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Saab 97 V4 Sonett III- 1974
Introduced as the Sonett II in 1966 with a comparatively different-looking fiberglass body, the Saab 97, or Sonett III, seen here was redesigned for the 1972 model year. The two cars were essentially identical from the base of the windshield to behind the doors (A pillar to B pillar), but after studying American sports car preferences, a fresh design was commissioned. Italian Sergio Coggiola penned the initial design, and Saab designer Gunnar Sjögren adapted it to the already proven chassis. “Sonett” is derived from the Swedish phrase “Så nätt den är”, meaning “It’s so neat!”
A new aerodynamic nose, incorporating manually-operated pop-up headlamps and a more Saab-like grille, was added to the front, while an opening rear glass hatch was a welcome change. The new nose, however, restricted access for major engine work in the interests of style. US DOT-compliant bumpers were well-integrated into the design and were the first of any maker to actually meet the new standards. The only major change in the cabin was the addition of a four-speed floor shifter instead of on the column. The integrated front and exposed rear rollover hoops remained, adding to chassis stiffness as well as safety. All Sonetts shared the drivetrain from the well-known 95 and 96 sedans.
The Sonett III used an increased-displacement Ford Taunus-derived 1700cc V4 engine; while displacement had increased 200cc from the previous model, power remained the same due to increasingly restrictive emission controls. Excellent handling, coupled with adequate power and braking, modern styling, and a pleasant cockpit added up to sales and SCCA competition success in the US, its prime market. Even after all the changes, the Sonett III remained at the same price for four years, leading Road & Track to say in their July 1972 issue, “The combination of an unconventional sports car and low price tag should appeal to many.”
Manufacturer: Saab –Scania Automotive Group
Country of Origin: Sweden
Drivetrain Configuration: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine: Ford-sourced 1698cc water-cooled V4, four-stroke, 65bhp
Transmission: Four-speed manual
Top Speed: 103mph
Years Produced: 1970-74 (All Sonetts 1966-74)
Number Produced: 8368 Sonett III (10,006 all Sonetts)
Cost: $3795 USD