Swedish Sportscar: 1974 Saab Sonett III – Sold?

by | Apr 2021 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Malaise Monday

June 6, 2021 Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

For those enthusiasts who think the term “Good Looking Saab” is an oxymoron, we remind you that the quirky Swedish car manufacturer made the incredibly slippery and good-looking V4-powered, front-wheel-drive, fiberglass-bodied Sonett in three forms from 1966 through 1974.  Featured here is a final-year Series III example originally listed on Craigslist in April 2021  in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Reported to be one family owned with only 39,233 original miles, the current caretaker is asking $16,995.   A check of the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has their Sonett III priced above the #1 “Concours” appraisal of $15,300. As a second data point, the Collector Car Market Review confirms the current caretaker has their Sonett III priced three hundred dollars above this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $16,000. Based on the seller’s description, this is at best a very good condition example in need of several things requiring sorting, so we hope there is some flexibility in the pricing to reflect that.

The Hagerty Insurance Valuation Guide provides a nice synopsis of the very slippery Saab Sonett:

“In the mid-1950s, Roll Mellde designed a Sonett sports car for Saab. The odd name had nothing to do with Shakespeare; the Swedish “Sa natt den ar” reportedly loosely translates to “How cool is that?” Sixten Sason worked on the aluminum sub-frame and floor, and six fiberglass-bodied roadsters were built in 1956 and 1957.

U.S. dealers clamored for more, but racing rule changes canceled the project. It was revived in 1967 as the effective Sonett II coupe, with a tilt-nose and an 841-cc, three-cylinder, two-stroke engine. That motor was dropped in order to pass U.S. emissions after just 258 cars were built, and a German-built 1500-cc Ford V4 was substituted. The cars were quite competitive in the U.S., but dealers felt the car would sell even better if it had a facelift.

In 1970, Sergio Coggiola designed the Sonett III, extending the fiberglass body by five inches and streamlining it. He had to use the original floor pan, so Gunnar Sjogren adapted the design to fit. Much better looking, the Sonett III traded advantages and disadvantages with the Sonett II. On the plus side, the rear window now opened up as a hatch. On the minus side, the II’s tilt nose was replaced by a small trap door for engine access, requiring the entire nose to be removed for any major work to be completed.

Over four years, just over 8,000 Sonett IIIs were built. The engine was bumped to 1700 cc in 1971, but emissions regulations kept power at about the same 65 hp. The cars were quite slippery, though, with a low 0.31 cd, and 103 mph was possible with 0-60 mph coming in about 12 seconds. The cars came in some wild colors – lime green, golf yellow, orange, and purple, and the “soccer ball” alloy wheels are handsome. Pop-up headlights were mechanically operated, and a rollbar was incorporated in the design. Black bumpers were fitted for the 1973 and 1974 model years, but do not detract from the overall appearance.

It is estimated that half of Sonett III production survives today, although rust in the floorplan is an issue to be mindful of. As a fiberglass car, electrical grounds can be problematic and wiper motors are impossible to replace without removing the nose. The principal single issue though, revolves around the gearbox’s freewheel gear, which isn’t up to the V4 engine’s torque and can leave one with a “box full of neutrals.” The freewheel was essential for the two-stroke motor, since when the throttle was closed, oil was no longer reaching the cylinders, but it is better removed.

Sonett fans are quite passionate about the cars and many good examples exist. They are quite rewarding to drive, once you’ve adapted to the foibles, and the original ceramic glass-pack mufflers deliver a unique crackle.”

We came across this private in-car video from 2013 providing a feel for what it’s like driving a ’71 Saab Sonett:

While this Sonnett is far from perfect right now, a few weekends resolving the issues the current caretaker mentions in their description will likely have you enjoying one of Saab’s more stylish ideas. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1974 Saab Sonett 3 III Coupe Ford V4
hard to find a saab in this condition. message us for a slide show with tons of photos. photo slideon.. only 2400 made in 1974. great car in great shape.. one family owned car always garage kept. 39233 original miles. the car has been repainted in original factory color. looks great.. the car is in excellent shape.. no rot what so ever only minor surface rust. mechanical the car is tight and right start and runs and drives. great.. the clutch may need to be adjusted.. it may just be operator error . sometimes pops out a gear. i can not get the headlights to open.. again it could be operator error. All accessories work as they should (lights, blinkers, wipers, radio etc. ) mufflers have been removed. as you can imagine it is loud. the rear window shocks are bad and need to be replace.. drive side rug has some wear.. 4 cylinder V4 Ford engine with a 4 speed manual transmission.

Show or go: what would you do with this Survivor-quality Saab Sonett?  Comment below and let us know!


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