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 - SaabSonett 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