1974 Saab Sonett III AKA 'Sandy'
Why Buy a Sonett
After my wife and I were lucky enough to have twins, my wife quit her job to stay home full time. We still had two car payments and the mortgage payment. Two car payments wasn’t going to work so I sold my 2008 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD and started looking around for other less expensive cars.
That is when I saw a 1969 Sonett on Craigslist for parts. I had never seen or heard of the Sonett before. A quick search on Google revealed that this was definitely an interesting car. I had to know more. Surprisingly there is actually not that much information on the Sonett on the net. Not only that, but the closest running Sonetts were still several states away. I needed more information before I dedicated several hours of road trip just to see a car. I was really looking for an in-depth review of the car. I never found that review so I am writing my own instead. Maybe it will help some other potential owner down the road.
Here are some things I like about the Sonett.
- Cheap - a Sonett III in good running order goes for around $5k
- Manual - Manual transmission, manual windows, manual locks, manual everything.
- Simplistic and largely mechanical - Simple is good and makes maintenance easier
- Lightweight - The car weighs in at 1,900 lbs which makes everything else (braking, acceleration) more efficient.
- Fuel Efficient - Other drivers report fuel economy to be around 30 mpg highway which is good by today’s standards and fantastic for the 70‘s.
- Sexy - This is subjective, love it or hate it. I love it. It The back half reminds me of a Mustang fast back. The front looks like an Italian super car (Lancia Stratos perhaps).
- Rare - For better or worse, these cars are not plentiful. I have never seen one on the road, EVER.
- Good sized trunk - The trunk is surprisingly spacious given the size of the car.
- Fiberglass Body - I have some experience working with fiberglass. I have built sub woofer enclosures, motorcycle seats, fairings, dash parts. The Sonett will give me a chance to put these skills to use. Not only is the body entirely fiberglass, even the minimalistic dash is fiberglass. They were serious about keeping the weight down.
- Seat belts - with chest straps (awesome for the 70‘s). The latch is fixed to the floor rather than being on the belt as with modern cars. I have never seem that set up before.
- Fuel filler cap - located way up high, an iconic look associated with muscle cars of the era.
Here are some not so cool things about the Sonett.
- I am 6‘0“ tall exactly and my hair touches the ceiling. I would not recommend anyone over 6 feet tall get one.
- 60 hp, 85 ft lb torque motor. I guess back in the 70‘s a 0-60 time of 13 seconds was respectable.
- The engine was designed to run on leaded fuel. As such, the valves and valve seats will have to be reworked / replaced in order to regularly run on unleaded fuel.
- No rear window defroster
What makes Sandy Special
Sandy is a 1974, the last year of the Sonett, but still 1 year shy of catalytic converters and unleaded fuel. With a car this old and unique, it can be hard to determine what is original and what was added on by a previous owner. After looking at every Sonett picture and video on the net, I have determined that a few features of Sandy are unique, regardless of how they came to be.
1. Spoiler - It is fiberglass like the rest of the body. It fits the car very nicely and appears well secured. The matte black paint seems to match the matte black on the engine bulge on the hood. I think it adds the right amount of flare to the rear of the car.
2. Air Conditioning - Previous owner said it was untested, which is another way of saying its broken. Regardless all the parts are there. The controls in the cabin don’t look like the rest of the buttons on the dash. That said, they do fit in a blank area clearly designed to house additional buttons. I don’t think Saab was overly worried about switch appearance at this point either. The A/C may be original, which is pretty slick for such an old car.
3. Wood Trim - There is beautiful wood on the doors, shifter, horn, steering wheel, and the center console. I have no idea if it is original, but I love wood and I think it makes the interior look fantastic.
4. Sunroof - This is certainly not original from the factory, but that does not make it bad. The sun roof is very large given the size of the car and lets in some well needed sunlight. It also gives a slight increase in headroom (it pops up only, does not slide back). The roof is fiberglass and doesn’t provide much crash protection anyways so a big sunroof does not introduce any new safety concerns.