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Survivor Swede! 1968 Saab 96

When was the last time that you spied a Saab 96 in this condition? (Actually, when was the last time you happened upon a Saab 96 in any condition – unless, of course, you own one). A pretty common sight at one time, the Model 96 (1960-1980) managed over 700K copies but they’re mostly consigned to memory now. And that’s one reason that this tidy find is a welcomed discovery. Located in Bend, Oregon, this super little sedan is available, here on Facebook Marketplace for $12,500.

The Saab 96 was essentially a one-trick pony as it was only produced as a compact two-door sedan. There was a station wagon variant but it was technically known as a Saab 95. Dimension-wise, the 96’s 98-inch wheelbase supported  2,000 lbs stretched over a 159-inch (13 feet 3 inch) length. – the visuals are very distinct – you know a Saab 96 when you see one. This example looks great, the seller states, “Original paint, no wrecks“. The cream/beige finish has surprising depth for a 56-year-old car. The listing claims a mileage of 999,999 which usually means “unknown” but the odometer reads 49K miles. I’d guess this car has been well-stored as there’s no sign of rust or age-related deterioration.

Many will remember the 96’s quirky three-cylinder, two-stroke engine, but our subject car is sporting a 73 HP, 1500 CC, V4 Ford-supplied powerplant. The seller claims, “Runs drives, starts, stops” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement but if that’s what it does, so be it. The front-wheel drive, four-speed manual transaxle has a “freewheeling” function which allows the engine to run at a slower speed than the transaxle – beneficial from an economy perspective in downhill cruising maneuvers.

The interior has a purposeful look about it and is actually more impressive than what I was expecting to find. The black vinyl upholstery, door cards, headliner, floor mats, and dash all present beautifully. The VDO gauges are all clear and very period-savvy and the instrument panel is so typical of the ’60s with what matters – a big centrally mounted ashtray and circular analog clock. Note the radio – it appears to be installed through the front of the glovebox door. I have seen this design applied to other marques from this era but question the purpose.

There you have it, this Saab 96 is one of the best that I have encountered. The seller states, again, “all original ” but I wonder about that claim – it just seems too nice, but that’s hardly a problem. Let’s talk price, at $12,500, what do you think, priced right or not quite?


  1. HoA Howard A Member

    Trying desperately to look beyond the dreamy price tag, much better car than the 3 cylinder. I actually DO know the difference, and here it is. My folks had friends,,,stop me if you heard this one,,in Mass. and they had Saabs. This was in the late 60s, lived in a rural area, they had a 3 cylinder, that was idled for some reason, and a newer 4 cylinder wagon to replace it. Me and my brother got the 3 cylinder running, and we drove it all over their huge yard, fogging all the bugs along the way. It may have been worn, but a more gutless, stinky, noisy contraption, I hadn’t relived until my introduction to Detroit diesels years later. The 4 cylinder wagon was an outstanding difference, power like a regular car, and smooth,, not driving around at 6 grand all day.
    Now, we all know, due to the obscurity of the car, interest will be limited, if 3 on the tree confuses some, imagine what FOUR might be like. And the “free-wheelin” ( Franklin) device is useless here, as meant to save the 2 strokes only. But the car itself, while before their demise they became the butt of all jokes, and rightly so, but these cars here, are what made the company, I’m sure. We in the US got a small taste of that to any lucky buyer. Not many new Saabs, and fewer yet, used ones.
    Today? Will someone recognize what a fantastic company Saab was for all its products, particularly aerospace, or just an old, odd shaped car that gets good gas mileage. When considering a Swedish car, Saab always lived in the shadow of Volvo. As time marches on, some may not even know what a Saab is and that’s a shame.

    Like 25
    • JGD


      I well remember what a 4 on the tree is like. my brother had a 1958 Goliath Hansa Kombi (3 door station wagon) with a watercooled 4 cyl. boxer engine, FWD and a 4 on the tree. Despite the awkward shift linkage, I much preferred it to the VW Beetles of that era. Cruising at 60 to 65 mph, the engine sounded like my mom’s Singer sewing machine without a trace of vibration or strain. That was probably within 5 or 10 mph of the car’s max. speed.

      Like 0
  2. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    A couple of comments…as a former owner of a 66 96, my first car, I can attest to how well made they were. Interiors were plebian but nicely done in cloth and vinyl that didn’t seem to wear much with use. The fit and finish were excellent. I used Saab oil and they came in cans that were like 3/4 of a litre (1 US quart is like 0.9 litres). When using Saab oil, the cars hardly smoked. People often used a full US quart and then there was a lot of smoke.

    Also, the freewheel system actually was a free coasting system, i.e., going downhill in freewheel allowed for no engine-braking and felt kind of dangerous in that you were reliant on their inadequate drum brakes for control. Let off the gas and the engine went into idle. I rarely used that feature as a result.

    Like 10
    • Nelson C

      Thank you for clarifying the free wheeling feature. That’s exactly the downside that comes to mind. Is it something that can be engaged/disengaged when descending a grade?

      Like 5
      • Phil Lawrence

        Yes. by a handle under the dash!

        Like 7
      • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

        Yes, Nelson, as Phil mentions below, there is a handle on the inside of the firewall just above the floor. However, it should only be turned when the car is standing still, i.e., not on the fly as you enter a downhill slope where it is most useful. The freewheel is useless going up, of course, and hardly useful on a flat surface, unless you’re using it in traffic to try and reduce fuel consumption…and trusting the brakes along with your reflexes.

        Like 4
      • Jerry

        Yes, there’s a handle under the dashboard to engage or disengage the freewheeling. Definitely want it disengaged. When you’re use to engine breaking to slow down and you enter an off ramp with freewheeling can give yourself a heart attack before you hit the brakes.

        Like 1
  3. Paul Jackson Member

    These cars won a lot of ice races here in central Maine during the 60’s and 70’s. My family had one for a few years, I really liked it plus only a few would try to drive it. Probably very safe from theft nowadays

    Like 4
  4. carmicheals

    This one’s a Deluxe model – more gauges including a tach. I owned a ’68 Deluxe about 30 years ago. It wasn’t as nice then as this one is now.

    Like 5
  5. BimmerDude Member

    The freewheeling feature had two goals: since the two-stroked engines were lubricated with oil-in-gas, going downhill with no loud pedal action meant no lube so you would not rev or over-rev the engine in that situation. It was also suggested that no suggen engine braking on the front wheels made it easier to drive in the snow and we did have some great moonlight-lights-off drives just after those ~2foot snowstorms.

    My 96 was a 1969 model. We found it at the local Chevy dealer in Northern NH. They gave us the keys for a test drive and we needed to RTFM to find reverse with 4 on-the-tree. It was mostly a great car, except for tranny bearings the become an obstruction. We were fortunate enough to find a senior tech at the New Britain dealer who rebuilt one trans so the next owner would be happy. I would search for a bearing kit before buying another one.

    Like 5
  6. William Miller

    I grew up with SAABs from the 1960’s! We has dozens of 93’s, a glacier blue 95, a white Monte Carlo 850, We could change an engine out in about 20 minutes!
    The green one on the Cars and Coffee show several years ago was rebuilt by my brother.
    My dads last car was a 1999 turbo 900, 5 speed. I used it when he passed.
    We all used to hang out in Wilmington, Delaware at Sports car Service. The place is like a museum now!
    I’d love to have a Sonnett or a Wagon!

    Like 5
  7. Frank Barrett Member

    Nice car, but the trunk lid doesn’t fit, and the panel below it has seen better days. What’s with the vertical stripes at the front of the doors? Tape to cover rust? Price is crazy. Three months from now, he’ll be amenable to a deal.

    Like 3
    • jwaltb

      Hood and trunk both look misaligned, bent, or open, door stripes are very strange.

      Like 2
  8. justpaul

    Two Sabb 96s in two days? You’re killing me, Smalls. Killing me!

    And it’s got the four-stroke. I could have a matching set. Or perhaps, as Mr. Wick might say, one for day and one for night.

    This one looks very clean compared to any I’ve seen on the east coast. I really must get out to Oregon someday to go car shopping. At $12,500, maybe I should go now.

    Like 0
  9. chrlsful

    really like the wagon, monticarlo, rally winner model. If I could have I’d set it up that way – buncha lights up frnt, the era roof rack (wood slats, spindly pipe frame)…
    Would also like to get my hands on the bent4. Never able to play w/one (ford, lancia, SAAB).
    We had free wheelers in this country, like the others (I just re-worked a Depression era plymouth). All used for gas mileage (flats mostly but down too).
    “…but question the purpose….”
    easier to replace a glovie ‘door’ than repair a ‘dash’…

    Like 1
  10. Jim L

    I had a ‘68 96 wagon. It had the V4 with 4 on the tree and it had the free wheeling feature. Quirky little wagon but very reliable and fun to drive. I needed rear shocks for it and had a devil of a time finding them. Even the local Saab dealer couldn’t find any. I ended up driving it for about 2 years and sold it to a Saab enthusiast for more than I paid for it.

    Like 0
  11. Beyfon

    1/ “Freewheel transmission option” – all Saab 96 has that (even early Saab 99!)
    2/ That’s a nice feature also on the 4-stroke cars as it allows you to shift gear without using the clutch.
    3/ Price is very optimistic!

    Like 0
  12. William R Hall

    A real SAAB STORY!

    Like 1
  13. RICK W

    A guy at my gym frequently interrupted workouts of several of us extolling the virtues of SAAB.Lots of bored eye rolls. Finally one day as he started, I put up my hand ✋ and said, WAIT! We’ve heard enough SAAB stories. That thankfully put an end to the SAAB stories. Personally I never saw the big deal about them

    Like 1
    • Clamhead64

      When Boeing starts producing automobiles you might be able to understand.

      Like 1
      • RICK W

        LOL, but when Pigs fly even will prefer a JUMBO 🐘 jet with huge wings! 🤣. Will only SOB about SAAB stories.🧙‍♀️ Fly! Fly! My monkeys!Get those little SAABS too!

        Like 0
  14. Doug

    Do you have more pictures you can send along driving videos?

    Like 0
  15. Pete in PA

    My dad bought a new one in 1963 as his commuter car. Robin egg blue. Very distinctive engine sounds as that three cylinder engine slowed to make the turn onto our rural driveway. It sounded like 3 Lawn Boy mowers running in unison. I remember the big fuel filler cap with a metal tongue depressor size tab reading “Add 1 quart SAE 30 oil for every 5 gallons of gas” or something like that. Something underneath broke and dad retired it when he bought a new 71 Duster. I still have the Saab owner’s manual. It is a HOOT to read it.

    Like 1

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