The 1967-1974 Saab Sonetts came about because Saab wanted to create a sports car. Of course the Saab automobiles produced during the 1950s and early 1960s were "different" -- they were made by a company that built airplanes. They weren't all that sporty, though, until an American enthusiast and U.S. dealers set managers in Sweden to thinking about designing a sports car.

1973 Saab Sonett
A look at what lay ahead for Saab: the 1973 Saab Sonett.
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Long before the term "halo car" was coined to describe cars like the Nissan 350Z and Pontiac Solstice, automakers often built sports cars for the same reasons they do today. Sports cars are youthful, hip, and cool. Having one in the product line enhances the image of the manufacturer's other cars -- creates a "halo" over them, as marketing people like to say -- giving the whole brand some extra luster.

Cars like the 1954 Kaiser-Darrin, 1951-55 Nash-Healey, and 1954 Hudson Italia weren't profitmakers, but they added showroom excitement.

One company that needed help in sales and image during the early 1960s was Saab, Sweden's number-two carmaker since branching out from the manufacture of military and civil aircraft. From 1950, its first year of volume production, when some 1,200 front-wheel-drive cars were made, production had climbed. Still, even by 1958, Saab was producing only about 14,000 cars a year.

Compared with other automakers, Saab was a peanut among the elephants. But with help from American interests, they came up with a plan. Learn about the changes in store for Saab in the early 1960s on the next page.

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