Swedish Survivor: 1972 Saab 96 Coupe

If you’re looking for a small, quirky European coupe with some serious engineering behind it, look no further than this 1972 Saab 96. Located in sunny Miami, this Swedish classic is listed here on eBay for $7,200, or best offer.

This example was one of the last of this model sold in the United States; 1973 would be the very last year for the 96 here, though the model would continue in Europe until 1980. Unlike a lot of imports, in this case we actually got a somewhat better product on this side of the Atlantic, equipped with a Ford V4 that made an honest 62 horses in 1972. True, that’s not a lot of power, but this car weighs in at just a ton. That gives a power-to-weight ratio comparable to a Volkswagen of the same vintage, which means that highway driving is still on the table. The power reaches the wheels via a four-speed column-shift gearbox, with synchro on every gear.

When it debuted in 1960, the 96 used Saab’s own three-cylinder, two-stroke engine. Using a two-stroke engine made for some interesting engineering challenges. Chief among these was the tendency of the engine to overheat at high RPMs when the throttle was closed: without a steady supply of fuel-oil mixture, the engine wasn’t getting enough lubrication. To address this problem, Saab engineers came up with an ingenious fix. Their solution was to arrange for the transmission to run faster than the input shaft, allowing the engine to idle when coasting. This freewheel clutch was retained when the switch was made to the four-stroke V4. Although there is a t-handle that allows the driver to select whether to use this feature, when the freewheel clutch is allowed to operate normally letting off the accelerator isn’t going to slow you down like it would in a car with a more conventional setup. Which can be exciting if you don’t know about it in advance.

Judging from the pictures, the exterior of this car is very presentable, if not show quality. The Tyrol Green paint is worn in a few places, but I don’t know that I’d really consider a repaint. The interior is, honestly, stunning, and shows none of the sort of more modern materials that might indicate a recent touch-up. There is a thick undercoating underneath the car, making rust there difficult to evaluate, but, even with the disclosed issues with first gear, the car seems to be a really nice survivor. When you want something small, fun, and economical– and when a Volkswagen is too common and a Mini is too recognizable– a Saab 96 might just fit the bill.



WANTED 1969 Ford Mustang Wanted 1969 Big block mustang, any condition considered Contact

WANTED 1967 Chevrolet C20 4×4 I need a rust-free or easily restored cab for a ’67 small rear window C20 4×4. Contact

WANTED 1966 Buick Riviera GS Ready to buy now!….. 66, Riviera GS. Jerry: 303 663 3963 Contact

WANTED 1968 Dodge charger looking for a 1968 440 R T charger half way decent looking. dont have to be a R T Contact

WANTED 1960-1980 International Scout Looking for solid running driving Scout 800, Scout 2 or Scout Traveler. Contact

Submit Your Want Ad


  1. Luki

    Coupe? Nope.

    Like 1
    • nlpnt

      Was considered and marketed as a 2-door sedan.

      Weirdly, because of the way the unibody with separate rear fenders were resolved, there’s a shutline right where a 4-door’s rear door shut would be even though there was never a 4-door model. The wagon has that plus an extra pillar in the same area. Four-door style without four-door convenience!

  2. Terrry

    There’s a reason V4’s never were popular in cars. Vibration and roughness is the reason. The larger they get, the vibration increases exponentially. Hence, the motor in this Saab is tiny and correspondingly weak.

    Like 1
  3. Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. I had a neighbour when I was a boy who had one like this. At the time, I didn’t find the car the least bit attractive. At the time, I found the Volvo 122S (Amazon) and 144 more attractive.

    Like 1
  4. Guggie 13

    I had several of these back in the day, neat ,quirkey little cars ,never had much problem with them that I couldnt fix , had a lot of fun driving them . this one seems nice , hope it finds a good home

    Like 2
  5. BimmerDude Member

    I had a 1969 model, bought it used in northern New Hampshire. The window-shade air block in front of the radiator was missing but the size of the heater relative to the engine (see the photo) took care of those negative temp. days. It was superior to the VW’s of the day: a little larger interior with better power, would cruise all day on I84.
    I didn’t know that there were chronic tranny bearing issues and mine started to get “tight” during that highway cruise. I found a used tranny for a swap and it was about the easiest change: 3 point attachment between the drivetrain and the body, lifted it out with my come-along under a tree. The same symptoms started to show up so I took my original trans to the Saab dealer in New Canaan: they had a legacy mechanic who rebuilt it with new bearings, then all was well. This 2-trans problem and this one “popping out of first” suggests no one should drive this home if more than 1/2 hour.

    Now, in the SanFran Bay Area, there are still a few shops that work on those vintage Saabs and Volvos so, not many 96s and 95s but lots of 900s and older Volvos too.

  6. Car Nut Tacoma

    The problem I see is that there’s no link to the ad for this car. There’s usually a link to the website where the car is being advertised, in this case, it’d be eBay, or eBay Motors. Although it shows eBay as the site the car is advertised, there’s no link we can click on to get at the ad. What’s the story?

    Like 2
    • Andy Parrish Andy Parrish Staff

      My apologies, an oversight on my part. It should be corrected now.

      Like 1
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        Thank you. :)

  7. chrlsful

    wanna V4 to play with, the waggy in this model. Great car for daily!

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.