to the transmission. I’d be happy to own another one and slide it into the garage next to our 1990 SPG (bought new).

    Like 1
  8. Ralph

    Back in the old times SAAB was one of the European cars that brought radial tires into the US market. The old man was cheap and put on a pair of bias ply tires when the first set wore out. The car was almost undriveable on the snow. So wonder if that could be a factor in the poor snow driving comment…Because at age 14 I drove the Sonnett down the mountain to feed our horses one morning after a 2 foot snowstorm. The car drove great. Without snow tires. Remember seeing the snow almost up to the hood, and the effort it took to open the doors, these were cars with about 4.5 inches on ground clearance.Ran the thing all over the Colorado Rockies to ski, never a bit of trouble, ever. It just kept on digging through all sorts of snow conditions.
    One night the old man went down the canyon to Boulder for dinner. Coming around a corner he saw a Moose with no time or chance to avoid it. Hit the moose, aimed the car to pass between the front and rear legs of the beast. The moose survived the close call and ran into the woods…But the radio antennae on the rear quarter panel did not.
    Wish I lived there still, I would probably snatch this one up for sure.
    But in the hot Gulf Coast A/C is needed to survive. Bummer.
    This one shows the factory blue color under the paint at the drivers door. Same color as we had.
    We owned many SAABS but the Sonnett was our last, newest one. The old man swore by the safety, had been a cop and EMT. Worked hundreds of auto accidents, said that he never had to deal with a fatal accident when a SAAB was involved.

    Like 10
  9. GOM

    The Sonnetts were based on the 96/95 chassis and powertrain, and the 96’s we had were great in every way, and were unstoppable in snow (at least with radial tires.) I liked the tilt nose on the Sonnett II, but the III’s redesign was more stylish, but with much poorer engine access. All of these SAABs were superb vehicles, and the V4 was a gutsy little engine in the sedan and consequently must have been really peppy in the Sonnett. The sedans handled and cornered very well, so the Sonnetts must have been extraordinary handling cars. A very desirable vehicle in my opinion.

    Like 4
  10. CRW

    Wishing I had space & time for another. The fleet: 1977 99GL 4-sp 5-door, 1984 900T 5-sp 3-door, 1898 900T 5-sp CV, 1993 900S A/T 3-door.

    Like 1
  11. Tom Lange

    I also like the 356 and the Mustang! Nice shop…

    Like 1
  12. Timo

    I have a ’69, ’73 and ’74. Would love one more, but as I also have several 95, 96, 99 ect maybe I’ll forget this idea.

    Like 1
  13. Skip

    I had a 1969 yellow one. I had a lot of fun with it. It was front wheel drive and 4 on the tree. I had a quadasonic tape deck in it and the surround sound was intense. I loved front wheel cars in the snow. Pull into a parking lot,put it in reverse,pull up the emergency brake. Turn the wheel to one side and floor it.

    Like 1
  14. Nicholas Dibiccari

    Really cool looking car
    I would have never thought it was a Saab

  15. John L.

    I used to work in a shop that fixed a lot of SAAB’s the access to the engine compartment was to say the least hard. You opened the hatch and you could look down at the top of the motor but to do anything you had to lay on the front fenders and reach down. As usual with all SAAB’s they never took into consideration repairs to the car. Always making them very hard to service. Glad I am out of that shop!

    Like 2
  16. tompdx Member

    Walking home from class at Sonoma State U in 1981(‘ish), I saw an orange Sonnett driving towards me. I always liked these cars, and was admiring it as it approached. All of the sudden, the driver executed a perfect handbrake U-turn and headed the other way … impressive!

    Like 1
  17. Richard Kirschenbaum

    I saw one backed into by a van in front of the Florsheim Building on Canal street in Chicago around 1976. There was a sickening sound of multiple fractures. The van driver got out, gave the Saab a glance and took off. May he burn in hell.

    Like 4
  18. luckylugnut

    I’d love to have one as a sort of “mini me’ to my Bricklin.

    Like 4
  19. Curt Holmes

    Have several saabs, including a 74 Sonnet III…in green, a blast to drive and an amazing look.

  20. Pat L

    Had several with my dad, the rear window was hard to locates so dad had a company that would form them for him. I still have a brand new OEM Badge for the hood if anyone is interested! The automatic coasting feature was hard to get used to at first but they are great cars and fun to drive

    Like 1
  21. Eddie Shorer

    I’ve owned a ’71 Sonett that someone restored about fourteen years ago. I’ve had it about three years. I take it out a few times a week and it’s rare when I don’t get into a conversation about it. My favorite was the guy who stopped dead in his tracks and said, “I don’t know what to ask first!” It’s a fun drive, and I always feel like I’m going faster than I really am. Front-wheel drive, a 15 gallon gas tank, all kinds of fun quirks.

  22. Amorypaz Amorypaz

    I have the third to the last Sonett V4 produced. I have a 150 bhp Taunus engine in it and I’m resisting putting a 310 bhp supercharged hand-built V4 racing engine in it.

    It’s gonna kill me right?

    I would of course be replacing the stock roll cage along with the stock everything else. Sacrilege

    Like 1
  23. martinsane

    Potential buyers take note, the car was never licensed in Utah as it wears Washington State plates.

    Flipper or just drug the car along during a 4 State move???

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