1967-1974 Saab Sonetts

1968 and 1969 Saab Sonett

After its 1967 introduction, sales of the Saab Sonett failed to take off immediately, and, in fact, the new vehicle was criticized quite a bit. The 1968 and 1969 Saab Sonetts attempted to do better.

For 1968, the Sonett dashboard was switched to crinkle-finish plastic with an open glove compartment. The 1969 models were essentially identical, apart from an improved heater, new high-back bucket seats, and a lid for the glovebox. In a little more than two years, 1,610 four-cylinder Sonett IIs were made. (Now­adays, the early two-strokes are often referred to as the Sonett II, while the later cars are usually called the Sonett V-4.)

1968 Saab Sonett
1968 Saab Sonett

By this point, it was painfully obvious that Sonett needed a redesign if it was ever going to earn its keep as a showroom draw. Funds were limited, so changes were restricted mainly to a restyling of the exterior. This time, however, the styling job was given to Italian designer Sergio Coggiola.

What Coggiola came up with was a leaner, tighter, more integrated look. The essential shape was retained, along with most under-the-skin pieces (Saab in­sisted that the central portion of the body be retained), but the new Sonett III, as it was called, was an altogether nicer machine and a beautiful one, too.

The front end was longer and sharper, almost a knife-edge, with concealed pop-up headlamps and a small hood bulge with a matte finish for a sportier appearance. Grillwork consisting of three bright horizontal bars lent an air of elegant simplicity.

The tilt-nose front was dropped, so engine access was now via a small hatch-style lid. Bodysides were reshaped for a more defined, razor-sharp look. Gone were the assorted bulges, grommets, and straps that previously marred Sonett styling. Neat quarter windows offered improved visibility.

The former wraparound rear window was dumped. Out back there now was a sharply sloping fastback roof. The rear window was a large top-hinged glass hatch that gave easy access to the bigger seven-cubic-foot luggage area. A flatter rear panel now sported rectangular taillights.

The new interior offered color-matched corduroy upholstery and a cleaner instrument panel that placed the tach in the center. Comfortable bucket seats included large head restraints and ample side bolsters. A "luxury" version packaged leather with good-looking alloy wheels that added a great deal to the Sonett III's pleasing style.

On the technical side, at long last a floorshifter was included, and auto testers of the era praised its smooth operation and light feel. Power continued to be provided by the 1.5-liter V-4. A switch to dual exhausts actually raised horsepower slightly, but Saab -- hoping to avoid having to retest the engine for U.S. emissions regulators -- continued to adver­tise its previous power rating.

Further changes were in store for the 1970 and 1971 Saab Sonett model years. Continue to the next page to learn more.

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