Svelte Swede: 1973 Saab Sonett III

Those of us who are into quirky vehicles lost a standard-bearer when Saab pulled the plug a few years ago. They could be counted on to have unusual yet functional and sometimes quite capable cars. One car that has all three of those attributes is this 1973 Saab Sonett III. This svelte Swede is listed here on craigslist in beautiful Mountain View, California. The seller is asking $6,800. Thanks to Roger for sending in this tip!

As is too often the case with online listings, especially craigslist, the photos aren’t the best. There is not one single photo showing the entire car and 3/5 of them were in a vertical/portrait format so that’s why some of them look the way they do, we had to convert them to a horizontal format. I promised to not complain about seller’s photos, or lack thereof, in 2019 so it’s more of a teachable moment. But, from what is shown in little snippets and close-up photos, this car looks great.

A big feature of the Sonett III was an actual, usable rear hatchback with an operable glass window to load it from outside. That doesn’t sound like a big deal because we expect it now but it wasn’t always the case with the Sonett. You may have noticed that the front bumpers/bumperettes/knobs aren’t shown but it’s hard to not notice the ones on the rear. The seller has this car listed for $1,200 over Hagerty’s #3 good value. Hagerty lists #2 excellent condition car as being worth $10,300 so if the next owner can tackle the rust and other repairs themselves that would be nice. It wouldn’t take much to bring $6,800 to $10,300 if a person just brought it into a shop and said, “Fix it.”

Speaking of good, the interior looks good if not bordering on great but the seller says that it needs some rust repair. There’s no mention of what it consists of so you may be stripping out the interior – I’m assuming that the floors and rear storage compartment floor are a good place to start looking for rust. The body is fiberglass and they say that it’s in great shape and it sure looks like it’s in nice shape. The engine should be Ford’s 1.7L V4 with 65 hp and they say that it’s a “nice driver” but there are no photos of it. They mention that it needs to have the wiper motor repaired so the whole front clip will have to come off for that. Have any of you owned a Sonett III?

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  1. Winnipegcarnut Member

    Whole front clip off to repair wiper motor?!?

  2. PDXBryan

    Yes Scotty,
    My first real car (besides a Bugeye basket case). This was in Alaska and my car had been used by the previous owner as an ice-racer so had been “rode hard n put away wet”. The gel-coat was a mess from being slammed into snow-banks at -40F and it was way over carbureted. Nevertheless, it was incredibly fun to drive! As a young driver in a sports car, I did get into trouble that, invariably, the car’s handling got me out of. Unfortunately, I lost 1-2 gears (not uncommon) and it took me a while to get it fixed. By the time I sold it it had an original carb back on it (much better driveability), big bubble flares from the team that won the 1983 SCCA championship, a tilt-up front clip, and a slick high performance exhaust system. I ended up selling it to Satch Carlson (of Autoweek fame) who turned it into his fairly famous Pig of Plastique” rally car. I actually got to see it again recently for the first time in 35 years!

  3. Al

    Du måste älska thoses svenska människor.

    On the most part, their cars are fantastic and this is no exception.
    Bra skrivning Scotty ! (Great write-up Scotty !)

  4. Ken Kittleson

    Owned an orange ’71 Sonett from ’75-81, fun to drive, fwd was a novelty at that time, no ground clearance made it tough to drive in the snow. I turned off the freewheeling feature to use engine braking. Interesting side note is the sourced German Ford V4 was actually half of a Ford 289 V8!

  5. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    For some reason the low miles on this scares me. That and the wiper repair.

  6. Bob_s

    Ken Kittleson,
    Why do you say that it is 1/2 of a 289?

    The 289 V8 is 90 degree V and the V4 is a 60 degree V. Half the displacement of a 289 is 144.5 CID, 260CID was 130 cid the V4 is 104 CID (1.7l). The V4 was available in the following displacement 1.2L, 1.3L, 1.5L & 1.7L. The V4 engine was originally designed in Dearborn for the Cardinal program (also designed in Dearborn) that became the Taunus 12M in Germany. The Cardinal was supposed to be built in the USA to, but Iacocca killed it for the USA and took the money to fund the Mustang program.
    Now the 2.6L & 2.8L V6 that was available in the Pinto/Mustang/Ranger/Capri etc. was the Cologne V4 with 2 more cylinders added on to it.

  7. Bob

    No pictures or description of the rust, so how do you know what you are getting into. A #3 car shouldn’t need rust repair! Thats a #4 at best. These car can be rotted out under neath and look brand new on top due to the fiberglass body.

    #3 Good: Presentable inside and out with some signs of wear. Not detailed but very clean. Body should be straight and solid with no apparent rust and absolutely no rust-through anywhere. Shiny, attractive paint but may have evidence of minor fading or checking or other imperfections. Runs and drives well. May need some minor mechanical or cosmetic work but is fully usable and enjoyable as is.

    #4 Fair: runs and drives OK but needs work throughout the vehicle. Body shows signs of wear or previous restoration work. Any rust should be minimal and not in any structural areas. Cosmetics, body, and mechanics all need work to some degree.

    #5 Poor: In need of complete restoration, but is complete and not a rust bucket beyond repair. May or may not run. Not roadworthy.

    Parts or Salvage: Incomplete vehicle most useful for parts. Generally, take 50-60% of the #5 value

    Rating scale from Collector Car Market Review, Hagerty’s rating description is too vague.

  8. Barry

    I bought a on net for my son while he was in high school in the 70’s.
    He drove it to high school and college. In the middle of the night a
    Drunk hit it and it was totaled. I bought it back. From the insurance
    Company and rebuilt it. I drove it for about 7 years and then sold it
    To a guy. Over the years he had it he broke the engine and parked
    It in a detached garage. His house and part of the garage burned.
    The car had smoke damage and ibought it from him and restored
    It back to as close as possible to new condition,runs and drives
    Great. Over the years I have owned 5 Saab 96’s from 1963 model
    To 1974. All were good cars.

  9. mainlymuscle

    Anyone want a red 74 ?
    Any self respecting dude who calls himself “mainlymuscle” can not have something with less horsepower than his lawn mower.I thought my daughters would dig the mini 308 vibe.”No thanks Daddy,we are Jeep girls”,and off the little darlings go in their Wranglers .

  10. Bruce

    IF there every was a car that was in serious need of a Turbo or Supercharger it is this one. It is in that fun but slow category and it deservers more. I have worked on the structural rust that these suffer and while it is critical that it be fixed properly getting the body off while time consuming and is best done with three other friends it is not that difficult. The design is very straight forward and in it’s own way simple. Get about 80 to 120 horse power into one of these and then you would have something special indeed.

    • Jim jones

      The V4 is good for about 120hp

  11. PDXBryan

    Yes, these V4s can actually be modded to get good power but it’s the handling that really makes these great!

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