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Sweet Swede: 1973 Saab Sonett III

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 1

If you’re as Scandinavian, as I am, you probably like old Saabs. Or, maybe you’re not Scandinavian but you’re as wacky as I am, if that’s even possible. In either case, this 1973 Saab Sonett III that I ran across here on eBay is located in Ft. Worth, Texas; perhaps the last place on earth that I would expect to find a Saab, especially an old, yellow one. The current bid is under $1,500 for this partially-restored car.

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 2

You probably know by now that this car is the third generation of the Sonett, Saab’s attempt at a two-seater sports-type car. It was conceived by Björn Karlström, a gentleman with a slightly Scandinavian-sounding name, and another gentleman who was an engineer at MIT, and in 1966 the Sonett II was born. The Sonett I had been a prototype and apparently only six were made, of which two still exist in the US.

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 4

After using the company’s tried-and-true, but now-outdated 2-stroke 3-cylinder engine in the early Sonett IIs, the Ford V4 that had recently been introduced to the 95 and 96 series cars was fitted to the Sonett and that’s what you’ll find here, in all of its 65 glorious horsepower. Doesn’t that seem like a small hood opening? It is, you’ll have to remove the entire front clip to do any major work on this engine.

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 5

And, this is what it looks like once you remove the front section. You’ll have more than enough room to tinker around under there after lifting off the fiberglass front section. Luckily, this engine has already been rebuilt and the seller’s shop has added “a new clutch master, new brake master, rebuilt carburetor, new hoses and a few other things.” But, as it always seems, it still needs some work. The battery tray is rusty and you can see that the whole underhood area could use some freshening up. That big, red hose catches my eye more than it should, that isn’t a stock item and neither is the ubiquitous ribbed radiator hose. It’s said to run well and that’ll give you more time for the interior.

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 6

It looks pretty complete inside of this fiberglass beauty, right down to the adjustable lumbar “pillows”. The Sonett III had a floor shifter instead of the usual column-mounted one which gave it more appeal in the US. Although, a small, yellow, fiberglass car with front-wheel-drive from Sweden only had so much appeal. These are another love-or-hate-it car, and you can probably guess which side I’m on in that debate. They made a little over 8,300 Sonett IIIs in total. The Vintage Saab website has a wealth of information and in the forum there you’ll find fellow enthusiasts who can most likely answer your toughest question and can probably even find you spare parts.

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 7

It looks like this interior could be cleaned up, for the most part. Maybe new door panels would be in order, but other than that it looks pretty good in there. Some of these cars were equipped with dealer-installed AC but there’s no mention of that here and I don’t see the components either under the hood or inside. That’s got to be a rare to find one of those.

030916 Barn Finds - 1973 Saab Sonett 8

Unfortunately, what isn’t super rare to find on these cars is rust in the floor pans and/or rear compartment. You’ll have some cutting and welding to do here for sure, but hopefully this is the worst of it and then you’ll be on to the cosmetic tweaks. This really looks like a great project car, one that has already had a lot of work done to it. This would fit in nicely in our garage and I think that this is one sweet Swede. What do you think?


  1. Avatar photo rogerowen

    Never really understood why these lovely little cars go so cheaply. There’s probably more of them available in the US, Can’t remember ever seeing one here in the UK. The Cologne V4 power unit is a lovely torquey engine and the floor mounted gearchange is an improvement over the column shift of the 96. I’m guessing that they are FWD??

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    • Avatar photo Eric Dashman

      Definitely FWD. I love these cars. I almost bought one a year ago in Burlington, NC for $1500, but there was just too much rust to handle. It went to a father and son project down in Wilmington, NC. On this one, I’d want to see more under the car since the one pan they show is pretty terrible. It’d be good to see under the rugs. While metal is available for these cars, it’s a job to remediate. They handled really well, sort of like Bug-eye Sprites….flat as a pancake on turns. That V4 is a sweet engine. I’m no engineer, but I wonder why that configuration hasn’t been more popular.

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  2. Avatar photo Howard

    I’ve got one and I’m in the UK, Roger. I was liucky enough to buy one with no rust whatsoever and is mainly original. They are indeed FWD, and are great fun to drive.

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  3. Avatar photo ron tyrrell

    I have had a fair amount of experience repairing these cars and probably the weak link was the transmission. You would be very lucky to get fifty thousand mile out of a gear and when it broke there was no repairing it because there no parts. The used trans of what few there were dried up in the early eighties so to the back lot and there they would remain hoping for a donor. Most of the time a donor never appeared so they were sold for junk. The motors were very reliable and could be used for a variety things like portable saw mills or installed in air cooled VWs. One other interesting thing the pedals set to the center so you drove in with your feet off to your right side

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  4. Avatar photo pat k

    Friend of mine came home from Nam and bought one of these with the shifter on the tree. He let me drive it. I didn’t know it was a 4 spd, I put the shifter in what I thought was reverse as I got ready to back out of the driveway. Car lurched forward, luckily, I hadn’t given it much gas, so I didn’t hit my Dad’s new Impala.

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  5. Avatar photo D. King

    I loved my Sonett! I had a ’69 Sonett II (the ugly one). Lots of fun, and I found it easy to work on. And yes, I worked on it myself–Hubby took pictures of the time I changed the muffler, but they didn’t turn out. That was back in the days when you took your film to the drugstore, and by the time the pics came back, I’d cleaned up!

    Too bad there’s so much rust.

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  6. Avatar photo rogerowen

    Good to know there’s at least one on the road in the UK. Even the 96 saloons seem few and far between. I had a 96 in the late 80’s and loved that car to bits, great fun to drive. Followed that with a 95 (the estate version that looked like a car designed by 2 people who never met – according to a friend!) Did a clutch re-new on that one, very tight squeeze getting the lump out and back in!

    Will keep my eye out for your Sonnet – I live very near to the National Motor Museum, I guess they might have one there.

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  7. Avatar photo Jim Simspson

    I have a new old stock trunk floor if anyone is in need…

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  8. Avatar photo PAW

    I fail to see the “partially restored” elements of the car

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    • Avatar photo Jim Simspson

      I think they painted the valve covers !:-) which on that engine should be black and not Ford Blue…

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo AAMIII

    That “big read hose” is the filler hose for the radiator. The radiator cap is on the hollow brace going crosswise across the car.

    Like 0

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