1967-1974 Saab Sonetts

1967 Saab Sonett

After just 230 three-cylinder Sonett IIs were produced for model year 1967, the factory began turning out an improved 1967 Saab Sonett model powered by the German Ford V-4 engine used in Saab sedans and wagons -- although valve springs were stiffened for use in the sports car.

This 1.5-liter ohv engine made 73 bhp at 5,000 rpm and 87 pound-feet of torque at 2,700 rpm -- as measured by the Amer­ican SAE standard -- raising the top speed to approximately 100 mph with greater smoothness and less need for shifting.

Because the V-4 increased curb weight of the Sonett by roughly 80 pounds, other performance times -- 0-60 mph in 12.3 seconds, quarter-mile runs in 18.6 seconds at 71 mph -- weren't much different from those of the two-stroke car. As this weight increase was all over the front driving wheels, however, handling suffered somewhat despite several chassis enhancements.

A 1967 Saab Sonett
A 1967 Saab Sonett

The Sonett body had been designed around the two-stroke engine, so the switch to the V-4 created packaging problems under the hood. To fit the larger engine, a hood bulge had to be added, spoiling the sleekness of the front end and making the Sonett look even odder than before.

America was where most Sonetts were going to be sent. While he may have admired the Sonett, the average Swede didn't see much sense in driving a car that only held two people, and considered it an unnecessary extravagance. In fact, a U.S.-market sales brochure called it "Sweden's idea of an expensive toy."

It was pricey. The V-4's list price was $3,695, while the early two-strokes were around $3,500. For that kind of money, one could buy a six-cylinder Austin-Healey 3000; a Triumph GT6 coupe cost about $1,200 less! Perhaps it's no wonder, then, that when the Sonett II was introduced, Ralph Millet, head of Saab's U.S. operations, sent Sweden a telegram that read: "Shocked to learn price."

Apparently, the public also was shocked because sales weren't good. Saab had hopes of building 3,000 Sonetts during 1967, but only 300 were actually produced for the model year.

In the coming years, Saab would play with the Sonett's interior features in the hopes of enhancing sales. See how they fared with the 1968 and 1969 models on the next page.

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