Aussie drives the Sonett 1

You’ve seen these photos before. I first published them a little while ago, but I didn’t have the story to go with them.

Since then, Brendan has put the story together for publication in the Saab Car Club of Australia’s magazine – have I ever mentioned that it’s just about the best car club magazine on the planet?

Anyway, allow me to set the scene. It’s June 11, and while I’m out west driving the new Saab 9-3 just outside Gothenburg and down the coast, my fellow Aussie-in-Sweden, Brendan B is driving one of the rarest Saabs there is – the original Saab 94.

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It’s a beautiful sunny Monday afternoon in Trollhättan. Tim, a Trollhättan local, is driving me out to Sjuntorp, a town that is part of greater Trollhättan. We’re on our way to visit Gösta, a ex-Saab employee and a Saab collector. Gösta worked in engine development back when they were making two strokes; then working with after-sales fixing known faults with cars that were in between delivery from the factory and to the customer. He told stories of fixing cars sitting in various dock yards around the world! He’s also one of the people that lost their jobs when GM demanded that 800 jobs be axed at Saab. Gösta also owns a Sonett 1… chassis number 3 of 6!

Saab 94 Sonett plate

Back in 1963, Gösta had recently received his drivers licence and joined the Swedish Automobile Club. His boss at Saab knowing this suggested that he purchase one of the Sonett 1s. Gösta left a message with Ross Meldor, the head of Saab back then, enquiring about the Sonett. Two months later Gösta’s boss asked him what the Sonett was still doing there and instructed Gösta to take it home.

The Sonett was then towed through town and back to his home, where his father remarked at how silly he was for bringing home a car with no roof. His father then quickly learnt that the car also had no registration, no engine and no gearbox! Gösta was almost kicked out of home!

Saab Sonett

However a 850cc motor and a 4 speed gear box soon found a home in this Sonett. Not too long after that the talk of the town was all about a little red Saab sports car. Some complain that this 3rd manufactured Sonett 1 isn’t original, but what is an original? The 1st
Sonett came with the 750cc GT engine and a 3 speed gearbox. The 2nd Sonett came with the 750cc GT engine and a 4 speed gearbox. The 3rd Sonett came with no engine and no gearbox. The 3rd Sonett is as original as the first two predecessors.

So here I am on the opposite side of the world to Australia, standing next to a Sonett 1, being given a personalised guided tour by it’s owner. The hood and boot open revealing the insides. Looking over the car reveals that this is in fact a car built by a company that builds planes. Tim who accompanied me on this visit and whom is a pilot, happily pointed out the features that have been carried over from it’s aircraft heritage: zig zag rivets, aluminium frame and structural design are the blatant clues.

Saab Sonett

Gösta then puts the car back together and it’s time to get into the car. I am then told that there are two ways in: one can use the door or one can simply just step over the door! The car is 825 mm high at the top of the windscreen. I open the door and stepped into the car, not wanting to hurt the car. Gösta then jumps into the car!

As we drive slowly down the driveway he explains that he’s tuned the car and estimates power at 60hp and the car weighs around 500kgs, probably more with a couple of people in it.

Saab Sonett Engine

Then we’re off! What a fantastic car, the weather is perfect for open top motoring and the car is quick! After only a five minute spin I’m sold. This is a fantastically fun car! I’m left wondering why Saab never put the car into full production, as I believe it would have sold in bucketloads.

Saab Sonett

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4 Comments

  1. The Sonett (I) is the most fun car I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding in. The feeling of speed is quite intense despite the fact that it doesn’t go very fast by today’s standards. It’s like a little go-cart!

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