Review: Saab Sonett No 4

I know a little about Saabs. I’ve read and experienced enough to be confident in voicing my opinion or giving what I believe to be the answer to a lot of different questions about the marque.

But I knew little about the Saab Sonett and nothing about Saab Sonett No 4 until I read this book.

Saab Sonett No 4 cover.jpg

The Saab 94, or Sonett, was primarily the inspired work of Rolf Mellde and a small group working in what can be best described as a timber shed. It was built with a sole purpose – winning races. Perhaps more accurately, winning the Midnight Sun Rally. At the time, no Saab had won the Midnight Sun and the Sonett was conceived, designed and prepared with this race in mind.

As many Saab enthusiasts would know, there were only 6 Sonetts built. My previous readings led me to believe that only 5 of these were still in existence with the mysterious sixth Sonett lost in history. Chassis No 4 underwent a transormation that I certainly hadn’t expected when I first opened the cover yesterday. It’s fair to say that the authors that wrote-off Chassis No 4 and reported that only 5 Sonetts remained were telling the truth to an extent. As at their time of writing, there was little to be recognised of the original Sonett.

This excellent book tells the story of a legendary Saab that went through quite a few twists and turns prior to being restored completely through the late 1990’s by the current owner, Dr Klaus Müller-Ott.

Facett Engine Bay.jpg
Does this look like a Sonett engine bay to you? It’s all part of the journey. Click to enlarge.

The book begins with the seed idea and development of the Sonett concept under the inspiration of Rolf Mellde. You get to experience a little of the joy in developing such a unique vehicle, taking it for its first test runs and then exhibiting it for the first time. You learn about the heartbreak that can be associated with the car industry too, as the Sonett project is abandoned for reasons that I will leave for you to read in the book.

But most of all, you’re reading about the bug. The fact that you’re even reading this review right now, that you might come and check this website every now and then or even every day – it’s all evidence that you’ve been bitten by the bug. The Saab bug. And what vehicle could be more addictive, what bug more likely to bite, than an extremely limited-number open-top sports car?

Ultimately, that’s the story you’re reading about here. It doesn’t take long to read at all. In fact you’ll get through the whole narration in around an hour and half. But shortly thereafter I can guarantee that you’ll pick the book up again, you’ll run your fingers over the embossed cover that’s reminiscent of the aluminium side panels of the car and you’ll sit down and begin to read it over. A little at a time. You’ll flick through the many beautifully shot photos and somewhere in the back of your mind, you’ll wonder whether or not you could actually try to build one of these yourself.

Why?

Because you’ve been bitten by the bug.

It’s a thoroughly engaging story. As mentioned above, it takes you from the development of the car through to the model’s cancellation, the subsequent sale of No 4 and it’s modification and then to the complete restoration of the vehicle. This English language edition is a translation and this is evident as you read through it. At first I thought of offering my (albeit limited) services to rewrite certain sections of the text. The occasionally odd use of context and the use of <> as quotation marks and other quirks that have come through in the translation take a moment or so to get used to.

But as I kept reading it came to me that this story is being told the way it should be. It’s personal. It’s as if I were sitting down listening to the various players – Mellde, Sörensson and Müller-Ott – telling me their own story as opposed to reading the well-researched work of an English-speaking author. There is certainly a well deserved place for the second, but in this instance the first is thoroughly appropriate.

Unloading Sonett.jpg
Unloading for the Stockholm Motor Show, 1956. That’s one rickety looking crate! Click to enlarge.

I don’t want to give away any more of the journey this car has taken, but suffice to say that there are now 6 Saab Sonett’s in existence and being lovingly cared for by their various corporate and private owners (which are listed in the book). Dr Müller-Ott has even gone so far as to buy and restore the original timber building in the small village named Åsaka, where the Sonett was built by hand. It’s now a museum, having opened in 2002. Rolf Mellde and others attended the opening.

Sonett 2 pics.jpg

This book is slightly more expensive than other Saab books you might buy. But then again it’s limited to a first edition of only 350 copies. It’s a beautiful package with it’s green and silver, embossed cover. Whether or not any subsequent editions will be as well-presented remains to be seen. The text is short but paints a very informative and entertaining picture about the vehicle’s history. There’s also a great number of photographs, some of which date back to the mid 50’s and the original development of the Sonett and it’s presentation at the Stockholm Motor Show in 1956. Of course, there’s also some beautiful photography from recent years with the car fully restored.

I can thoroughly recommend the addition of Saab Sonett No 4 to any Saab enthusiast’s library. You can order your copy now from Elkparts by clicking on the following link: Saab Sonett No 4 – available at Elkparts.

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I got this comment in from Ted this morning, which I thought appropriate to reproduce here. Ted purchased a copy of the book when I first mentioned it here on Trollhattan, afew weeks ago.

I’ve already finished the book from Elkparts and, although there’s not much reading, I really enjoyed it, especially the photos I had never seen before.

I was like a little kid rubbing my hand across the embossed cover. It took me a few seconds to realize it’s the aluminum side panel of the Sonett, and then I just couldn’t get past that.
Also, I thought the book was as much about how a man can “get the bug” for a car, to the point of buying the old farm where they were built, and making it into a museum. And he was a German; I would have thought a Swede would have done that.

Makes me sad though to see Saab missed a great opportunity by not producing it. There was a great demand in the USA for it, and Saab incorrectly thought that people would be satisfied here with the GT series which, of course, hardly raised an eyebrow. Oh, what could have been…

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2 Comments

  1. Do you have the book:

    Saab Sonett number 4 ??

    And if not could you tell me where I can get it?

    Many Thanks,

    Ad van Beurden
    holland

  2. hey swade,

    being a relative newb here, i missed out on this entry by quite some time. i know the book was limited run but if you _ever_ hear of one for sale, or better yet a reprint, please post about it.

    what a beautiful car…wish i could enjoy the story…

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