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Saab Sonett III
Saab Sonett III
Saab Sonett III
Saab Sonett III

Total Production: 8,351
The Saab 97, also designated the Saab Sonnett III, was the answer to the outdated look and design of the 1970s Sonett.

Introduced at the New York Motor Show in the Spring of 1970, the Sonett III was a significantly wider vehicle than previous models and weighed only 770 kgs.

Designed by Italian designer Sergio Coggiola and Swedish designer Gunnar A. Sjögren.
Due to many modifications, Coggiola's name didn't appear on the new vehicle, but he is still credited for a vast portion of the design.

Coggiola was known for his design on Saab Sonett III, Fiat Punto Surf, Fiat Brava Sentiero, Pontiac CF 428, Lancia Thema Coupe and many more vehicles.

Using the same Ford V4 engine as before, the Sonett III had the type indicator ‘97' in the chassis number and 1500 cc in 1970 and 1971.

The Saab Sonett III came with pop-up headlights operated by manually operated levers, and in 1973 it received self-repairing bumpers. It also came with a hinged rear window that became the hatch to the rear luggage compartment that improved access. A small, matt-black panel in top of the front section reveals access to the engine compartment.

With an option of installed air conditioning, the Sonett III came with a floor shifter rather than a column shifter found in previous models.

In order to handle US emissions controls the engine was updated to a 1700 cc. With an engine of 65 hp (48 kW), the Sonett III was able to achieve top speed of 165 km/h.

The Sonnett was able to reach 0 to 100 km/h in 13 seconds, and had a drag coefficient of 0.31.

In 1974, unable to handle the more strict automobile emission control in the US, production on the Sonett III ended.

Before production ended, a total of 10, 219 Saab 97 (both II and III Sonetts') were created.

By Jessica Donaldson
Saab's original Sonett is likely the most sough-after car ever to be produced by the zany Swedish firm. With only 6 made, the Sonett was a beautifully designed roadster designed to set speed records for its displacement class. The cars succeeded in grabbing several records, thanks to 2-stroke engines that made big power out of tiny displacement. While you're not likely to ever see a Sonett outside of a museum, Saab kept the great name alive for a couple of subsequent sports cars, the Sonetts II and III.

The Sonett II was made from 1967-1969, and was first offered with a 2-stroke engine very similar to that of its spiritual predecessor. The engine could put out about 70hp, an impressive number for such a light car, and an even more impressive number for an engine displacing just 841cc. Early Sonetts had a Solex carburetor for each of their three cylinders.

Not everyone recognized the benefits of 2-stroke power, and Saab owners didn't enjoy needing to add oil to their gas every time they filled up. This prompted Saab to make the switch to a more conventional 4-stroke engine for 1968. The new engine, sourced from Ford, was almost as offbeat as the old. As a V4, it had an odd design compared to the vast majority of other four cylinders, which were inline.

The engines weren't the only components of the Sonett II that made buyers scratch their heads. With a column-mounted shifter, changing gears in these Saabs was not a typically sporting experience. Though the shifter worked well, it seemed out of place in a low-slung sports coupe with exotic looks. Perhaps the strangest things about the gearbox, though, was that it directed power to the front wheels.

Front-wheel-drive is overlooked today as a common, mundane feature. Plenty of sports cars have had this drive layout, and some of the best handling cars of today are pulled along by their leading wheels. But in 1967, front-wheel-drive was still an oddball. It was considered a great feature for trekking through tough conditions in more robust cars like Saab's own 96, but its virtues had never been instilled in a proper sports car before.

While it may not seem to make any sense to call the Sonett II a proper sports car in the first place, the little Saab did manage to meet all the requirements of a sporting auto. It was tiny. It was quick. It was noisy. And, most importantly, it handled. Saab proved with its Sonett II that front-wheel-drive could be incorporated into a machine with engaging driving dynamics and an enthusiastic personality.

For as good of a car as the Sonett II was, it just didn't click with the car-buying public. In the U.S., Saab was a relatively unknown company at the time of their sports car's introduction, and most people were weary of buying such an odd car. The Sonett II's high price ensured that potential buyers could take their money elsewhere for a car of at least equivalent performance but with more pedigree and prestige. This meant slow sales for Saab. Only 229 Sonett IIs were built with the 2-stroke 3-cylinder for 1967. Over the next couple of years, sales improved dramatically with 1,868 V4-powered cars produced.

Even after the huge production spike, though, the Sonett II had unimpressive sales figures. The production run of barely 2,000 units prevented the Sonett-series from generating much profit for its parent company until the Sonett III was introduced. While that car did eventually catch on more than the II, it only did so by compromising with more conventional styling, a more practical interior, and a floor-mounted shifter. The Sonett II established its own following, though, and today they are worth substantially more than their more common replacements.

Information for this article was supplied in part by www.saabhistory.com, an excellent site and great resource for Saab enthusiasts.

By Evan Acuña
The Saab Sonett 1, unofficially termed the Saab 94 and also known as the Super Sport Sonett, was unveiled in 1956, six years after Sixten Sason, Saab's first styling designer, sketched ideas for a Saab 92 convertible. Credit for the Sonett also goes to four Saab engineers, starting with Rolf Mellde, who sketched his version of a Saab two-seater in 1954, but was unable to get management interested in pursuing the idea. Lars Olov Olsson, Olle Linkdvist and Gotta Svensson were also involved.

The inaugural Sonett, the first open car from Saab, had a glass-fibre reinforced plastic body and light-alloy chassis frame, and was originally intended for track racing. The project actually started outside of Saab, with those involved dedicated their own time to building the first prototype. In late 1955, the first Sonett was completed, with chassis-only road tests having been constructed. In late 1956, after its February unveiling at the Stockholm Auto Show, which was a resounding success, the go-ahead was given to produce an additional five Sonetts. Again, production was out-sourced because of the nature of the car's body and chassis construction, which for the remaining five, would feature steel chassis instead of alloy. These five cars were completed in early 1957. If featured a twin-carbureted, 57.7 hp version of the Saab three-cylinder engine that made its peak power at 5,000 rpm, a four-speed manual gearbox and weighed 1,150 pounds. Its top speed was rated at 120 mph, and its zero-to-sixty mph acceleration time was anticipated to be under the 12-second range.

Plans for production were moving forward, with a target of 2,000 Sonetts to be built each year. However, changes to the competition rules that allowed modified production cars to be run in the classes that Saab had envisioned its purpose-built Sonett racing in put a stop to the production plans, and a total of only six cars were ever produced.

Had the Saab Sonett 1 made it to the racetrack, it most likely would have enjoyed great success. Forty years after it was built, in 1996, Erik 'On the Roof' Carlsson, the legendary rally driver, set a Swedish speed record for its class of 159.40 km/h in a Saab Sonett 1. Today, three of the six Sonett 1s built are known to exist. This example is the property of Saab USA, and two are in the Saab Museum in Trollhatten.

Source - Saab
Sonett I

Unofficially known as the Saab 94, the Sonett Super Sport was an eye-catching two-seater sports car intended for competition use (‘sonett' is Swedish for ‘how nice'). Only six were ever built.

It was designed and developed to give Saab, then a new arrival in the automotive industry, a competitive entry into international sports car racing. The small team behind the project was unimpressed by the use of heavy steel tubes that were welded together to create the chassis of competition cars at the time. They found an alternative solution in aircraft design. The result was a light but extremely strong 'monocoque' (single shell) structure made from riveted panels of aviation specification aluminum, to which the engine and suspension was directly mounted.
Weighing just 70 kilos, the Sonett's hollow 'tub' utilised the elegant design principles of an aircraft fuselage. It was built six years before a similar concept revolutionised Grand Prix racing in the shape of Colin Chapman's Lotus 25 Formula One car.

The car's low-slung bodywork was no less surprising. Based on a small-scale model by Saab designer Sixten Sason, it was moulded in glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GRP), a new material at the time. Sason complained about the shaping of the panels but GRP was chosen as it was much lighter than steel, even though the use of such a material was in its infancy.

The Sonett's engine was rather more conventional. It was a highly-tuned development of the 748 cc, three cylinder two-stroke engine from the Saab 93 sedan. To improve weight distribution, the longitudinally mounted engine and gearbox were turned around through 180°. While still using front-wheel-drive, this installation gave the car a 'front, mid-engined' configuration, with the weight of the entire powertrain contained within the car's wheelbase. For good balance, the 60-liter fuel tank was also mounted in the side of the car opposite the driver. And to keep the front of the car as low as possible, the engine was canted over slightly to the right.

Maximum power of 57.5 hp was modest for circuit racing, but with an all-up weight of only 500 kilos, the Sonett Super Sports had a good power-to-weight ratio of more than 100 bp per tonne. A rigid chassis giving nimble handling was also expected to compensate for whatever it lacked in outright power.

The first prototype created a sensation at the Stockholm Motor Show in February 1956 and a test program immediately began. To speed up development work, another five Sonetts, with steel monocoques, were built.

However, before a racing program got underway, new competition rules tempted Saab into international rallying with production-based cars as a more cost-effective operation. The rest, including Erik Carlsson's subsequent international rallying success, is history, as they say.

All six cars built in 1956/57 still exist in working order. When it is not out on demonstration runs, the first Sonett is displayed in the Saab Car Museum at Trollhättan, together with one other. The other four cars are owned by private collectors.

Source - Saab
Model Production *
* Please note, dates are approximate

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