Swedish 4 Stroke: 1971 Saab 96

Saab has always been known for quirky, out-of-the-ordinary cars and this 1971 96 is no exception! Located here on craigslist in Santa Barbara, California, this rust-free example of a unique Saab can be had for an asking price of $5,000. As a past owner of 2 Saabs, I can appreciate the Scandinavian car maker’s ability to create a fun car! Saab has a history of making cars a bit “outside the box,” which is probably one of the reasons their cars have such a following! In fact, for much of Saab’s history, they manufactured cars with 2 stroke engines. Imagine your car essentially being powered by a large leaf blower engine!

This 96 is actually the first time that Saab ventured into making a four-stroke engine – produced from 1960 through 1980, the V4 engine was introduced in 1967. While the seller doesn’t show any pictures of the engine here, it is likely the 1700cc version making approximately 73 horsepower, coupled with the 4-speed column-mounted manual transmission. There’s not a lot of power, but these Saabs handled well and are light, which means this one would still be fun to drive. In the early 1960s, Saab had a lot of success in rally racing with the 96, so that tells you it’s not just about the horsepower! The seller claims it hasn’t run in 2 years, but all it should need is a battery, fuel pump, and a fluid flush to be returned to its use as a daily driver.

The body on this car looks to be clean and damage-free. Painted 9 years ago in its original Tyrol Green, I think the car presents well overall, thanks in part to being parked in what appears to be a carport. The chrome looks good as well (except for a couple dings on the back bumper), and even the trunk doesn’t show any major rust issues.

While the exterior looks pretty good, the interior has me questioning the seller’s claim of having only 35,300 original miles. The rear seats look clean and untorn, the dash looks dirty but complete with only a couple of places of minor peeling over the glove box, but the door panels, carpet, and front seats have obviously had a rough life. Fortunately, aftermarket parts for this Saab are easily found, so it shouldn’t take too much effort to get the interior quality to a place where you’d want to spend your time. If you’re ready to go to a car show and have no other cars like yours there, this Saab is the car for you!


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  1. Jim

    Did they cut a hole in the glovebox to put in an aftermarket stereo????

    Like 1
    • Jamie Gershowitz

      Looks like the glovebox was cut for the radio, but that’s actually factory. If there was no radio, you would be seeing a blanking plate. These guys built aircraft first and designed the earlier cars with more or less a blank slate. Sure looks like an afterthought, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’ve owned a few.

      Like 7
  2. Derek

    I always liked the aeroplane mudflaps.

    Like 3
  3. T

    Test drove once……fun to drive.

  4. Rosseaux

    This was one of our 2 family cars from ’72 – ’78 except ours was in Olive (pea soup) Green. I remember the manual shifter on the column and the cool pop-out rear windows. I recently saw one parked on my street and couldn’t believe how tiny it was–we really took family road trips in that little box without any major tantrums?

    Like 11
    • Matinlassi Ismo

      Is this still for sale?

  5. Timrod

    My grandfather had a few of these in the 70’s and early 80’s. He worked as a core make in a foundry and used to load them up with 5 gallon buckets of core sand and bring them home from work for fill. Everyday when he came home I would help him unload. Great memories. I’d love to drive one.

    Like 2
  6. Rex Kahrs Member

    Too many exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! None of it is particularly surprising, just saying.

    Like 2
    • Gerard Frederick

      Hey Rex, exclamation points are usually overused. In the written german language one frequently finds guys who use one or a dozen after every sentence. A bit annoying, but a minor complaint nevertheless. As far as the Saab goes, my favorite is the 3-cylinder 2-stroke Sonnet.

      Like 3
  7. JMB#7

    Show more cars like this. Unique, and in very good shape. Sure would be nice to see some engine photos.

    Like 2
  8. Ignatius J. Reilly

    Agreed, those rough front seats would seem to belie the 35K original miles claim, not helped by the t-shirt seat covers.

    Like 3
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      And the driver’s seat belt is pretty darn frayed for only 35K miles….

  9. Jim Liberty

    I had a 93B in 1959. A wonderful car we drove for 10 tears. …..Jim.

  10. GOM

    And, by the way, the engine was a German Ford V4, sourced because it fit the engine compartment well and could be made to pass emissions laws. The two stroke would never have “cleaned up” sufficiently. It was a wonderful little engine which could be purchased from Ford as an industrial engine. They found their way into forklifts, pumps, welders, generators, and other construction/farm equipment.

    Like 7
    • JMB#7

      There is a good Wikipedia entry regarding this engine. “The Ford Taunus V4 engine is a 60° V4 piston engine with one balance shaft, introduced by Ford Motor Company in Germany in 1962. The German V4 was built in the Cologne plant”. (production 1962-1981)

      Like 2
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      Many of the Ford V-6 motors from that era will bolt right up.

      A friend had an ice-racer with a 2600 in it… 4-speed column shift.

      I got to run it at one event. (“Hey, do you want to…” Yaasssss!)


  11. Gerard Frederick

    True story, the little Ford was outstanding. Didn´t british Marcos initially use one? Does anyone know?

    Like 1
    • Bruce

      The Marcos used the V-6 engine from that same plant. I have driven one and while not that powerful by todays standards pushed that very light car to speeds that were impressive even by todays standards.

      Like 2
      • Christopher Boles

        The Sonnet was scary fast around a corner and made a great ice racer.

        Like 1
  12. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I had a neighbour when I was a boy who owned a Saab (Sob) 96. I cannot remember what year his car was, but I remember the car looking like this car.

  13. Christopher Boles

    I am the person listing the car for the family. The father has dementia and can not answer any of our questions.

    We initially thought that Craigslist was the place where it would sell, and I didn’t take as many photos as I could have. However the number of inquiries changed that to where we are going to list it on BringATrailer. There everyone that is interested can have a go at it.

    There isn’t any paperwork that comes with the car so we don’t know the true mileage. The odo could be 135K and not just 35K. The delivery on the car was in Denmark, driven around while the father was doing some teaching at a university. Then the car was shipped back to California where it has resided.

    It has never been wrecked, and I can not find any rust in the paint. I put some gas in the carb and it fired right up. Removing the gas line and cranking it confirmed the fuel pump wasn’t working. It has all the tools in the trunk. The trunk lid support is gone. The tires are 5 years old and hardly look worn.

    Put some interior work into it, get it running reliably and go drive the heck out of it. One of my favorite comments I saw was it is better to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow. :)

    Like 4
    • Chad C Member

      Have you listed it on BaT yet?

  14. Gbar

    Drove my buddy’s on the ice in MA about 1970… I’d love to buy this…age and savings acct say no.😰

  15. Paul

    learned stick on a Saab 96 4 on the tree.

    Like 2
  16. Bernie Chaziquasidence

    I bought a new’67 two-stroke. Most fun car I’ve ever owned. Absolute blast to drive in the snow. Broke my heart when I had to sell. My new wife could not/would not learn to drive a stick. So we sold that little gem and kept her ’61 Falcon, a car which nickle-dimed us to death. I probably should have used that transaction as grounds for divorce.

  17. Gerard Frederick

    True story! Back in 1964 I drove a 1959 TR3-A, loved those wheels. My new wife hated it. In order to keep the peace I sold it, biggest mistake – 6 months later we were divorced.

    Like 1

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