Saab 60th – Sonett Super Sport

Following are photos and comments by 1985 Gripen, who attended the Saab USA 60th Anniversary press event, which included not only a drive in the new 60th Anniversary Edition Saabs, but a drive of some pristine old school Saabs from GM’s own Heritage Collection.

Click photos to enlarge.

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John Libbos instructing a guest on the finer points of driving the Sonett. The car seems to be grinning at me. Reminds me of that old “Speed Buggy” cartoon by Hanna-Barbera.

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“How beautiful!” The Sonett 1. Truthfully, this is my favorite of the Sonett series. This car looks like something James Dean would have driven. A true “sports car”. Note the gear shift to the right of the steering wheel.

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Love that badging. Remember, this is one example of only six ever made!

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A better shot of the Sonett with the hood open.

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In the 9-5 SportCombi is Bob Sinclair, who stole it from under Erik’s and my nose. Erik really wanted to drive that one back to the hotel. We ended up in a 9-5 sedan, which Erik seemed okay with. He wanted the Combi because it has an automatic transmission whereas the Sedan I drove back was a manual box. Maybe I’m a really bad manual driver?

Erik did tell me repeatedly that he prefers the automatic transmission. There was one point on the drive to the airfield where we had to stop on an upward grade in a line of cars due to some road construction. The gentleman driving a pickup truck behind me stopped pretty close behind, so I realized I couldn’t roll back too much when the traffic started moving again.

I revved the car a little too high before letting off the clutch to avoid rolling back and we took off with a slight jerk. I apologized to Erik, explaining that I wanted to avoid rolling into the gentleman behind us and he said, “You’re such a polite boy”. I didn’t know whether to take this as a compliment or an insult. Seriously, he is very complimentary, and often complimented me on my driving. He said a sign of a good driver is one who doesn’t have to brake too much

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Bob Sinclair discussing something with Dick Balzer (the guy in charge of the heritage cars). Bob really seemed to like the Sonett. He spent a little time doing laps in it alone.

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Bob Sinclair being driven by a guest in the Sonett. He’s explaining to her that the gear shift is to the left of the steering wheel. It’s a four-speed gearbox in a standard “H”-shape shift pattern. I had a heck of a time trying to photograph the wheels on this car due to reflection!

I was trying to figure out how to fit one of those SAAB tents in the background in my pocket. That would be the ultimate accessory for my driveway for when I’m working on my car!

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3 Comments

  1. You know, I wrote “how beautiful” in the caption when I really meant “so neat”, the literal translation of “so natt” from the Swedish. My mistake. Also, I mentioned that it’s a four-speed manual in an “H”-shaped shift pattern. Thinking about it, that doesn’t make sense. It must be a THREE speed manual. The fourth gear would be reverse, with the middle of the “H” being neutral.

    Another story regarding my ride in this Sonett I’ll include in an upcoming account of the event I’m busy typing up (I’m taking my time as I do have a day job too!):

    I was too intimidated to drive any of the two-stroke cars, the Sonett included because I had heard you have to keep the revs up around 2500 and I was afraid I’d be the only one there to stall one and embarrass myself in front of everyone. Of course, now I’m kicking myself for not taking the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so.

    So I rode in the passenger seat while a SAAB employee drove it (BTW, this was my first ride ever in a RHD car). As we rolled out to the beginning of the runway the local Sheriff’s Deputy was standing outside his Ford Explorer police vehicle with the “flagman” on his ATV (this guy would let us know when we could go because there are no aircraft using the runway). The Deputy motioned for my driver to come over because he wanted to speak with him. The officer said, “I’ll race you”. My driver said, “in THAT!?!?” while pointing at the Ford Explorer SUV. The officer said yes. My driver said, “well, I don’t know if I’m supposed to…”. After that my driver started down the runway. We were going faster and faster and it felt like we were driving about 90 mph. The windshield is so short the wind hits you right in the face as if there’s no windshield at all. We’re rocketing down the runway and we hear a siren. I turn around and see the Explorer behind us with his police siren screaming and the light bar turned-on. I looked at the speedometer and saw that we were doing just over 100. The driver yelled to me “we’re going about 60 mph!” That was when I realized the speedo was in KILOMETERS per hour. I told him it feels like we’re going a lot faster with the fact that the wind is buffetting our face. He explained that our “butts are practically dragging on the ground, this car is so low”, so that makes it feel like we’re going so much faster. I don’t know if the car was really capable of going a whole heck of a lot faster than we were at the time, it being loaded-down with two people.

    But that was the most fun I think I’ve ever had riding in a car. I explained that this was a great feeling because it was so much fun to ride in even driving just 60 mph. It was like a go-cart. I could imagine driving one of these in the slow lane on the freeway and having the time of my life!

    Upon getting out after our drive I said, “I WANT ONE!” They only made six of these total, so it’s probably not that easy to get my hands on one…

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